Chapter_01_Summary_Outline - Chapter 1 Overview/Summary...

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Chapter 1 Overview/Summary Encountering instances of abnormal behavior is a common experience for all of us. This is not surprising given the high prevalence of many forms of mental disorder. A precise definition of abnormality is still elusive. Even though we lack consensus on the precise definition of abnormality, there are clear elements of abnormality: suffering, maladaptiveness, deviancy, violations of society’s standards, causing discomfort in others, and irrationality or unpredictability. These elements allow for the adoption of a prototype model of abnormality. Although this model is helpful, we have the additional problem of changing values and expectations in society at large. Despite these difficulties, psychologists continue to classify mental disorders for several reasons: classification systems provide a nomenclature that allows us to structure information in a more helpful way, research on etiological factors, treatment decisions, social and political implications, and insurance reimbursement. There are also many disadvantages to classifying mental disorders: loss of information, stigma, stereotyping, and labeling. The DSM-IV definition is atheoretical, focusing on a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that is associated with distress or disability (impairment in one or more areas of functioning), and not simply a predictable or culturally sanctioned response to a particular event. Mental disorders, then, are the product of ‘dysfunctions’ within the individual. As might be expected, there are many criticisms of this definition. For example, what is meant by the term “clinically significant,” who determines what is culturally sanctioned, and how much impairment is necessary for a diagnosis to be made? Wakefield has proposed a definition that describes a mental disorder as a “harmful dysfunction.” His approach focuses on social values in defining abnormality as well as an evolutionary model to determine what is functional, creating potential new difficulties. This current text utilizes the prototype model adopted by the DSM classification system. Culture shapes the presentation of clinical disorders in some cases. There are also certain disorders, such as taijin kyofusho, that appear to be highly culture specific. DSM opts for a categorical classification system similar to that used in medicine. Disorders are regarded as discrete clinical entities, although not all clinical disorders are best considered in this way. Even though it is not without problems, the DSM provides us with a working set of criteria that help clinicians and researchers to identify and study specific and important problems that affect people’s lives. Although it is far from a “finished product,” knowledge of the DSM is essential to a serious study of the field.
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This note was uploaded on 04/18/2008 for the course STA 3024 taught by Professor Ta during the Spring '08 term at University of Florida.

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Chapter_01_Summary_Outline - Chapter 1 Overview/Summary...

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