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“How is abnormality defined”.

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Introduction

"How is abnormality defined" Abnormality is recognised by almost every person, in every culture throughout the world. In society today people will often glance at someone else and think to themselves, "what strange or abnormal behaviour". But defining abnormality is not as straightforward as this at all. In fact every person in the world will have different ideas on what abnormal behaviour looks like, and why he or she are abnormal? In society today regarding someone's behaviour as abnormal is characterised in many different ways by different people. It is very hard to define abnormal, because there is no shared characteristic of all that we call abnormal, because things that are abnormal do not have to have anything in common, and also there is no distinctive line between normal and abnormal, they often overlap into one other.Although not one definition of abnormality on its own is completely correct, each is very useful because it will still give some idea of what abnormal behaviour may look like. Violation of social norms is a way abnormality can be defined. Each society creates a set of rules that tells the population living within the society, what behaviours are normal and what behaviours are not. Social norms are the usual behaviours that are expected by the society in which the person lives. This definition says that if these usual behaviours expected by us are not met, then our behaviour could be judged as 'bad' or 'sick'. Scheff (1970) proposed that certain behaviour may be seen as abnormal when that behaviour breaks the rules of a society, even when the rules of the society are not made explicit. For example even though you have not been told that you must stand facing forward in a lift, if you were to stand in the lift facing the crowd as they faced you, the other people in the elevator may feel uncomfortable and would probably view your behaviour as abnormal, simply because the behaviour is breaking a societal norm. ...read more.

Middle

Abnormality being a deviation from social norms is appealing, simply because when people behave oddly, we think of them as behaving abnormally. A number of different types of behaviour that violates social norms can be recorded and scored, and after a certain number, mental illnesses can be diagnosed, such as schizophrenia, so the violation of social norms can be diagnosed cumulatively, meaning that the idea of abnormality being a violation of social norms is generally accepted. Not all incidents of behaviour that don't conform to the social norm can be seen as abnormal, eg gaining very good grades at school, compared to the majority of students, or the social norm. Attitudes and norms vary in different cultures, meaning that what is normal in one culture, may not be in the another, so this does not seem a good diagnosis of abnormality regarding mental health. Defining abnormality as a violation of social norms is therefore very subjective, although some psychologists believe that adherence to social norms can actually cause mental-health issues such as eating disorders. Most people, if not everyone have used norm violation to judge whether someone's behaviour was abnormal. However there has been much debate over whether this way of defining abnormality is appropriate. Many critics of this definition feel that norm violation is very oppressive, and feel whose right should it be to define what is normal for a society and what is not. However, even though norms are relative to the person who is applying them, they are also an integral part of the way in which many of us function on a daily basis. Deviation from statistical norms is another way abnormality can be defined. This definition says that any behaviour that is not typical or usual, so infrequent, is abnormal. This definition implies that 'normal' is 'average'. A statistical average is used to describe abnormality in terms of how rarely it occurs when compared to other behaviours. ...read more.

Conclusion

There are certain behaviours that are so common to be normal in the statistical sense, but which are regarded as psychological disorders, for example depression. So, deviation from statistical norms as a definition of abnormality has many flaws, and would not be very useful at all on its own. Maladaptive behaviour is another way abnormality can be defined. This definition says that any behaviour that prevents a person from living a happy, fulfilled life is maladaptive, therefore abnormal. A person's well-being can be defined as his or her ability to work and enjoy relationships with others. Maladaptive behaviours prevent individuals from achieving goals and enjoying life and personal interactions. The more behaviour interrupt's individual and societal well-being, the more likely they are to be defined as abnormal. For example drug abuse is an example of maladaptive behaviour. Drug abuse usually produces social and occupational disability such as poor work performance and serious marital arguments. But for example having a fear of flying that prevents the individual from taking a better-paid job could be classed as maladaptive behaviour. However this behaviour that brings about the negative consequences, may be very distressing for the person concerned. For example, phobias are negative experiences because they involve intense fear, regardless of any practical implications brought about by this fear. Clearly, differentiating normality from abnormality is a subjective task in many respects. In fact, psychologists will frequently disagree about whether or not a particular behaviour can be designated as abnormal. This means recognizing abnormality means critically combining a variety of elements that suggest how a behaviour may deviate from what most in the culture would perceive as normal. None of these three definitions could be used to define abnormality in every case, simply because they are all quite subjective, and none of them take into account more than one perspective of what is abnormality? But when combined with each other, the definitions of abnormality could be very useful in classing what is normal and what is not, helping diagnose and treat abnormal or mentally ill people. ...read more.

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