Monday, 13 February 2017

Manic Post


Here is a post I wanted to share from December 2016. I wrote this blog in the throes of mania. We all know how this goes. It's probably not particularly coherent and most likely requires a trigger warning. I haven't read it back so I've no idea how good/bad it is and as per manic posting, I have kept it written as it was. No corrections.


So, it's almost 7am. I'm manic to fuck. I want to do all of the things at the same time and never stop for anything. Ever.
Of course, that is simply not possible... "Yet" her manic brain says... Shh manic brain! We are having a moment!
So, I've been feeling really bummed out lately. Nothing matters. No one cares. Everyone dies eventually... I'm sure you know the drill. 
I tried reaching out. No one is up at crazy hours or if they are they simply can't deal, My boyfriend was tired, I get it. He also can't deal. I tried talking to myself but holy crap on a cracker do I drive me crazy!!
So, what did I do I hear you ask. You got us all ramped up now get it over with! Ok, here goes:
All my life something had been missing or just not quite right. I don't know what it is but I am hoping some day I will find it. I am a helpy helper. I can't stop. It's what I do. So sometimes, especially when in the grips of mania (there is where the ego resides!!!) I trawl the internet. The dingy dark corners of chatrooms. Forum. Comments sections. Apps. I want to save lives. I can save lives. I have saved lives. Truth. Sometimes I work as part of the Black Dog Brigade (can I copyri2ghr that please?!). Sometimes I act alone. Shrouded in mystery via pseudonyms. In those aforementioned monstrosities and most recentlt, via the app Whisper. 
Now, those of you who know me know that I am passionate as all hell about things that I care about. I can't help it. Most of my life consists of "fuck that shit" or "oh my word this is everything forever and everyone must know about it immediately, invasively and in a potentially manic IKNOWISHOULDSTOPIKNOWISHOULDSLEEPIKNOWTHWWORLDWILLSTILLNEEDSAVINGTOMORROWSOITWAIT kind of way. Not unlike this. 
You may know one thing I am more passionate about than absolutely any single thing that ever did exist or ever will exist is writing. You may also know that lately I have suffered writers block on top of existential crises etc. So imagine my sheer delight when someone posted via Whisper a question to me asking how one can identify as one gender. Two genders. All genders. No genders etc. 
We believe in penis = man/boy/male/masculine etc and vagina = woman/girl/female etc because it's easier. People will (terrifyingly) bow to a consensus so as not to be eliminated from a peer group.Look up Asch or Groupthink on Google. It's psychological conditioning. One that gets me in an absolute tail spin in a regular basis is the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain at Piccadilly Circus. If you are not familiar with it, Google it. It is "affectionately" known as the Eros statue. Literature, tour guides, maps, signage all refer to it as Eros. Does that mean it IS Eros? Everyone says so... 
NO! Nothing has truth or meaning to you until you get out there and find it! If you know your Greek Mythology like I do you will know that the statue is, in fact Anteros. The brother of Eros. This truth confirmed by the sculptor himself! Now who do you believe?
People seem to be of the idea that gender dysphoria, trans- gender, sexual, vestite, homosexuality etc are new things. They're not. Really not! It's just now we have people who are willing to stand up and say "hey I was born in the wrong body" or "hey I like a person who has the same reproductive organs as me" or "hey, my body is ok but I want to dress it more like XYZ" whatever. They have better platforms now. Insane amounts of media options (which we know are not always correct and true) People are literally risking their lives on a daily basis so that we can be honest and true to ourselves. If you're one of the above, great. If you're all of fhe above, great. If you're none of the above, great!
You're a human being. I'm a human being. Some humans are capable of changing the world. Does it matter how a person identifies if they find the cure for cancer? Would peace be any less peaceful if it was instigated by a queer person? Would poverty return if it was ended bya person of colour? Of course not! 
We all bleed red. Don't be a sheep. Don't follow the crowd. If you think something is wrong, question it! If no one will give you an answer, the power of the internet is at your fingertips. The internet is not 100% accurate but it can get you pretty close. If you're still not sure, use your library resources before they are destroyed for a "boutique cafe". If you were right, good for you. Now go spread the word in a kindly manner. If you were wrong, it happens. You learn something new and your world will expand. Maybe only a tiny bit in the first instance but spread that truth and you will gain infinite possibilities. Some good. Some bad. Try to be good. That is it. That is literally absolutely all there is to it!!

I'm still standing... just



My dearest readers.

I feel like I have all but abandoned you recently. I could make an apology that no one would ask for or I could attempt to explain my strifes (as it were). Neither seem particularly plausible/appropriate right now.  In honesty, life is not playing out as I would like it to. It rarely does, granted. However, currently, I'm barely managing to maintain my much needed and well rehearsed facade. At what point is it ok to let go of the life ring?  Not to die as such but to be so far out of your depth that you just want to stop swimming and see if the current takes you to the shore.

I've lost my writing mojo of late. Nothing inspires me to write any more. Picking up a pen used to give me such pleasure. Often I had no idea what I would write but I would pick up a pen and just go with it. Creatively, I've had writer's block for such a long time now that I'm slowly accepting that I will never actually finish that novel I started. I'll never again write poetry or prose. I'll no longer write just for fun.

Sometimes, as a writer, I feel that I have to live up to expectations. People see your work and expect certain things of you. Sometimes, I don't mind this. Writing was always my greatest love and now it appears to be my nemesis! I don't value my writing much. I suppose that's why I never tried to make a career of it. However, I know that I have a skill when it comes to words. 

When I first started out with this blog, it was more of a way for me to let off steam, get things out of my head and try to make sense of them. Through some sort of "divine intervention" my blog became helpful to people. They could easily see themselves in the words. They felt a certain kinship with me. I was cool with that I suppose. However, when the pressure starts to build, the pleasure fall away. People want something from you, you have deadlines imposed upon you and suddenly that pen in your hand weighs a ton. Your computer screen glares at you expectantly. You know people are waiting to read what you have written but you just can't manage it. 

At which point is it ok to stop living up to people's expectations? When is it acceptable to show your flaws to those who believe you are strong?

Hero worship is such a difficult concept for me to grasp. You may look up to people for absolutely anything but so many fail to realise that there are so many facets to any and all human beings. Behind that genius there may be a dyslexic who struggles to communicate. Behind that beautiful, enigmatic showgirl, there may be a woman always trying to prove her worth. Behind that person you always seek out for help there may be a broken individual.

I love to inspire but how can we limit the personal cost?? One of my biggest fears in life is letting people down but I let myself down constantly.

I know that I have strength. I know that I have been through a lot and come out the other side. Am I unscathed? No, not even slightly but I'm still here. That's strength right? Maybe.

