Abnormal Behavior: a historical
Being part of history
What is abnormal?
• Psychological disorders
– Unexpected or atypical cultural response
– * cognition, emotion, behavior
• How one describes “problems”
• The medical model
– Mental problems as mental illness: disease
• Interactional views or “systems
Describing what you see, or what you
think you see
• Clinical descriptions lead to diagnostic
• Labels can be helpful and/or harmful
• Presenting problem: many different
– The “complaint” what the person describes
or someone else describes as the reason
for seeking treatment
– Clear descriptions lead to clearer
Now it’s your turn:
• Tom is uncomfortable riding elevators.
Your office is on the fifteenth floor and
Tom walked all the way up and not for
• Rachel has been caught urinating in
the corner of her bedroom.
What is different about abnormality?
– Chronic, episodic, time-limited
– Acute, insidious
Lots of other possible factors
• Developmental stage
• Causation: etiology
– Some quite clear, others unknown or not
– Biopsychosocial model: we’ll return to this
• What to do or what not to do about it:
– Will it go away on its own or get worse?
– Empirically validated treatments
– Confounding variables: did the treatment
work or was it something else?
– The Placebo Effect