Sunday, January 23, 2011

On Being Sane in Insane Places

Alyssa Brandt

January 24, 2010

On Being Sane in Insane Places


psuedopatient – a researcher who poses as a patient

aloofness - indifference by personal withdrawal; "emotional distance"


It was really interesting and slightly horrifying to witness what the hospital attendants and nurses would do to the patients- not that they did horrible things to them, but that they didn’t do much. The average amount of time spent with the patients was extraordinarily low, and when doctors did interract with the patients, it was brief and hardly personal at all. It seems to me that the patients are dehumanized and viewed as patients, not as people with mental disorders.

Another thing that really stood out was the fact that the bathrooms had no doors… these people are self-aware, despite having a mental problem. They can still feel embarrassed, but thanks to labelling, (as stated in the essay) “Eventually the patient himself accepts the diagnosis, with all of its surplus meanings and expectations, and behaves accordingly.” It’s a cyclical pattern of diagnosis and behavior.

The very last paragraph before the summary really got me to think about what makes people insane… the environment contributes a lot, and so the people admitted into a mental hospital who know their diagnosis will continue to learn to be those helpess “crazy” people.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shades of Abnormality

Psych 220 Shades of Abnormality


Rating: 2

The spells of nausea and fatigue could be a somatoform disorder of the stress caused by his and his parents’ belief system clashing. Psychotherapy may fix the symptoms.


Rating: 3/4

Signs of schizophrenia are apparent and should be checked out. The degradation of his social life, hearing voices, and locking himself in his room, plus the Nazi invasion, are all signs that something is severely wrong with him mentally. Psychotherapy is recommended.


Rating: 2

It’s natural for her to be disturbed about dating again, but since it is interfering with her personal life and often worries her, psychotherapy may not be a bad idea.


Rating: 1

He seems to be functioning correctly, and the slight societal pressure on him at his job as well as the work load could be remedied through decreasing his work hours, etc. He seems to have a healthy social life and love life. Psychotherapy is not necessary.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chapter 3 Reflection

Alyssa Brandt

January 17, 2010

Chapter Three Reflection

The ambiguity between various mental disorders is just as ambiguous as the line between abnormal and normal behavior. Since the names and classification of these disorders are man made, we can make them as specific or hazy as we want. If the patient is experiencing this but not this, it becomes a different disorder, and that sort of thing. The only problem is that thinking at a somewhat unconscious level can occur- the therapist may be asking questions that make the patient think they do have it, or suggest something that could have happened, sometimes even causing the patient to believe they have had that experience, even if it didn’t happen. I just keep going back to the original idea that the lines between what is right/wrong, a disorder/normal mental patterns, and other such pairs can be incredibly blurry.

Applying this idea specifically to the chapter, even a well-designed classification system can be vague, especially if the therapist doesn’t have a complete sample of behavior to work with. In the MMPI-2, the various scales are divided clearly, but the criteria within the scales can bleed into others. In addition to some of the more concrete classification systems, one must also consider all the types of tests that are used in determining abnormal behavior. Rorschach’s inkblot test is the first that comes to my mind (partially because I am a Watchmen fan, and partially because it is a well-known test), but I’d say it’s not necessarily a good choice for determining abnormal thought processes. “Projection” and those kind of pseudo-science terms don’t lend much validity to the tests. Personally, the survey tests that are spoken by the therapist (in order to watch the reaction time/reaction/etc of the patient) and answered by the patient seem the most rational and reliable.

Chapter 2 Reflection

Alyssa Brandt

January 17, 2010

Chapter Two Reflection

The brain is incredibly complex and fascinating. Just knowing that a little piece of fleshy, squishy stuff controls what I do, think, eat, sleep, react to, and generally pay attention to. Knowing that the RAS is like a little watchdog for me, and that the cerebellum is responsible for whether or not I fall over can be kind of strange to think about, if it’s stripped down to what it is. A group of cells is controlling what your body does. Knowing how much of an influence neurotransmitters have on our behavior also makes me think that the best suited method of explaining abnormal behavior is the biopsychosocial, because it combines all of the influencers on behavior into one theory. Being able to put oneself into another person’s brain can be pretty interesting, too, like in the activity where we had to determine what each of the models would say about the unusual behavior.

After studying what each perspective interprets abnormal behavior as and applying it to situations, I can successfully conclude that the psychoanalytic theory does not have adequate support for the reliability and validity of the treatments within the theory. It mostly seems as if someone chose names for behavior that may or may not be present in most individuals at a certain age group, and then came up with reasons as to why it happened. Other than that theory and some things about the humanistic approach, I can find validity in the other psychology perspectives. When it comes down to it, one can’t accept everything he or she reads and must decide whether or not something is valid enough to apply to his or her own life.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Normal or abnormal?

