Abnormal Psychology Coursework

Table of Content

Question 1 Summarize research findings on the role of genetics and environment in the development of psychological disorders. Researches in development reveal that both genetics and environment not only separately influence normal or abnormal functioning of the human psyche, but together and inseparably affect an individual’s manner of operating in his world (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Environment’s influence can start as early as the nurturer’s bearing, i.e. the moment of conception when the fertilized cell is immersed in the mother’s internal environment. The contention that genetics cannot be downplayed since this fertilized cell contains genetic material that may mean the marked direction of growth towards normality or abnormality has been embraced by biologists and psychologists for many decades until now.

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Nature and nurture interact to mould a person into what he becomes; hence psychological disorders are regarded both a product of genetics and environment according to many studies. However, the degree of their influence such as at what critical times will the developing child or person succumbs to the effects of environment is observed to be crucial though. This means that the individual who has risks of developing mental illness, depends largely to these “critical periods” (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Abnormal psychology or the study of the development of psychological disorders focuses on the interplay of genetics and environment and how most psychologists agree to the notion that though genetics increases the possibility of the development of “malfunctioning” or disorders; this is generally moderated by environment (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

A case in point is some findings on Reactive Attachment Disorder/s (RAD): studies reveal that there are no simplistic conclusions drawn in understanding RAD or any psychological disorders in general since no clear lines are seen where genetics ends and where environment begins in the development of the disorder.

The article by Hanson and Spratt (2000) gives in-depth information on the issue of Reactive Attachment Disorder where the heart of the maladaptive behavior is the maltreatment of children. Though it seemed clear that RAD is largely developed due to environmental underpinnings, the study made no sweeping generalizations on the case. It attempts to give a very balanced look on the etiology of the disorder, the many sides that are considered to be legitimate in the scientific community which are constantly updating on cases with RAD.

The article is certainly very adequate in its presentation; it does not attempt to simplify the problems that are commonly found among children severely abused especially by their own parents and caregivers. Rather it tries to argue on several issues that might provide a greater possible rationale why this disorder arises among children. The authors point out that evidence shows that “pathogenic care” accounts for most of the cases of the development of RAD (Hanson and Spratt, 2000).

Question 2 Explain the principles of operant conditioning, clarifying the differences among positive reinforcers, negative reinforcers, punishment, and primary and secondary reinforcers. Give examples of all.Operant conditioning, like classical conditioning, is not just an exotic laboratory procedure. People use operant conditioning everyday in their effort to influence other people. For example, parents and peers incline children to acquire “sex appropriate” behavior patterns through the elaborate use of rewards and punishment.

Parents tend to praise their children for sharing with others and to punish their children for being too aggressive. The strength of an operant response can be measured by its resistance to extinction: that is, how long it takes for the behavior to return to its original rate once the pleasant consequence following the behavior no longer occurs. It is thus told that it is generally correct to say that for an operant response to be strengthened, the response should be rewarded (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).But reward in ordinary language denotes things such as money, candy, or praise.

There would be times, however, that a reward will not always strengthen an operant response. This is further explained in other phenomena of operant conditioning called reinforcement; the negative and positive reinforcers etc. Reinforcement is anything that increases the probability that a particular response will increase in frequency. The presentation (positive) or removal (negative) of particular consequences may reinforce responses.

Thus, reinforcement may be either positive or negative (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).Positive reinforcer increases the probability that an operant will occur when it is applied, or it increases the likelihood that a particular response will occur. When a student gets a high grade as reward for his effective study habits, he is likely to consistently follow his rewarded behavior. This is an example of positive reinforcement.

Negative reinforcer increases the probability that an operant will occur when it is removed. People often learn to plan ahead so that they need not fear that things will go wrong. Fear acts as a negative reinforcer, because removal of fear increases the probability that the behaviors preceding it will be repeated (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).Primary reinforcers.

There are some reinforcers that are innately reinforcing. They’re powerful in increasing the chance that a particular behavior will occur. They are usually effective because they satisfy basic physiological needs, food, clothing, and shelter are considered primary reinforcers (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).Secondary reinforcers are reinforcers which are not innately reinforcing.

