Abnormal psychology

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Psychology is a broad field explaining human behavior and mentalprocesses. Any behavior that appears to be out of the normal behavioris referred to as abnormal. The study of abnormal behavior is thusreferred to as abnormal psychology (McDougall, 1926). It entailslooking into abnormal mental behaviors such as mental illness thatusually happens due to psychological disorders. as a field of psychology tries to understand what the symptoms ofabnormal behavior look like, why they occur, how they are maintainedand what effects they have on people. To understand abnormalpsychology, this research paper will review characteristics ofabnormal psychology and the presenting conditions that have beenclassified in the DSM IV so far.

Studies reveal that mental disorders occur more frequently thanpeople imagine. Most times we assume that abnormal people are theones we see running mad on the streets or shouting in themarketplace. However that is not the only case we call abnormal. Manyorganizations and institutions have examined mental disorders andcharacterized them accordingly. WHO carried out a study to examinehow mental disorders happen by visiting medical doctors in primarycare settings from 14 countries. Studies carried out it wasdiscovered that 24% of people in those countries suffer from mentaldisorders, which can be diagnosed while 10% of the people suffer fromsevere mental symptoms.

Research questions

  • To investigate what abnormal psychology looks like

  • To review the characteristics of abnormal psychology, why they occur and how they are maintained

Literature review

The term abnormal is defined as anything that hinders normalfunctioning in a person. When behavior affects the normal functioningof a person, it becomes a challenge to the person and interferes withtheir ability to act in a normal way. in thiscase can be termed as unusual mental behavior resulting from severalfactors. Abnormal behavior is caused by biology and genetics assertsMcDougall (1926). Biology attempts to explain mental disorders asconditions that affect the brain causing abnormal structures in thebrain. Biochemical imbalances lead to challenges in the brainfunctions reacting in form of abnormal behavior. Genetic models onthe other hand suggest that psychopathology is passed to childrenfrom their parents through family transmission. Parents pass genes totheir children at birth and can affect their mental functions ifmentally ill.

Psychodynamic theories suggest that mental illness can also occurdepending on the parent to child relationship. Freud in his theoryexplained the role of forming early relationships with children.Parents who form close relationships with their children at an earlyage are less likely to have their children grow with mental illness.Learned behavior is another cause of abnormal behavior. Learningthrough association and personal experiences leads to acquiringbehavior some of which may not be normal. Another cause of abnormalbehavior is negative thoughts and having a bad attitude towards lifeargues McDougall (1926). Negative feelings that make you expect thebad things to happen makes you likely to develop mental instability.

is classified into categories of disordersmaking it easier to understand how abnormal behaviors affect people.The classification is important as it gives the symptoms of disordersand explains what causes them. They include schizophrenia apsychological condition that leads people to break from reality andis characterized by psychosis. Schizophrenic people appear weird andmad showing characteristics like talking to themselves or shouting atothers. Schizophrenia is a condition that is extremely odd and makesthe sick person left out from the society as they seem to be livingin a world of their own. It is a serious mental condition that thosesuffering from experience a hard life of living lonely lives on thecold streets. The sad part of being schizophrenic is that nobodycares about them and many times they end up committing suicide ordying of hunger and neglect (Nolene, 1991).

Schizophrenic people experience symptoms like strange noises,whisper voices, hearing names being called from different directionsand perceiving things that are actually not there. The perception ofweird things is termed as hallucination and having paranoiddelusions. Delusions means that sometimes the sick person maypersonalize themselves as great people like Jesus Christ and livelives that make them display qualities of the people they believethey are. They also use strange language and show disturbances intheir facial expressions. Schizophrenia is caused by genetic orbiological factors and psychosocial factors. It appears duringadolescent years and adulthood years and can be treated throughpsychiatric medication and rehabilitation.

