One may have a hard time defining mental illness or abnormal psychology since there are many different avenues that need to be taken into consideration. The norms that humans elect to live by makes it difficult for a clear and straightforward interpretation. The norms are a detailed set of rules set by which a society lives within defining who, how, what is right versus wrong, and where to do any given thing. The larger the society, the more complicated the norms can be and sadly the harder some find it to be to comply with those standards. While the other side of this is that most customs are easy to follow sometimes can be taken for granted. One needs to recall that rules differ from one society to another and most do not even recognize that there are differences (Butcher, Mineka & Hooley, 2010). Hopefully there will be a clearer understanding of abnormality, abnormal psychology and what mental illness is during the reading of this paper. In addition, one can receive an indication of how abnormal psychology evolved and how they are applied to mental illness today. Theoretical models will be addressed and a clearer understanding of how they are all related to mental illness and abnormal psychology.
Origins of Abnormal Psychology and Mental Illness
Mental illness and abnormal psychology sadly is what someone deals with on a daily basis. These are seen in things such as bookstores, local newspapers, and magazines everyday. It is definitely something that is in the forefront of the medical field since it is a rather new field and one that is forever changing. Many of his or her ancestors can trace back where one was labeled as possessed by the devil or influenced by spirits when in actuality they were mentally ill. In early times one would have had an exorcism preformed as a method of treating the ill. This was done because no one understood the abnormal behavior thus leading to the wrong treatment, and leading to many deaths. It took Greeks and the studies of Hippocrates to suggest that one’s abnormality was because of ‘natural’ other than some workings of the devil, thus the understanding began. After many philosophers began having interest on mental illness, and abnormal psychology the mind and body became more well documented and studied. By the eighteenth century, there were asylums however; they were not as they are today’s asylums. Asylums in the early stages were horrific and cruel. Leaving some patients undressed and cowering in corners. While the intent was there to help those who needed help, they lacked the skill and knowledge with which to do so. When someone would begin to show signs of mental illness or anguish often times they were shunned and ridiculed. Once there was an indication that reform had to come, many developed special wards based on any given ailment. Leading figureheads such as Dorothea Dix (1802-1887) and Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) were instrumental in helping improve care for the mentally ill. Many recognized as the knowledge grew that most did not need to be under 24-hour care. After understanding this, many to include Freud, to seek out new ideas such as psychotherapy (Nevid, Rathus & Greene, 2008).
Origins of Abnormal Psychology
Prior to Sigmund Freud, those that contributed to the development of mental illness and abnormal psychology included the Greeks and William Wundt. Wundt taught physiology and launched the first scientific laboratory that strictly focused on the study of psychology. Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926) was a German psychiatrist that came after William Wundt, and applied all of his into psychopathology. Because of Kraepelin determination, he initiated the opening of the first American Laboratory for the mentally ill. Not too much after the opening, Morton Prince wrote an entire journal about abnormal psychology. Anton Mesmer (1733-1815) was an Austrian physician that discovered hypnosis after studying the mentally ill. Many followed after Mesmer’s death such as Ambrose-Auguste Liebeault (1823-1904) as well as Hippolyte-Marie Bernheim (1840-1919) that honed the craft of hypnosis treating and provoking hysteria creating the “Nancy school.” The foundation of this school was for experimental research in psychopathology and the development of psychoanalysis (Nevid, Rathus & Greene, 2008).
It is difficult to place a label on abnormality and mental illness as there are no clear guidelines available however the tools that are available to researchers now are vast as compared to a hundred years ago when abnormal psychology was in its infancy. When one tries to define abnormal psychology, one has many acronyms to aid one in completing a diagnosis. “HIDES”, for one aids in classifying, explaining, treating the mental illness or abnormal behavior. DSM-IV-TR also can assist in the diagnosis of mental disorders (Hansell & Damour, 2008). DSM-IV was first publised with the definition of a mental disorder in 1994, and then later revised in 2000 (Butcher, Mineka & Hooley, 2010).
Various Models Contributed to Abnormal Psychology and Mental Illness
There are various theoretical approaches that are assigned to assisting someone’s understanding of abnormal psychology leading to its continued growth and development. These approaches include sociocultural, biological/medical and psychosocial because one can draw them back to psychopathology. As in the psychosocial model, it takes psychosocial stressors when one attempts to define why a person acts a way they do. This model takes into consideration one’s psychological development, and one’s social environment when one is being evaluated. Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development focuses on socially orientated concepts and defining them as healthy or unhealthy behaviors. Most of Erikson’s views were motivated by psychopathology which accepts that behavior can be odd at times, however this is not uncommon as it is something that one goes through from time to time every time he or she “passing through the period of identity crisis” (Bronson, 1959, p. 414). Biological/medical models focus on one’s bio-chemical functioning and finds that mental illness and abnormality stem from one’s brain. As the information becomes more available and one learns different aspects of psychology the more one can see how vital the biological/medical models are. There are many different mental illnesses that one can relate back to biological roots; understanding them is key when one is seeking a diagnosis to better aid one in treatment. One needs to remember that in order to have a correct diagnosis, these things need to be taken into consideration, genetics, the nervous system, and heredity. Understanding the biological/medical viewpoint can help prevent certain mental illnesses. Based on the right timing, which could “be before the conception, after the conception, by prenatal engagement, by neonatal screening and analysis of genetic-environmental balance for prevention of the disease and condition at a later age,” (Ninkovich, 2004, p. 185). Sociocultural theoretical model is a conglomeration of sociology and psychology. One can see how one’s mental state could come into play due to circumstances like poverty. Research done on lower and middle class Americans report that the, “lower-class populations have disproportionately high rates of mental illness” (Heller, Carmen & Chalfant, 1979, p. 109). So, this model expresses that family is important when contemplating a mental disorder.
Understandably so, abnormal psychology and mental illness cannot be seen and defined less than one set of guidelines. Understanding that defining abnormal psychology and mental illness by just one group of words is very complex. It is easy to diagnose the wrong ailment leading to mistreatment of mental disorders. There are steps in place today that aid psychologist to make informed and educated decisions concerning mental illness. It is well known that understanding the history is necessary to understand this course, therefore there are many avenues in which one can chose to encourage making an informed decision.
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