Their power to reinforce behavior is acquired and not innately present. Money, grades, prize, and tokens are secondary reinforcers (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).Punishments are aversive events that suppress or decrease the frequency of the behavior they follow. Punishment can rapidly suppress undesirable behavior and may be warranted in “emergencies” such as when a child tries to run out into the street (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Question 3 Describe what is meant by a clinical interview, identifying the topics typically covered during an interview, and contrasting structured with unstructured interview.A clinical interview is most often utilized or employed by clinicians to retrieve information vital to the diagnosis and understanding of disorders or of the person in need of intervention (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).  Therapists or practitioners usually make use of the clinical interview by way of a structured interview. This is comprised of what is termed as “standard” set of inquiry which includes the person’s present complaints, the events that surround him/her particularly which occur very recently, and brief background.

The clinician oftentimes do clinical interviews with such range of topics as: details concerning the person; what are the reasons that brought the patient or client to the clinician which actually describes his/her problems that recently affected him/her; a client’s or patient’s  psychosocial history or inquiries on how he/she was brought up by parents and siblings as well as his/her immediate and secondary surroundings; the patient’s record of hospitalizations and illnesses including those that relate to or are relevant to his/her psychological disorder, if any; and problems that are generally medical in nature.

However, depending on the interviewer’s perspective or approach in understanding maladjustment or disorder, these set of questions are then variable. Unstructured interview then, in contrast, does not follow these set of questions. Although the practitioner may include a few of the questions that are generally used by most if not all clinicians, the direction of the unstructured interview may be called as free flowing, and largely dependent on individual cases. However, this is rarely done because it is not usually sufficient to draw some pertinent conclusions or diagnosis on a particular case (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Question 4 Explain what evidence-based practices are. Describe the controversy that surrounds them and summarize the main arguments against their use.Evidence-based practices are understood by some as those that involve the application of “proven” techniques and methods in the treatment of maladies or psychological disorders.

Clinicians are generally trained in several paradigms or schools of thought and independently and individually practice what suits themselves in terms of their persuasion, abilities, personalities, and particular worldview (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).  Their manner of intervention or the use of therapeutic techniques or approaches depends on how they understand the development of disorders.

These days however, there is a distinction made between “evidence-based practices” and “evidence-based treatment” since there are those that employ different notions in the application of treatment modalities. The former, “evidence-based practice,” has something to do specifically about making decisions based on the best results from research, the training of the practitioner, and the traits that are unique to the client or patient.

The latter or “evidence-based treatment” is the actual treatment itself which is proven effective according to very meticulous or thorough methods in the application of these specific treatments. The arguments against the use of “EBP” center mainly on the practicality of the method; simply because it could be time consuming and costly. It is not yet done by most practitioners according to those who appear to be objective about its use.

There are certainly limitations to the use of the method but this development in the practice encourages truthfulness and strengthens the profession in terms of focusing on what is best available to every individual patient and discourages every form of deception in the profession somehow (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Question 5 Explain the causes, symptoms, and effects of the general adaptation syndrome.The body reacts to stressors by initiating a complex sequence of responses. If the perceived threat is resolved quickly, these emergency responses subside, but if the stressful situation continues, a different set of internal responses occurs as people attempt to adapt (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Anyone who has experienced a near accident or some other sudden, very frightening event sees themselves that their physical responses to stress include rapid breathing, increased heartbeat, sweating, general shakiness, especially in the muscle of the arms and legs.

These reactions are all part of a general pattern or syndrome, known as the fight or flight syndrome. This syndrome, created by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system prepares the body to face or flee an immediate threat or danger.  When the danger is past, the responses (fight or flight) subside. When the stressors are longer lasting, however, these responses are only the beginning of a longer sequence of bodily reactions.

Careful observation of animals and humans exposed to infections, radiations, temperature extremes, and other extended stressors led Hans Selye to suggest that this longer sequence of physical responses occurs in a consistent and very general pattern, which is triggered by the effort to adapt to any stressors. Selye called this sequence the general adaptation syndrome, or GAS (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).Hans Selye’s research suggested that physical reactions to stress occur in three phases: the alarm reactions, the stage of resistance, and the stage of exhaustion. During the alarm reaction, the body’s resistance temporarily drops below its normal, ongoing level as it absorbs the initial impact of the stressor.

