Wednesday, 18 November 2015


Psychology and psychiatry have a long history of debate about the interrelated
areas of normality and abnormality. Abnormal psychology is that branch of
psychology which deals with abnormi behaviour. The literal meaning termed
deviation from normal. You must be wondering as to which behaviour can be
abnormal behaviour. Abnormal behaviour cannot be defined as a single
component in a human being; rather it is a complex of several characteristics
which are interlinked. Abnormality is usually determined by the presence of
several characteristics at one time. The definition of abnormal behaviour takes
into account the characteristics of infrequent occurrence, violation of norms,
personal distress, dysfunction and unexpectedness of behaviour. Let us
understand these concepts:
1) Infrequent Occurrence: Majority of people show average behaviour as
concerned with any event in life. Those people who deviate from the
average show extreme tendencies. But frequency cannot be considered
as the sole criterion for determination of abnormal behaviour.
2) Violation of Norms: This approach is based on social norms and cultural
values that guide behaviour in particular situations. If the behaviour of a
particular individual violates social norms, threatens or makes others
anxious, it can be considered as abnormal behaviour. Abnormality is a
deviation of behaviour in higher degree from the accepted social norms.
A word of caution in this characteristic is that the social norms vary across
cultures. A social norm of one culture may be a violation of norm in
others. This concept alone is too broad as criminals and prostitutes violate
social norms but they are not necessarily studied within the domain of
abnormal psychology.
3) Personal Distress: A behaviour can be considered abnormal if it creates
distress in the person experiencing it. For example a regular and heavy
consumer of alchohol may realize his habit to be unhealthy and wish to
discontinbe his habit. This behaviour can be identified as abnormal. The
personal distress model is not self sufficient because people decide and
report on how much they are suffering. Also the levels of distress vary in
different people.
4) Dysfunctions: Dysfunction or disability considers a person to be abnormal
if his emotions, actions, or thoughts interfere with his ability to lead a
normal life in the society. For example substance abuse disorders caused
by abnormal drug use hamper a person's work performance.
5) Unexpectedness: This characteristic takes into account the unexpected
occurrence of a behaviour.
Each of the standards discussed here helps in defining abnormality. A core
feature of all abnormal behaviour is that it is maladaptive The abnormal
behaviour makes it difficult for a person to cope with the demands of day-today
life. Being normal and abnormal is not based on very rigid criteria. They
are the states of mind which every individual experiences. According to a
psychologist ". . . .. behaviour is abnormal, a manifestation of mental disorder,
if it is both persistent and in serious degree contrary to the continued well
being of the individual and or that of the human community of which the

individual is a member." It is also important to note that to a certain extent
definitions of abnormality are culturally based. For example talking to oneself
may be considered as an abnormal behaviour but certain Polynesian countries
and South American societies consider it to be a gift of special status from the

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