Test 3 notes part 1 - Test 3 Material: Mental Disorders I....

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Test 3 Material: Mental Disorders I. Defining Abnormality When discussing psychological disorders, the first step is to define what we mean by a disorder. How do we determine that something is wrong psychologically with a person? What constitutes abnormal ? It's not as easy a matter as some people might think. Some might say, "Well, that person is odd." Being "odd" could mean that their behavior or thinking is rare; out of the statistical norm . But what about people who have high intelligence or are artistically gifted? Those traits aren't statistically frequent but we wouldn't call smart or artistic people abnormal. Being "odd" could also mean that a person's behavior isn't meeting certain social norms of the people around them. But those standards can vary between cultures (in some cultures, for instance, burping at the dinner table after eating is considered a compliment to the cook) and even within our own culture standards can vary between social groups (the behavioral excesses that might tolerated from a guitarist in a rock band would likely be unacceptable from an bank teller). So views of suitable social behavior aren't absolute. Some cognitive or perceptual distortions , such as hallucinations clearly are abnormal. But what about milder distortions or perceptions of reality like inflated egos or unusually high self-esteem? Some might say that feelings of personal distress like depression or anxiety are abnormal. But such feelings might be reasonable under some circumstances such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. Only one trait seems to be clearly important in all cases, and that is behavioral maladaptiveness . A clear sign of abnormal behavior or mental state is when an individual's behavior is destructive to themselves or their social group, such as family, friends or co-workers. More than any other sign harming the welfare of one's self or those close to one's self is most universally accepted as indicating an abnormal mental or behavioral state. II. What's Normal? In some ways the question of defining "abnormal" is simpler if we consider what we'd call "normal" when observing or categorizing the actions of others. One factor that seems common to people with "normal" psychological states is an efficient perception of reality , meaning that an individual can form reasonable and realistic appraisals of themselves and the world around them. Another factor is voluntary control over behavior . Many people may drink alcoholic beverages but not all people compulsively abuse alcohol, just as many people enjoy a fire in the fireplace on a cold night but not everybody compulsively sets fires like a pyromaniac might. Psychologically healthy people also have a sense of self-esteem and acceptance which enables them to be at ease around people and feel comfortable socially with others, to feel secure an unthreatened in social situations. But in addition to feeling good about themselves, they also are
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This note was uploaded on 03/31/2009 for the course PSY 301 taught by Professor Pennebaker during the Spring '07 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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Test 3 notes part 1 - Test 3 Material: Mental Disorders I....

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