Lately I don't feel strong at all. The facade I worked years to build is showing cracks, it's slipping and I can't seem to stop it. 

At which point is enough enough?

I've had a rough life you know. Who hasn't? I'm a council estate kid born into "western poverty"... never heard... weirdly (still weird and unexplainable) superior in intellect and physically beaten all through school because of it... survivor of three different kinds of rape over the course of 17 years (not constant but the first was 19 years ago and the last two years ago) I think, maths brain is not working right now... witness in a murder investigation as a young teen... saw my mum overdose and had to put her safely to bed and monitor her breathing at 8... addiction issues... social issues... self harmer since 2... miscarriage through violence at 17... mental health diagnoses... back and forth with therapy/meds et al...
High functioning all of the above which means people don't believe, don't care... whatever... It's a self preservation tactic (thanks evolution) and no doubt a little to do with my level of intellect... (thanks brain?!) and also too much self awareness to allow any of this to show (thanks society).
An abridged version of events if you will. Yeah, terrible blah blah... no one has ever been held to account for their actions against me. I have my own reasons for this.
And then there's the physical stuff... shin splints that never healed from the army... Fibromyalgia...hypermobility syndrome... every day my body screams in pain but I push through... because that's what I do... thats what everyone expects of me. My relationship is a mess and I don't know how to fix it... woe is me kind of thing...

But the thing is, I don't want to be strong any more. I don't want to be a survivor. I don't want to have to smile and be brave. I'm tired of being kind, nice, generous, loving etc. I can't do it any more. I don't want to have to filter my thoughts because I'm so intense. I don't want to have to dumb myself down because people can't handle my intellect. I don't know who I am any more.

It's like no matter what I do I'll always be the ugly one (with 5 beautiful sisters) The weird one (because calling me weird was easier than trying to learn from me or engage with me) The cocky one (because making a better life for myself should only be a faraway dream) The Paki/Chink (having neither Pakistani nor Chinese heritage as far as I'm aware. I'll always be the Stig of The Dump - thanks Clive King (because I much preferred to get my stuff from charity shops knowing all too well that pained look on my mums face when uniform season came around) I'll be what they call a spinster (because lets face it, who wants to commit to all of the above forever?!) I guess they're right when they say shit sticks!
My smile is false more often than not. My demeanor is a very well rehearsed act. I do genuinely care for people, I can't actually stop that and I never ever want to truth be told but it's exhausting me mentally and physically.

Who will be there when I stop swimming? Anyone? I doubt that. The thing is, when the small issues arise, I'll put them to one side and think "I'll deal with that later". Later never comes. When life is "good", I don't want to deal with the negative stuff. I want to stay in the moment. Ride those waves. Yet the negative stuff continues. Reaching out at this point seems silly because it's not "that bad". As the negative pile increases and starts demanding my attention, the weight of it all starts to take it's toll on me. It overwhelms me. I want to reach out but I can't get things into an order in my head. I can't find the words to express my needs.

And then the pile falls. It lands squarely on my head and knocks me for 6. By this point, it's too late to ask for help and what do you say when the strong one needs assistance? The one everyone else turns to needs someone to turn to. Even if I managed somehow to reach out, no one wants to deal with THAT MUCH shit. It's true. People say they're there for you no matter what but when one issue becomes an hour long rant about how desperately alone you feel all the time, about how you go to sleep wishing you won't wake up, about how everything is so fucked up you don't even know where to begin with fixing things. Your boat has sprung a leak and ever time you fill one hole, 6 more appear in it's place!

I don't know what the point of this post is really. I don't need sympathy or hand holding or anything. The mask is just too heavy. I just want to know that CAN fall apart. I want to go off the deep end you know?

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Brain

The brain is an organ. 

Mental illnesses are illnesses of that organ. 

Brain scans show that there is a physical difference between a healthy brain and a sick brain. 

Telling someone “You’re not really sick. It’s all in your head.” is like telling someone with asthma “It’s not real, it’s all in your lungs.” 

The brain is an organ that can malfunction as much as any other organ.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017


If you are in London, a friend has an exhibit at 5th Base Gallery.

I will be going at the weekend and doing a writeup that I will add below.

Event details here:

For this show Arcane Sin is working in support of the charity CALM, the campaign against living miserably. 

COLLEGE ESSAYS (Sociology) Explain the main ways in which the concept of the family has changed over time and across cultures and examine the changing and diverse nature of the family in modern society.

In human context, the family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity or co-residence.

Families can be sites of conflict, tension and arguments, yet may also be sources of love, caring, support, affection, commitment and a sense of belonging as well as involving relations of responsibility, obligations and duties. (Marsh & Keating, 2006)

There are many different 'types' of family. The most common is the nuclear family (conjugal) which consists of the mother, the father and the children. The other most common family type is the extended family which consists of the same as the nuclear family and is also made up of other relatives such as grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

In many cultures, particularly in Southern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East the extended family is the most common structure.

Traditionally, family was broken down by gender. Father was the breadwinner and mother assumed a role of bringing up the children and the general running of the household. (Marsh & Keating, 2006). However, more recently families have become much more diverse. There are same-sex unions in which there are two fathers or two mothers and the children are either adopted or surrogates. Also, women are more likely to have jobs as much as men and it is common for the father to remain at home with the children and for mother to be the breadwinner. Further up the social scale, children are commonly raised by an au-pair or nanny as both parents have careers which they are seemingly unable to put on hold. In South Asia, families include three generations in the household and are organised through a network of males. By contrast, African-CAribbean families are centred on the role of the woman. (Fulcher & Scott 2003).

Same sex unions have always been a hot topic. In 1996 gay couples had acquired registration rights in the Scandinavia however, it was in the Netherlands that legalisation was first passed to allow same-sex marriages. 2001 saw the first two same-sex marriages in Amsterdam. (Independent, 2001)

Most information written historically on the family discusses issues related to the Western world or industrialised countries and therefore does not give a balanced view.

The structure of a family not only depends upon the time period but also the part of the world. Laurence Stone, in a classic study, has charted three phases of the family in Western Europe between 1500 and 1800. The first was 'Open Lineage' and involved a lack of close relations and a lack of privacy, but exclusive kin (a person's relatives). The second was 'Restricted Patriarchy” where there were increased loyalties to the state and church and less to kin and community. The final stage of 'Closed Domesticated' families highlights privacy, bonds between children and parents and 'affective individualism'. It was 'an open ended, low keyed, unemotional, authoritarian institution' (Macionis & Plummer 2008)

In many families today the parents are not married. They are often considered as “common law” partners (common law is an unwritten law based on custom and former court decisions – Oxford
Dictionary 2007) or cohabiting (living together as man and wife). Some marital norms promote endogamy in which the persons wed are from the same social category. This limits the marriage prospects to others of the same age, race, religion or social class. On the opposite side of the scale we have exogamy in which people are expected to marry someone of the same caste (as in endogamy) but in from a different village. Endogamy is promoted in order to pass along their standing to their offspring and maintaining traditional social patterns. Exogamy on the other hand helps to forge useful alliances and promotes cultural diffusion.

