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Introduction to Abnormal Behavior
Psychologists agree that mental disorders are serious
debilitating illnesses that affect the brain and one’s ability to
function daily. However, defining the term mental illness has its
challenges. The psychology field has multiple definitions of the
term mental illness, but psychologists tend to agree that mental
illness affects a person’s thinking (cognition), behavior and
emotional state. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual-5
(DSM-5; 2013), mental illness is defined by the four criteria.
According to Durand and Barlow (2013), psychological disorder is
a dysfunction associated with distress or impairment in functioning
that is not atypical or a culturally expected response. However,
defining and differentiating abnormal behavior from that of normal
behavior can present some difficulties. For instance, consider that
depending upon a society’s mores and norms, what is considered
normal in one society may not be considered normal in another.
Another example is trying to determine a person’s level of
dysfunction; it can include not functioning normally in one or more
areas such as cognition, emotion, and behavior. The individual who
cries a lot or the teenager that binge eats may be showing
emotional dysfunction. The individual must be showing personal
distress for the behavior to be considered abnormal as well; yet,
how should a person’s level of distress be identified?
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and
statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA:
American Psychiatric drafting.
Durand, M. V., & Barlow, D. H. (2013). Essentials of
abnormal psychology. (6th ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson Wadsworth.
To prepare for this week’s Discussion Board, review the
following video in addition to this week’s assigned Reading:
Maschio, J. (2014). Understanding and defining abnormal
behavior. [Video]. Undrafted.
Proceed to this week’s Discussion by selecting one of the Case
Studies (accessible under the Course Resources) addressing the
following about defining abnormal behavior:
Select one of the three criteria for defining abnormal behavior
(According to Durand and Barlow) and explain why the individual’s
behavior in the case study could be considered abnormal. The three
criteria are dysfunctional behavior, distress or impairment, and
not typical or culturally expected behavior. Second, discuss why
differentiating abnormal behavior from normal behavior can be a
challenge based on the criterion you chose related to the
individual’s behavior. The strongest answer will refer to the
textbook and concepts from the Reading material.


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