Outline and evaluate the biological/medical model of abnormality( 12 marks )
This explanation of abnormality maintains that mental disorders are due to a
physical illness or disease as the result of brain damage which can happen
through things like brain tumours or the effects of poisoning due to alcohol or
drug abuse. Infections such as syphilis can damage the brain too, producing
symptoms such as delusions of grandeur.
Disorders e.g. depression, are thought, by some people, to be the result of
biochemical changes which cause failure in the neurotransmitters carrying
messages to the brain, possibly because of life stress, infections or genetic
Genetic research has shown that, possibly, some people inherit genes which
put them at risk of developing a mental disorder but this is only significant, as
yet, in schizophrenia and manic depression. ( 125 words )
Many psychologists believe that this explanation takes away the idea that
it is the patient’s fault resulting in others being more sympathetic but
Szasz(1972) argued that people are still afraid of it because it is difficult to
understand and there is still a certain stigma attached to it.
However, if mental illness is physical then it can be treated with drugs e. g.
antidepressants, which are easy to take and can act quickly. But there is a
problem with this treatment because it does not deal with why the disorder
has occurred, only the symptoms, which reappear if drug treatment stops and
therefore patients become dependent on them. Also, patients often report
that the side effects can be worse than the disorder itself.
Alternative forms of treatment are psychosurgery or ECT, but both of these
are only used in extreme cases as they are ethically very controversial and
can result in problems e.g. memory loss.
Although research about how chemicals affect the brain shows they could be
responsible for the development of disorders, it is not easy to distinguish
whether they are the cause or the result of the disorder.
Genetic research has shown that there could be a connection between
genes and mental disorders e.g. schizophrenia but there is a limited
connection with other disorders. Genetics can be helpful in a physical disorder
but in mental disorders there always seems to be some environmental
influences which is a trigger and therefore it can cause unnecessary anxiety in
the relatives of a diagnosed patient. Ultimately, there could be a danger of so
much knowledge of genes leading to ‘ designing ‘ a baby.
This model also fails to take into account that even if there is some kind of
of illness or disease causing the disorder, there might be other factors in the
person’s life contributing to the problem as well. ( 311 words )
Total words = 436