Ramon Herrera
Material Type:
Reading, Textbook
Community College / Lower Division
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Behavioral DIsorders
  • Clinical Disorders
  • Mental Disorders
  • Open Washington
  • OpenWA
  • WA 100
  • Washington 100
  • open-washington
  • openwa
  • wa-100
  • washington-100
    Creative Commons Attribution
    Media Formats:

    Abnormal Psychology

    Abnormal Psychology


    This text is being developed for Abnormal Psychology lower division undergraduate courses. It is published now to allow students access to the course materials as it develops.

    Chapter 1: Intruduction to Abnormal Psychology

    This text is being developed for undergraduate studies of abnormal psychology. It is not expected to be complete until the end of fall 2022.

    Many clinical words and initials like OCD, narcissist, bipolar, schizophrenia, and sociopath have been freely and at times carelessly used for years (Harbeck, 2016). In this chapter, we will explore the difference between what is abnormal (McLeod, 2018) and mental disorders per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013), and the field of abnormal psychology (Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014). We will examine questions like:

    • What is a mental disorder?
    • What determines what is a mental disorder?
      • Is it our thoughts?
      • Is it our actions?
      • Is it what people think of us?
      • Is it society in general?
      • Is it our genetics?
      • Is it our parents?
      • Is it our friends, our teacher, or a therapist?

    Chapter 2: Historical Development of Mental Illness: From Prehistoric to the 18th Century

    In prehistoric times (prior to recorded history), historian and archeologist believed that mystical forces attributed to behavioral and psychological abnormalities (Halgin & Whitbourne, 2007; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014; Sue, Sue, Sue & Sue, 2016).  Over half a million years ago societies like in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia believed that evil spirits possessed a person due as punishment for some wrongdoing, revenge by a sorcerer or ancestral spirits. Healers attempted to used exorcism and trephining (puncturing a hole in the skull) to allow the evil spirits to exit the body.

    In 7th century B.C. China, it was believed that mental disorders were caused by an imbalance of the Qi (Chi), which is still used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM; Hui-Chu et al, 2012; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014). The Qi refers to all substances physical and non-physical such as water and energy (Atkins, 2018). In TCM there needs to be a balance between the yin (energy) and the yang (physical). According to this belief, mental and physical ailments arise from an imbalance of the yin and yang. Restoration of the imbalance using acupuncture, herbal medicine along with meditation is used (Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014; Atkins, 2018).

    In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (460 – 370 B.C.) known as the father of modern medicine and developer of the Hippocratic Oath, also developed a theory that body and mental ailments were derived from an imbalance of four humors: black bile (the element of earth found in the spleen), yellow bile (the element of fire found in the gallbladder), phlegm (the element of water found in the brain, and blood (the element of air found in the heart; Halgin & Whitbourne, 2007; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014; U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2011). An excess of the black bile lead to depression. Anger and impulsiveness were due to a surplus of yellow bile. Blood humor served above all the humors, as it circulated through the body delivering the other three humors. Mania was brought about from having too much blood and yellow bile. Draining one of blood was a practice when one was believed to have too much of blood humor. Hippocrates also believed that women suffered hysteria due to their wondering uterus seeking conception and its remedy was matrimony and/or sexual engagement. Other notable contributors to the study of mental illness were Plato (428–347 B.C.) and Aristotle (384–322 B.C.; “Introduction to Psychology: 1.2 The Evolution of Psychology: History, Approaches, and Questions,” 2015). Plato, a pupil of Socrates (known for being imprisoned and executed for disrespecting the gods and poisoning the minds of youth), who brought us most of what we know about Socrates (470 – 399 B.C.) in his dialogues (Hare, 2010; McGoodwin, 2019; Plato, nd/2011) aired in the side of nature, where behaviors and mental attributes were innate (“Introduction to Psychology: 1.2 The Evolution of Psychology: History, Approaches, and Questions,” 2015; Lewkowicz, 2012; Sue, Sue, Sue & Sue, 2016). Plato also argued in favor of women being equal to men and allowed them in his Academy. (Thorne, 2005, p. 33). Aristotle, a student of Plato argued on the side of nurture, where every child is born with a tabula rasa. The movement from mystical forces to more natural explanations for mental illness continued in ancient Greece for a millennium and brought to Rome by the Greek physician Galen (129-216 A.D.; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014; Sue, Sue, Sue & Sue, 2016, Whitourne, 2020). Galen contributed greatly to the field of physiology developing the understanding of the nervous system through his animal studies.