In 2001 only 23% of British households consisted of a couple, married or unmarried, living with dependent children, as compared with 35% in 1971. (Social Trends 2002: 40)

It could be argued that family life is in decline and that this decline is responsible for the ills of today's society. However, an alternative view is that families have simply become more varied. It could be argued that the 'traditional family' was constrictive and damaging to all concerned!

In the 1970s, the New Right tried to revive traditional notions of the family centred on marriage and the domestic division of labour between a bread-winning husband and a housewife responsible for childcare. A definition of the family in these terms excludes; single parent families, unmarried couples and heterosexual or homosexual couples. In 1993, Diana Gittins argued that instead of referring to 'the family' we should refer to 'families'. This way we could recognise the various forms taken by the family and avoid privileging any one of them.

In today's society, the family is more of a concept. It is the people we live with and care about. The more traditional idea of 'family is slightly more outdated and perhaps didn't even exist.


Fulcher, J & Scott, J Sociology Second Editon, 2003, Oxford University Press Inc, New York

Gittins, D, 1993, The Family in Question: Changing Households and Familiar Ideologies. Second Edition, Macmillan, London.

Macionis, J & Plummer, K. Sociology, a global introduction fourth edition 2008 Pearson Education Limited, Essex.

Oxford English Dictionary, 2007, Oxford University Press Inc, New York

UNI ESSAYS The effects of Age of Acquisition on recognising familiar faces.


The age of acquisition effect states that people respond faster to words/objects they learnt at a younger age. The age of acquisition effect has been looked at from many perspectives, however, there is not much research with the age of acquisition effect on facial recognition. The idea being that faces we were exposed to at a younger age would be recalled quicker than those we were exposed to at a later age. The test consisted of 40 faces. 20 of these were ‘familiar’ faces in that they were celebrities one may recognise (10 of these would be early acquired and 10 late) and 20 faces that were ‘unfamiliar’. The participant was to respond via a computer with Y if they recognise the face and N if not. This was timed in milliseconds. The results of this experiment were similar to the results of other age of acquisition experiments where words/objects were tested. The faces acquired earlier were recognised faster than those acquired later.

In previous experiments, it has been shown that words acquired earlier in life are recalled easier than those acquired later.  The same principle applies to objects and images.
In 2005, Juhasz found that words and pictures acquired earlier in life are processed quicker and therefore easier to recall than those acquired later. 
In an experiment conducted in 1998, Moore and Valentine found similar results when they tested recognition of “celebrities”. Again, the names of those celebrities acquired earlier in life were easier and quicker to recall. This is different to the experiment outlined in this assignment as it focuses on naming celebrities as opposed to recognising faces.
In 2004, Moore, Smith-Spark and Valentine conducted 2 experiments on the ‘Effects of age of acquisition on object perception’. In the first experiment, there were 39 participants (26 female & 13 male with a mean age of 28.33 (SD = 10.04) ). The participants were presented with stimuli (48 pictures from Snodgrass & Vanderwart 1980) and were encouraged to make fast responses. 24 of the pictures were early acquired and 24 were late acquired. The participants had to decide whether the images were of real objects or not. The real objects were recognised faster (mean = 568 ms, SEM = 5.38) than the non-objects (mean = 694ms, SEM = 5.90). Furthermore, the participants recognised the early acquired objects significantly faster than the late acquired objects. There was a lot of focus on answering fast in the experiment which may have impeded their accuracy.
In the second experiment, there were 38 participants (33 female, 5 male; mean age = 20.75 years, SD = 4.82). The stimuli presented were the same as those in the first experiment however they were regrouped into sets with high or low frequency names. There were 48 real objects and 48 non objects. The participants were significantly faster at recognising the pictures of objects with low frequency names (mean = 532ms SEM =3.21) than they were at recognising the pictures of objects with high frequency names (mean = 555ms, SEM = 3.55). The results were not as they had expected in this second experiment. 
The experimenters had fully expected the results of the first experiment however, the results of the second experiment came as a surprise as it was hypothesised that the high frequency words would have been recalled faster and more accurate than the low frequency words. This shows the significance of the effect of Age of Acquisition.
The aim of this particular experiment was to see if the same hypothesis could apply to facial recognition. 


The participants were all undergraduate students enrolled in a Research Methods class. 104 participants took part in this experiment, 68 female and 34 male. 2 of the participants did not disclose their gender. 77 of the participants were UK students and 25 were international students. 2 participants did not disclose this information. The mean age of the participants was 25.36 years (SD = 8.95) and the range was 36.

The experiment was conducted using the experiment generator software programme, Superlab (Cedrus Corporation), which records reaction time to each stimulus (ms) on an IBM compatible computer. The images presented were all in greyscale and measured 256x256 pixels. Participants were told to type Y if they recognised the faces and N if not.

The experiment was a ‘within subject’ design as all of the participants took part in both conditions of the experiment.  The independent variable was the Age of Acquisition, the dependant variable was the reaction time measured in milliseconds and the levels of treatment were early acquisition and late acquisition. Each image was presented with no apparent order with no clear pattern (e.g not MFMFMF or ELELEL etc). Once the participant had responded to one image the next image appeared immediately.

Participants were shown to the experiment lab in the psychology department of London South Bank University.  Each participant had access to a computer and were asked to enter their gender, student ID, initials and whether they were a home or international student. Participants were then able to do a trail-run of the experiment beforehand which consisted of 6 images in the same format as the actual experiment in order that they were familiar with the procedure being used. The experiment itself consisted of 40 images and the participants were instructed to press Y if they recognised the face and N if they didn’t. Reaction time (ms) was recorded by the software programme. The image would remain on the screen until such a time when the participant responded with Y or N and then the next image followed immediately after. Once the test was finished the students were told to return to their normal classrooms.

The results showed that faces acquired earlier in life had a quicker reaction time (mean = 929.61, SD = 355.23) than those acquired later (mean = 1013.89, SD = 373.44).
It is clear from these results that early acquired faces were recalled faster than both late acquired and also unfamiliar faces.
The results of this experiment follow a similar pattern to the results of other Age of Acquisition experiments in that the earlier acquired faces were recognised faster and with greater accuracy than the later acquired faces. This supports the hypothesis proposed for this experiment.
Despite the accuracy of the hypothesis for this experiment, there are some problems with this method. Not everyone is exposed to the same faces at the same age. Faces that are early acquired for someone in their 40s may be late acquired for someone in their 20s. Similarly, someone in their 20s may acquire some faces earlier than someone in their 40s. Furthermore, some participants may not be aware that they have been exposed to certain faces and therefore may not recognise them. There is also a cultural issue with this experiment. In some cultures, people may be exposed to certain faces earlier or later than people in other cultures.


