Paradigms of abnormal psychology

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Genetic Paradigm
Extent to which variability in behavior is due to genetic factors
Heritability estimate ranges from 0.00 to 1.00
Group, rather than individual, indicator

Gene Environment Interaction: Gene-environment interaction
One’s response to a specific environmental event is influenced by genes
Study of how the environment can alter gene expression or function

Examines the contribution of brain structure and function to psychopathology
Mental disorders are linked to aberrant processes in the brain.
Three major components:
Neurons and neurotransmitters
Brain structure and function
Neuroendocrine system
Neurotransmitters and Psychopathology
Serotonin and dopamine
Implicated in depression, mania, and schizophrenia
Implicated in anxiety and other stress-related disorders
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Inhibits nerve impulses
Implicated in anxiety
Possible mechanisms
Excessive or inadequate levels
Insufficient reuptake
Excessive number or sensitivity of postsynaptic receptors
Second messengers help neurons adjust receptor sensitivity after periods of high activity
Agonist drugs stimulate neurotransmitter receptor sites
Antagonist drugs dampen neurotransmitter receptor sites
Neuroscience Approaches to Treatment
Psychoactive drugs alter neurotransmitter activity
A neuroscience view does not preclude psychological interventions
Cognitive Behavioral
Roots in learning principles and cognitive science
Behavior is reinforced by consequences
Escape or avoidance
Sensory stimulation
Access to desirable objects or events
To alter behavior, modify consequences
Time out
Systematic desensitization
Relaxation plus exposure
Imaginal or in vivo
Important treatment for anxiety disorders
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Attends to thoughts, perceptions, judgments, self-statements, and unconscious assumptions
Cognitive Restructuring
Change a pattern of thinking
Changes in thinking can change feelings, behaviors, and symptoms
Sociocultural Factors
Gender, race, culture, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status
May increase vulnerability to psychopathology
e.g., women more likely to experience depression than men
Some disorders specific to certain cultures
Hikikomori in Japanese culture
Diathesis-Stress Model
Integrative model that incorporates multiple causal factors
Genetic, neurobiological, psychological, and environmental
Underlying predisposition
May be biological or psychological
Increases one’s risk of developing disorder
Environmental events
May occur at any point after conception
Triggering event
Psychopathology unlikely to result from one single factor
Criticisms of the DSM
Categorical v. Dimensional Classification
Reliability in everyday practice
Questionable validity
Consistency of measurement
How well does a test measure what it is supposed to measure?
Construct validity
A construct is an abstract concept or inferred attribute
Involves correlating multiple indirect measures of the attribute
e.g., self-report of anxiety correlated with increased HR, shallow breathing, racing thoughts
Important for validating our theoretical understanding of psychopathology
Method for evaluating diagnostic categories
Construct Validity of Diagnostic Categories
Construct validity of highest concern
Diagnoses are constructs
For most disorders, no lab test available to diagnose with certainty
Strong construct validity predicts wide range of characteristics
Possible etiological causes (past)
Related clinical characteristics (current)
Predict treatment response (future)
General Criticisms of Diagnosis
Stigma against mental illness.
Treated differently by others
Difficulty finding a job
Categories do not capture the uniqueness of a person.
The disorder does not define the person.
She is an individual with schizophrenia, not a “schizophrenic”
Classification may emphasize trivial similarities
Relevant information may be overlooked.
Categories: Abnormal Psychology