normal versus abnormal behavior

Understanding Psychopathology – Normal versus Abnormal Behavior

Defining a Psychological Disorder:

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A psychological disorder is (1) a psychological dysfunction within an individual that is (2) associated with distress or impairment in functioning and (3) a response that is not typical or culturally expected. All three basic criteria must be met; no one criterion alone has yet been identified that defines the essence of abnormality.

1. What are some behaviors that may be considered “abnormal” by the above

definitions, but do not constitute a psychological disorder?

2. Do the words “abnormal” and “pathological” necessary mean the same thing? Can you be one without being the other? Is abnormality an “either-or” construct or is it better thought of as a continuum?

What is “Abnormal” Behavior?

Consider the following situations. Most people would consider at least some of the

actions of the people involved to be abnormal. What do you think? Think about each one as you read through the list. Then, provide a rationale for your judgments,

including any information as to why you did or did not consider each situation to be abnormal. These evaluations do not need to be more than a few sentences each.

1.Your uncle consumes a quart of whiskey per day; he has trouble remembering

the names of those around him.

2.Your grandmother believes that part of her body is missing and cries out about this missing part all day long. You show her that the part she thinks is missing is not, but she refuses to acknowledge this contradictory information.

3.Your neighbor has vague physical complaints and sees two or three doctors


4.Your neighbor sweeps, washes, and scrubs his driveway daily.

5.Your cousin is pregnant and is dieting (800 calories per day) so that she will not get “too fat” with the pregnancy. She has had this type of behavioral response since she

was 13 years old.

6.A woman’s husband died within the past year. The widow appears to talk to

herself in the yard, doesn’t wash herself or dress in clean clothes, and appears to have lost a lot of weight.

7.A 10-year-old wants to have his entire body tattooed.

8.A 23-year-old female smokes marijuana every day, is a straight-A student in

college, has a successful job, and is in a solid long-term relationship.

9.A person experiences several unexpected panic attacks each week, but is

otherwise happily married, functions well at work, and leads an active recreational


10.A 35-year-old happily married man enjoys wearing women’s clothes and

underwear on the weekends when he and his wife go out on the town

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