Mood disorders

Depression is the most prevalent form of mood disorder leading toabnormal behavior resulting from unsolved stress asserts Clark andWatson (1991). Major depressive disorder is also called unipolardepression while manic depression or bipolar disorder are less seenasserts Christopher et al. (2015). The two disorders make functioningdifficult and can cause physical health problems. Major depressivedisorder has characteristics like lose of interest in things that oneused to do, appetite lose, sleeping habit change, low energy in thebody and feeling very bad, worthless and low (Ayelet et al, 2015).People suffering from bipolar disorder show characteristics likeexcess mood disorders being too happy or being too sad at some point.They feel very good about themselves and feel they can do anythingwhile at times they become very sad. People suffering from bipolardisorders do things excessively and unusually resulting to theactivities becoming dangerous. They are highly distracted and lackconcentration as the mind thinks about a million things and stayawake for days. No specific cause has been identified for bipolardisorder but psychosocial factors, stressful life events, andbiological regularities cause abnormal bipolar disorder.

Anxiety disorders

People suffering from anxiety disorders show a set of symptoms whichare physical, emotional and cognitive. Physical symptoms include fastbreath, heart beating quickly, breath shortness, sweating and runningor upset stomach Ayelet et al (2015). Emotionally, they show fear andlook worried or confused while cognitive aspects include losingsanity, running mad and fear of death. Anxiety disorders are causedby specific phobias, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive behavior,social phobia, generalized anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorderargues Christopher et al (2015).

Eating disorders

Anorexia and bulimia are two of the most common disorders of eatingclassified in the DSM. The two disorders have attracted a great dealof attention recently. Eating disorders are challenging and make theperson experiencing them go through a lot of hardships and healthchallenges. Anorexia and bulimia share four things

  • a distorted body image,

  • fearing to gain weight

  • the body and weight make up the person’s thoughts

  • regulated eating due to a psychological fare to eat (McDougall, 1926)

Substance use disorders and abuse

People who suffer from substance abuse disorders use drugs andalcohol to get positive feelings about themselves. They have negativeeffects on their health and can interfere with normal brainfunctioning. The symptoms of people who suffer from substance abuseare substance dependence or addiction. The dependence of drugsincludes tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. Those addicted feel theneed to take substances in larger amounts making them give up onimportant activities. Continued use of drugs can lead to mentalinstability making the person always need the drug to reason.

Personality disorder

According to It is characterized by paranoid, schizoid disorders incluster A while antisocial, borderline, narcissistic and histrioniccluster occurs. Avoidant and obsessive-compulsive behavior isclassified in cluster C. Symptoms of personality disorders includeinflexible and maladaptive personality behavior.


Understanding the findings of abnormal psychology is useful inhelping classify the types of abnormal behavior. After classifyingsuch behaviors and symptoms, it becomes easier for psychiatrists todiagnose and treat abnormal disorders making life better for theaffected. People who suffer from abnormal psychology experience manychallenges as their families have to endure taking care of the sickperson. Most people suffering from psychological disorders experiencemental instability requiring extra care from their relatives. Dealingwith the psychological conditions includes psychiatric treatment,counseling and rehabilitation.


is a wide topic that focuses on abnormalbehavior resulting from mental impairment. Mental instability iscaused by biological or genetic factors and makes human being tofunction abnormally. Abnormal people find it difficult to adapt todaily life as the society separates them and views them as mad peoplewho need help. Through reviewing the stated and classified categoriesof abnormal psychology we have been able to understand abnormalbehaviors that cause mental instability. Abnormal behavior can bereduced through seeking treatment and psychiatric help.


Ayelet, M. Emily, G. Jason, D and Lauren, S. (2015). ‘Ruminationpredicts responding to stressful life events in major depressive andgeneralized anxiety disorder, ‘journal of abnormal psychology,124(1):17-26.DOI:10.1037/abn0000025

Christopher, C. Lauren, R. Timothy,A. (2015).’Chronic environmental stress and the temporal course ofdepression and panic disorder: A trait state occasion modelingapproach, ‘journal ofabnormal psychology,DOI: DOI:10.1037/abn0000122

Clark, L. A., &amp Watson, D.(1991). ‘Tripartite model of anxiety and depression: psychometric evidence and taxonomic implications.’&nbspJournalof abnormal psychology,&nbsp100(3),316.

McDougall, W. (1926). Outline ofAbnormal Psychology.&nbspAmericanJournal of Physical Medicine &amp Rehabilitation,&nbsp5(6),473.

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1991).‘Responses to depression and their effects on the duration of depressive episodes’.&nbspJournalof abnormal psychology,&nbsp100(4),569.

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