Juhasz, BJ. (2005) Age of Acquisition effects in word and picture identification. Massachusetts: American Psychological Association.
Moore, V. & Valentine. T. (1998) The effect of age of acquisition on speed and accuracy of naming famous faces. United Kingdon: Taylor & Francis.
Moore, V., Smith-Spark, J. & Valentine, J. (2004) The effects of age of acquisition on object perception. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology.

Monday, 6 February 2017

COLLEGE ESSAYS Compare and contrast two psychological approaches/perspectives - Behaviourism & Psychodynamics

There are many different approaches/perspectives in psychology. The two that will be analysed in this essay are behaviourism and psychodynamics. These two approaches take virtually opposing perspectives in their approach to psychology.

The aim of the essay is to look at the similarities and differences between these two approaches by way of a concept map.

Behaviourism is: an approach to psychology that accounts for behaviour in terms of observable events without reference to mental concepts such as ‘mind’ or ‘emotion’. (Cardwell 1996)

Psychodynamics (dynamic psychology) is the dynamic interplay of psychological process and phenomena arising from instincts that facilitate, inhibit and combine with one another, or produce compromise formations. (Coleman, 2001)

The concept map below illustrates the similarities and differences between the two.


From the concept map, you can clearly see that there are a lot of differences, most of which are completely opposite. However, there are some similarities.

Both theories are considered to be deterministic theories. A deterministic theory believes that our lives are already mapped out and we are simply taking a road we were put upon. This is to say that the outcome of our lives has already been decided and we simply have to choose which path to take.

Both theories are also considered to be reductionist theories. A reductionist theory believes that we can understand the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts. It could almost be seen as a jigsaw puzzle. Our minds are made up of smaller pieces which when put together make something complete and complex.

Both behaviourism and psychodynamics have opened up the world of psychology and given us a lot to consider when trying to figure out the inner workings of the mind.

Behaviourism specifically shows us that it is not only ‘human minds’ that can be figured out.
Both theories are still widely used today to some extent and a lot of research carried out now is based on or linked back to these theories.


Cardwell, M (1996) Complete A-Z Psychology Handbook, Hodder and Stoughton, London

Coleman, A (2001) Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford University Press Inc., New York

Gross, R. Sixth Edition (2010) Psychology The Science of Mind and Behaviour, Hodder Education, London.

COLLEGE ESSAYS Research Methods - Case Studies and Experiments

This essay will look at 2 research methods used in psychological research, case studies and experiments. It will analyse the advantages and disadvantages of each method and a conclusion will be drawn.

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour.

Case Study: A research method involving a detailed investigation of a single individual or a single organised group. (Oxford Dictionary of Psychology)

Case studies are a more personal approach to research. It usually focuses on an individual person and with this in mind it can be said that the nature of this method is idiographic. They allow the researcher to analyse unusual cases in great detail. Case studies may also be used to study an individual group of people.

Some case studies are longitudinal in that they are conducted repeatedly over a period of time to gather. Another type of study is retrospective. In this type of study the participant's history is examined. These two types of studies can produce very different results. By using a longitudinal study, the researcher can gather up a lot of information over a long period of time. It can give clear results and are generally objective. If a retrospective study is used, there is the risk of the participant misinforming the researcher either by omission or by an outright lie.

Case studies are individualistic and produce qualitative data. They offer high levels of ecological validity and the reality his high. However, they are difficult to replicate and therefore the reliability of the data may not be accurate. Furthermore, the individual or group being studied may not act in a natural manner either due to nerves or being unwilling giving inaccurate results. There is also the possibility of the researcher being biased further causing inaccurate results.

Due to the idiographic nature of case studies, the results may not be applicable beyond the specific individual or group.

Experiments: A research method whose defining features are manipulation of an independent variable or variables and control of extraneous variables that might influence the dependent variable. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology.

Experiments are the most rigorous means of testing. They consist of 3 important features: manipulation of an independent variable, randomisation and control. These 3 features make experiments more accurate and applicable to everyday life.

The main types of experiments are; laboratory experiments whereby the independent variable is directly manipulated. This produces high levels of control thus giving high replicability. Unfortunately, they lack ecological validity and there can be participant or researcher effects. Field experiments whereby the researcher controls the independent variable but not the extraneous variable, this may then impact upon the independent variable. Field experiments have high levels of ecological validity. Less participant effects can produce more sound results. Unfortunately this type of experiment is more time consuming and there is less control over the extraneous variables. The final type of experiment is the natural experiment. This is where the researcher cannot manipulate the independent variable. This may not produce particularly accurate results and can be considered to be an untrue experiment. This method is more ethical however and has high ecological validity. Unfortunately the uncontrollable independent variables means that the experiment cannit conclude cause and effect.

In conclusion, it is clear that there is no perfect method in which to gather information. If a
combination of these methods can be used then more accurate results may be produced.


Gross, R. Sixth Edition (2010) Psychology The Science of Mind and Behaviour, Hodder Education, London.

Colman, A. Third edition (2001) Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford University Press Inc. New York

Bailey, J. et al. (2008) AQA Psychology A Exclusively endorsed by AQA, Nelson Thornes Ltd, Cheltenham

Unknown, (2008) AS Level Psychology The Revision Guide Coordination Group Publications Limited Cumbria

COLLEGE ESSAYS In your own words, evaluate the importance of 2 ethical issues raised in psychological research with reference to a piece of research.

Ethics in research are very important when conducting an experiment. The ethics must be considered in all aspects of the research from planning to conducting, concluding and evaluating. There must be a cost-benefit-analysis. This means that the experimenter needs to decide if the ends justify the means.

The piece of research this essay will be looking at is the Stanford Prison Experiment conducted by Philip Zimbardo in 1973.

The experiment that Zimbardo carried out was because of the rise of brutal attacks by prison guards on prisoners in the 1960s. Zimbardo set up a “prison” in the basement of the psychology department Stanford University. The aim of the experiment was to see if people really had aggressive and sadistic personalities or whether the uniforms they wore gave them “power” therefore showing that their behaviour was a result of social influence. The experiment got out of had rather quickly and had to be disbanded 8 days early. Zimbardo found that those who were “guards” abused the power they were given at the expense of the “prisoners”. He also found that “prisoners” manipulated the “guards” by rioting thus causing the “guards” to retaliate.

