Monday, 6 February 2017

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

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