Assignment: Abnormal behavior historical

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Assignment: Abnormal behavior historical

Assignment: Abnormal behavior historical


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Assignment: Abnormal behavior in historical context

What Is a Psychological Disorder? Keeping in mind the real-life problems faced by Judy, let’s look more closely at the definition of psychological disorder: or prob- lematic abnormal behavior: It is a psychological dysfunction within an individual that is associated with distress or impair- ment in functioning and a response that is not typical or culturally expected (see E Figure 1.1). On the surface, these three criteria may seem obvious, but they were not easily arrived at and it is worth a moment to explore what they mean. You will see, impor- tantly, that no one criterion has yet been developed that fully defines a psychological disorder.

Psychological dysfunction Psychological dysfunction refers to a breakdown in cognitive, emo- tional, or behavioral functioning. For example, if you are out on a date, it should be fun. But if you experience severe fear all evening and just want to go home, even though there is nothing to be afraid of, and the severe fear happens on every date, your emotions are not functioning properly. However, if all your friends agree that the person who asked you out is unpredictable and dangerous in some way, then it would not be dysfunctional for you to be fearful and avoid the date.

A dysfunction was present for Judy: She fainted at the sight of blood. But many people experience a mild version of this reaction (feeling queasy at the sight of blood) without meeting the criteria

for the disorder, so knowing where to draw the line between normal and abnormal dysfunction is often difficult. For this rea- son, these problems are often considered to be on a continuum or a dimension rather than to be categories that are either present or absent (McNally, 2011; Stein, Phillips, Bolton, Fulford, Sadler, & Kendler, 2010; Widiger & Crego, 2013). This, too, is a reason why just having a dysfunction is not enough to meet the criteria for a psychological disorder.

distress or impairment That the behavior must be associated with distress to be classi- fied as a disorder adds an important component and seems clear: The criterion is satisfied if the individual is extremely upset. We can certainly say that Judy was distressed and even suffered with her phobia. But remember, by itself this criterion does not define problematic abnormal behavior. It is often quite normal to be dis- tressed—for example, if someone close to you dies. The human condition is such that suffering and distress are very much part of life. This is not likely to change. Furthermore, for some disorders, by definition, suffering and distress are absent. Consider the per- son who feels extremely elated and may act impulsively as part of a manic episode. As you will see in Chapter 7, one of the major difficulties with this problem is that some people enjoy the manic state so much they are reluctant to begin treatment or stay long in

Judy was suffering from what we now call blood– injection– injury phobia. Her reaction was quite severe, thereby meeting the criteria for phobia, a psychological disorder character- ized by marked and persistent fear of an object or situation. But many people have similar reactions that are not as severe when they receive an injection or see someone who is injured, whether blood is visible or not. For people who react as severely as Judy, this phobia can be disabling. They may avoid certain careers, such as medicine or nursing, and, if they are so afraid of needles and injections that they avoid them even when they need them, they put their health at risk. •

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