The resistance soon increases dramatically, however, leveling off in the resistance stage, but ultimately declining if the exhaustion stage is reached. More recent approaches, suggest that this sequence of events is not always consistent and predictable as Selye suggested (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Question 6 Explain what phobias are, describing their common features. Also, define and describe specific phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia Phobias are best described as irrational or excessive fear or to provide a more lengthy explanation: it is a strong, persistent and irrational fear which is elicited by a specific stimulus or situation such as a morbid fear of closed spaces (claustrophobia). Specific phobia is so called because the sufferer has a particular object, situation or animal for instance, which is the source of this irrational or persistent fear (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Agoraphobia is an irrational fear on open or wide spaces or places while social phobia refers to a feeling of very forceful fear that the sufferer feels concerning being severely judged by other people. Phobias in clinical terms are phobic disorders because its nature is described as fear of something which does not warrant the eliciting of the reaction from the person.

According to the studies, phobias comprise of the element that pertains to a person’s manifesting a specific behavior, the person avoiding a specific object or situation that elicits the behavior as well as both the cognitive and the physical aspects that are descriptive of anxiety. It can be crippling or paralyzing to a person sufferer as his/her actions or behavior is going to be limited or severely hampered to accommodate the adjustment or avoidance of phobic situations or objects. Hence, proper diagnosis and understanding as well as treatment are in order for the person who experiences phobic disorder (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Question 7 Explain what culture-bound syndromes are and describe the features of Koro and Dhat syndromes. Culture-bound syndromes refer to the terminology attributed to some syndromes expressly found or identifiable only in certain cultures. There is where the Koro and the Dhat syndromes (or sex neurosis) have become known for. For instance, the Dhat syndrome, which is only found in the Orient, hence the “neurosis of the Orient” connotation. Dhat syndrome is a symptom complex in the Indian culture descriptive of the Indian cultural belief that loss of semen such as what happens during nocturnal emissions can be dangerous since this fluid represents in some sense, mystical and physiological strengths.

Because of this belief system, individuals investigated relative to the specific culture were found to be experiencing such symptoms as hypochondriasis and severe anxiety. The Koro syndrome, categorized under the DSM-IIIR and ICD-10, is also found to be similarly a culture-bound symptom complex specific to ethnic Chinese. It was found to be in existence in China since 1865 and which was also found prevalent among native Singaporeans. It is said to be identified as well with the Indonesians during the Dutch colonization, hence a conclusion was drawn that it is also confined to the Orient (Chowdhury, 1996; Nevid et al. , 2000).

The Koro syndrome is typified as the retraction of the penis or more characterized as a male, in certain parts of Singapore or Malaysia for instance, believes that his genitalia is beginning to reduce in size and the mental state of this person is that of extreme anxiety.Culture-bound syndromes illustrated in the Dhat and Koro symptom complexes are localized and hence raise questions about abnormality in general, and in particular, the influence of specialized cultural persuasions on the individuals experiencing such extreme anxieties or fears. Its implications to many other disorders, such as anorexia, have fueled more controversies on the validity of their categorizations in the DSM, in abnormal psychology and psychiatry.

It therefore implies that the progress in education on these cultures on the true nature of their experience and the effect of their belief system will somehow and had proven effective in reducing the syndromes.

