Abnormal Psychology: Detailed Meaning and Types

Abnormal psychology image explanaton

Abnormal psychology is a field of psychology that studies psychopathology and strange behaviour, or the ways that people feel, think, and act that can be signs of a mental health condition. People with this term may have a wide range of illnesses, from depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to personality disorders.

The study of abnormal psychology examines how to recognize, treat, and stop bad behaviour. The word “abnormal psychology” isn’t defined in current diagnostic manuals, but there are specific ways to describe how someone is different from what is considered “average.” In the professional world, someone with abnormal psychology acts or interacts with others in ways that are statistically different from what is expected. 

People who act in ways that aren’t helpful might find it hard to reach their goals and deal with the challenges of daily life. People who aren’t adapted to society may get in the way of how social groups work.

Some people often think their behaviour is unacceptable and unlike everyone else’s. It’s not unlikely that they will act this way. They probably have a mental illness that makes them feel this way. Medication or therapy may help them feel better. 

Approaches to Abnormal Psychology

Behavioural Approach

This way of looking at abnormal psychology is based on actions that can be seen. When someone is in behavioural treatment, the goal is to reinforce good behaviours instead of negative ones.

The behavioural method doesn’t look at the reasons behind the behaviour; it only looks at the behavior itself. When someone has behaviour, a behavioural therapist might use techniques like classical and operant conditioning to help eliminate the bad behaviour and teach the person how to behave better.

Medical Approach

From a medical point of view, mental illnesses are like physical illnesses in that they have biological reasons. It focuses on genetics, brain chemistry, and neurobiology as essential parts of understanding how diseases start and show up. Medications and medical methods are often used in treatment to deal with these underlying biological problems.

Cognitive Approach

The cognitive approach to abnormal psychology looks at how people’s ideas, feelings, and ways of reasoning can lead to mental disorders. The main goal of cognitive therapies is to help people change how they think or act.

Cognitive and behavioural techniques can also be used in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

The Psychodynamic Approach

This way of thinking, which Sigmund Freud created, says that unconscious conflicts and bad events in early childhood cause mental disorders. It says that disputes that aren’t handled can cause cognitive problems and strange behaviour.

This way of thinking about therapy tries to bring these hidden conflicts to the surface and fix them using free association and interpretation.

Sociocultural Approach

From a sociocultural point of view, mental disorders are shaped by cultural, social, and environmental factors that affect how they show up and progress. It acknowledges that different cultures have different norms, beliefs, and social expectations, which can affect how disorders are seen and felt. 

In this point of view, treatment, and recovery are also examined in terms of how traditional beliefs and social support systems affect the process.

What Mental Illness Apply to Abnormal Psychology

Anxiety disorders, PTSD, mood disorders, personality disorders, delusional disorders, drug use disorders, dissociative disorders, and developmental disorders are all examples of mental disorders that are seen through the lens of abnormal psychology. You can read more about each of them below. 

Anxiety Disorder

A lot of the time, people who live with anxiety problems feel more anxious every day. The DSM-5 lists ten different types of anxiety disorders. The main sign of each class is worry. They include the following: 

  • Panic disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Specific phobias
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Selective mutism
  • Agoraphobia
  • Substance or medication-induced anxiety disorder
  • Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition
  • Other specified anxiety disorder

Specific Phobias in Abnormal Psychology

People with phobias fear certain things or situations, like bugs or heights. People who suffer from phobias may know that their fears are not helpful. But the fear is still there, even though they know this. Phobias can be broken down into three groups: simple phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia. Cognitive behavioural treatment (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) are two common ways to treat phobias. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People who have obsessive-compulsive disorder often have scary thoughts, pictures, or urges that come at them all the time. Compulsions are habits, behaviours, or actions that make you feel less scared for a short time. 

A lot of people who have OCD know that the way they act is not healthy, but they are afraid to change. For people with OCD, exposure and reaction prevention therapy is often suggested. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A stressful event or series of circumstances can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, accidents, violent attacks, and robberies can be traumatic events that can lead to PTSD. Events that last a long time, like abuse, can also lead to PTSD.

PTSD can lead to headaches, flashbacks, trouble sleeping, or feelings of guilt. People living with PTSD go through the fight-flight-freeze reaction when they remember the event, which can make it harder for them to deal with things. They might also show signs of anxiety, sadness, or problems with drugs or alcohol.

Mood Disorder

Changes in mood mark mood illnesses. Mood disorders can be broken down into two main groups: bipolar disorders and depression disorders.

People with bipolar disorder go through significant changes in their mood, from being sad to hypomania or mania, which are states of having a lot of energy, irritability, and ability. Focus can be dangerous because it can lead to psychosis, illusions, risky behaviour, and trouble sleeping. 

People with depressive illnesses feel sad for long periods, often for no apparent reason. These situations can also make you lose interest in things you used to enjoy.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders make it hard to do everyday things because they cause people to behave and think in strict, often unhealthy ways. People with personality disorders have trouble understanding and relating to others and events. 

They have multiple problems in their relationships with other people, at work, school, and in social situations. Personality illnesses can be any of the following, but not just those: 

  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Histrionic personality disorder (HPD)
  • Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) 
  • Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) 


People with schizophrenia may see reality in different ways than other people. It could lead to behaviours and symptoms that make it hard to go about daily life, such as dreams, delusions, and thinking that lacks organization. Although scientists aren’t sure of the exact causes of schizophrenia, they think that genes, brain chemistry, and the surroundings all play a role.

Substance Use Disorders

Dependence and abuse of specific drugs are part of substance use disorders. Some of these situations are chemical dependence and drug use that get in the way of daily life. For someone to be diagnosed with substance use, they must have trouble meeting their work, family, and other responsibilities because they use. 

Dissociative Disorders

These are marked by memories, thoughts, actions, and identities that don’t seem to connect or stay the same. Dissociative disordered people often avoid reality in ways that aren’t their choice and are often dangerous. People may get these illnesses as a way to deal with traumatic events, like being abused physically, sexually, or emotionally in the past.

A man suffering from abnormal psychology

Impulse Control Disorder

Impulsivity is a sign of impulse control problems. People who have this disorder may find it hard to resist the urges or temptations to act, talk, or think about certain things. 

Problems with neurotransmission in the brain, stressful events in childhood, or anger can cause impulse control disorders. Impulse control disorder can cause people to act in ways like sexual complexity, obsessive gambling, kleptomania, trichotillomania, or intermittent explosive disorder.

Some Other Conditions of Abnormal Psychology

Keep in mind that the DSM-5 has more than 100 disorders. Not every condition is on the list above. When people study abnormal psychology, they often look at many different illnesses. No one else feels the same way you do if you think you have a mental illness. You might want to talk to a therapist to get help and a better understanding of your condition.

Criticism of Abnormal Psychology

Some people don’t like the area of abnormal psychology. The word “abnormal” is a source of discussion, and some think this area has several problems.

Some people especially think that this area makes weak and abused people look bad. Some critics also say that the field of abnormal psychology labels abnormal average differences in how people act.

People also say that the way doctors treat mental illness often only looks at the biological and genetic causes of pain instead of looking at the whole person. Also, it doesn’t consider that what is expected and odd varies significantly from culture to culture.


Even though abnormal psychology studies strange behaviour, its primary goal is not to ensure everyone fits a narrow meaning of “normal.” Mostly, it’s about finding and fixing problems that might make someone unhappy or limit some part of their life. Researchers and therapists can help people live healthier and happier lives by learning more about what is “abnormal.”

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