One ethical issue here is the long term effect that this experiment had on the “guards” and the “prisoners” alike. With Zimbardo getting involved himself, there seemed to be no clear boundaries and people quickly lost sight of the experiment. Some of the participants were subjected to physical harm ie beatings and deprivation of basic rights such as mattresses as well as psychological harm from the verbal abuse and degradation from the “guards”. Some “guards” had not realised they were capable of such acts of abuse and therefore believed that they were in fact sadistic. To avoid the lasting psychological damage here, the students were all debriefed and informed that their actions were no worse than the actions of their fellow students.

Another ethical issue here is deception. The students did actually have the right to withdraw, however, Zimbardo managed to manipulate some students into believing they had no choice but to stay. This caused the “prisoners” to rebel against the “guards”. With Zimbardo participating in the experiment himself people were easily confused and he was able to manipulate the “guards” and the “prisoners” alike in order to provoke a desired reaction. A prisoner was replaced part way through the experiment and he was told to take part in a hunger strike in protest of the treatment of his fellow “prisoners”. The other “inmates” were not informed that this participant was actually a confederate and viewed him as a trouble maker.

It can be argued here that the means did not justify the ends as the participants were subjected to too much mental and physical harm. There was long term lasting damage to many participants and even after a debrief it can be argued that the participants will still have some lasting psychological damage long after the the physical harm has healed. It can also be argued that the experiment
cannot be applied to an actual prison as the participants in the experiment were playing their roles and acting up as might be expected. Also, the participants were all male. In prisons the guards are generally mixed sex.

With hindsight, Zimbardo would be able to see that his direct involvement in the experiment was somewhat dangerous as there was essentially no one keeping order and maintaining boundaries.

COLLEGE ESSAYS (Sociology) Compare and contrast the main sociological perspectives and explain the historical routes of these perspectives.

There are many sociological perspectives. This essay will be looking at the 4 main perspectives each described below:

Functionalism – Theories in Sociology and social anthropology which explain institutions primarily in the functions they perform. To talk of the function of something is to account for a social activity or phenomenon by referring to its consequences for the operation of some other social activity institution or society as a whole. ( Jary, D and Jary, J 2005)

Marxism – For Marx, the way that people live is, in may ways, a consequence of the arrangements they make for survival and the methods of producing and distributing food will to some extent determine the lifestyle, religious belief, custom and so on. (Marsh, I and Kealing, M 2006 (1996))

Postmodernism – Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. ( accessed 03 November 2010)

Symbolic Interactionism – A leading American social psychological theory which focuses on the ways in which meanings emerge through interaction. ( Marshall, G and Scott, J 2005)

Functionalism and Marxism are both considered to be Social Systems in that they are structuralist, macro perspectives and also deterministic. They believe that we are moulded by society and it's beliefs. Symbolic Interactionism and Postmodernism are considered to be Social Actions in that they are interpretive, micro perspectives based on free-will.

The Functionalism perspective was introduced by Émile Durkheim (1858-1917). Functionalism looks at the basis of social order and how it is maintained. The analogy that is best known for this perspective is that of the human body. Each part of the body plays an important role in keeping the rest of the body functioning properly. This perspective relies on social solidarity and everyone working as a 'unit' in order to keep everyone happy.

The Marxist perspective came is named after it's founder, Karl Marx (1818-1883). It looks at social groups and social classes. Marxism is a conflict theory. It shows society as an infrastructure shaped by a superstructure. The Superstructure is run by the 'bourgoise' and the infrastructure is run by the proletariate. Marxism believes that society is lulled into a false consciousness and until that sense of consciousness is realised then society will remain the same. Marxism is a deterministic theory. All of our futures are 'pre-determined' and we simply choose a path that takes us to an end goal that is the same whichever route we take.

The Post Modern perspective believes that the other theories are no longer relevant. The fact that society has changed means that the other theories are made redundant. The post modern perspective has become more influential since the 1980s. Post modernists believe that social behaviour is no longer shaped by people's backgrounds. They believe that people have more choice and free will. (Haralambos, 2008)

Symbolic interactionism was first introduced by Max Weber (1864-1920) and George H Mead (1863-1931). It is another theory that believes in free will. Symbolic interactionism focuses on how people interact with one another. The theory believes that we are all 'social actors' and that we give a continuous performance in the way that we present ourselves. It focuses on the subjective aspects of social life as opposed to the objective aspects. Unfortunately, symbolic interactionism focuses on small scale interactions and tends to ignore wider society.

(Sociology in focus. Talor, P et al 2004) and ( accessed 09 November)

Haralambos, M (2008) Sociology: themes and perspectives, Collins Educational, Glasgow

Jary, D and Jary, J (2005) Collins Dictionary of Sociology. Harper Collins, Glasgow

Marsh, I & Kealing, M. (2005) Sociology: Making sense of Society. Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

Marshall, G and Scott, J (2005) Oxford dictionary of Sociology, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Talor, P et al (2004). Sociology in focus. Causeway Press Ltd, Ormskirk.

COLLEGE ESSAYS Compare and contrast two theories of forgetting.

There are many theories as to why people forget. This essay will analyse two of these theories: repression and decay.

To understand why we forget, we must recall the distinction between availability and accessibility. In terms of the multi store model, since information must be transferred from short-term memory (STM) to long-term memory (LTM) for storage:

availability mainly concerns STM and the transfer of information from STM to LTM
accessibility has to do mainly with LTM.

Forgetting can occur at the encoding, storage or retrieval stages. (Gross, 2010 p268)

First of all this essay will look at Repression.

Repression was first introduced in the psychological sense in 1806 by German philosopher and psychologist Johann Friedrich Herbart. (Coleman, A. 2009)

In Psychoanalysis, repression is defined as; the rejection from consciousness of painful or disagreeable ideas, memories, feelings, or impulses. (

This definition implies that the memory is there but is inaccessible.

Repression is also known as motivated forgetting. It is an unconscious action that causes retrieval failure.

Repression is a defence mechanism employed by someone who has encountered some sort of traumatic event whether that be the child who is the victim of abuse of sorts or a criminal who has committed a heinous crime.

The level of 'forgetting' in repression can vary from a temporary abolition of uncomfortable thoughts to a high level of amnesia, where events that caused the anxiety are buried very deep. (Gardner 2006)

In 1915, Freud wrote a frequently quoted definition as follows: “The essence of repression lies simply in turning something away, and keeping it at a distance from the conscious”.

Eysenck and Wilson (1973) and Parkin (1982) suggested that rather than being repressed, memories are simply blocked and can be recovered after some period of time.

