What Is Abnormal Psychology?

One of the introductory psychology courses in the Bachelor of General Studies: psychology program is abnormal psychology. In this course, you will learn about different abnormal personalities and behaviors. You will learn which behaviors are considered normal, which are considered abnormal and how mental health professionals treat abnormal behaviors.

What Is Abnormal?

In his article "Personality Disorders," J.M. Grohol explains that the problematic behaviors that make up personality disorders are fairly common and that those traits are not necessarily bad. However, when those behaviors or thought patterns become ongoing and inflexible, problems arise. For abnormal behaviors to become a personality disorder they "must cause significant distress or impairment in personal, social, and/or occupational situations."

What Are the Personality Disorders?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Revision (DSM-5), there are 10 different personality disorders. As Neel Burton points out, the different mental disorders "are more the product of historical observation than scientific study." As a result, the different disorders tend to overlap one another. That is why the DSM-5 arranges the disorders into three different clusters.

The first cluster describes the bizarre or eccentric behaviors seen in paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders. People suffering from paranoid personality disorder are suspicious of others, including their family and friends. Those who suffer from schizoid personality disorder are disconnected from others and are inclined to brood. The final personality disorder in the first cluster is schizotypal personality disorder, which "is characterized by oddities of appearance, behavior, and speech, unusual perceptual experiences, and anomalies of thinking similar to those seen in schizophrenia" (Burton).

The second cluster includes disorders with dramatic or erratic behaviors, such as antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders. Burton explains that personality disorders once only referred to antisocial personality disorder -- those who do not care about how others feel, are quick to anger and lack a sense of guilt. However, Kurt Schneider widened "the concept of personality disorder to include those who 'suffer from their abnormality'."

People who suffer from borderline personality disorder are terrified of being abandoned, and they do not have a strong sense of self-worth. Self-harm is also an indication of this disorder. Unlike antisocial personality disorder, which is more common among men, borderline personality disorder is more common among women. Histrionic personality disorder involves a poor sense of self-worth, and people who suffer from it are often highly dramatic because they want to get others to notice and accept them. The final personality disorder in the second cluster is narcissistic personality disorder. Its sufferers believe they are infallible, and they will do anything to achieve their goals (Burton).

The final category contains the anxious and fearful personality disorders, such as avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive. Individuals who suffer from avoidant personality disorder believe that they are socially incompetent, so they will avoid situations that force them to meet other people unless they are positive they will be liked. Those who suffer from dependent personality disorder believe they are helpless and rely on others to look after them. Finally, those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder -- not to be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder -- are fixated on "details, lists, order, organization, or schedules; perfectionism so extreme that it prevents a task from being completed; and devotion to work and productivity at the expense of leisure and relationships" (Burton).

Abnormal personalities and behaviors cause sufferers to experience various problems in their social and professional lives. Abnormal psychology classes also cover the different ways mental professionals treat these conditions.

Learn more about the LSUA online BGS in Psychology program.


Retrieved from Burton, Neel, M.D. "The 10 Personality Disorders." (2012, May 29). http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201205/the-10-personality-disorders

Retrieved from Grohol, J. M., Psy.D. (2016, February 4). Personality Disorders. http://psychcentral.com/personality

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