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Give a brief account of the biological model of abnormality and consider its strengths and limitations.

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Introduction

Q. Give a brief account of the biological model of abnormality and consider its strengths and limitations. (18 marks) This model uses physical illness as a model for psychological disorder, suggesting that like physical illness, mental illness has an underlying bodily cause. It proposes that genetic, organic or chemical disorders cause metal illnesses which give rise to behavioural and psychological problems. Thus, abnormality has physical causes such as brain dysfunction (neurological), biochemical imbalances, infections or genetics and so can only be cured through medical treatments. Therefore it implies that abnormality results from properly functioning physiology, a properly functioning nervous system and no genetic predispositions to inherit mental disorders. It is the dominant model, as medical practitioners naturally favour it; but it has been expanded upon by the diathesis-stress model, which seeks abnormality as an interaction of genetic predisposition and the environment. The biological model has positive ethical implications in removing the 'blame' culture from the mentally ill patient; as abnormal individuals are more likely to be seen as a victim of a disorder in need of care, therefore not responsible for their predicament. ...read more.

Middle

Rosenham's study 'On Being Sane in Insane Places' revealed the often negative treatment received in mental institutions. Biological treatments are another practical implication resulting from the biological model and include, drug treatment, electro-convulsive therapy and even psychosurgery. All have dangers and side-effects but there is also the possibility of beneficial effects. Historically the medical model in the 18th Century led to more humane treatment for mental patients. Up until then mental disorders had been blamed on demons or evil in the individual. The model therefore offered a different source of blame, illness, which is potentially treatable. Nevertheless more recent critics have claimed that the biological model is inhumane. Thomas Szasz (1972) wrote a book called 'The Myth of Mental Illness' in which he argues that mental illnesses did not have a physical basis. This proposes the concept of mental illness was invented instead perhaps as a form of social control. But the model is useful in explaining some disorders e.g. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is therefore likely that in the case of certain disorders individuals inherit susceptibility for the disorder but it only develops if the individual is exposed to a stressful life. This is the concept of the diathesis-stress model. There is also the fact that the analogy to physical illness is limited. Most importantly the biological model ignores nurture and the physical causes of abnormality e.g. internal factors (the psyche and unconscious conflicts) as covered by the psychodynamic model, cognitive (faulty thinking) and external factors (the environment) as covered by the behavioural model and so is reductionist and also biologically deterministic because it ignores the free will of the individual to control their own behaviour. In conclusion, the biological model places emphasis on scientific investigation and understanding so is widely respected by the medical profession and supported by a number of psychological studies. On the other hand its representation of mental disorders as equivalent to physical illnesses is very controversial and it has a wide range of criticisms which question its reliability as an accurate model of abnormality. ...read more.

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