Abnormal Psychology - Topics Essay

Lauren Minor July 27, 2010 Topic 1. Indicate, describe and discuss the major theories and principles in abnormal psychology The Biological approach believes that abnormal behavior is caused by structural damage to the brain, biochemical imbalances, and genetic abnormalities. Research proves that certain characteristics of a person, such as a chemical imbalance in the brain, can be passed on from parent to child. These studies show patterns of abnormal behaviors from generation to generation. Other research provides proof that some individuals have abnormal behaviors because of defects in the brain or nervous system.

The defects of the brain and nervous system can range from a lack or abundance of a certain chemical (such as serotonin) or damage done to the brain or nervous system from an illness, accident or other disorder. The brain requires many chemicals to work efficiently and effectively. When there is too much or too little of a certain neurotransmitter in the synapse that will cause certain types of psychopathology. Freud believed that personality develops in psychosexual stages; in each stage a part of the body becomes the child’s main source of pleasure.

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Failure to resolve conflicts at any stage can cause fixation, an unconscious preoccupation with the pleasure area associated with that stage. Personality characteristics are a reflection of each person’s fixation. The oral stage occurs during the first year of life because the mouth is the center of pleasure. The anal stage occurs during the second year when toilet training begins. The phallic stage emerges at three and lasts until age five . The boy experiences the Oedipus complex; he sexually desires his mother and wants to kill his father out of jealousy. The girl develops penis envy and begins to hate her mother for not providing a penis.

After age five, the latency period ensues, during which sexual impulses lie dormant and the child turns away from anything sexually related. During the genital stage, which begins at adolescence and lasts until death, sexual desires reappear and boys and girls begin to get more involved with the opposite sex. The personality is shaped as the drives are modified by different conflicts at different times in childhood. Freud also believed that the human mind had both conscious and unconscious areas. One of the key beliefs of the psychodynamic approach is that our adult personality and behavior are determined by our childhood experiences.

These were; firstly, that majority of the mind is unconscious and contains our instincts, drives and repressed memories. The only ways to discover the contents of the unconscious mind are dream analysis, word association and hypnosis. Secondly, that the mind is made up of three parts, the id, the ego and the superego. The id works on the pleasure principle. The drive to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. The ego works on the reality principle. It aims to fulfill the ids desires while keeping them in line with what is possible in the real world.

The superego pressures the ego to keep the id in line with the rules of society. It sets ideals and consists of the conscience, which makes us feel things such as pride and guilt. To enable the ego to deal with the demands of the id and superego, it uses a number of defense mechanisms. Some of these are Regression – where we go back to an earlier stage or situation that gives comfort. Denial where we refuse to accept the truth and repression where we push unpleasant ideas into the unconscious. The Behavioral Perspective believes that abnormal behavior can be explained by the environment that a person is surrounded.

Behavioral researchers believe that abnormal behavior is caused by defective learning and/or conditioning. This perspective uses classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning theories to support its theories. Classical conditioning is an automatic response to a stimulus based on similar experiences with the stimuli. This is the mental correlation between an act and the response of a person or object. Operant conditioning is the use of consequences to change a person’s behavior. And Social Learning theories are the social processes that affect the influence of reinforcements and conditioning have on behaviors.

The Cognitive Perspective studies the mental processing of an individual. Researchers believe that abnormal behavior is based on how a person receives, interprets, and retrieves information. These behaviors are based on the false assumptions that people gather after certain things have happened. A person’s ability to change their cognition determines whether a behavior can be changed. Researchers believe that if a person is able to change their false cognitive assumptions and make them into positive, new values and judgments, then a person’s abnormal behavior can be changed.

The Humanistic- Existential Perspective believes that research has to go beyond those observable characteristics of a person’s behavior. This research studies a person’s inner being (self worth, self actualization, and self determination). These researchers believe that abnormal behavior is displayed when a person’s environment blocks their ability to successfully achieve and work toward their goals; and when a person is unable to gain self determination, individuality, and freedom of choice.

Finally, is the Community- Cultural Perspective which studies the support systems of an individual, and the individual’s ability to cope with and address stress in a healthy manner. Researchers believe that a person’s social roles and how they are labeled determine how a person will behave. Topic 2. Indicate and describe some of the major treatments for psychological disorders relating them to the theories from which they are derived. Biological treatments for abnormal behaviors are drug therapies. Drug therapies are thought to relieve psychological symptoms by correcting imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Antipsychotic drugs are used to reduce symptoms of psychosis, Antidepressant drugs reduce symptoms of depression, Lithium reduces symptoms of mania, and antianxiety drugs reduce symptoms of anxiety. In 1883, August Bernthsen, a research chemist, created a phenothiazine, it was discovered that it had a number of biological effects on humans. In the 1940’s pharmaceutical researchers learned that phenothiazines decreased muscle tone, reduced nausea and in some cases reduced sedation. Some physicians began using this chemical to calm patients.