Repression is a difficult theory causes constant debate. One such instance of this is the idea that abuse victims create false memories as a way of coping with memories of such trauma.

Another theory of forgetting is decay. This theory tries to explain why forgetting increases with time (Gross 2010)

Decay occurs within both STM and LTM. In STM, it is believed that decay occurs when information is not rehearsed thus preventing a permanent structural change in memory. Studies based on the Brown-Peterson technique support this theory. On the other hand, the Peterson-Peterson experiment suggests that memory loss is caused by interference.

In 1974, Reitman developed a technique that attempts to eliminate the influence of interference. Participants were shown 5 lists of words for two seconds each and then asked to listen for a feint tone (via headphones) for 15 seconds. The aim of this experiment was to see whether new information was prevented from entering the STM and also prevented rehearsal. Whilst the recall rate decreased by 24% over the 15 seconds and Reitman claimed that this was due to decay, there is no evidence to suggest that no new information entered the STM within this time.

There has been research conducted into the theory of decay which states that information can be lost if not used over a long period of time.

In 1999, Baddeley suggested that riding a bike is a continuous skill where each action cues the next, therefore it is easier to remember whilst McKenna & Glendon (1985) found that cardiac resuscitation requires training monthly to keep the information fresh.

Both of these studies suggest that time is a reason for decay but also suggests that decay is not the only explanation for forgetting.

In conclusion, there are many ideas on the theory of forgetting but no one theory is ultimately conclusive. It is almost impossible to come to one definitive answer as to why we forget and the subject will continue to be researched and debated until one or another theory is proved as the ultimate reason otherwise it will be concluded that there is no one single reason.


Coleman, A, 2009, Oxford Dictionary of Psychology. New York, Oxford University Press.
Freud, S, 1915, Freud, Complete Works – Repression. (

Gardner, H, 2006, Changing Minds; The art and science of changing our own and other people's minds, Boston, Harvard Business School Press

Gross, R, 2010, Psychology, the science of mind and behaviour sixth edition, London, Hodder Education

COLLEGE ESSAYS Describe and evaluate the medical and one of the psychological explanations for the causes of abnormality.

Models of abnormality are general ideas that outline the possible the nature of psychological abnormalities. The four main models to explain psychological abnormality are the Behavioural, Biological (medical), Cognitive, and Psychodynamic models

In this essay I will describe and evaluate two of these models. One being the medical model, the other being the psychodynamic model.

Many defenders of the medical model have argued that it's more humane to regard a psychologically disturbed person as sick (or mad) than plain bad (it's more stigmatising to be regarded as morally defective: Blaney 1975).

The biological (medical) model is the only model not based on psychological principles. This model suggests that there is an external cause of the abnormality such as a genetic, virus or an infection. A diagnosis of mental 'illness' implies that a person not responsible for the abnormality and defers responsibility for that person to a doctor or other medical professional.

If the causes of a disorder are biological, then it is possible to treat the patient by changing their biological processes. This can be done through drug therapy or psychosurgery.

An example of a biological abnormality is depression. Depression is a severe psychological illness characterised by periods of very low mood and feelings of helplessness and guilt. It usually runs in families and is therefore genetic. Depression presents as an imbalance of serotonin and can be treated with a serotonin booster drug.

The problem with the biological (medical) model is that the treatment is only aimed at the symptoms of the abnormality and not the causes.

The Psychodynamic approach is based on theories originally put forward by Freud. The term 'psychodynamic' denotes the active forces within the personality that motivate behaviour, and the inner causes of behaviour. (Gross, R 2010).

Freud believed that the mind is made up of three parts. The conscious, pre-conscious and the unconscious. Within the mind Freud believed there are three aspects that determine your personality. The id, the ego and the superego. The psychodynamic model believes that one of the the causes of an abnormality is due to a conflict between these three aspects. The other possible cause is due to fixation at the psychosexual stages.

The mind employs a defence mechanism in order to deal with these conflicts. One of these defence mechanisms is repression.

If the causes of a disorder are within the personality then it is possible to treat the patient by bringing the repressed memories into the conscious mind. This can be done through free association, dream analysis, hypnosis and the analysis of 'Freudian Slips'. There is little proof that any of these methods actually work but they can successfully uncover the issues that have been repressed by the patient which can then be addressed with another method.

The psychodynamic approach focuses mostly on the causes of the abnormality and by addressing the causes the behaviour is changed.

There is no perfect answer for targeting abnormal behaviour. A combination of treatment methods are most likely to successfully treat patients and avoid a recurrence of abnormal behaviour.


Cash, A. 2002. Psychology for dummies. Indianapolis, Wiley Publishing Inc.
Gross, R. 2010 Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour. London. Hodder Education

COLLEGE ESSAYS (Sociology) Explain and evaluate contrasting sociological theories of the family.

This essay will be looking at the family from 3 different perspectives. The functionalist perspective, the social action perspective and the feminist perspective.

The family is a unique part of society, which is found in every country and culture in the world. The forms it takes on vary so greatly across different societies, that many say it is impossible to define the family.

There are many different 'types' of family. The most common is the nuclear family (conjugal) which consists of the mother, the father and the children. The other most common family type is the extended family which consists of the same as the nuclear family and is also made up of other relatives such as grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

Family is a hot topic in the world of sociology. Many debate the function of families within society and also the impact of society on families. Each of the theories outlined below argue the theory of family from totally different perspective.

The functionalist perspective suggests that we look at the major functions of the family. From this perspective it is easy to see that society as we know it could not exist without families. Families are like an organism made up of different parts that all work together. Each different part performs a specific function. Socialisation, regulation of sexual activity, social placement and material and emotional security are standard functions of a family. When all of these functions are taken together, families are often seen as the 'backbone of society'.

However, the functionalist perspective overlooks the great diversity in ways people can live together in the modern world. Functionalism also overlooks how other social institutions could meet at least some of the same human needs. Furthermore, the functionalist theory tends to focus more positive functions of the family. It also assumes that family is of equal benefit to everyone whereas Marxists would argue that society is shaped by the needs of the capitalist economy and that the family exists to serve these needs rather than those of its members. Many functionalists, particularly Parsons, do not consider the diversity of family types. Even within one society, there are variations based on class, region, ethnicity, religion etc.

The feminist approach is slightly more radical. Many feminists see the family as the central location of women's oppression. Until recently, men have nearly always been the head of the household. Feminism has had more influence on the study of the family than any other approach to understanding society. The feminist perspective focuses mostly on the harmful effects of family life on women. (Haralambos & Holborn 2007) The feminist approach looks at the family based on gender. It also looks at the power struggle between men and women.

Liberal feminists would argue that women have progressed in terms of equality within the family. They are of the belief that men are adapting to change and moving further towards domestic equality.