Question 9 Explain the biological, psychodynamic, learning, cognitive, and sociocultural approaches to substance abuse and dependence.Biological approach is best seen through the disease model which views the dependence of /in substance abuse as a process or processes much like the development of a disease. In this viewpoint, dependence on a particular substance is something which is irreversible and thus, already a permanent condition. This is largely recognized because of the genetic evidence or genetic component with some of those with the condition (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Psychodynamic approach takes on the assumption that the abuse and dependence patterns developed from “oral fixations” especially that many other traits that are critical during the oral stage are manifest as well in persons typical with these disorders. This has reference to the tendency for the person with the disorder to succumb to depression (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Learning approach or behavioral perspective sees the disorder as derivative from the acquisition of behaviors from conditioning and observing others (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).Cognitive approaches however, sees it differently in that it takes into consideration patterns of thinking such as the role of belief system, set of expectancies, and attitudes as critical to the development and the recovery as well of the patient or client (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Sociocultural approach takes into account that peer groups for instance push certain populations into the abuse and dependence stage while studies on some cultural and indigenous communities which sanction the use of certain substances limit or even reduce the incidence of dependency or abuses (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Question 10 Describe the features of the major types of dyssomnias: primary insomnia, primary hypersomnia, narcolepsy, breathing-related sleep disorder, and circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Dyssomnias is a heterogeneous group of sleep disorders that include insomnia, hypersomnia, narcolepsy, breathing-related disorder, and circadian rhythm disorders (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Sexual dysfunctions refer to various disorders revolving the reduction or reservations concerning the sexual aspect of human behavior specifically on the person’s interest, his/her experience of pleasure, and/or his/her response to sex (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).The nature of sexual dysfunction relates to the in/ability of the person to complete the cycle of normal sexual response from the stage of appetite, the development of excitement, reaching orgasm and resolution (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008). Sexual dysfunctions include the following:Sexual desire disorders. This refers to the commonly labeled as hypoactive sexual desire disorder and sexual aversion disorder.

The latter (sexual aversion) is a repulsion of the sufferer to anything sexual in nature which includes genital contact or sexual contact. This is mostly due to traumatic or critical past experiences that are mostly seen in incest, rape or sexual abuses in childhood that the normal sexual functioning is impaired. The former refers to the lack or absence of sexual desire or even fantasies or imagination or sexual drive (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Impotence for male erectile disorder and female arousal disorder are characterized by the inability of a person, for males – to get an erection, and for females to reach lubrication (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).Orgasm disorders. (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008). Referring to a person who has the inability to reach orgasm, or there is a recurring experiences of delay in reaching orgasm, or in males, experiencing premature ejaculation.

Sexual pain disorders. (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008). When a person experiences dyspareunia, which is the experience of recurring pain in the surrounding genitalia, or vaginismus, that which refers to the painful intercourse resulting frequently to failure in coitus; due to an involuntary spasmodic action in the vaginal muscles.

Question 12 Discuss biological, psychodynamic, learning-based, psychosocial-rehabilitation, and family intervention treatments of schizophrenia. Though schizophrenia is more addressed today using a multi-modal approach, the disease or illness is treated by some professionals in terms of their own expertise (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

The biological treatment consists of utilizing the various drugs or medications that limit the manifestations of the symptoms, while the psychodynamic approach, though rarely effective according to studies, takes on the Freudian slant with the use of psychoanalysis (though Freud himself contends that psychotics who are immersed in their own world will make the therapy quite impossible) or the insight-therapy. Learning-based treatments such as that of social skills training and the use of the token economy are at times effective. Psychosocial-rehabilitation employs the techniques to assist the client/patient develop skills in order to better integrate with society.

The family intervention system focuses on the collective aspect of the family unit in addressing the problems of the mentally ill, recognizing the specialized care that must be done to the patient, and the training that these members or significant others must have towards the mentally ill. It takes into consideration that the carers must also be cared for (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Question 13 Discuss the three leading psychodynamic perspectives on the development of personality disorders, discussed in your textbook. Kohut’s formation of the self. Kohut provided the clearest model of the self, but upset many psychoanalysts as regards view of the “ego” (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

He substituted self for conflict as the central factor in personality and psychopathology. Considering the associations with traditional personality theorists, Kohut concurs with Erikson’s theory of identity and Rogers’ humanistic approach, in Kohut’s view that the family and society with which individuals are experienced today, are contrasted to those experienced by Freud’s patients. Families in Freud’s time was threatening due to too much closeness and intimacy as contrasted to families today are threatening, due to too much concerned with their own narcissistic needs.

Kohut dealt with patients whose major problems involved feelings of emptiness and depression. His patients suffered from problems of narcissism. Via empathy or careful listening to what his patients are telling him and understanding what they said in their own terms rather in the traditional terms of ego, id, and superego, libido, among others, that Kohut viewed self as the central construct and core problem of personality (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).Kernberg’s identity diffusion and splitting concepts.

