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Discuss the attempts to define abnormality and evaluate the practical problems associated with them.

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Introduction

Discuss the attempts to define abnormality and evaluate the practical problems associated with them There are four main ways of deciding whether someone is abnormal, theses are: * Statistical infrequency * Violation of moral standards * Deviation from expected * Personal suffering, distress and dysfunction Statistical infrequency assumes that any behaviour that is statistically infrequent is regarded as abnormal. Behaviour and personality traits can be put into a normal distribution pattern and that most people do not stray very from the norm/average. An example of this method in use is to assess mental retardation and mental genius, on the assumption it can be measured by an IQ test. Scores are plotted against the normal distribution pattern and very high and very low scores are then regarded as "special". ...read more.

Middle

Szasz suggested that "madness" is manufactured to label those people in society who do not conform to rules of social or to conventional moral standards. Society sets up rules for behaviour and anyone who breaks these rules are labelled deviant. Historically deviant behaviour has been used to even lock up political dissidents, but in present western culture, the term "mental disorder" is not used to define mental "deviant" behaviour. There are types of behaviour that are generally regarded as unacceptable such as rape where it is difficult to accept that violation of others is could possibly be normal. In these cases there is a tendency to regard these as abnormal, believing their extreme antisocial behaviour must be inherent in their personality. ...read more.

Conclusion

People with clinical depression or anxiety may experience considerable suffering and distress along with a general dysfunction in their everyday activities, e.g. not being able to go to work. These however are not definitions of abnormality but a way of determining the extent to which a person might need professional help if at all. A student displaying anxiety due to an exam may behave uncharacteristically, but this doesn't mean he/she is abnormal. Conversely a sociopath may display abnormal behaviour but not feel any dyscomfort. Psychology is not necessarily indicated by dysfunction alone; for example some people deprive themselves of food as a protest, does this make them abnormal? It is when abnormal behaviour interferes with daily functioning, such that people lose their ability to work or the motivation to care for themselves properly and the behaviour becomes pathological. ...read more.

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