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Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka (2013) noted the field of abnormal psychology strives to capture the causes and treatments of mental disorders. The researchers explained the meaning of abnormality has not been universally agreed upon, however there is agreement regarding which conditions classify as disorders. Therefore, certain conditions might be considered normal unless they fall under the category of a specific disorder. The researchers clarified no one particular type of behavior can make an individual abnormal. Although there are some indicators, indicators alone are not actually valid. In their discussion of the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Ed., (DSM-5) (American Psychiatric Association 2013), the researchers noted the DSM-5 acknowledges mental disorders linked to distress or disability in key areas of functioning such as occupational and social areas. The researchers asserted abnormal behavior can be described as a deviation away from society’s norms, and that certain deviant behavior, or unconventional behavior can be universally construed to be derived from a mental disorder. Further, the researchers acknowledged given the complexity of human behavior, it is often difficult to fully understand its nuances. The field of abnormal psychology also raises the question of the etiology of abnormal behavior. For example, there may be a predisposition stemming from biological, psychological, or sociocultural factors.
Review of the definitions in the Introduction of the DSM-5.
According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Ed., (DSM-5) (American Psychiatric Association 2013), a mental disorder (or what could be termed as abnormal) consists of a clinical disturbance related to behavior that demonstrates dysfunction in, “the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning” (p. 20). The clinical disturbance originates within the individual’s cognition among other areas of functioning. On the other hand, conflicts between individuals and society are not considered mental disorders unless deviant behavior is also present. This could mean conflicts between individuals and society might be considered normal.
Analysis of how the definitions align, overlap, or differ
I think the DSM-5 offers a much more specific guidance to understanding how we conceptualize mental health disorders, and perhaps abnormal behavior. The DSM-5 provides a qualitative approach. For example, the DSM-5 provides levels that we can explore. In this way, the definition is somewhat different from the work of Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka (2013). The researchers explained the meaning of abnormality has not been universally agreed upon, however there is agreement regarding which conditions classify as disorders. The DSM-5 looks at severity and levels. For example, levels are helpful in exploring deeper into a diagnosis. One might ask how one’s client is experiencing a manic- depressive episode in terms of the severity of symptoms. The DSM-5 aligns more with the symptoms used to make a diagnosis. The focus now is to create a more valid clinical profile. The DSM-5 is also moving away from treating symptoms globally to treating them individually, or treating those symptoms which are most severe. You might have a client presenting Reckless Self-Destructive Behavior through promiscuous behavior, but they may present 2 symptoms of 7 indicating a milder level. Decades ago such behavior could have been construed as nymphomania in a woman, and perhaps shock treatment, or a lobotomy might be ordered. Marecek (1993) asserted a negative relationship existed between women and clinical psychology if viewed from a feminist perspective. The researcher noted women had been victimized via diagnoses as well as treatment. Further, the researcher asserted, although feminist activism had made tremendous strides, the researcher contended textbooks devoted to abnormal psychology had not acknowledged those contributions. One of the questions the researcher raised had to do with the blurring of boundaries between the disorders, or abnormal behaviors and possible, “eccentricities and alternative lifestyle” (p. 118). Further, the researcher pointed out that pathologizing emotions could be interpreted as a way to exert, “social control” (p. 118) over women and other diverse groups.
Today we are focusing more on creating a valid clinical profile and exploring severity of symptoms with the DSM-5. From what I have understood about the DSM-5, it generally serves a guide for the clinician in making a sound diagnosis, and the exploration of the causes of certain disorders are examined separately.
I found it enlightening to read the work of Butcher, Hooley, & Mineka (2013) and discover that there is no universally agreed upon definition, or meaning about what constitutes abnormal behavior, other than conditions that might classify as disorders. Since the researchers noted there is no one type of behavior that can make an individual abnormal, it is challenging based on the complex nature of human behavior to really be certain what type of behavior can be considered abnormal.
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).Arlington, VA: Author.
Butcher, J. N., Hooley, J. M., & Mineka, S. (2013). Abnormal psychology (16th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson
Marecek, J. (1993). Disappearances, silences, and anxious rhetoric: Gender in abnormal psychology textbooks. Journal Of Theoretical And Philosophical Psychology, 13(2), 114-123. doi:10.1037/h0091108