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Psychological disorders

• harmful dysfunctions
• behaviors must be- atypical, disturbing, maladaptive, unjustifiable
• a constellation of symptoms that create significant distress or impairment in work, school, family, relationships, and/or daily living

Medical perspective

• psychological disorders are sicknesses
• diagnose an illness on the basis of its symptoms presented

Bio-psycho-social perspective

• may not be a result of an internal problem
• assume that disorders are influenced by genes, physiological states, psychological dynamics, and social and cultural circumstances

Classifying disorders

• classifications used because they convey a great deal of information
• ideally, describes the disorder, predicts what will happen, implies treatment, and stimulates research
• we use the DSM-IV to descrive different disorders- almost any kind of behavior can be problematic or maladaptive. Labels are arbitrary

DSM- IV 5-axis model

• axis 1- clinical disorders (mood & anxiety disorders)
• axis 2- personality disorders (narcissism, antisocial) and mental retardation
• axis 3- medical (physical) conditions influencing axis 1 & 2 disorders
• axis 4- psychosocial and environmental stress influencing axis 1 and 2 disorders
• axis 5- global assessment of functioning score: highest level of functioning patient has achieved in work, relationships, and activities

Labeling disorders

• once labeled, they can bias our perceptions- labels affect the way we see people and interpret their behavior
• the self-fulfilling prophecy- if we think and expect someone should behave a certain way, we may act in a manner to elicit that behavior. The behavior emerges as a result of our own

Anxiety disorders

• disorders characterized by distressing persisten anxiety or maladaptive behaviors which serve to reduce anxiety
• most common mental disorders
• avoidant personality disorder. One has a fearful sensitivity to rejection

Generalized anxiety disorder

• anxiety is constant. the person is always tense, apprehensive, in a continual state of autonomic arousal
• the cause of anxiety is unknown

Panic disorder

• people suffer panic attacks. Intense fear during which a person experiences terror, feels chest pain, choking, or other sensations


• typically occur after a traumatic event- symptoms: re-experiencing trauma (dreams, flashbacks), avoidance of anything associated with trauma, and constant state of hyper-vigilance
• sense of having no control over the traumatic event- "the world is a dangerous place"
• drug abuse is high with PTSD


anxiety is focused on some object, activity, or situation. These are irrational fears that disrupt behavior

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

• characterized by obsessive thoughts which will not go away or by rigid behaviors
• becomes a disorder when it disrupts everyday functioning
• obsessions
• compulsions
• Causes- not turning off recurrent thoughts, malfunction of caudate nucleus of the basal ganglia

The learning perspective

• Fear conditioning- anxiety and phobias may result from classical conditioning
• Reinforcement- negative reinforcement. We continue to perform behaviors to take away feelings of anxiety
• stimulus generalization
• observational learning

Biological perspective

• evolution- some fears may have been shaped by evolutionary pressures
• genes- some people may have a genetic predisposition to develop anxiety disorders
• physiology- our neural wiring may affect our experience of anxiety

Dissociative disorders

• diagnosed when a person appears to experience a sudden loss of memory or change in identity to protect oneself from traumatic experiences
• these experiences must be severe and prolonged to constitue a disorder

Dissociative identity disorder

• once called Multiple Personality Disorder
• diagnosis is dependent upon having 2 or more distinct identities that control behavior

Mood disorders

• disorders characterized by emotional extremes
• two principle forms are: major depressive disorder (the person experiences prolonged hopelessness and lethargy) and bipolar disorder (the person cycles between periods of depression and periods of mania)

Major depressive disorder

• diagnosed when one feels lethargic, worthless, or looses interest in close relationships or activities for more than 2 weeks, with no discernable cause

Bipolar Disorder

• characterized by periods of mania and depression
• manic episodes often involve grandiose optimism and reckless behavior
• there is no such thing as manic disorder; manic episodes are always followed by depression

Explaining mood disorders

• behavioral and cognitive changes associated with depression
• widespread
• women are more prone to depression than men
• most depressive episodes last less than 6 months
• stressful events often occur before depression

The biological perspective

• genetic influences- if your close relatives are diagnosed with a mood disorder, you have an increased likelihood that you will be diagnosed as well
• the brain- serotonin has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression. Norepinephrine has been shown to alleviate symptoms of mania

Social-Cognitive Perspective

• our thoughts appear to affect biochemical events and the experience of depression
• depressed people tend to see negative events as being stable, global, and internal- not a state (temporary) effect attributable to mood


• split reality
• manifests itself in disorganized thinking, disturbed perceptions, and inappropriate emotions and actions
• disturbances must last at least 6 months


bizarre, immobile, or relentless motor behaviors


• hallucinations (voices), delusions of persecutions, suspicion
• intellect and affect are usually normal


• personality deterioration, bizarre behavior (public urination), disorganized speech
• or flat, inappropriate affect (laughter)

Brain abnormality

brain anatomy
• display low activity in frontal lobes
• also seem to have enlarged, fluid-filled areas (leading to shrinkage of cerebral tissue)

Personality disorders (axis 2)

these disorders reflect behavior patterns which are enduring, inflexible, and impair social functioning

Eccentric behaviors

• schizoid personality disorder.
• characterized by social disengagement

Dramatic and impulsive behaviors

• histrionic personality disorder. Shallow, attention-getting emotions and goes to great lengths to gain praise

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