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Discuss the Biological Approach to Psychopathology

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Introduction

´╗┐Amy Van Schalkwyk Mrs Faulkingham Discuss the biological approach to psychopathology (12 marks) The biological approach is the view of main stream psychiatry that all behaviour is seen as rooted in underlying physiological processes in the body. Therefore any abnormalities must have specific causes that lie in some bodily malfunction or genetic disorders. This approach states that abnormality is caused by physical factors e.g. assuming that all mental disorders are related to some change in the body. Therefore such changes must be cause by four possible factors: genes, biochemistry, neuroanatomy and viral infection. For example Kirsch et al. (2002) investigated the claim that if patients fare better when given a drug which alters brain activity, this outcome can be taken to show the importance of biochemical changes in that disorder. ...read more.

Middle

Whilst correlational studies provide a comparison of the frequencies of mental disorders in various population they fail to demonstrate cause and effect. For example the simple cause and effect link between mental illness such as schizophrenia and altered brain chemistry. Schizophrenia is commonly associated with an excess of the brain neurotransmitter dopamine. However some studies of schizophrenic patients have shown reduced levels of dopamine in some brain tissues, meaning that there may be simultaneous excesses and deficiencies in different parts of the brain. One must also consider that there is no evidence to support the idea that mental disorders are caused by genetic inheritance as concordance rates are never 100%. Gottesman and Shields (1976) reviewed the results of five studies of twins, looking for concordance rates in schizophrenia. ...read more.

Conclusion

Research suggests that some disorders may be related to exposure to certain viruses in the womb. Torrey (2001) found that the mothers of many people with schizophrenia had contracted a particular strain of influenza during pregnancy. The virus may enter the unborn child?s brain, where it remains dormant until puberty, when other hormones may activate it, producing the symptoms of schizophrenia. Despite the fact that the biological approach to psychopathology has led to successful treatments e.g. drug therapies are based on an understanding of neurotransmitters. I feel its weaknesses outweigh its strengths. For example many critics have argued that the medical model aka the biological model is inhumane. Thomas Szasz (1972) argued that mental illnesses did not have a physical basis, therefore should not be thought of in the same way. He suggested that the concept of mental illness was invented as a form of social control. ...read more.

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