Abnormal Psychology

In the last four days have you had some nausea?  Some chills?  Muscle fatigue?  A sore throat?  These are the first symptoms of the Ebola virus and you will soon have severe hemorrhaging and begin to bleed out of your organs.  You will be dead within 7-16 days. In reality you do not have the … Continue reading “Abnormal Psychology”

In the last four days have you had some nausea?  Some chills?  Muscle fatigue?  A sore throat?  These are the first symptoms of the Ebola virus and you will soon have severe hemorrhaging and begin to bleed out of your organs.  You will be dead within 7-16 days.

In reality you do not have the Ebola virus (if you do there are bigger issues in your soon to be over life than reading this).

Just because you exhibit the symptoms of a disease, does NOT mean that you have the disease.  Medical students (and AP Psychology students) tend to self diagnose themselves with disorders after studying the symptoms- this is called interns syndrome.

In this chapter we will be examining all different types of psychological disorders.  You will have the tendency to apply the symptoms of these disorders to yourself and loved ones.  Don’t.  Just because a person displays some symptoms of a disorder does not mean they have the disorder.  Otherwise we would all have died of Ebola years ago.

Abnormal Psychology

During the last unit we learned about how we grow in different ways throughout our lifetimes.  Now we are going to discuss several of things that can go array with our psychological development.  This unit is called abnormal psychology which is the study of people who suffer from psychological disorders.

This picture in NO WAY represents someone with a psychological disorder.  I want us to remember that sometimes we joke about these issues, but they are, at there core, serious problems that are treatable.

OK- lets pretend you have three friends (some of you really do need to pretend- I am just kidding- we are all friends- you can be my friend if you want to- not really, I am just trying to be nice- whatever!!!).  One friend only eats peanut butter marshmallow fluff sandwiches, one friend licks very person they meet for the first time, and the last friend collects their farts in jars, labels them and carries them around to smell before every meal.

Which, if any, of these friends have a psychological disorder?

Well, I’m not sure but I can tell you that a psychological disorder should:

  •     be maladaptive (harmful) or disturbing to the individual.
  •     be disturbing to others.
  •     be unusual to the vast majority of people in that culture.
  •     be irrational, not make sense to the average person.

Now you can figure out whether your friends have issues and you will soon realize that labeling people with disorders is not a black or white issue.  Some of you are saying “dude, my fart collector friend is freaking “insane”.  We will almost never use the term insane in this course.  Insane is a legal term to benchmark whether or not a person is culpable of committing a crime.  Psychologists almost never use that term (unless they are getting paid a lot of money to testify in court).

So how are psychologists really able to diagnose people with psychological disorders?

Well, it sounds kind of strange, but they use a book.  The book is called the DSM-IV-TR, which stands for the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Psychological Disorders.  The IV means that this was the fourth version of the book (for example in the original DSM, homosexuality was considered a psychological disorder while bulimia was not).

Every decade or so, the book is updated to allow for changes in our understanding of disorders.  I have no clue what the TR stands for (I should look it up, but I really don’t want to).  The disorders in the DSM-IV are broken up into two main categories- Neurotic disorders: disorders that are a pain in the butt, but you do not lose touch with reality and Psychotic Disorders: disorders where you do lose touch with reality.

DSM-IV-TR (Important paragraph coming)

The DSM-IV contains the symptoms of everything currently considered a psychological disorder.  So every version gets bigger as we discover new mental illnesses.  But the DSM-IV does NOT NOT NOT discuss either the causes of the disorders or give any possible treatments for them.  The reason behind this is key for you to understand.  Remember in the first chapter we talked about the different schools (perspectives) of psychology and how each school sees psychology in a different light (like how different people view the same food on a buffet table).  Well, each school gives different causes and different cures for the disorders.  The DSM-IV cannot write down every psychological schools cause and cure for every disorder- it would be overwhelming.  Thus the DSM-IV just classifies and describes the disorders and leaves the rest to the individual psychologist.

Although we have not yet gone over each school in detail where is a little idea of how each school differs in their reasoning behind the causes of psychological disorders:

School or Perspective Cause of Disorder
Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic Internal, unconscious conflicts
Behavioral Reinforcement history/ the environment
Biomedical Organic problems, biochemical imbalances, genetic predispositions
Cognitive Irrational, dysfunctional thoughts or ways of thinking
Humanistic Failure to strive towards one’s potential or being out of touch with one’s feelings
Sociocultural Dysfunctional society

It is important to note that most psychologists do not pick just one perspective for their practice but pick a combination of them (like you would eat more than one type of food at a buffet)- this is called being eclectic.

Rosenhan Study

Before we delve into the disorders, I want us to be very wary and scared of the power of labeling people with disorders.  In 1978, David Rosenhan conducted the Rosenhan Study, where he sent a number of people to different mental hospitals all claiming to have been hearing voices.

ALL of them were admitted into the mental institutions and diagnosed with schizophrenia (which you will learn about really soon).  A couple of days later, they all said they stopped hearing the voices and were released from the institution with a diagnosis of schizophrenia in remission (hiding).  When they were in the hospital every aspect of their behavior was seen as part of their illness (keep in mind that they were never really sick and faked ONLY that they heard voices).  This study reminds us that we should be careful about labeling people because those labels tend to be permanent and the system has difficulty picking up people that are malingering (faking disorders).

Now that is all the reading you have assigned for today, but if you want to examine psychological disorders by different categories, as Joe Swanson says so eloquently “Let’s do it!!!”

Anxiety Disorders
Somatoform Disorders
Dissociative Disorders
Mood Disorders
Personality Disorders
Other Disorders