Defining abnormality and the criteria for mental

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Jahoda 1958 invented a list, which is in all people who are regarded as normal this is known as Ideal Mental Health.

Criterion 1 Resistance to stress. Resistance to stress is being able to cope with stressful and anxiety provoking situations. Jahoda called this the ability to tolerate anxiety without disintegration. A person that is mentally healthy will have developed good coping strategies for dealing with stressful situations. People who are more susceptible to stress as well as anxiety are more likely to develop psychological problems in the future.

Criterion 2 Accurate perception of reality. This is when a person has an objective and has a realistic view of the world and would not be too optimistic or pessimistic. Having an accurate perception of reality means seeing oneself and the world around them in realistic terms, opposed to seeing the world through "rose tinted glasses" or overly pessimistic. If a person continually distorts reality, then they are not living in the real world. This would result in there behaviours appearing abnormal to others.

Criterion 3 Adapting to the environment. This is the term which means that a person would be able to meet the demands of most situations, also being flexible enough to adapt to changing life circumstances. This also means being competent in all area's of life whether it be at work, in a relationship or leisure activates. Being able to be flexible in situations rather than rigid, being able to adapt and adjust to changes. A person who is fixed in their old ways of thinking and behaving may appear abnormal to a person who is younger. Also it may appear abnormal to those who have been able to adjust to a changing environment.

B) Describe two strengths and two limitations of defining abnormality in terms of mental health.

Limitation 1. Cultural issues. There is considerable cultural difference in connection to this definition. What may apply in one culture may very well not in another. Jahoda's idea's of mental health is based on that of western ideas of individuality and self-fulfillment. So seeking to fulfil your own potential may be seen as a goal in life within some cultures, but may not be in other cultures. In some cultures, elders in the family unit plan the person's future out for them. This planning may be arranging marriages, which are common in Asian cultures. It may therefore be regarded as "abnormal" to pursue your own goals if they are in conflict with those of your culture.

Limitation 2. Possible benefits of stress.There are many possible benefits from stress. Resistance to stress can be a good thing as some people actually work more efficiently in moderately stressful situations. For example, many actors say that when they have felt and experienced a certain amount of anxiety they have given their best performances.

Strengths 1. According to this approach the more of the criteria that are fulfilled, the healthier the person is.

Strengths 2. An big advantage to this approach type is that it provides a good overall target area with the like of depression, this allows a positive approach when focusing on the problems

2. Sally often gets anxious for no apparent reason. She believes that people do not like her & becomes distressed when she has to meet strangers. She is very nervous when faced with new people or unexpected situations.

A) Use the "failure to function adequately" definition to explain why sally displays abnormal behaviour.

According to this definition, failure to function adequately means that a person is unable to live a normal life, e.g. go to work, form close relationships, or perhaps venture outdoors. When a particular behaviour interferes with everyday life then it might be regarded as abnormal. Sally, by the approach of Rosenham and Seligman (1989) displays the characteristic of Maladaptiveness. Maladaptive behaviour prevents an individual, Sally in this case from being able to enjoy good relationships with people or be able to work effectively. This is where the disorder prevents Sally from performing tasks and having feelings the same as that expected in society. Causes distress, moral problems. Prevents the Sally from fulfilling her social roles.

B) Describe two strengths & two limitations of the FFA definition of abnormality.

Limitation 1. Maladaptiveness behaviour is not a true definition of abnormality but a way of defining individual problems and the likelihood that they might need professional help. Comer (2000) points out that psychological abnormality are not necessarily indicated by dysfunction alone. For example some people feel the need to protest against social injustice by depriving themselves of food. It is when this abnormal behaviour interferes with the daily functions such as the ability to work or the motivation to care for themselves properly that this behaviour then becomes reviewed.

Limitation 2. There can always be exceptions to the rule. A student who is showing anxiety about exams may behave uncharacteristically but it would be wrong to consider them abnormal.

Strengths 1. It provides a practical checklist.

Strengths 2. Takes into account the social/cultural context.

3. Alex does not wear shoes at any time during the year. He walks to & from school each day in his bare feet.

3 A) Use the "deviation from social norms" definition of abnormality to explain Alex's behaviour.

Deviation from social norms is the behaviour that does not follow accepted social patterns or unwritten social rules. Such infringements are measured as abnormal. Alex does not wear shoes all year around so this goes against the unwritten social rule that we must wear shoes outside of the house so when somebody does not in this case Alex it is looked up on as deviation from social norm.

B) Describe two strengths and two limitations of the DSM definition of abnormality

Limitation 1. Social deviance is defined by the context in which behaviours occurs, wearing very few clothes on the beach is acceptable but it would not be so acceptable on the local high street.

Limitation 2. Another social deviance is in most western society it is only acceptable to have 1 wife at a time but, Mormons believe it is acceptable for a man to have several wives.

Strengths 1.

The social dimension in which a behaviour occurs is considered in this approach. A behaviour considered to be normal in one setting could be considered as abnormal in another setting.

