What is Abnormal Psychology? its theories, approaches and goals

what is abnormal psychology
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The term “abnormal psychology” is used to describe the study of people who experience mental illness and other disorders. The goal of abnormal psychology is to understand what causes these problems, how they can be treated, and how they can be prevented.

Some people use the term “abnormal psychology” to refer only to mental illnesses that are considered severe. These include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. But this isn’t what most experts mean by the term.

In general, abnormal psychologists study a wide range of mental illnesses and other disorders. They also study other aspects of human behavior that may not seem like a problem at first glance but still cause significant distress or impairment in functioning for some people.

1 in 5 Americans live with a mental illness according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIHMS).

Defining Abnormality

There are different ways of defining what is abnormal. The following characteristics are usually included:

  • Abnormal behavior occurs infrequently– Abnormal behavior is an unpredictable and rare event. The occurrence of abnormal behavior is not always a result of an underlying disorder, and may be due to situational factors. Understanding the relationship between the frequency of abnormal behavior and diagnosis can help inform treatment decisions for children and adults with mental health conditions.
  • Abnormal behavior creates distress– Abnormal behavior can be a difficult topic to address, especially for people with mental illnesses, but it is important to understand anxiety and depression as it is a common issue. An individual’s feelings may also be cause for concern if they are not acting like their typical selves.
  • Abnormal behavior affects a person’s ability to function– Abnormal behavior is often the result of several psychological conditions. For example, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can cause people to suffer from delusions and hallucinations.
  • Abnormal behavior is socially disruptive– Abnormal behavior is not only undesirable, but is also a social disruption. In fact, abnormal behavior often causes an individual to feel like an outsider within his or her community and can lead to other difficulties in life.

Theories of abnormal psychology

  1. Biological theory of abnormal psychology posits that mental disorders are caused by structural or chemical abnormalities in the brain.
  2. The psychological theory of abnormal psychology suggests that mental disorders are the result of unconscious conflicts or learned maladaptive behavior patterns.
  3. The cognitive theory of abnormal psychology proposes that mental disorders are caused by errors in information processing and thinking patterns.
  4. The socio-cultural theory of abnormal psychology states that mental disorders are the result of social and cultural factors such as poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to resources.
  5. The psychoanalytic theory of abnormal psychology, developed by Sigmund Freud, suggests that mental disorders are caused by conflicts between unconscious desires and societal norms.

Characteristics of abnormal Behaviour in psychology?

DSM-5 criteria for abnormal behavior focus on 4 main components: maladaptive behavior, personal distress, statistical rarity & violation of social norms in your work. Expectations should also be put into mind. The criteria are illustrated by examples of behaviors that could meet this definition.

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Examples include:-unwilling to work or attend school;-misuse of animals, alcohol, or drugs;-inappropriate sexual activity with a non-family member as the victim;-sudden loss of interests and activities with no apparent reason for doing so.

Four goals of abnormal psychology?

Abnormal psychology is the study of behaviors that deviate from the normative. This includes psychological disorders, personality traits and cognitive limitations. There are four goals of abnormal psychology: understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of abnormal behavior.

One goal is to understand how people with mental disorders think and feel. This includes examining how symptoms of mental disorders affect the person’s daily behaviors.

Another goal is to make a diagnosis when someone displays signs of a disorder such as paranoia or schizophrenia.

The third goal of abnormal psychology is to provide treatment for those who have symptoms from a mental disorder so they can better function in society.

Lastly, the fourth goal is to prevent people with mental disorders from developing them in the first place through education and early identification methods like screening tests and clinical interviews that can identify precursors of mental disorders.

Perspectives on AP

The five perspectives of abnormal psychology are biological, behavioral, cognitive, psychodynamic, and sociocultural.

These perspectives give a holistic view of the person with abnormal behavior and not just a symptom-based approach. Each perspective has its own set of methods to help diagnose the cause of abnormal behavior.

  1. The biological perspective uses lab tests to diagnose the physical abnormalities in the body that may be causing or contributing to the problem.
  2. The behavioral perspective uses observation and interviews to identify patterns in behaviors that may be harmful for the person or others around them.
  3. The cognitive perspective focuses on how thoughts and feelings can affect behavior as well as how thoughts can change over time because of new information or experiences.
  4. Psychodynamic therapy is used when there is no clear cause for an abnormal behavior but instead it stems from unconscious conflicts within oneself.
  5. Sociocultural therapy is used when there are cultural norms that influence one’s behaviors that may be considered abnormal by those outside that culture.

