Abnormal Psychology for the Rookies

Welcome! In preparation for your upcoming AP Psych test, we the greatest psychology experts of all time decided to help you out a little with abnormal psychology. On this page, we will explain a little bit more about the various psychological disorders that can appear on the AP test. That being said, you most certainly need the extra help. Donations welcome. Let's get started!

Anxiety Disorders

We all feel a little anxiety, when studying before a test or when getting ready for the big game. The difference between that and having an anxiety disorder is that those with the disorders feel this way nearly constantly. Anxiety disorders come in many different forms, and a good amount are self explanatory. Examples are:

- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (constant anxiety without an obvious source)

- Panic Disorder (sudden episodes of incredible panic)

- Phobias (intense fears)

- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (obsessive and compulsive thoughts and actions, duh)

- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (incredible stress after a traumatic event)

It's important to note, however, that these diseases are very intense. Having a panic attack does not mean you have GAD. Being afraid of heights is not the same having a phobia of  heights. Neatness is not OCD, and so on.

Hunt and Moffit were leading researchers for General Anxiety Disorder. Greist did a lot of work for Panic  Disorders, and Karno did his fair share of  research in OCD.

Having a fear is not a phobia. Get it right.

Dissociative Disorders

The definition of a dissociative disorder is a disorder in which conscious awareness becomes separated, or dissociated, from previous memories, thoughts, and feelings. These diseases include  amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and fugue.

Dissociative Identity Disorder is a very rare disorder where one person has multiple different personalities within themselves. For example, Sally is  a wonderful lady. She does great in school, has good friends, and is an all around all-American girl. However, sometimes Sandy comes out to play. She's a Satan-praising, evil, miserable abomination of a being, and hates everyone. Sally and Sandy both live in the same body, inside Sally's brain. People with this condition commonly don't know they have it, yet  the other personalities may know about the original personality. Think of Jekyll and Hyde, for an example. A lot of this research was done by Spanos, McHugh, and Watskins.

Fugue state is a super cool condition in which one completely forgets EVERYTHING about their life. They make up entirely new names, new histories, new families, new jobs, everything.  A lot of people with  fugue move away from their own families and start new ones. One man moved from New  York to Chicago, abandoning his family, and didn't remember who he was for six months.

Amnesia is a less intense, less cool type  of fugue. In amnesia, people forget certain aspects of their past. This is  usually brought on by a recent traumatic event, unlike all the things you've seen on TV suggesting it's from a collision with the head. People with amnesia CAN learn and retain new information, and they CAN recall information forgotten with therapy and assistance. For example, Adam was in a horrific  accident in which he rode a hippopotamus to the roof  of the North Attleboro High School and leapt off, screaming, "FOR NARNIA!". Upon landing, he is pancaked by a eighteen-wheeler and watches  his favorite hippo die. This ensuing sadness leads to a bout of amnesia, and he forgets what has happened to  him in the past few days. Eventually, Adam snaps out of it and recalls his memory after months of therapy.

TL;DR : Dissociative Identity Disorder makes you have multiple personalities which may or may not know about each other, researched by Spanos, McHugh, and Watskins. Fugue is a state where you totally forget your entire life, connected with amnesia. Amnesia is a loss of memory following a traumatic event, which can be reversed with help.


Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating mental diseases in the world. Across the globe, some 24 million people are affected, and nearly 1 in 100 people will develop this disease. Schizophrenia carries with it a ton of different symptoms, ranging from hallucinations to catatonia. People with schizophrenia show inappropriate emotions, garbled speech, delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, disturbed perceptions, and many more symptoms.

It is thought schizophrenia results from a breakdown in selective attention and an excess amount of dopamine. Research by Morey, Pettigrew, and Resnick show decreased activity in the frontal lobes. The selective attention breakdown would cause thousands of irrelevant stimuli to enter our conscious awareness and affect our thinking, while the excess dopamine leads to erratic thoughts and actions. Decreased activity in the frontal lobes lead  to reasoning, planning, and problem solving, symptoms of schizophrenia. Those with schizophrenia either have positive symptoms, which are hallucinations, fits of rage, and any other overactive symptoms; or negative symptoms, which are toneless voices, catatonia, and anything else that decreases activity.

Schizophrenia is classified into to five separate groups: paranoid, catatonic, disorganized, residual, and undifferentiated. In paranoid schizophrenia, those affected have a huge preoccupation with delusions and hallucinations, often paired with themes of grandosity or persecution. Catatonic schizophrenia is classified with immobility for long periods  of times, intense depression, extreme negativity, and in some cases, parrot like repetition of another's speech and movements. Disorganized schizophrenia  comes with disorganized speech and behavior, and residual schizophrenia keeps coming back after symptoms have receded. Undifferentiated schizophrenia is the catch-all: if you have some symptoms of one and some of another, then you're undifferentiated.

While schizophrenia is very slow to develop, the symptoms are essentially incurable. Men often exhibit more negative  symptoms than women. Research by Fenton, McGlashan, and Fowles show that those who develop schizophrenia rapidly have better responses to medicine.

TL;DR : Schizophrenia  is bad. Coupled with hallucinations and delusions, rapid speech (Positive symptoms) or catatonia and sadness (Negative symptoms). 1 in 100 people get  it. Slow to develop, really impossible to cure. Can come back. May be caused by tons of  dopamine, breakdown of selective attention. Research by a lot, end of paragraph 4 and start of 2.

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