Discuss the Biological Approach to Psychopathology

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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. During his study he reviewed 38 studies of antidepressants and found that patients who received placebos fared almost as well as those receiving real drugs.

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Another feature of the biological approach to psychopathology is the idea that abnormalities in the brain anatomy or chemistry are sometimes the result of genetic inheritance. Whilst it is hard to test this theory on many individuals it can be tested for in monozygotic twins as a comparison can be made. This provides us with a concordance rate (the extent to which two individuals are similar to each other in terms of a particular trait). For example there are low concordance rates for some mental disorders e.g. phobias but high concordance rates for others e.g. schizophrenia.

However it is ...

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