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Abnormal Behaviors

Abnormal Behaviors

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This lesson will define psychopathology, social nonconformity, maladaptive behavior and insanity.

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Tutorial

What's Covered

This lesson is going to look at what is considered psychopathological by covering:

  1. Psychopathology
  2. Maladaptive Behavior

1. Psychopathology

Psychopathology is the study of mental distress and disorders as well as abnormal and maladaptive behavior. While this is what many people think of when they think of psychology, this is only a small area of study. The biggest question in this area of study is what is pathological, or abnormal behavior, and needs to be treated under clinical psychology.

Term to Know

  • Psychopathology
  • The study of mental distress and disorder and of abnormal and maladaptive behaviors.

One of the most important ways to determine what is normal or abnormal is by seeing what the majority of people do or think within that certain kind of situation. This basically means looking at social conformity or nonconformity to find out what's abnormal. Social nonconformity is when a person does not conform or fit with the accepted social or group norms that are around them.

ExampleIf you saw somebody who is running down the street naked today, you would probably classify that as abnormal. This would be an example of social nonconformity because most people don't do that.

Term to Know

  • Social Nonconformity
  • When a person does not conform to or follow accepted social or group norms.

It’s important to take into account that different kinds of norms and values can change over time with the development of new ideas and new things within that culture.

ExampleIt was once acceptable in the far past of the development of human beings to run around naked. It was only later on in history that this became a faux pas.

It's also important to remember it's dependent on the culture and context of the situation that a person is in.

ExampleWithin modern culture there are times when it is considered acceptable to be naked in public, like if you're on a nude beach.

Lastly norms and values can differ from culture to culture.

ExampleCertain kinds of nudity may not be acceptable where you are from, but within other cultures may be common place.

It is important to keep these points in mind because behavior that is different doesn't necessarily mean bad or maladaptive.


2. Maladaptive Behavior

The most important rule for determining whether something is psychopathological is to say whether that behavior is maladaptive behavior. There are ways of thinking or acting that make it difficult for a person to adjust to the environment and new situations around them. Sometimes these people are not adaptable, and it makes day to day life very difficult for them.

It is important to note as a result of this, that a lot times there can be negative effects or stigmas related to labeling people with certain kinds of mental disorders. Determining these things isn't something that is done lightly within psychology.

Term to Know

  • Maladaptive Behavior
  • Ways of thinking or acting that that make it difficult to adjust to the environment and new situations, and make day-to-day life difficult.
  • Think About It

    Consider someone who is a nudist. This does not conform to most social norms, but is it maladaptive?

    No. This lifestyle is not something that is going to impede on a person’s day to day life, and will not be physically harmful. It’s also not necessarily socially harmful either. While the population is small, there does exist a nudist community.

    One way public nudity as a behavior could be maladaptive would be someone who runs through the streets naked. They could suffer physical harm if it causes someone to attack them, and they could suffer social problems as well that impact their day to day life.
It is not easy to determine what is abnormal or what constitutes a mental illness within psychology. There have been mistakes that have been made in the past.

Example  In the DSM-III, the manual that outlines what are mental illnesses for psychology, homosexuality was considered to be a mental illness. It wasn't later until the 1970s that it was finally removed and considered not to be psychopathological.


3. Insanity

Insanity is a legal term, and not a psychological or medical term. It determines whether a person is fit to stand trial and to be held responsible for their actions with relation to a crime.

Term to Know

  • Insanity
  • A legal term which determines the mental “fitness” of a person and their level of responsibility.

ExampleTemporary insanity is where a person is so angry at the sight of something that they see that they're suddenly not responsible for their actions within that time.

When people use insanity as a defense, they are saying they are not guilty of a crime because they weren't in a mental state where they were responsible for their actions. This is not a term that is generally relied on within psychology.


Summary

Psychopathology is the study of mental distress and disorders as well as abnormal and maladaptive behavior. Abnormal behavior can be determined by looking at social conformity or social nonconformity. Abnormal behavior does not determine if someone is psychopathological. To do this, a person must have maladaptive behavior; this means that the behavior makes it difficult for the person to adapt to or function in day to day life.  Insanity is a legal term used to determine if a person is responsible for their actions, and not a term to be relied on within psychology.

Keep up the learning and have a great day!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia Author Erick Taggart

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Maladaptive Behavior

    Ways of thinking or acting that that make it difficult to adjust to the environment and new situations, and make day-to-day life difficult.

  • Insanity

    A legal term which determines the mental “fitness” of a person and their level of responsibility.

  • Social Nonconformity

    When a person does not conform to or follow accepted social or group norms.

  • Psychopathology

    The study of mental distress and disorder and of abnormal and maladaptive behaviors.