In the 1950’s researchers began exploring the use of chlorpromazine, a group of chemicals belonging to phenothiazine, on psychological symptoms. Chlorpromazine was introduced North American and Smith Kline & French; an American drug company began marketing the drug in psychiatry under a new name, Thorazine. By the 1970’s Thorazine sales reached a total of over $116 million. After World War II, drug companies took the left over fuel, hydrazine, believing that modifying the chemical could prove medical purposes. Two compounds of hydrazine, isoniazid and iproniazid, were used in treating tuberculosis.

Jean Delay, a psychiatrist who played a role in the discovery of chlorpromazine, believed isoniazid and iproniazid would be useful as an anti-depressant drug. Although it took several years before enough research was done to prove, isoniazid and iproniazid do have anti-depressant effects. They are now in a class of drugs called, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Tricyclic antidepressants were thought to work by slowing down the reuptake of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were introduced to only act on the serotonin receptors.

Sales of these SSRIs reached over billions of dollars. During World War II, Dr. John Cade, observed an onset of mania in fellow prisoner after being captured by Japanese. Cade made several experiments and accidentally discovered that lithium had a powerful calming effect on his test subject. He began treating his own self with Lithium and once the treatments proved successful on patients he published his reports in 1949 in Australia, but his findings went unnoticed until Mogens Schou published a series of studies in 1970. Anti-anxiety drugs were prescribed for people who suffer from anxiety or insomnia.

These barbiturates control the nervous system helping decrease the activity of an assortment of neurons. Benzodiazepines were discovered in the 1940’s these are used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety but they don’t interfere with the patient’s daily life. Topic 3. Discuss and demonstrate an understanding of the relative contributions of research to the field of abnormal psychology Case studies of abnormal psychology are extremely important when it comes to bringing the theory of abnormal psychology into the harsh complications of real life.

Case studies allow practicing psychotherapists and clinicians to explore the psychopathologies and different types of patients. This in turn shows how mental illnesses and disorders affect a patient in real life. For all case studies, the clinician needs to know the complete background of the patient. Detailed questions are asked as to when the symptoms first appeared; were there any signs of remission of symptoms; if yes, for how long; what does the patient feel each time the symptoms appear; are the symptoms present constantly or the patient suffers from periodic episodes etc.

Getting the complete medical history of the patient gives clearer perspective to the clinician. In addition, questions are asked about family background, education, and work as it allows the therapist to understand the patient better. Once the therapist has all the details about the illness and the patient’s personal life, he needs to come to a diagnostic conclusion about the mental disorder as the treatment will depend on this. All along, the clinician keeps meticulous records so that the case study can be presented to other experts and students of psychology to further their knowledge.

In complicated cases, the clinician may bring other qualified therapists on board to get their opinion and insight into the mental disorder or illness. A correlational study explores the relationship between two variables without any manipulation of either variable. The most common in abnormal psychology is the continuous variable which is measured along a continuum. Another type is the group comparison study. Researchers find interest in the relationship between people’s association within a particular group and their scores on some other variable.

A correlational study can show that two variables are related, but cannot show that one variable caused another. A correlation coefficient is a statistic used to represent the relationship between variables. It ranges from -1. 00 to +1. 00. A positive correlation indicates that as the value of one variable rises, values of the other variable also rise. A negative correlation indicates that as the value of one variable increases, the value of another variable decreases.

Problems with correlational studies are they suffer from third variable problem. It is possible for variables not measured in a study are the real cause of the relationship between the variables measured in a study. Epidemiology is the study of the frequency and distribution of a disorder, or group of disorders within a population. This study focuses on three types of data: the prevalence of a disorder focusing on the quantity of the population that has the disorder at a certain period in time, the incidence f a disorder is the number of new cases of the disorder that developed during a specific period of time, and the risk factors for a disorder are the conditions or variables that are associated with a higher risk of getting the disorder. Experimental studies attempt to control all the variables affecting the dependent variable. A human laboratory study is also known as an analogue study, here researchers attempt to create conditions in the laboratory that resemble certain conditions in the real world, but that are not 100 percent like the real conditions.

Researchers have much difficulty doing cross-cultural research. Theories and concepts that may seem normal in one culture may seem abnormal to another, People who have never participated in a research may be skeptical, researchers may have difficulty translating their questionnaires into different languages, there may be cultural or gender differences in person’s response, and researchers may face pressure to classify one culture normal and another abnormal.


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