What classifies as an abnormal behavior? How to differentiate between normal and abnormal thoughts/ actions and behavior? Who gets to decide them and their treatments?
It often feels like walking on eggshells when we discuss what is abnormal and what isn’t. In a societal context, the kind of behavior which is often seen, encouraged, and occurs frequently is called “Normal Behavior”. The sort of behavior and actions that are rare and deviates from social norms are regarded as “Abnormal Behavior”. But deviance from social norms cannot be always labeled as abnormal behavior since it is subjective to one community.
The situational context i.e., the social settings or circumstances which preceded or continued when the event occurred makes a significant difference in how thinking or behavior is labeled. For instance, let’s take phobias. A person comes to a therapist saying that they have severe anxiety and fear when they people’s hands or balloons or cheese. This would have been taken as something absurd since it was unheard of. But now, a therapist might discover that a traumatic event occurred when they were exposed to hands, balloons, or cheese which made them develop chirophobia, globophobia, and theophobia respectively.
The thinking or behavior which significantly disrupt one’s thought processes or course of actions, which affects themselves or/ and affects people around them can be termed as maladaptive or abnormal behavior. Maladaptive behavior or thinking also means that a person finds it hard to adapt to day-to-day living. It is the key element in the definition of abnormality.
Well, how do psychologists decide what is abnormal?
Rather than pinpointing what is abnormal, psychologists tend to focus on how effectively one deals with daily encounters with the world, the levels of distress it is causing an individual, and their reactions to them. To get a clear picture of what’s going on, individual and professional psychologists must take in all factors while determining whether one’s functioning and behavior are significantly affecting their lifestyle. (But remember that the main objective is to figure out what is causing them; be it biological or mental factors, to find out how to cure the mental obstacles or find an effective way to lessen their intensity. It isn’t you, rather it’s just a part of you. Abnormality and insanity are completely different)
Firstly, never self-diagnose! If you feel strongly regarding these signs, find a professional psychologist who feels right to you, share your thoughts and experiences and have a healthy discussion about what you researched and clear out doubts. Be open to every possibility and kudos for taking a step to care, help and love yourself.
- Getting easily annoyed and having a hard time handling frustrations and urges.
- After having dealt with a traumatic experience, has the thinking or behavior been unusual? It can range from subtle isolation to severe panic while dealing with a stranger or a familiar course of events (that previously led to the trauma).
- Does thinking or behavior go against the social norms? (P.s Norms change over time)
- An extreme change in moods and lifestyle.
- Certain news, course of events, or items (Triggers) that affect your ability to function or causes significant subjective discomfort?
What gives birth to mental illness?
Psychodynamic view: It includes Freud’s belief which emphasizes that unconscious psychological process (The wishes, urges, and fear which we suppress creates conflict outside of a person’s consciousness), childhood experiences, and environment before birth influences our thoughts and behaviors. To keep the repressed thoughts from resurfacing, disordered functioning aka defense mechanism develops as a way to keep them contained.
Cognitive perspective: It talks about how we think about a problem interfered by disordered thoughts which leads to mental disorders. One can overcome this by consciously using more rational cognitions. How we perceive, evaluate, and anticipate events tend to be negative and disruptive when interfered with mental blockages.
Biological view: This view beliefs that disorders are caused by organic or physical causes such as defective neurotransmitters, genetics, traumas to the brain, and basically neuroanatomy. For instance, personality traits are influenced by genetic inheritance, and in disorders like schizophrenia, dopamine levels are believed to play a part as well as differences in the brain anatomy.
Behaviorists believe that just like normal behavior we learn abnormal behavior influences largely by conditioning and observational learning. For example, children with parents who deal with substance abuse or an environment with violent circumstances give birth to various coping mechanisms which might be healthy or unhealthy.
How to find the right treatment(s) for you?
Well, Trial and error! Having a medical professional gives you a safe room to mistakes, share and learn from your experiences and find more therapies the right way. Psychotherapy and biomedical therapies are common courses of treatment.
Psychotherapy includes insight therapies; the main goal here is to help both mentally healthy and psychologically disordered persons try to understand their motives and actions, action therapy (more focused on changing behavior rather than insights), and more. The main goal is to resolve the issues from their roots, learning and unlearning behaviors and developing healthy habits.
Biomedical therapy includes the usage of medicine, surgical methods, and noninvasive stimulation techniques. Antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-cycling agents, and hypnoanxiolytics are the main classes of psychiatric medications.
Note that, biomedical therapy is used to alleviate or eliminate symptoms of disorders. Sometimes, biomedical and psychotherapy go hand in hand. When it comes to treating psychological disorders, I believe that cure can have a variety of meanings. Many behavioral disorders cannot be cured but with proper treatment, one can live a productive and happy life which usually accounts for the cure of the disorder.
Psychology by Pearson | Fifth Edition | By Pearson. by K. Ciccarelli Saundra, White J. Noland, et al. | 15 October 2017.