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Abnormal Psychology & Therapy

By incognitoprodigy Mar 25, 2011 1729 Words
Abnormal Psychology and Therapy Paper


PSY 300

July 2, 2010

Abnormal Psychology and Therapy

Upon researching what the word psychology means many definitions may be found. However, once all those definitions have been deciphered you will find that psychology is the study of an individual’s mental and emotional state and thought processes. The intention of therapy within psychology is to diagnose, treat, and in time help individuals improve from whatever psychological infirmity that they are experiencing. Comparison and Contrast of Normal and Abnormal Psychology The word normal is characterized by what the majority of a society views as typical. Depending on the culture of an individual the meaning of normal will vary as each culture has a different opinion of what is deemed normal. A normal person is someone who is depicted not having mental and physical quandaries (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Although the definition of normal changes within cultures and with each individual there is still a simple distinction between what is normal and abnormal.

The word abnormal is defined as anything that is not typical or non-conforming. Abnormal psychology is a portion of psychology that focuses on abnormal behavior or psychopathology; it is the study of emotional and mental disorders and behaviors that hinder an individual from becoming acclimatized to life (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Factors that are assessed are based on, the anguish, dysfunction, threat, and divergence that could ultimately cause an individual to harm others of themselves (Berg, 2007). Like normal behavior, abnormal behavior is determined by what is seen as normal by civilization. For instance, some cultures believe that polygamy is normal while it is viewed as abnormal in other cultures and monogamy is the norm.

In terms of similarities between normal and abnormal psychology, each has a decisive factor that is apprehended by an individual’s culture and ever-changing notions of what are considered normal. Normal behavior is made rational by what society views as conventional whereas abnormal behavior is regarded as what society views as unconventional and therefore dysfunctional behavior. Psychological Evaluations of Two Mental Illnesses and Disorders

Post traumatic stress disorder and Bulimia Nervosa are two mental disorders that can affect an individual after a traumatic even in their lives. Kowalski and Westen (2009) stated, “Post-traumatic stress disorder has a number of symptoms: nightmares, flashbacks, deliberate efforts to avoid thoughts or feelings about the traumatic event, diminished responsiveness to the external world, and psychological numbness” (Chapter 14, p. 541). PTSD can be exposed by a stimuli long time after the traumatic event, causing psychological and mental reactions. Common symptoms for PTSD suffers are flashbacks and hallucinations caused by a memory. Flashbacks and hallucinations can be caused by a visual or auditory memory. Post traumatic stress disorder was known as Shell Shock during World War I by the military. The military believed that Shell Shock was a psychiatric illness caused by nerve injury during combat.

Bulimia Nervosa is a mental disorder most common in white females. Kowalski and Westen (2009) stated, “Bulimia is characterized by a binge-and-purge syndrome” (Chapter 14, p. 541). A person who suffers from Bulimia will eat a large amount of food followed by vomiting or excessive use of laxative to lose weight and eliminate the food from the body. Binge eating is not the result of being hungry it is the response of a psychological disorder that is a trigger to low self esteem, depression, or stress. A person with Bulimia will feel euphoric followed by shame from binging and will purge in order to regain control of their emotions. This cycle can continue, if the Bulimia goes untreated; medical and psychological complications can occur. Bulimia can be treated and managed by a physician or a psychiatrist.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that occurs when an individual cannot distinguish the difference between reality and fiction. Kowalski and Westen (2009) stated, “Schizophrenia is an umbrella term for a number of psychotic disorders that involve disturbances in nearly every dimension of human psychology, including thought, perception, behavior, language, communication, and emotion” (Chapter 14, p. 541). Some researchers believe that Schizophrenia is inherited form the family. Schizophrenia can be caused by an imbalance of the chemicals known as serotonin and dopamine. Not enough information is known about Schizophrenia to cure it, but symptom can be treated with medication and therapy.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that affects a person’s mood swings and causes manic episodes. Kowalski and Westen (2009) stated, “Individuals with bipolar disorder have manic episodes but often experience both emotional poles, depression and mania” (Chapter 14, p. 535). A Bipolar manic episode can make a Bipolar suffer feel extremely happy, energetic and restless when in a high manic mood. A low mood episode can cause sadness, hopelessness, and tiered. Bipolar illness can affect the life of suffers by making it difficult to live a normal life. Scientists believe that Bipolar is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. A cure has not been found for bipolar, but it can be treated with medicine.

