• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

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

Extracts from this document...


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.


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.


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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level The Psychology of Individual Differences section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level The Psychology of Individual Differences essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Compare and contrast the main approaches - Biological and Behaviourist, biological and cognitive, ...

    4 star(s)

    and childhood experiences (psychosexual stages). For example, Freud believes that the Oedipus complex can be explained by the identification of the same sex parent. However Gololbok found that there was no difference between children who grew up in single parent and those in two parent families.

  2. Outline and Evaluate the Biological, Psychodynamic and Cognitive Explanations of Abnormality

    It is believed that levels of hormones and neurotransmitters that are either too high or too low may be a factor in the cause of an abnormality. Recent studies have shown that patients suffering from Bipolar disorder or Anorexia Nervosa often have lower levels than normal of the neurotransmitter Serotonin,

  1. Psychological Abnormality

    Obviously we have to gain a certain level of body fat to achieve puberty and proof suggests that anorexic patients will eat but only if they do not gain weight. Another account suggests that the disorder prevents a girl from gaining her sexuality.

  2. Eating disorders

    By preventing adult development and adolescent can avoid anxieties associated with adulthood and mature sexuality. Bruch (1980) has proposed a more recent psychodynamic explanation of the development of anorexia in terms of poor parenting and a struggle for autonomy. The origins of anorexia are in early childhood, when the mother does not cope adequately with her child's needs.

  1. Describe and evaluate the concepts of abnormal behaviour When we talk about abnormal behaviour ...

    In order to help with this diagnosis Rosenhan and Seligman came up with 7 elements, characteristics, of abnormal behaviour. The general rule is that if there is only one characteristic observed in your behaviour you would not be considered abnormal.

  2. Consider the Problems Faced by Psychologists in the Definition of Abnormality

    There is a wide scope for error in diagnoses as a 'black or white' approach is given- if a person is within a certain percentage they are normal, if not they are abnormal- this cannot be representative of an illness such as depression which has a range of severities.

  1. Outline the behavioural model of abnormality and consider its strengths and limitations

    Such behaviours may be functional to the individual at the time it is learnt For example, irrational behaviour which is rewarded may lead to an increase in irrationality and repetition. An example of this may be through the eating disorder anorexia, it is suggested by the behavioural approach of explaining


    The third possible cause looks at chemical imbalances in the brain, in order for the brain to function effectively it relies on many different chemicals being in the correct balance. These chemicals, neurotransmitters and hormones are used to send messages round the brain and central nervous system and if there

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work