Strengths 2.

DSM takes into consideration cultural differences and how socially acceptable behaviours can change over time.

4 A) Describe key features of the psychodynamic approach to psychopathology.

The psychodynamic approach to psychopathology makes the assumption that childhood experiences can unconsciously affect a person's emotions, attitudes and behaviour later in life. It was suggested by Freud that the mind has three parts; conscious, preconscious and unconscious. He suggested that the contents of the unconscious are unknown to the individual and there can often be conflict between the id and superego within the unconscious. The id is described by Freud as "a person's basic drives" and the superego is the "conscience" developed through living in society. A person may display abnormal behaviour if the id and superego are not in balance.

Freud identified psycho-sexual stages of development which every child passes through, the experiences of these stages plays a vital role in the personality development of the individual. Childhood emotional trauma or painful experiences could be repressed into the unconscious producing abnormal behaviours or mental illness. Through the use of psychoanalysis the psychodynamic approach assumes that the unconscious can become conscious to identify the root cause of any abnormalities. Through reliving the emotional pain of repressed memories to resolve conflicts the person will be "cured".

B) Outline two limitations & two strengths of the psychodynamic approach to psychopathology.


The psychodynamic approach acknowledges that childhood experiences can unconsciously affect people throughout their lives. When an event is too emotionally painful a child may repress the memory to the unconscious. The psychodynamic approach accepts that mental illness can be experienced by everyone "through no fault of their own".

Through the use of psychoanalysis the psychodynamic approach suggests it is possible to cure abnormalities by making causes in the unconscious conscious to remove the emotional distress caused by a childhood experience.


The psychodynamic approach cannot be tested. It is unknown if the unconscious exists as Freud suggests that the contents of the unconscious mind are not known to the individual. Without evidence it is not possible to verify if a repressed memory is true or false.

The memories revealed through this approach are analysed, two different therapists may analyse these in different ways leading to misinterpretation of the cause.

5 Helen has been referred to a therapist because of her weight gain. She's 20 years old & she is a chocoholic. She has eaten ten bars of chocolate a day since she split up with her partner. According to her mother, chocolate has been a major ingredient in Helen's diet for more than 18 years.

A) Using your knowledge of the behavioural approach to psychopathology, suggest how she might have acquired this behaviour.

The behavioural approach to psychopathology assumes that all behaviour is learned through "classical and operant conditioning". Classical conditioning or "learning through association" was identified by Pavlov who conditioned laboratory dogs to salivate to a bell he rang before feeding them. Operant conditioning or "learning through the consequences of behaviour" was identified by Skinner. If a behaviour is positively reinforced it will be maintained or increase if the behaviour is punished it will lessen or cease.

Helen may have acquired the obsessive behaviour of eating chocolate through operant conditioning. According to Helens mother she has indulged in chocolate for 18 years. Helens mother could therefore be the catalyst for Helens behaviour by rewarding her with chocolate when Helen was upset over something when she was younger. As Helen became older she has learnt the behaviour of comfort eating as a way of coping with difficult circumstances. This suggests that her mother rewarded inappropriate behaviours rather than appropriate when Helen was younger, resulting in Helens behaviour being abnormal by eating an excessive amount of chocolate.

B) Outline two limitations & two strengths of the behavioural approach to psychopathology.


The behavioural approach to psychopathology focuses on behaviours which can be observed and influenced. The approach can be tested in a laboratory where learning of new behaviours can be measured objectively.

The behavioural approach focuses on the current presentation of the person not their life or medical history. A person may not be able to identify what has caused them to have their learnt behaviour and may be satisfied with learning how to alleviate it.


There are ethical concerns regarding the use of the behavioural approach when treatment may be administered without the patients consent or if aversion therapy has been used to cause pain to bring about a change in behaviour.

Animal have been the main subjects when testing the behavioural approach. It can be questioned if the behavioural response of an animal can be likened to that of a human.

6 Outline the biological or cognitive model of abnormality. Consider strengths & limitations of the biological/cognitive model of abnormality.

Cognition is a term used to describe processes carried out including thought, memory, imagination, the processing of information and language. The cognitive approach to psychology focuses on feelings and behaviours, and the fact that these are influenced by a person's perception of themselves, the world and future.

The cognitive model makes the assumption that abnormal behaviour can be caused by disordered thinking and that a cognitive disorder is a learnt behaviour which can be unlearnt. Using the cognitive model this would occur through the individual challenging their disordered thinking such as negative thoughts or irrational beliefs which will lead to a change in behaviour.


The cognitive model of abnormality focuses on how the individual processes information currently. Events from the person's history which can be unreliable are not required to be recalled from their unconscious memories.

Through self monitoring of the person's thought processes the cognitive model allows the person to take responsibility of their disordered thinking to bring about changes in their behaviour.


A person's behaviour can be influenced by factors other than disordered thoughts or feelings. There could be environmental or cultural factors, a behaviour displayed may be culturally acceptable in one culture but not in others.