    During the middle ages (500-1400 A.D.), a reemergence of supernatural forces afflicting a person was the explanation for mental illnesses (Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014; Sue, Sue, Sue & Sue, 2016, Whitourne, 2020). With the fall of the Roman Empire and conversion of Greek and Roman mythologies to Christianity (Constantine [272 –337] became the first emperor of Rome to convert to Christianity), European treatment of the mentally ill was once again through payer, exorcism, confinement, and at times torture and death. The dogmas of Socrates, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle and Galen were for the time in the protections of monks and scholars, while little literature in science was completed during the Saxon, Viking, and other wars and plagues and famine covered Europe (Brinson, 2016; Sue, Sue, Sue & Sue, 2016).

    The shift once again from supernatural forces being responsible for mental illness to physical matter can be traced to Cartesian Dualism during the Renaissance (1400-1600; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014; Pinel & Barnes, 2017). French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) proposed that the mind and the body are separate and distinct where man can physically study the body, while the mind, an intangible thing, cannot physically be studied. Furthermore, physical ailments are found within the body, while mental ailments are in the mind. This is known as Cartesian Dualism and found favor with the religious atmosphere at the time; it can be found in practice today. Like Descartes, British philosopher John Locke (1632 –1704) believed that mental ailments were found in the mind through irrational thoughts and can be healed through rationalization (Baker & Sperry, 2020; “Introduction to Psychology: 1.2 The Evolution of Psychology: History, Approaches, and Questions,” 2015; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014). Locke is also credited for the evolution of empirical evidence. The Renaissance also saw the development of institutions for the mentally insane (Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014; Sue, Sue, Sue & Sue, 2016; Farreras, 2020). The first asylum was built in Valencia, Spain in 1409. Although, these asylums were built to treat the mentally insane, some became houses of maltreatment of the mentally ill. The most infamous of these asylums in this time was the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London, which shifted from a regular hospital to an institution for the insane in 1547. Patients at St. Mary’s were put in cages and displayed to paying patrons in an effort to discourage lifestyles that lead mental illness.

    The immoral treatment of the mentally ill had become evident by the 18th Century, and a humanitarian movement to restructure the treatment of patients in asylums began (Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2014; Sue, Sue, Sue & Sue, 2016; Farreras, 2020). Most notable in this period was French physician Philippe Pinel (1745–1826). Dr. Pinel ordered the removal of chains, transfer to lit rooms, and proper diet of patients at La Bicêtre, a French hospital for men, and later at the Salpêtrière, a hospital for women in Paris. Together with a former patient, Jean-Baptise Pussin, Dr. Pinel created the principals for moral treatment of the mentally insane. The movement crossed oceans and most notable person in the United States that moved for reform of mental institutions was a New England schoolteacher by the name of Dorothea Dix (1802-1887), she taught Sunday school to female inmates after she retired and found that mentally ill inmates suffered poor housing and treatment conditions. She worked tirelessly for the next 40 years to reform such conditions and helped change legislation and raised millions of dollars to help build 30 mental hospitals in the United States and Canada.

    Chapter 3: Neuropsychosocial Approach to Mental Disorders

    Over the ages many approaches to understanding mental disorders have been developed that helped us gain further insight to their etiology (Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2011, p. xxi). The neuropsychosocial model combines some of these approaches by examining genetics and biology (development of our bodies), psychological factors (personal experiences and perceptions in behavior, cognition, and emotion), and social influences in the etiology of mental disorders. This chapter provides a brief overview of the neuropsychsocial approach.