Marxist feminists would argue that the role of the housewife serves the needs of capitalism.

Radical feminists believe that the role of the housewife was created by patriarchy and geared to the service of men and their interests.

Criticisms of the feminist theory include the fact that women naturally want to have and raise children whereas men do not. Some feminists see women's subordination as fundamentally caused by their role in reproduction.

The theory of social action is that part of Sociology that examines collective human action independent of its content. It attempts to discover how individuals of our Species are able to coordinate their physical actions in order to achieve some common end, any end, without reference to any specific time or place. (

In relation to the family, all members of the family are capable of conscious thought and this enables them to be aware of themselves and others as social beings, they have their own values and beliefs, they are in control of their own actions. This is opposite to the social system theory which believes that society shapes the person and not the person shapes society.

In recent decades, transformation of family life has generated controversy. The advocates of “traditional family values” are locked in debate with supporters of new family forms and greater personal choice. (Macionis & Plummer 2008) Change to the family structure is inevitable due to change in the world. Men are becoming more involved in the rearing of children as women are pursuing careers. Partners are becoming less likely to marry and many are having children out of wedlock. There is also the emergence of single parent families, gay/lesbian parent families and blended families. furthermore, technology advancements mean that women have the ability to have a child without even the presence of a man.

Eventually, we will have a new theory on family that will encompass all of the above perspectives and also take into account the recent transformation of family life. Of course, this theory will then be argued and disputed between the traditionalists modernists. It is likely that there will not be a middle ground formed between the two extremes that both would agree on.


Haralambos, M & Holborn, M. 2004, Sociology – Themes and perspectives (sixth edition) London, Harper Collins

Fulcher, J & Scott, J Sociology Second Editon, 2003, Oxford University Press Inc, New York

Gittins, D, 1993, The Family in Question: Changing Households and Familiar Ideologies. Second Edition, Macmillan, London.

Macionis, J & Plummer, K. 2008 Sociology, a global introduction fourth edition, Pearson Education

UNI ESSAYS How do psychologists explain the fact that we are able to ignore much of the auditory information that bombards us?

Dichotic listening is a task used in cognitive psychology to investigate selective attention in the auditory system. During a dichotic listening task, the participant will be presented with two different auditory stimuli, one in each ear, and asked to distinguish one or both of the stimuli.

In 1953, E Colin Cherry first identified the 'cocktail party phenomenon' which references the ability to listen selectively to one conversation during a party whilst ignoring other background noise. Cherry used the dichotic listening task to investigate this. In his experiment, Cherry played a separate message to each ear of the participant who is then asked to shadow once message. This is to ensure that the participant is attending to the shadowed message. From this experiment, Cherry found that participants were only able to report the physical characteristics presented in the unattended message such as whether the message was being relayed by a male or female voice. The participant was not able to to distinguish what language the message was being relayed in.

In 1958, Broadbent proposed a filter model to explain Cherry's findings. His model explained that, in order to prevent us becoming overwhelmed by sensory input, there is an 'attentional filter' that blanks out all but the desired information from being processed. Broadbent's filter model showed that information is filtered very soon after entering the perceptual system. Only one input is allowed through the system. All other inputs are caught in an attentional 'bottleneck'. However in 1959, Moray found that people could recognise their own names in an unattended eat thus proving Broadbent's theory wrong. In 1964, Treisman proposed a theory of selective attention. Her theory argued that all messages were being processed beyond the sensory stage but unattended messages were subject to attenuation. Treisman's attenuator model shows that the input is attenuated to very soon after entering the perceptual system. The attenuated inputs are caught in a similar 'bottleneck'. The central problem with this model is the lack of clarity to the meaning of attenuation. A similar theory was proposed by Deutsch & Deutsch in 1963. Similarly to Treisman's theory, Deutsch & Deutsch's theory proposed that all incoming information is fully processed. There is no 'bottleneck' in their model and once input is given precedence nearer the time when a response has to be made.

Each of these theories make valid contributions to the idea of selective attention. However, neither of these theories highlight how demanding a task shadowing actually is. It is possible that the unattended message is being fully processed but is not stored in the short term memory long enough for a response to be made. Von Wright, Anderson & Stenman (1975) presented target words that had previously been associated with electric shocks. They detected a physiological reaction to inputs in both ears which shows that the unattended inputs were fully processed.

Resource allocation theories propose that people can multi-task, carrying out more than one attention demanding task at a time.In 1973, Kahneman proposed a model that shows that some activities are more demanding and therefore require more mental effort than others and that the total available processing capacity may be increased or decreased by factors such as arousal. Navon & Gopher (1979) proposed a slightly more complex model that allows two separate modalities of attentional resources. Yantis (1994) criticised these theories for being too broad and too vague whereas Stenberg (2003) proposed that these theories complemented the filter theories.

Broadbent, D .,(1958) Perception and Communication, Oxford: Pergamon Press

Cherry, C. E., (1953) Some experiments on the recognition of speech, with one and two ears, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 22, 975-979

Deutsch, J. A., & Deutsch, D., (1963), A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgements, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, 629-636

Moray, N., (1959) Attention in dichotic listening: affective cues and the influence of instructions The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 11 56-60

Treisman, A. M., (1964) Verbal cues, language and meaning in selective attention, American Journal of Psychology 77(2) 206-219

Von Wright, J. M., Anderson, K., & Stenman, U. (1975). Generalisation of conditioned GSRs in dichotic

UNI ESSAYS Explain how psychological research has contributed to the idea that humans have both short and long term memory.

Memory is the capacity to encode, retain, store and retrieve information. We have 3 memory systems; Sensory memory, short-term memory and long-term memory. Short term memory is a process which preserves recent information over brief intervals. It is of limited capacity and duration and information is stored for a short amount of time without rehearsal. Miller (1956) summarized evidence that people can hold approximately 7 chunks of information in their short term memory give or take 2 chunks. Long term memory retains and preserves information for later retrieval over long periods. There is no known limit to long term memory. As the names suggest, Short Term Memory is short, lasting only for seconds and long term memory is long, lasting perhaps a lifetime. short term memory uses phonological encoding and long term memory uses semantic encoding.

Atkinson & Shiffrin (1986) developed a model of short term memory and long term memory. In the modal model of memory, short term memory and long term memory are presented as connected memory stores. The model illustrates how control processes such as rehearsal can transfer information into the long term memory. There were several issues with the modal modal. A patient known as KF had normal long term memory but a severely impaired short term memory (Shallice & Warrington (1970)). KF was still able to acquire and retain new information in long term memory. This proves that long term memories are not processed through the short term memory by way of rehearsal therefore the two memory stores must work individually.

