What is Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology is the branch of psychology that studies unusual patterns of behavior, emotion and thought. It focuses on the disruption or distress that a troublesome behavior may cause. If an individual’s behavior disrupts his personal, professional or social life then such behavior is regarded as “abnormal” behavior that requires some kind of mental health intervention.

Different perspectives have been used in abnormal psychology. A few psychologists or psychiatrists focus on one single perspective while most of the others use elements from multiple areas that helps understand and treat psychological disorder.

Biological approach
This approach of abnormal psychology focuses on the biological causes that result in mental disorder. This perspective emphasizes on analyzing the basic cause of disorder, which might include genes and hereditary, infection and chemical imbalance.

Behavioral approach
In this approach the focus is high on observable behavior. Psychologist use behavior therapy to reinforce positive behavior and discourage negative behavior. Behavioral approach only deals with an individual’s maladaptive or misadjusting behavior, not the underlying causes.

Environmental approach
According to this approach environment is the key factor that results in imbalance of mental health of an individual. This might include environment at home, school, peers, locality, cultural background, etc.

Cognitive approach
The cognitive approach to abnormal psychology focuses on how internal thoughts, perceptions and reasoning contribute to psychological disorders. The preferred treatment to help an individual is to change the way he thinks and reacts.

Types of psychological disorders
Psychological disorders are defined as set pattern of an individual’s psychological and behavioral symptoms that affect various areas of an individual’s life.

American Psychiatric Association has published a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that mental health professional use for a variety of purpose. The manual contains a list of psychiatric disorders, diagnostic codes, information on the prevalence of each disorder and diagnostic criteria. The current version is known as DSM IV-TR. It provides a list of disorders and a detailed description on what causes and results in a disorder. DSM IV-TR also describes the frequency of the disorder occurring in the general population.

Categories of psychological disorders include: Adjustment Disorders, Mood Disorders, anxiety disorder, developmental disorder and cognitive disorder.

These categories include one or more of the following maladaptive behavior

Prolonged period of discomfort
Every individual experiences some sort of psychological discomfort at some point in life. This can be as simple as worrying about a science test or dealing with the death of loved ones. If such distressing feelings persists for a prolonged period of time then they would be considered as abnormal and need treatment.

Impaired functioning
One man, for example, constantly changes jobs for no apparent reason. This is a clear example of impaired functioning.

Bizarre behavior
This type of behavior is far from rational. There are various things that people do which might seem strange to others.

Disruptive behavior
Disruptive Behavior involve consistent patterns of behaviors like “breaking the rules”, impulsiveness and uncontrollable behavior that disrupts the lives of an individual and other. This type of behavior is characteristic of a severe psychological disorder. An example of this is the antisocial personality disorder.

All of these types of behavior are maladaptive because they directly affect the well-being of the individual and those around them, and block the growth and fulfillment of the individual’s potential.