Examine how one or more factors (biological, cognitive, socio-cultural) influence either one specific anxiety disorder or one specific eating disorder?

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Examine how one or more factors (biological, cognitive, socio-cultural) influence either one specific anxiety disorder or one specific eating disorder?

Abnormal psychology is a division of psychology that studies people who are ‘abnormal’ or ‘atypical’ compared to the members of a given society. However, it is essential to note the fact that it is a very vague and ambivalent term, not to mention the fact that our socio-cultural heritage and specific circumstances may affect our perspective upon it. This essay will look as post-traumatic stress disorder (a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event resulting in psychological trauma) and the way factors from the cognitive and socio-cultural levels influence it and its classification.

In psychology it is very difficult to correctly identify and classify psychological disorder since the psychiatrist will often have to rely primarily on the patient’s subjective description of the problem, which is the main reason for the criticisms brought to studies in the cognitive level of analysis regarding PTSD. For example, cognitive therapists have noted that PTSD patients tend to feel that they have a lack of control over their lives and that the world is unpredictable. They often experience guilt about the trauma (such as a survivor from the Vietnam War etc). However, conceptions of abnormality differ between cultures and have significant influence on the validity of diagnosis of mental disorders. In this sense, culture blindness may negatively affect the process of classification itself, as for example Rack (1982) found that if a member of a minority group exhibits a set of symptoms that are similar to that of a white British-born patient, then they are assumed to be suffering from the same disorder. Hence from the very beginning there is this difficulty of identifying PTSD since the borders between different mental disorders are fluid, constantly changing (for example, PTSD frequently occurs in conjunction with related disorders such as depression, substance abuse etc. ).

Moreover, there are links between studies on PTSD and cue-dependent memory, as Brewin (1996) argued that flashbacks occur as a result of cue-dependent memory, where stimuli similar to the original traumatic event may trigger sensory and emotional aspects of the memory, thus causing panic. For example, a war veteran may experience flashbacks while watching a fireworks display, or may experience anxiety at the sound of a whistle. However, there is no clear causal connection between what are considered cues and the actual flashbacks and anxiety, therefore the validity of Brewin’s findings is at best disputable. Moreover, it may be vulnerable to the Sheff’s (1996) self-fulfilling prophecy, in the sense that if, for example a veteran is diagnosed with PTSD, he may expect to experience the symptoms if there will be a similar stimulus. Hence, when he will hear the sound of a whistle he will experience anxiety not because there is a causal relationship between the two, but because he is expecting that he will get anxious.

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Moreover, Albert Rizzo developed a therapeutic tool using virtual reality to treat PTSD veterans, applying the cognitive level of analysis. Thus, in ‘Virtual Iraq’ he have traumatized soldiers the opportunity to re-experience the horrors of the war and the therapist could manipulate variables that were relevant for each individual. This therapy was based on the concept of flooding, that is over-exposure to stressful events, because it is well-known that the stress reactions will eventually fade out due to what is called habituation, which is getting used to the stimuli. It was thus considered that the power of the cues that ...

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