Unit 12: Abnormal Psychology

Defining Psychological Disorders

Patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors which are considered deviant, distressful, and dysfunctional.

  1. Deviant: Different from the norm
  2. Distressful: Causing anxiety, sorrow, or emotional pain
  3. Dysfunctional: Thoughts, feelings or behaviors which prevent you from doing your everyday routine.

DSM-V (American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), released in May 2013, is a highly reliable way to diagnose disorders which coordinate with the WHO's International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10).

Rosenhan's Study

Researchers complained of hearing voices saying specific words, but otherwise acted normal and reported true facts about themselves. They were each diagnosed with a psychological disorder. This study showed that disorders can easily be misdiagnosed.


ADHD (Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are characterized by distressing, persistent anxiety or dysfunctional anxiety-reducing behaviors.

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder- an anxiety disorder in which the person is usually tense, apprehensive, and in a state of automatic nervous system arousal.
  2. Panic Disorder- an anxiety disorder in which the anxiety suddenly escalates at times into a terrifying panic attack, which is a minutes long episode of intense fear that something horrible is going to happen.
  3. Phobias- anxiety disorder in which an irrational fear causes the person to avoid some object, activity, or situation.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by unwanted repetitive thoughts (obsessions) or actions (compulsions).


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Characterized by haunting memories, nightmares, flashbacks, jumpy anxiety, and insomnia persisting 4 weeks after trauma.

Somatoform Disorders

Psychological disorder in which the symptoms take a bodily form without apparent physical cause.

  1. Conversion disorder- A rare somatoform disorder in which anxiety is presumably converted into a physical symptom.                                                                                     ex.) Unexplained paralysis, blindness, or an inability to swallow
  2. Hypochondriasis- Interprets normal physical sensations as symptoms of a disease.

Mood Disorders

  1. Major Depression Disorder: When 5 or more symptoms of depression (lethargy, feeling of worthlessness, loss of interest, ect.) are present for 2 or more weeks and are not caused by drugs or medical causes.
  2. Bipolar Disorder: Person alternating between a depressed state and a state of mania (hyperactive and wildly optimistic).


Schizophrenia is a disorder characterized by disorganized thinking, disturbed perceptions, and inappropriate emotions and actions.

Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative Disorders are disorders of the consciousness where a person loses memory or change in identity suddenly often in response to overwhelming stress.

  • Fugue State- no memory of identity or family
  • DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder)-Person exhibits at least 2 or more distinct, alternating personalities in which the main personality will deny the existence of the other personality or personalities. Distinct brain and body states in different personas, even in handedness can change.
  • Kenneth Bianchi Case-Lied about having DID to get out of murder charges.

Personality Disorders

There are many formally identified personality disorders, each with their own set of behaviors and symptoms. Many of these fall into three different categories or clusters:

     Cluster A: Odd or eccentric behavior

  1. Schizoid Personality Disorder- They are typically introverted, withdrawn, solitary, emotionally cold, and distant.
  2. Paranoid Personality Disorder- These people are typically untrusting, unforgiving, and prone to angry or aggressive outbursts without justification because they perceive others as unfaithful,disloyal, condescending or deceitful.
  3. Schizotypal Personality Disorder- People may have odd or eccentric manners of speaking/dressing; strange, outlandish or paranoid beliefs are common.

      Cluster B: Dramatic, emotional or erratic behavior

  1. Antisocial Personality Disorder- These people are impulsive, irresponsible, and callous, acting out their conflicts, and ignoring normal rules of social behavior.
  2. Borderline Personality Disorder- Unstable in several areas including interpersonal relationships, behavior, mood, and self image, and typically have extreme mood changes, stormy interpersonal relationships, and unstable/fluctuating self image.  
  3. Narcissistic Personality Disorder- Have an exaggerated sense of self image, and seek constant attention.

    Cluster C: Anxious, fearful behavior

  1. Avoidant Personality Disorder- Excessive social discomfort, timidity, fear of criticism, avoidance of social or work activities that involve interpersonal contact.
  2. Dependent Personality Disorder- May rely on others to make decisions for him; requiring excessive reassurance and advice, and are easily hurt by criticism or disapproval.
  3. Obsessive- Compulsive Personality Disorder- They are reliable, dependable, orderly, and methodical, but their inflexibility often makes the, incapable of adapting to changed circumstances

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