The distinction between long term memory and short term memory was first made by William James (1890) who argued that primary memory (short term memory) holds whatever is in our consciousness, whilst secondary memory (long term memory) contains the sum of our past experiences.

Tulving (1985) theorised that there are 3 different types of long term memory; episodic (relating to people, places, events, actions), semantic (relating to knowledge i.e. knowing that if you touch something hot it burns you) and procedural (relating to know how. i.e knowing how to tie your shoes). Knowledge is organised into concepts and categories. Collins & Quillian (1969) devised the Semantic Network Theory whereby concepts are nodes and hierarchical in nature. There are links between concepts as they go up the hierarchy but there are no horizontal links between nodes. Using semantic networks it was found that it took longer to verify statements as they moved up the hierarchy. (i.e. it is easier to identify that a canary is a bird than it is to identify that a canary is an animal.

Atkinson, R. C., & Shiffrin, R. M., (1968) Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes The psychology of Learning and Motivation: Advances in research theory, 2, New York: Academic Press

Collins, A. M., & Quillian, M. R., (1969) Retrieval time from semantic memory Journal of verbal learning and verbal behaviour 8 (2) 240-247

Miller, G. A., (1956) The magic number seven, plus or minus 2: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological review 63 81-97

James, W., (1890) Principles of Psychology, Vol 1, New York: Holt, Rienhart & Winston

Shallice, T., & Warrington, K. E., (1970) Independent functioning of verbal memory stores: A neuropsychological study, The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 22 261-273

Tulving, E., (1985) How many memory systems are there? American Psychologist 40 385-398

Sunday, 5 February 2017

UNI ESSAYS Compare and contrast categorical and dimensional approaches to diagnosing mental health conditions.

Mental health conditions can be a huge problem if not diagnosed correctly or at all. A patient with a mental health issues may suffer distress or disability beyond what may be considered normal to a person’s development or culture.

According to a bulletin published in 2000 by the World Health Organisation, over a third of people in most countries report problems at some time in their life which meet criteria for diagnosis of one or more of the common types of mental health conditions.

The current system used for categorical diagnoses of mental health conditions is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM was first published in 1952 and has since undergone 5 revisions to its current state which was published in 1994 (with a text revision in 2000). The current manual is DSM-IV-TR, with an update due in 2013. The manual was created from a system collecting statistics in a psychiatric hospital and a manual developed by the United States Army. 

Before the introduction of the DSM, mental disorders were diagnosed using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) which was only introduced in 1939. Before this, mental health conditions were put down to "supernatural" causes such as demonic possession. Unfortunately for sufferers, treatment was often barbaric and almost always lead to the death of the patient.

The manual uses a categorical classification system to determine whether or not a patient suffers a mental health condition. The current manual uses a multi-axial classification system which comprises of 5 axes:

Axis I contains the diagnostic criteria for major mental health conditions, learning disorders and substance use disorders including depression, anxiety, the autistic spectrum, eating disorders and schizophrenia. 

Axis II contains the diagnostic criteria for personality disorders and intellectual disabilities such as paranoid personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and narcissistic personality disorder amongst others. 
Axis III contains the diagnostic criteria for acute medical conditions and physical disorders such as brain injuries and any other physical impairment which may exacerbate an existing disease. 

Axis IV identifies psychosocial and environmental contributors to disorders 

Axis V contains the global assessment of functioning for children and teens under the age of 18. This assessment gives a score on a scale of 1 to 100 to measure the severity of a given disorder.  A diagnosis will be made based on the information provided to a mental health professional by the patient.

The categorical approach is strong in that it helps to find similarities in within categories to help ongoing treatment of the patient. A mental health professional can use the same techniques to diagnose and treat many patients with similar symptoms. However, the categorical approach does not allow for an overlap. A patient either has one disorder or another. This makes diagnosis difficult as the disorders listed in the manual can have overlapping symptoms.

Helmuth (2003) states that a patient could present with symptoms across multiple disorders however without the allowance for an overlap the patient will be placed into a category with the most amount of symptoms. This could easily lead to a misdiagnosis. Helmuth also states that a patient may be misdiagnosed due to the severity of symptoms. If a symptom is not as severe as is required by the DSM then that symptom will not be counted towards the diagnosis and this can be very problematic.

 Another issue with the categorical approach is the assignment of a label to a patient. Once a patient is diagnosed with a specific disorder and a label applied, it can be very difficult for that label to be removed. Rosenhan (1973) suggests that these patients would have a ‘sticky label’ from their diagnosis suggesting that even if the diagnosis is removed there will still be some residue much like that of a sticking plaster. This residue can be difficult to remove and may have a profound effect on the patient in terms of stigma.

Another approach used for diagnosing mental health conditions is the dimensional approach.  The dimensional approach uses a scoring system to diagnose patients. This would mean that rather than being diagnosed with a specific disorder the patient will be placed on a sliding scale relative to how a disorder affects their day to day life.

The dimensional approach, allows for ‘co morbidity’ which is the existence of one or more mental health condition in addition to the primary condition. With the patient being placed on a continuum it is easy for the mental health professional to monitor the progression and intensity of a disorder which may fluctuate due to many life circumstances. This would avoid the issue of labelling as the patient is on a sliding scale. The problem with the dimensional approach is that it relies upon a notion of separate and distinct mental mental health condition (Wittenhall 2007). However, it does not attach the same amount of stigma as a categorical classification.

Many sufferers of mental health conditions will go for years, or even their entire life, without a diagnosis in order to avoid a social stigma. Mental health problems are not portrayed in a particularly favourable light within the world media, therefore it is understandable for a person to be unwilling to seek a diagnosis. The stigma of mental health issues not only affects the person suffering but also the people in their immediate surroundings. This was found in a study by Östman and Kjellin in 2002. Being stigmatized can not only affect the patient and their family but may also cause further symptoms leading to a misdiagnosis which would cause the patient further stress and result in the patient not being treated correctly.

It would appear that the dimensional approach presents with the least amount of problems for the patient. The newer revision of the DSM will make allowances for co morbidity and make diagnoses much easier and treatment much more effective for the individual suffering the disorder rather than the disorder itself.

Helmuth, L. (2002). In Sickness or in Beauty? Science. 302 (5646). 808-810.
Östman, M. & Kjellin, L. (2002). Stigma Through Association. British Journal of Psychiatry. 181. 494-498.
Rosenhan, D.L. (1973). On Being Sane in Insane places. Science. 179 (4070). 250-258.
Wittenhall, J (2007)  Eye on Psi Chi Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 16-17
WHO International Consortium in Psychiatric Epidemiology (2000) Cross national comparisons of the prevalences and correlates of mental disorders Bulletin of the World Health Organisation v. 78 n. 4