Psychological disorders affect a person’s everyday life, as well as the lives of the people around them. “Psychologist typically define abnormal behavior broadly, considering it to be behavior that causes people to experience distress and prevent them from functioning in their daily lives” (Feldman, 2009, p. 518). In order to diagnose psychological disorders we need to be able to judge what normal and abnormal behavior is. In this essay I will address the topic of psychological disorders by reflecting on; perspectives on abnormality, major psychological disorders, and different approaches to treatment of psychological disorders.
In Understanding Psychology, Feldman reflects on a few definitions for abnormality; Abnormality as deviation from the average, abnormality as deviation from the ideal, and abnormality as a sense of personal discomfort, to name a few. (2009). Abnormality as deviation from average is when we will observe the behavior of others and acknowledge their behavior as a reflection on that culture or society. We observe abnormality when those behaviors are rare in that society. Abnormality as deviation from the ideal is when we consider abnormality as behavior which does not reach universal standards and codes of conduct.
Last, abnormality as a sense of personal discomfort considers behavior abnormal if it produces personal discomfort and pain to the individual or those around them. In today’s world of modern science, there are six major perspectives on abnormality. They are; medical, psychoanalytic, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, and sociocultural. “These perspectives suggest not only different causes of abnormal behavior but different treatment approaches as well” (Feldman, 2009, p. 519). Before these perspectives came to exist, society’s in history assumed unknowledgeable positions about abnormal behavior.
An example of this is how they would put people away and declare them metal insane without any further type of diagnose. They did not have the tools or knowledge that we have today. Medical perspectives on abnormal behavior suggest that when people display this type of behavior it is because of some kind of fundamental cause that could be linked to hormonal imbalance, a chemical deficiency, or brain injury. (2009). In past studies, abnormal behaviors such as depression and schizophrenia have been associated with biological and genetic factors.
Medical perspectives also suggest that a physical examination will identify the cause of these abnormal behaviors. In contrast to a medical perspective is the psychoanalytic perspective which suggests that abnormal behavior is a product of action that stems from childhood experiences and conflicts in regards to sex and aggression. “According to Freud, children pass through a series of stages in which sexual and aggressive impulses take different forms and produce conflicts that require resolution” (Feldman, 2009, p. 520).
What this means is that unresolved conflicts from childhood experiences stick with an individual through adulthood thus resulting in them acting abnormal. Although this is just a perspective, it indicates that previous experiences in ones life can have profound effects on their psychological state of being. The behavioral perspective refers to the actual behavior itself as the problem. In contrast to psychoanalytic perspectives and medical perspectives that look at symptoms of abnormal behavior, the behavioral perspective focuses its attention on the behavior as the problem. Using the basic principles of learning, behavioral theorists see both normal and abnormal behaviors as responses to various stimuli, responses that have been learned through past experience and that are guided in the present by stimuli in the individual’s environment” (Feldman, 2009, p. 521). What a theorist does in order to explain abnormal behavior from a behavioral perspective is analyze where and how that individual learned the abnormal behavior. They also focus on the circumstances and situations which surround that type of behavior.
Next we have the cognitive perspective which suggests that people’s thoughts and beliefs (their cognition) are the central component to abnormal behavior. One of the goals to this perspective is to teach people new ways of thinking. For example, someone who assumes that working 70 hours a week is the only way they can provide for their family may alleviate some of their stress through therapy which would focus their thoughts on different ways of thinking. Such as having a family night or taking some time off from work.
Cognitive perspectives focus on individuals negative thoughts becoming positive and changing their destructive way of thinking thus reducing abnormal behavior and stress in ones environment. The humanistic perspective “emphasizes the responsibility people have for their own behavior, even when such behavior is abnormal” (Feldman, 2009, p. 521). This perspective comes from Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow who suggest that people as humans are basically rational, social, and motivated to find self-actualization.
From a humanistic approach people have self awareness and also awareness of the environments around them therefore they seek self-worth. They set limits for themselves about what exactly is acceptable behavior. The last perspective that I will be talking about is the sociocultural perspective which suggest that an individuals’ behavior, whether it be normal or abnormal, is a product of the environment around them. Factors such as; family, society, and culture all represent components which shape a persons behavior.
Therefore, the socioculture perspective about abnormal behavior suggests that ones behavior is subjected to change throughout their lives because of social interaction that they have with other people. A great example of this perspective is when Feldman talks about hard times in society. He states that “poor economic times seem to be linked to general declines in psychological functioning, and social problems such as homelessness are associated with psychological disorders” (Feldman, 2009, p. 522). One of the major psychological disorders that many people in today’s society is anxiety disorders.
We all tend to feel anxiety at some point in our lives. Anxiety is a reaction that we have to stressful situation. Without some level of anxiety, we would not be motivated to finish the tasks that are brought to us in life. We put pressure on ourselves to complete these jobs but some experience anxiety at levels that make it hard for them to function with everyday life. The thing that separates normal anxiety and abnormal anxiety is when an individual will experience anxiety without any obvious cause. Not only do anxiety disorders come with no external cause but they also affect persons’ everyday live and functioning skills.
The major psychological anxiety disorders are; phobic disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. A phobic disorder can affects an individual’s everyday life because every thing revolves around them avoiding their phobia. A phobia is “an intense, irrational fear of a specific object or situation. For example, claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed places, acrophobia is a fear of high places, xenophobia is fear of strangers, and electro phobia is a fear of electricity” (Feldman, 2008, p. 528). A phobia can be triggered by things such as; heights, flying, animals, water, closed spaces.
