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Abnormal Psychology
Dr. David M. McCord
Quick Review
• We looked at definitions of “abnormal”
– Statistical, violation of norms, personal distress, dysfunction,
• We then reviewed the history of how abnormal behavior
has been viewed and treated in the past
Early demonology
Hippocrates and rise of somatogenesis
Dark ages and return to demonology
Renaissance, development of asylums, Pinel
Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia
Somatic therapies of the 1930’s and 1940’s
• This brings us to modern era
– Modern somatogenesis (Kraepelin, “syndrome”)
– Modern psychogenesis (Mesmer, Charcot)
Scientific Paradigms
• Paradigms are conceptual frameworks that scientists
use to study the world
– Paradigms include assumptions about science and
– A general perspective or approach
– Paradigms dictate what will and will not be studied
(e.g. few scientists study ESP today)
– Paradigms can dictate the methods used by a
scientist (introspection versus experimentation)
– Affects the interpretation of facts and findings
• Psychology has yet to settle on a universally accepted
paradigm, so we continue to consider several …
• Biological paradigm –
– Medical model, somatogenic approach
– Mental problems caused by abnormal biological
• Psychodynamic paradigm –
– Freud, psychogenic approach
– Mental problems caused by psychological issues
• Behavioral Paradigm
– Psychogenic, classical & operant conditioning
• Cognitive paradigm
– Psychogenic, Beck, Ellis, CBT
• Humanistic/Existential paradigm –
– Psychogenic, Rogers, Gestalt
• Sociocultural Paradigm
– Family system, cultural background, labels
The Biological Paradigm
• The biological paradigm (medical model) suggests that
alterations of biological processes result in abnormal
• Biological processes may include:
– Heredity
– Imbalances of brain chemistry
– Disordered development of brain structures
Nerve Signaling
• Neurons signal information by
releasing packets of chemical
transmitters from the axon
– Chemical molecules bind to
receptors on the
membrane of adjacent
nerve cells
– Binding in turn changes the
electrical activity of the
adjacent cell and can
trigger an action potential
– A reuptake process in the
axon membrane takes up
excess chemical for reuse
Fig 2.2
• Abnormal behavior could result from:
– Too much of a specific neurotransmitter in the synapse, due to
excessive synthesis
– Too little of a specific neurotransmitter in the synapse, due to
deficient synthesis
– Too much of a specific neurotransmitter due to inhibited reuptake
of the transmitter
– Too many or too few receptors on the postsynaptic neuron
• Neurotransmitters relevant to us include:
And many others…
• The biological approach to treatment is
usually to alter the biochemistry of the brain:
– Drugs alter synaptic levels of neurotransmitters
– Increase or decrease synthesis of transmitter
– Increase by blocking enzymes that break down
– Increase by blocking reuptake
– Block receptor sites
The Psychoanalytic Paradigm
• The core assumption of the psychoanalytic paradigm is
that abnormal behavior reflects unconscious conflicts
within the person
• Drives such as sex and aggression come into conflict
with laws, social rules, and moral codes. As we grow, we
internalize these rules, so the conflicts are intrapsychic.
• The psychoanalytic paradigm is derived from the
theories of personality developed by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Born May 6, 1856, Pribor, Moravia (now Czech Republic)
Moved to Vienna at age 4, for rest of life (80 years)
Graduated at 17, then 8 years in med school
Graduated in 1881, married, began practice
Planned to specialize in physiology and pathology, but
became very interested in abnormal nervous system
Good friend Josef Breuer (1842-1925) gave him advice
and $$$, discussed patients, esp. Anna O.
Stumbled upon the “talking cure” and catharsis
Freud Web Links...
Freud Museum UK
Freud’s Model of the Mind
• Freud suggested that the mind is
composed of three parts:
– Id is the raw energy that powers the mind
• Id seeks gratification of basic urges for food, water,
warmth, affection, and sex
• Id processes are unconscious
– Ego is a conscious part of the mind that deals
with reality
– Superego is the final part of the mind to
emerge and is similar to the conscience
• Repression – the automatic ejection from awareness of
anxiety-provoking ideas. Protects us from recognizing
and admitting our darker side, the urges we would
consider inappropriate in light of our moral values. A
primary and primitive defense mechanism.
• Instincts – 2 classes
– Eros – life instincts, help you to survive and reproduce (hunger,
thirst, sex).
– Thanatos – death instincts, “the goal of all life is death” –
unconscious death wish – aggressive drives turned inward.
• Eros contains the psychosexual energy, the libido, which
flows into different parts of the body as you develop. A
hydraulic paradigm, so to speak.
