Learn to Understand Abnormal Behaviour
Course Code - VPS037
Abnormal is something that needs to be understood as a sliding scale, rather than an "absolute".
People cannot be classified simply as "abnormal" or "normal". This depends upon your perception of what is normal; and how much a person needs to diverge from normal before they are abnormal. This can also depend on context.
This course explores the concept of abnormality; and in doing so raises your understanding, awareness, and helps you see possibilities for dealing with abnormalities in behaviour, both subtle and extreme.
Study five Core modules and then choose one elective module.
The Core modules cover Abnormal Psychology, Introduction to Psychology, Developmental Learning and Behavioural Conditions, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Managing Adult Mental Health.
Then choose one Elective from – Anger Management, Stress Management, Psychopharmacology.
What is Abnormal?
In one respect, no one is normal. Normal meand "average"; and everyone falls a little bit outside of the average in one respect or another. One person may be slightly more aggressive than the average; and another person less aggressive. We all have what many might call our "good" and "bad" points. Abnormal though would normally imply being well outside of normal.
Deviation from Statistical Norms
If a person's behaviour falls outside the normal range i.e. when it is represented on a normal curve it falls at either extreme, then it is considered a disorder. The problem with this approach is that it does not distinguish between either extreme. Taking intelligence as an example, it would mark those with extremely low IQs as being abnormal, along with those with extremely high IQs. Therefore, positive deviations are not separated from negative ones. Also, not all negative deviations should be considered a disorder. For instance, someone could be antisocial because they are eccentric rather than they have an antisocial personality disorder or some other mental health issue.
We know that disorders which are predominantly mental in presentation often have a physical dimension, and physical conditions are not isolated from mental components. Even the DSM acknowledges that there is no particular definition of mental disorders which can be useful in all scenarios because there is no particular boundary between mental and physical. Therefore sometimes one definition is more apt than another.
Also, like mental disorder definitions, the definitions of all physical conditions include at least some abstract terminology and again one type of definition may be more suitable in a different situation to others. Mental disorders can be defined through a medical model or through cultural values.
Symptoms of a Disorder
The presence of an isolated symptom is not usually considered evidence of a mental health disorder because many healthy people can experience s single symptom occasionally. For example, it is possible to have a hallucination if you are stressed or have not slept well. Sometimes symptoms can be associated with taking medication or they may appear in response to a physical illness. One exception is where a person has a persistent single obsessive thought which may indicate a paranoid disorder.
Symptoms of mental health disorders are classified in different ways. Some of the more usual distinctions include form and content, and primary and secondary symptoms.
This refers to the form a symptom takes. Some examples are auditory hallucination, visual hallucination, delusion of persecution and delusion of grandeur.
This is what is involved in the symptom. For example, a delusion of persecution could involve an individual holding the faulty belief that they are being cheated or conspired against. Someone hearing voices telling them that they are being cheated or persecuted in some way would have the same content but the form of the symptom would be different i.e. an auditory hallucination.
Usually this refers to which symptoms appear first i.e. it is used in a temporal way. Sometimes it is used to refer to symptoms which appeared directly because of the psychopathology.
This usually refers to symptoms which arise after primary symptoms but again can occasionally refer to those which appear in response to another. For example, an individual might begin with delusional thoughts of persecution and then go on to develop auditory hallucinations telling them that persecutors are after them.