abnormal psychology

Abnormal psychology is a branch of psychology that deals with mere deviants and full-out crazy people. You know, the fun stuff.

The study of malfunctions in the system is also a good way of gaining a better understanding of how the system works. The system in question here is, of course, the human brain. If a car stops making noise and stops working, following these clues would lead you to discover that the car has an engine.

Abnormal psychology is under criticism because either it fails to define a problem worth studying or fails to have a large enough market.

What is Abnormal?

Abnormal is usually defined in one of four ways:

Statistically
The behavior is abnormal because it deviates from statistical norms. I.E. "You are 1% screwed up." (see bell curve)
Socially
The behavior is abnormal because it deviates from social norms and isn't considered 'acceptable.' I.E. "God will gitcha for that!"
Maladaptive
The behavior is harmful for the individual and the individual's social group. I.E. "Joe's so crazy he'll wind up blowing up the whole town!"
Subjective
The individual feels bad about it. I.E. "Waaaaa!"

Criticism

Abnormal psychology is often under criticism for ALL of the above ways of defining 'abnormal'.

Determining abnormality by statistics doesn't identify a problem. People can be statistically different and live a long happy life and there's no market in 'curing' people of a fraction of 1% deviance. The statistical method will always be valid for making new discoveries about how the mind works.

Determining abnormality socially not only fails to identify a problem, it also relies social norms. Social norms are different depending on who you ask. When this method is used to define abnormal, the social norms of the person giving the test is the one most inevitably used. This method also lacks a market. There's just no market for cures of diseases that exist just because the psychologist doesn't like it.

The maladaptive method of determining abnormality is really an issue for legal authorities, not psychologists, most of the time.

Finally, the subjective method only matters if the person in question wants to be treated.

See Also

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