• Freud argued that personality develops in
stages: in each stage the id derives
pleasure from a distinct part of the body
• Oral (Birth to 18 months): infant derives pleasure
from eating and biting
• Anal (18 months to 3 years): the focus of pleasure
is the anus
• Phallic (3 to 6 years): the genitals are the focus of
• Latent (6 to 12 years): id impulses are dormant
• Genital: heterosexual interests are dominant
Defense Mechanisms I
• Anxiety results from conflict between id impulses and
expression of those impulses
• Defense mechanisms reduce anxiety
Repression: impulses are made unconscious
Projection: person attributes their own impulses onto others
Denial: troubling experiences are made unconscious
Reaction formation: preventing the awareness or expression of
unacceptable impulses by an exaggerated adoption of seemingly
opposite behavior-attitudes-feelings
– Displacement: Discharging pent-up feelings, often of hostility, on
objects less dangerous than those arousing the feelings
Defense Mechanisms II
• Sublimation: Converting sexual or aggressive impulses into socially
acceptable, even valued, behaviors
• Intellectualization: Cutting off affective charge from hurtful situations,
or separating incompatible attitudes by logic-tight compartments
• Rationalization: Using contrived “explanations” to conceal or
disguise unworthy motives for one’s behavior
• Fantasy: Gratifying frustrated desires by imaginary achievements
• Emotional insulation: Reducing ego involvement by protective
withdrawal and passivity
• Undoing: Atoning for or magically trying to dispel unacceptable
desires or acts
• Regression: Retreating to an earlier developmental period involving
less mature behavior and responsibility
Essentials of Classic
Psychoanalytic Therapy
• The goal of psychoanalysis is insight
(understanding) of the basis for anxiety
• Techniques of psychoanalytic therapy:
– Free association: person says whatever comes to
mind: the content is examined by the therapist for
resistances (areas the person does not wish to talk
– Dream analysis: Unconscious impulses are
expressed during dreams
• (segment 7)
Freud’s Disciples…
• Carl Jung (1887-1961)
– Swiss psychiatrist, broke ranks in 1914
– Collective unconscious, archetypes
– “Analytical Psychology”
• Alfred Adler (1870-1937)
– Inferiority complex
– “Individual Psychology”
• Karen Horney
– Focused on interpersonal relationships
– Denied penis envy
– Expelled from NY Psychoanalytic Institute
Freud’s Legacy
• Freud contributions include the views that:
– Childhood experiences help shape adult
– There are unconscious influences on
– Defense mechanisms help to control anxiety
– The causes and purposes of human behavior
are not always obvious
Humanistic/Existential Paradigms
• Humanistic/existential paradigms focus on
insight into the motivations/needs of the
– These paradigms place greater emphasis on
the persons freedom of choice (free will)
– The humanistic paradigm does not focus on
how problems develop in a person
Assumptions of Roger’s ClientCentered Therapy
• Client-centered therapy argues that:
– People can only be understood from the
vantage point of their own feelings
– Healthy people are:
• aware of their own behavior
• innately good and effective
• purposive and directive
– Therapy creates conditions under which
person makes independent decisions
Existential Therapy
• The existential view emphasizes personal
• The existential view notes that making
choices results in anxiety
• Existential therapy encourages clients to
confront their anxieties and to make
important decisions about how to relate to
Gestalt Therapy
• Fritz Perls
• Help patients understand and accept their
own needs, desires, fears, to enhance
awareness of self
• Focus on here and now, without delving
into past – all that matters is now
• Technique focused
• (segment 8)
Learning Paradigms
• Learning paradigms argue that abnormal behavior is
learned as are normal behaviors
– Classical conditioning
– Operant conditioning
– Modeling
• Behaviorism focuses on the study of observable
• Watson website
Classical Conditioning
Fig 2.4
Operant Conditioning
• Behaviors have consequences
– Positive reinforcement: behaviors followed by
pleasant stimuli are strengthened
– Negative reinforcement: behaviors that
terminate a negative stimulus are
• Behavior can be shaped using method of
successive approximations
– Reward a series of responses that
approximate the final response
• Learning can occur in the absence of
• Modeling involves learning by watching
and imitating the behaviors of others
– Models impart information to the
• Children learn about aggression watching
aggressive models
Behavior Therapy
• Behavior therapy uses learning methods
to change abnormal behavior, thoughts
and feelings
– Behavior therapists use classical and operant
conditioning techniques as well as modeling
– Counterconditioning: learning a new response
• Systematic desensitization: relaxation is paired
with a stimulus that formerly induced anxiety
• Aversive conditioning: an unpleasant event is
paired with a stimulus to reduce its attractiveness
Phobias – an example of
• Little Hans
• Little Albert
• Little Peter
Cognitive Paradigm
• Learner is an active interpreter of
• Schema
• Beck’s cognitive therapy for depression
• Ellis’s Rational Emotive Therapy
• More generalized Cognitive Behavior
Therapy is leading model of therapy today
Diathesis-Stress Paradigm
• Focuses on the interaction between a
predisposition to disease or disorder,
and environmental events that lead
toward, or away from, that disorder.
• Diathesis usually refers to a genetic,
biological, or constitutional vulnerability
• Stressor can be major traumatic events as
well as more normal life stresses
• Integrates data from other paradigms…