Alyssa Brandt

Abnormal Psychology (Psych 220)

Fouquette, Lynne

Jan 13, 2011

Samuel does not fit into any of the five D’s used in defining abnormal behavior. Although he may not appear to be a social person, he says that he feels he has led a fulfilled and happy life, and does not show signs of maladaptive behavior or any other signs of abnormality. He was interested in computers and engineering, suggesting high intelligence. Using personal experience, sometimes people with high intelligence aren’t as social as normal people and relate better to matters that they feel comfortable around, like technology and animals. Since I have the personal experience to back my opinion that his behavior is not abnormal, I do have to consider that the people I know that are withdrawn socially could have a mental/personality disorder. His behavior does not upset anyone except for his parents with worry, and he is not a danger to himself or others.

One must consider the age of Sadie when determining whether or not her behavior is abnormal. If she were an adult, let’s say above the early 20’s, she could be displaying abnormal behavior. However, since Sadie is in elementary school (or sometimes even high school), the behavior could be considered a phase. Children in that age group can choose somewhat random things (like a group of girls who all wear pink jackets, or a group of kids who only eat Pringles) to identify themselves with in a group setting, often solidifying a social circle necessary to feel included and fulfilled in life. However, the strict rules that forbid outside friendships and the pledge to eat only Pringles suggest that the ringleader (in the very least) could be mentally disturbed. The other children, including Sadie, could be motivated to follow along because of the feeling of superiority that comes with being in an exclusive group.

Todd’s behavior could be defined as somewhat abnormal. He continues to race even after injuries, suggesting that he doesn’t really mind that the marathons are taking a toll on his body, fulfilling one of the D’s (danger). Although most of the other symptoms are missing (he still lives a normal life with an occupation), the fact that he won’t quit even when begged by his family suggests that he has somewhat of an obsession with marathons, and if let go longer, that obsession could manifest in more injuries and potential dysfunction with his career and family.

Marcia’s behavior is abnormal. She does not care that she is stealing, and she got into the mess in the first place because she could not control her spending or her own finances (dysfunction, deviance). Although one would think that she was only stealing to save her from her financial troubles, one would also have to ask why she was in the situation in the first place. Was she a shopaholic? Did she lack impulse control? One problem led to another, resulting in a deeper psychological abnormality. Now, she steals from her employer and has no trouble covering it up, implying that she doesn’t have any remorse for her actions, fulfilling the “deviance” part of the system. Criminal behavior is behavior that goes against the law but has conflicting values within the person. They would have remorse, be nervous, or somehow display cognitive dissonance. Abnormal behavior can be emotional as well, but it would be more compulsive (think of kleptomania, etc), ands sometimes done with less remorse. The two blend together in many areas, and I’m not sure if there is an absolute line.

Mike’s behavior could be either abnormal or normal. One could argue that he could feel it was his time to go anyway (they had been married for 50 years, implying that he is in at least his late 60’s), and with his wife gone, he had no other reason to live. One could also argue that his behavior was completely abnormal because he was displaying signs of delusions- delusions that he would see her again if he took his own life. Either way, he does fufill the requirement of “danger” (to himself), “delusion”, and “distress”. By using this system, I would determine that his behavior was abnormal. If we examined his life further and found that thoughts of his dead wife were interfering with his day to day life, he could also display “dysfunction”.

Throughout all of these examples, I’ve found that one needs to know as much information on the individual’s life (geographical location, religion, age group, sex, education level, etc) in order to make a more accurate decision about the behavior. I’ve also found that personal experience can make one biased against determining the behavior. The most important thing that I have learned is that the borders between normal and abnormal are extremely blurry, and even with all the necessary information, the actual decision is hard to make.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chapter 1 Reflection

Alyssa Brandt

January 10, 2010

Chapter One Reflection

The main theme I found throughout the chapter is the prevalence of complexity within the determining of abnormal and normal. Even as the text was covering the past and how people dealt with it then, themes of confusion in the diagnosing process were common. Although we are much more careful these days about the diagnosing process (we know more about the disorders, the moral implications, social implications, and other factors), in the past, people assumed insanity for most behaviors they didn’t understand. This insanity could include explanations like demon possession or magic influence, but they were usually dealt with the same way: in a hostile and uncaring manner. There were brief stints of moral uprising in the mental health world in the 18th/19th century, but it never really took hold until the mid 1900’s, where the moral grounds have been kept even into present days.

