Psychological researchers have for a long time made attempts to understand normal and abnormal human behavior. According to Amrend and Stonrned, abnormal psychology can be defined as a branch of psychology that deals with mental disorders, emotions and the causes of abnormal behavior, usually referred to as psychopathology (1995). The study covers the causes and measures of dealing with the condition.
It also focuses on that behavior which does not fall within the confines of what can be termed normal behavior limits hence regarded as abnormal.
There is no clear cut between normal and abnormal behavior across human beings. The determination of acceptable behavior has been known to vary from one culture to another. This is because of the difference in the way people behave in different societies and cultures.
With psychology, in general, dealing with the study of human behavior and behavior change; abnormal psychology is therefore a branch of psychology that investigates people’s maladjusted behavior relative to the socially approved behavior (Masterpasqua, 2009).
This field of psychology deals with disorders in behavior on the basis of human behavior resulting from a thought process. This implies, therefore, that behavior disorder results from a disorder in human thoughts.
There is no ideal behavior or perfect behavior, but that behavior which is perceived by the greater majority to be the normal behavior (Masterpasqua, 2009). This explains why there is some significant variation from one culture to another as a far as the determination of normal and abnormal behavior is concerned.
If a certain behavior is generally acceptable by the majority, then it is regarded as normal. The acceptable ways of conducting oneself in the society are transferred from one generation to another through social learning, genetic components, judgment and social interaction in general.
The origin of abnormal psychology can be traced back to the ancient times. People have been trying to examine the behavior of people against the conventionally accepted normality. People have tried to investigate the causes of such abnormal behavior.
Abnormal behavior was initially considered as being caused by spirits, demons and some supernatural forces beyond human control. The causes of abnormal behavior can be categorized into three major factors: supernatural, biological and psychological.
During the Stone Age period, any abnormal behavior was considered as punishment from God or gods for that matter. The behavior was believed to be caused by evil spirits which had to be exorcised in order to bring the individual to normalcy.
The means and ways in which the spirits were exorcised varied from one community to the other. According to a research by Shieff, Smith and Wadley, the spirits could be exorcised by drilling a hole in the person’s head in order to allow the evil spirits to escape (2007).
In some instances, others used to torture the person possessed by the spirits with an aim of compelling the spirits to come out of the victim. Other religious practices could also be done to exorcise the demonic spirits. The practices and beliefs were adhered to until towards the end of 15th century.
At the beginning of the 16th century, psychologists and physicians of the time were convinced that abnormal behavior manifestations that were experienced as a result of cognitive disorders were closely linked to the movements of celestial bodies like the moon and stars. The movements were thought to bring with it demons and evil spirits.
Greek physicians, on the other hand, thought that abnormal behavior was biological and could be treated just like any other mental disease (Amrend & Stonrned, 1995).
According to the physicians, the brain is responsible for all the behavior changes and when there is a problem in the brain, the individual’s behavior could be affected directly. It was later argued that behavior, to a great extent, was influenced by the social factors in the society. From this perspective, abnormal behavior was seen to be related to the psychological status of a person.
It is evident, therefore, that the evolution of abnormal psychology has transcended abstract beliefs of ancient ages to a more modern scientific understanding of the same condition. In the 21st century, physicians can offer therapeutic care for the patients with mental challenges that may manifest through abnormal behavior(Shieff et al., 2007). This has offered a good foundation for the development of abnormal psychology.
There are three approaches or models that can be used in the study of abnormal psychology. The approaches include: biological, psychosocial and socio-cultural models.
The model is also referred to as the medical model from the fact that the model deals with physiological body functioning as well as the functioning of the brain. The approach views abnormal behavior as a disease which can be treated using medical means. Abnormal behavior is diagnosed and appropriate cure prescribed.
The causes of abnormal behavior, according to this model, may be due to; inheritance, disease, body hormonal imbalance, malnutrition and neurochemical disorder (Amrend & Stonrned, 1995). Although the model deals with medical approach, there is a social connection with biological mechanism.
For example, mood and anxiety are believed to be predisposed by certain genetic makeup in the DNA. The biological model offers a limited explanation of abnormal behavior because it fails to explain the changes in behavior as a result of social influence of the environment.
According to this model, behavior is developed as a result of learning and coping in the immediate social environment such as the family, school and community. The culture of a particular community, for example, influences the behavior of the people within that community. The model proposes that abnormal behavior is a product of negative cultural practices. Masterpasqua, a specialist in the field of abnormal psychology, suggests that learning of behavior is influenced by the social group and the cultural pressure that surrounds an individual (2009). The pressure build up over a period of time and causes behavior change. The model gives a clear explanation of how to change behavior by modifying the social environment.
This model explains abnormal behavior from a psychological perspective. According to the proponents of this model, abnormal behavior is caused by unsupportive environment during the development of an individual.
The abnormal behavior results when the environment is psychologically unfavorable and may lead to mental illness or disorder. The psychological tension, as argued by Amrend and Stonrned (1995), causes unresolved conflicts in the unconscious mind that may consequently affect the mental functioning and physiological state of the body.
Abnormal behavior results from the interference of the normal behavior development process. When there is an unresolved conflict in a certain stage, there is a likelihood that the conflict will be passed on to subsequent stages, leading to the development of an abnormal behavior.
The paper has discussed the various origins of abnormal psychology and how it has evolved over time into a scientific discipline. It has also analyzed the hypothetical viewpoints and interpretations of biological, psychosocial, and socio-cultural models. These models provide useful perspectives for understanding abnormal psychology.
This field has clearly undergone significant transformation to what it is at present. With time, researchers have come up with convincing theories to explain the probable causes of abnormal psychology and how it can be treated.
Amrend, G. N. & Stonrned, P. N. (1995). The Diagnosis of Abnormal Psychology. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 42 (2), 180-196
Masterpasqua, F. (2009). Psychology and Epigenetics. General Psychology, 13 (3), 194-201
Shieff, C., Smith, G. T. & Wadley, J. P. (2007). Self-Trephination of the Skull with an
Electric Power Drill. British Journal of Neurosurgery, 15 (2), 156-158