In contrast to those individuals are ones who may be able to obtain their everyday life and function normally because they do not trigger their phobia normally. A panic disorder is different from a phobic disorder because it is often harder to identify when a panic disorder will take place. A panic disorder can last just a few seconds or minutes and may vary up to several hours. Some physical symptoms of panic disorders are; rapid heartbeat, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness. There is no obvious cause and often time’s individuals will have a panic attack out of no where.
Any type of specific stimulus is unrelated therefore often times a person who suffers from a panic disorder will be afraid to be in certain social situations outside of their house. I actually suffer from panic disorder so it was like reading about myself in the section titled Panic Disorders in Feldman on page 529. It is an extremely terrify disorder to the individual because you never know when an attack would take place. I have only had five or six my whole life but they would always be in public places where I would be in a social situation. One even took place when I was on vacation visiting by brother in New York City on the street.
A part of me wonders if this disorder has led me to obtain my degree online rather than on a campus. I would find myself embarrassed and exhausted after I would have an attack where my heart would beat very fast, covered in sweat and starting to black out if I did not go outside or anywhere else and sit down. This is an example of one psychological disorder that hits home for me. It has made me afraid to be in certain situations. Because one took place in a store, something as simple as going to the grocery store I dread at times because of the anxiety I feel.
A generalized anxiety disorder is more long term than a panic disorder. Individuals with a generalized anxiety disorder often times experience anxiety and worry over a long period of time. Sometimes these worries will be over everyday things in their life such as; family, money, work, or health. Opposite to that they may also feel anxiety for no certain reason like something bad might happen. The reason this level of anxiety affects a persons functioning is because they find it hard to concentrate on one activity. Their fear of something going wrong for them outweighs other task. Because of heightened muscle tension and arousal, individuals with generalized anxiety disorder may develop headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, or insomnia” (Feldman, 2008, p. 529). Symptoms in generalized anxiety cases may include; fainting, nausea, sweating, confusion, difficulty breathing, and inability to relax. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is best characterized as obsessions or compulsions. Individuals who are affected by it have unwanted thoughts that develop into obsessions. They feel powerless over the feeling to carry out their compulsions.
For example, a woman might check to make sure her curling iron is shut off several times before she leaves the house. Then, she may continue to think about it while she is gone all day. People who have these types of unwanted and negative thoughts which occur over long periods of time may be unable to function properly in their everyday lives and the society around them. Similar to obsessions are compulsions. A compulsion is when an individual will have an immediate urge to repeatedly carry out some type of action. For example, an individual may continue to tap their fingers a certain number of imes through out the day. Most of these compulsions are strange types of behavior that would seem unnecessary to other individuals. The second type of psychological disorder that I am addressing is Somatoform disorders. “Somatoform disorders are psychological difficulties that take on a physical (somatic) form, but for which there is no medical cause” (Feldman, 2008, p. 545). Some examples of a disorder like this are hypochondriasis and conversion disorders. Hypochondriasis is when an individual always thinks that something is wrong with them.
For example, they may have a headache and assume that it is some kind of deadly diseases. Conversion disorders are the inabilities to physical perform certain task. One may be unable to hear or walk but the condition is purely psychological. Next, I will discuss dissociative disorders where individuals separate critical parts of their personality. One that many people may have heard of is multiple personality’s medical known as dissociative identity disorder. Often times someone may develop this disorder because of disturbing memories. It actually allows their bodies to feel a reduction of stress.
Dissociative amnesia is another dissociative disorder where individuals actually loss selective amounts of their memory. They may be unable to remember facts about themselves or their loved ones. In extreme cases they may loss all recollection of their life. Dissociative fugue is a bizarre disorder because individuals leave the life they have always lived and form new identities. Even though these dissociative disorders are involuntary, they allow people to escape from anxiety by taking on different forms of identities or memory loss. The last major psychological disorder that I will be discussing is mood disorders.
One of the most serve mood disorders is major depression. Individuals who have major depression suffer from ‘a severe form of depression that interferes with concentration, decision making, and sociability” (Feldman, 2008, p. 533). Major depression is a psychological disorder that inflicts more than 15 million people alone in the United States (2008). Symptoms may include: insomnia, crying uncontrollably, and feelings of sadness and in extreme cases depression may even result in suicide. Mania and bipolar disorder are also considered mood disorders which are at the other end of the spectrum.
Individuals with mania may experience intense feeling of happiness and energy. People with mood disorders may also go through periods where they experience depression and other periods of mania. The transition of the two is called bipolar disorder. In conclusion, there are many different types of treatment and therapy that individuals can do in order to overcome psychological disorders. Some of them are; psychotherapy, biomedical therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Psychotherapy is when a trained professional uses different types of psychological techniques to talk to an individual and help them overcome a certain type of disorder.
They will talk to them about resolving certain issues in their lives which may stem to the root of their illness. Therapist in this field work on personal and positive growth. Biomedical therapy is treated by drugs and other types of medical procedures. Psychodynamic therapy is used to confront unresolved feeling and impulses. Treatment is a crucial step to overcoming major psychological disorders because psychological disorders affect a person’s everyday life, as well as the people around them.