Otto Kernberg portends that personality disorders stem from the problems encountered during the development of the self during the stage of early childhood. Because of the difficulties that a child encounters between positive and negative images during this critical period, the result becomes what he terms as identity diffusion. The borderline personality that emerged in adulthood springs from the lack of resolution during the early childhood stage (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).Mahler’s infant’s struggle to gain autonomy and a sense of self (symbiotic attachment).

Margaret Mahler believed that the first three years of life are crucial in establishing lifelong, mature object relations hence, the crucial object in relation here is the mother. It is during these three years that the symbiotic relationship is developed and is a precursor of the problems encountered by those experiencing the borderline personality disorders, who frequently becomes ambivalent between being a separate individual from the mother and the difficulties arriving at that individuation (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Question 14 Explain what learning disorders are and describe the different types of learning disorders. Learning disorders are also coined as “language and speech disorders” and academic skills disorders.

They are commonly identified when a child enters school-age. the problems related with these disorders generally hamper a particular child’s overall engagement in school activities which may usually have their dire effects on his/her esteem (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).Academic skills disorders have the following subtypes: developmental arithmetic disorder (children who cannot do simple arithmetic equations like addition and subtraction and the recognition of their symbols like a plus + or minus sign -) ; developmental expressive writing (a severe difficulty in  the ability to express themselves through writing or composition) , and developmental reading disorders (termed as dyslexia, this disability is characterized by a child’s inability to recognize words or letters and understand the printed material) (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Language and speech disorders usually are identified with children and are categorized as: developmental articulation disorder (cannot make a sound or speak specific words), developmental expressive language disorder (grammatical errors which are profound) and developmental receptive disorders (children who have the inability to comprehend someone speaking a language) (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Question 15 Summarize research findings on the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and describe current efforts at treating or preventing this disorder. Also, discuss the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on the family;AD or Alzheimer’s disease is named after its discoverer which is an affliction becoming prevalent with people approaching the aging years. It is typified as the deterioration of the cognitive functioning in progressive manner. What are affected are the person’s problem solving ability, language and memory, and so far, no solution or cure has been found, nor its causes.

There were raised some possible factors that give way to AD such as a virus that is described as slow – acting in nature; traumas to the brain, and/or the heritability factor. Other researches show that brain chemistry may be the culprit, hence the role of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine are looked into extensively (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

The interventions applied to patient sufferers center around biochemical treatments that inhibit the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from breaking down. Since there still are no appropriate measures to prevent the progressive deterioration of mental faculties or its cure, the best approach by the health practitioners is to detect early its occurrence in people so as to make preparations as possible to make their lives still as enriching as they can be (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).

Question 16 Explain the effects of the Tarasoff case on helping professionals’ duty to warn third parties of threats posed by clients. The Tarasoff case was named after Tatiana Tarasoff who was a victim of murder of an admirer. During her time, she was courted by an Indian national named Poddar. The murder case developed into a full blown investigation concerning several people including the therapist involved and the campus police who investigated and released Poddar, the perpetrator.

The corresponding ruling puts therapists into a dilemma as they were duty bound to warn a third part who may be a potential victim of violence from the study they make on clients. The problem exists when in reality, clinicians rarely have the capability to predict the potential violent ability or act that will be made by their client.

Potential clients will usually distance from therapy because of this ruling as it will constitute a “betrayal” of their confidential relationship or breaching their rights to confidentiality. The case resulted to the filing of Tarasoff’s parents against the authorities that time since police in the campus were informed by the therapist concerned about Poddar’s plan against Tarasoff.

However, the campus police deemed the perpetrator’s mental set intact and sent him home which eventually resulted to the crime. The ruling is conceived by many to be harmful instead towards the general populace as this wards off those clients from therapy; these individuals who have the tendency to commit similar crimes may not be able to get the help they need (Nevid, Rathus and Greene, 2008).


  1. Chowdhury, Arabinda (1996). The definition and Classification of Koro: Culture. Medicine, and Psychiatry. 20:41-65.
  2. Hanson. Rochelle F. and Eve G. Spratt (2000). “Reactive Attachment Disorder: What   we know about the disorder and implications for treatment.” Child Maltreatment, May issue, Vol. 5, No.2. , pp. 137-145.
  3. Nevid, Jeffrey, Spencer Rathus, & Beverly Greene (2008). Abnormal Psychology in a  Changing World. Pearson Prentice Hall.

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