Four approaches to abnormal psychology

The four approaches to abnormal psychology are:

Psychoanalytic Approach

This perspective of abnormal behaviour has its roots in the theories of Sigmund Freud. The psychoanalytic approach suggests that many symptoms can be traced back to unconscious thoughts, desires, and memories.

The psychoanalytic approach to literature is a method of literary criticism that concerns the interpretation of texts as expressions of the author’s psyche. This approach was first developed by Sigmund Freud and later expanded upon by his daughter, Anna Freud.

Professionals who take this approach believe that by mapping memories, behaviors, thoughts and even dreams, people can find out the underlying feelings that cause maladaptive behavior and emotional distress. These feelings are often the root cause of maladaptive behaviors and emotional distress.

Behavioral Approach

The behavioral approach is a theory of personality that suggests people’s behavior is the result of their thoughts and feelings.

Behavioral approach has been used to understand why people do what they do, and how they can change their behavior. The approach is based on the idea that people’s behavior reflects their thoughts and feelings.

Behavior therapy is an approach to psychological treatment for abnormal behavior, it focuses on reinforcing good behaviors and not on maladaptive behaviors.

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The behavioral approach aims to change the behavior, not the root cause of it. It may use different strategies such as classical conditioning and operant conditioning to tackle this kind of problem.

Medical Approach

This approach to Abnormal Psychology is one that focuses on the biological causes and potential underlying factors of mental illness. One might include genetic inheritance, related physical illnesses, infections, and chemical imbalances as potential contributing causes. Medical treatments can be tough, but medications are typically found to play a big roll in many of them. They are often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy. Medications have been shown to reduce symptoms, create a calmer emotional state and slowly restore functionality for those who have mental heal issues.

Cognitive Approach

The Cognitive Approach is a way of understanding and studying human behavior that focuses on the mental process.

Cognitive approach is based on the idea that human beings are both biological and psychological creatures.

This approach also takes into account the environmental factors that affect our behavior. It can be used to understand how we think, feel, and act in different situations.

Cognitive approaches are frequently used in psychology, education, business management, marketing and advertising, among other fields.

Cognitive Therapy can also be used together with other behavioral technique to form a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).


A person’s mental health is not always stable. It can be affected by a variety of factors such as family history, genetics, and environment. Mental illness can also be caused by substance abuse or other harmful behaviors.

Abnormal psychology is the study of mental disorders and their effects on the human behavior. It is a field that has been around for centuries and has seen many changes to its theories and practices over time.

Topics in Abnormal Psychology

The main topics in abnormal psychology are the study, understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of symptoms that impact a person’s functioning. Those who may have a disorder could be diagnosed by their patterns of behavior or psychological symptoms.

The topics in abnormal psychology are wide and vary from one individual to the next. However, there are four topics that are common for a majority of people. These four topics are:

1) The nature of abnormality and its relation to mental illness

2) The classification of mental disorders

3) The biological basis for mental disorders

4) Treatment for mental disorders

4 D’s in abnormal psychology?

The 4 D’s are:-

  1. Delusions
  2. Disorganized speech
  3. Disorganized behavior
  4. Depersonalization

The 4 D’s in abnormal psychology are delusions, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior and Depersonalization. These are all symptoms of mental illness that can be caused by a variety of factors such as genetics, trauma or substance abuse.

Criticisms of Abnormal Psychology

A common criticism of Abnormal Psychology is that it is not a “real” science.

This is because the field deals with subjective experiences, which are difficult to measure and have no physical properties. This means that it is difficult to create a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, and then analyze the results of the experiment.

Abnormal Psychology has also been criticized for being too open-ended and vague.

There’s some debate over the terminology of ab-normality and, in addition to that, there are some criticisms of the field. However, it has a number of strengths, too.

Some people feel that the way psychology puts mental illnesses labels on things more in line with a medical perspective and not enough from a humanistic point of view. Critics also suggest that it’s often used as an excuse for bad behavior.


Abnormal psychology isn’t just about unusual events that are infrequent- it focuses on coping with and helping people cope with behaviors which cause them distress and disrupt their lives.