Throughout the history of man, there have always been individuals behaving against the current by acting or believing in so-called strange and outlandish ways. Some may view this as eccentricity or down right bizarre. Others may perceive this as signs of illness or distress and characterize the individual as mad or insane. This behavior in lay terms could be understood as abnormal. However, this term is rather superficial as one begins to examine what really makes someone abnormal in relation to what is considered normal or acceptable. This paper examines the varying ways in which abnormal behavior may be approached and perceived by tracing the history of major psychological theories and paradigms. Finally abnormality is considered in its relation to the idea of normality. It is concluded here that no coverall definition is available to account for the rationale behind what constitutes as abnormal behavior. Instead it is believed that abnormality is a misleading notion based on natural human tendencies of categorization and comparison.
[...] By the middle of the twentieth century perceptions of abnormal behavior as an illness began to wane, and soon patients were released from mental institutions and back into the community, this was due to developments of other theoretical models of psychopathology within psychology. The behaviorists emerged as proponents of the scientific study of behavior greatly opposed to Freudian psychoanalytical theory which was unable to prove falsifiable. Human behavior is perceived to be completely learned by interactions and associations within the environment. [...]
[...] However both behavioral and cognitive therapists' stance towards abnormal behavior heavily conforms to societal and cultural norms (Davies & Bhugra 2004) particularly evidenced in views towards sexuality. During the height of behaviorism, proponents attempted to eradicate homosexuality among males, as a result electroshock aversion therapy was implemented to straighten (pun intended) them out. This behavior at the time was rather unacceptable to the majority of society particularly those in power. Davies & Bhugra (2004) adequately summarize this idea stating, Those who have more power tend to define “reality” Further, behavior viewed as unacceptable or desirable by one person or group may not be so by others [Subsequently] unwanted behavior is not self-evident but is socially negotiated (pp.80). [...]
[...] Modern drug therapies are intended to regulate neurotransmitter activity in the brain which is viewed as the root cause of mental illness. The second theoretical branch of the bio-medical model is less biological in its approach than its counterpart. The psychogenic view of abnormality attributes ill mental health to the internal psychological processes of individual rather than assuming defective biological properties. Again, individuals are ‘patients' perceived as suffering from ‘symptoms' specific to an ‘illness'. The psychogenic model emphasizes importance on pinpointing the root cause of the illness and how it may have developed. [...]
[...] How then can we measure normality objectively? Normality itself is a fallacy which in turn proves impossible to define abnormality making it just as absurd a notion. In conclusion, abnormal behavior is only an abstract concept and does not exist objectively in the world, nor does it exist as a property within human beings. Abnormality represents a deviation from the ideal type proposed by our socio-cultural expectations of normality. This is clearly illustrated in the historical development of views of abnormality. [...]
[...] Once inside, the psychiatrists observed all of their mundane behavior recording it as unusual and pathological. Szasz (1974; 22) eloquently states that who first seizes the word imposes reality on the other'. A major problem surrounding this issue is the idea of a dualistic nature between normality and abnormality, that either an individual is normal or abnormal. This is a good example of heuristics in human nature when behavior is not ordinary it is automatically assumed that there is something wrong. [...]
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