Similarities among Therapies in Treating Disorders
There are four different approaches that can be taken when dealing with the treatment of mental disorders. For instance, there is the psychodynamic perspective, cognitive-behavioral, biological and humanistic approach. Within each therapy category there are subdivisions that differentiate the types of therapy that is available to treat these disorders.

The psychodynamic approach includes psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy. These types of therapy include the patient or individual interacting with the psychiatrist on a one-to-one basis and having the opportunity to discuss and express the feelings and thoughts that they are experiencing. The humanistic approach includes gestalt and client-centered. Within this therapy the individual is taught and encouraged to express their inner feelings and acceptance of themselves as they are. These two types of therapies are similar in the sense that they deal with the individual expressing their feelings and accepting them at the same time.

The cognitive-behavioral approach includes systematic desensitization, exposure techniques, operant techniques, participatory modeling, skills training and cognitive therapy. Within these therapies the individual is faced with what they fear the most gradually over time in order to help them overcome their fear and feelings that can provoke negative thoughts. The biological approach aims at changing or alternating physiological brain functions or areas that are responsible for causing such disorders. These two therapies are similar in the sense that they try to eliminate or decrease the amount of the factor that is causing the mental disorder.

Differences among Therapies in Treating Disorders
There are many forms of therapy that can be used to resolve or rectify mental disorders. Psychological Approaches, more specifically, targets the "software," learned faulty behaviors and habits, along with damaging words, thoughts, interpretations, and feedback that direct strategies for daily living. Psychological approaches assume that many disorders result from mental, behavioral, and social factors, such as personal experiences, traumas, conflicts, and environmental conditions. The treatment for a psychological approach is to attempt the change of behaviors, thoughts, and thought processes that impair daily living, thereby improving functioning. These treatments are practiced by clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors. Psychological treatments include four types of psychotherapy and they are: Psychodynamic, Behavioral, Humanistic, and Cognitive. Psychodynamic therapy views the problems of the disorder and concludes that they, the problems, are symptoms of unresolved traumas or conflicts. The main focus is attempting to resolve conflicts between personal needs and social requirements. The approach, for psychodynamic therapy, is to get individuals to work through their problems, exposed or unresolved, and finds an effective solution for each. In Behavioral therapy, the view is that the problem is the result of a learned, self-defeating behavior. The main focus is to observe behaviors and conditions that encourage unhealthy behavior and the approach is to apply the principles of conditioning and reinforcement to promote healthy behaviors. The Humanistic therapy view is that the problem is the result of issues related to difficulties in the individual’s daily life. This could be the lack of a meaningful relationship or not completing a significant goal. The focus is to uniting the mind and body, and increasing greater levels of performance and experience. The approach is to have the individual examine their experiences in their current situation and develop their own individuality and learn how to realize their full potential. In Cognitive therapy, the view is that the problem is a result of what we think and how we think. Misrepresented thoughts of how a person views themselves or a particular situation are a good example in regard of how an issue may arise according to this therapy’s view. The focus is mainly on a person’s thoughts and thought process and how it relates to their problematic emotions and behaviors.

The approach is to reconfigure the damaged thinking patterns so that an individual can learn healthy and realistic ways of thinking about life’s experiences. Most managed care companies want the clinician to demonstrate how the treatment provided is related to the categorical disability of the patient. Focusing on functional disabilities is helpful in this regard. For example, a functional assessment of an individual with the categorical diagnosis of schizophrenia may reveal a skill deficit in his or her ability to state requests assertively. This skill deficit is important because it leads to stressful conflicts with family and peers that result in increased symptoms of schizophrenia and relapse. The functional skill deficit may be treated by providing communication skills training for the patient and family. The development of the functional capacity (communication skill) in this patient will have a direct impact on the schizophrenic illness. Functional assessment focuses on the degree to which the individual's abilities and performance match the demands of his or her home, work, school, family, and social situations. (Bedell and Hunter, 1997).


Addict. (1993). In Webster’s Dictionary plus Thesaurus. USA: Nickel Press

Bedell, J., Hunter, R., & Corrigan, P. (1997). Current approaches to assessment and treatment of

persons with serious mental illness. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice,

28(3), 217-228. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.28.3.217.

Berg, K (2007) Introduction to Abnormal Psychology, Retrieved July 01, 2010, from Kowalski, R. & Westen, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

Pinto, S., & Schub, T. (2010). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved from CINAHL Plus with Full Text database.

Abnormal Psychology and Therapy


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