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experience to back my opinion that his behavior is not abnormal, I do have to consider that the people I know that are withdrawn socially could have a mental/personality disorder.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.

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