I have to continuously remind myself that people in the days before modern science didn’t know as much as we do now- to me, it’s a no brainer that demon possession and witchcraft don’t have effects on people, but back then, it was the only plausible cause. Just remembering that science changes and that even a few years down the road we will find new things about mental disorders is humbling. We will probably never know everything there is to know about mental disorders, but in the mean time we can estimate the best we can and do so with a moral code and utmost care.

The Shared Boundaries of Normal and Abnormal Behavior

Alyssa Brandt

January 9, 2010

The Shared Boundaries of Normal and Abnormal Behavior


Vagrancy –state of a person in poverty, who wanders from place to place without a home or regular employment or income

Tautological – unneccesary/rhetorical


“…and emphasizes the power of expectation and labeling.”

Dehumanizing – “a manic depressive” rather than “a person with bipolar disorder”

The number statistics of number of people with disorders who committed murder compared to the number of murders committed could be shocking for some people.

The very blurred line between abnormal and normal is apparent.

Extending the laws to overseas – I’m sure that other countries have different policies for mentally ill patients. Are there any good resources for such laws?

One must consider the cultural implications – social status and other features of the individuals demographic- in order to make a more accurate diagnosis.

In the end, it’s a really complex issue to make the decisions of what is normal and what isn’t, and how the media/incidents shape how those people are diagnosed.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Americanization of Mental Illness Vocab Sheet

Alyssa Brandt

January 7, 2010

The Americanization of Mental Illness


Epoch – a period marked by distinctive character or reckoned from a fixed point or event

Symptomatology – study of diseases

Stigma- an indication of the past of history/disease


The case in China with the dramatically rising number of “anorexia” and other eating disorders as influenced by the west was incredible to read about. It never occurred to me that mental disorders would be different in other places around the world. I guess one would infer that environment plus genes and other factors can yield different types of mental diseases, since it also yields different skin colors/heights/other variations within the various ethnicities. Could the different types of disorders be attributed to evolution? It seems like it could be additional support if it is true… also, the unconscious influence knowledge of a disorder has on a person is really interesting.

In general, the unconscious mind and its power over our actions and body are pretty crazy… in those experiments mentioned (the cause being given as either a past event or just a basic medical explanation) as well as others give us an idea of what kind of things influence the way we treat our fellow human beings. Even really small pieces of information can alter our actions- all unconsciously!


Unconscious mind – reactions, views, etc.

Evolution/cultural evolution relating to different disorders

Americans control the world.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Homicidal Maniacs and Narcissistic Parasites Response

Homicidal Maniacs and Narcissistic Parasites:

Stigmatization of Mentally Ill Persons in the Movies

List of Movies:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 6, episode 16ish)

A Beautiful Mind

50 First Dates

The Bourne Identity


Donnie Darko

Garden State

50 First Dates – The mental disorder is anterograde amnesia and the person in question doesn’t go through much treatment throughout the movie. It is treated as a simple plot device with virtually no complications- no hospitals, doctors, or drugs.

A Beautiful Mind – The main character is schizophrenic, has delusions of spies and military secrets, and has two friends – an imaginary roommate and a child that never ages. He is admitted into a hospital and treated with drugs that tamper with his home life and his normal day-to-day functioning. A visible discomfort is visible while he is on treatment.

Donnie Darko – The main character is also schizophrenic, and eventually kills himself (by letting something happen to him) through delusions of time travel and a demented human-sized rabbit called Frank, who is later revealed as a normal man in a bunny suit at a halloween party. No treatment or drugs are involved, and the illness is really just implied.

Wristcutters – The main characters are all depressed (it’s a lame world beyond ours for the people who committed suicide, sort of like punishment, where a character there by accident journeys with a depressed man. They eventually fall in love and both get sent back to the real world via wormholes under car seats and such).


Stigma – (simple) a characteristic

Epidemiology - the study of patterns of health and illness and associated factors at the population level


It seems to me that the media likes to use mental illness in order to get away with the extreme behaviors we see in some movies. Plot devices, nothing really more, unless it’s a movie that focuses ON the disease, not the person’s life affected by the disease. For example, A Beautiful Mind focuses on the disease and how it affects the character, unlike Lovesick, where the mental illness is used as an excuse for the behavior of the characters.

The conclusion definitely concludes the ideas. People need to be aware that in reality mental illnesses may not be as they are on the screen, and the media could potentially have a negative effect on the treatment/acceptance/tolerance/ etc of a mental disorder.

No questions thus far.


plot device vs. central idea,

excuse for behavior, etc.

should someone receive treatrment?

are psychopaths really going to kill you in the middle of the night?

public perception.