    Since Mendel’s experimentation with the pea plant and Darwin’s publication of On the Origins of Species, we have looked to our ancestors, parents, and genes to explain our biology and behavior (Darwin, 1859; Kolby, Wishaw, & Tesky, 2016; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2011. pp. 32-69; Twesigye, 2010). Although we may have the blueprints for our physical and behavioral development in our deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), biological and behavioral developments are influenced by an interaction with our environment. In looking into the etiology of mental disorders, we first examine DNA. Behavioral genetics, a field that explores the behaviors influenced by genes and the interaction of the environment, attempts to identify genes that are attributed to our behavior. We will find that some genes have been linked to disorders such as mood disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and autism spectrum disorders. Most interesting is our current understanding of epigenetics and generational epigenetics. Epigenetics is the expression of our genes influenced by the environment. Generational epigenetics involve genes that have been turned on or off in parents that can be turned on or off by the same stimuli in their offspring.

    While our genes are the blueprints to our physical and behavioral development, it is how they are expressed in our development during gestation and postnatal development through life that influences our biology (Kolby, Wishaw, & Tesky, 2016; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2011, p. 42; Twesigye, 2010). During prenatal development, teratogens like nicotine, alcohol, hormone mimicking chemicals and parental stress are biological influences, which alter our nervous and endocrine systems. These biological influences have been linked to many mental disorders like attention deficit disorder type I and II (ADHD-type I; ADHD type II), mood disorders, and anxiety disorders. These biological influences can also alter our nervous and endocrine systems during our lifespan.

    The etiology of mental disorders can also point to psychological factors (Kolby, Wishaw, & Tesky, 2016; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2011, p. 48; Twesigye, 2010). These factors are individual experiences using perspectives like psychodynamics, behaviorism, cognitive and humanism. In psychodynamic theories, attachment theories have been linked to mental disorders like reactive attachment disorder, depression, and antisocial personality disorder. Disorders like phobias, eating disorders, and ADHDs have been linked to classical and operant conditioning. The cognitive perspective has been used to explain the development of cognitive distortions in disorders like mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders. In the humanistic perspective, models like Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is used to look at etiology of mental disorders like anxiety and depression, where these disorders are a result of needs not being met.

    Social factors like oppression, discrimination, and job loss, is also taken into account when examining the neuropsychosocial approach (Kolby, Wishaw, & Tesky, 2016; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2011, p. 60; Twesigye, 2010). Social factors can also be family dynamics like divorce, having an alcoholic partner or relative in the home, or enmeshed family. Social factors can also be outside the home like government, economic recession or depression, and war.

    In using the neuropsychosocial approach, it is widely understood by abnormal psychologist that each three factors influence each other ((Kolby, Wishaw, & Tesky, 2016; Rosenberg & Kosslyn, 2011, pp. 32-69; Twesigye, 2010). This interinfluence is commonly known as the neuropsychosocial feedback loop. If an individual is influenced by oppression, their neurotransmitters and hormones affect their psychological mental state, or if an individual has thoughts that the world is going to end, these thoughts can prevent them from finding work, which eventually affects their nutritional intake. Taking the neuropsychosocial model into account in understanding the etiology and treatment of mental disorders provides researchers and clinicians tools in applied psychology.

    Chapter 4: Assessments and Diagnoses

    Please read Chapter 3 of Abnormal Psychology by Rosenberg and Kosslyn (2011)

    Chapter 5: Mood Disorders

    Please read Chapter 6 of Abnormal Psychology by Rosenberg and Kosslyn (2011).

    Chapter 6: Anxiety Disorders

    Please read Chapter 7 of Abnormal Psychology by Rosenberg and Kosslyn (2011).

    Chapter 7: Dissociative and Somatic Disorders

    Please read Chapter 8 of Abnormal Psychology by Rosenberg and Kosslyn (2011).

    Chapter 8: Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders

    Please read Chapter 12 of Abnormal Psychology by Rosenberg and Kosslyn (2011).

    Chapter 9: Personality Disorders

    Please read Chapter 13 of Abnormal Psychology by Rosenberg and Kosslyn (2011).