An Overview Of Abnormal Psychology: Disorders And Treatments

By Gabrielle Seunagal

Updated July 25, 2019

Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

Psychology is the study of human behavior. Abnormal psychology is a branch of the study that examines mental disorders.


Abnormal psychology examines psychopathology and abnormal behavior. The term covers a range of disorders. Included are mood disorders, personality disorders and any type of behavior that deviates from the norm.

This particular branch of psychology is very important, especially when it comes to diagnosing and treating mental illness. There are many factors that contribute to mental disorders. Abnormal psychology allows specialists to study, understand, and diagnose certain conditions.

Reviewing Abnormal Psychology

It's critical to understand what the term "abnormal" means in the context of psychology. Abnormal does not necessarily mean "bad." At its core, abnormality means deviating from the "norm" or what is conventional.

Unfortunately, in many cases, there are times where abnormalities do fall on the negative end of the spectrum. There are cases where certain individuals suffer from mental health issues, emotional disorders or various problems which deviate from the norm. There are a variety of approaches used in abnormal psychology. We're going to examine them in this article.

The Psychoanalytic Approach

The psychoanalytic approach of abnormal psychology emphasizes the roles which subconscious memories, thoughts, and urges wield on atypical conduct. In most cases, specialists who approach abnormal psychology from the psychoanalytic angle believe that studying subconscious memories, thoughts, and urges can help improve atypical behaviors. The psychoanalytic approach believes that looking into the feelings associated with the behaviors above makes a positive difference towards rehabilitation.

The Behavioral Approach

As the name suggests, the behavioral approach to abnormal psychology focuses on the specific conduct of the afflicted individual. The behavioral approach emphasizes positive reinforcement. Positive behavior patterns are important to override the adverse, atypical behaviors. The goal of this particular approach is stop the negative behavior by counteracting it with positive actions. The behavioral approach to abnormal psychology could face certain criticisms for not addressing the underlying motives beneath atypical behavior.

The Medical Approach


The medical approach to abnormal psychology focuses on genetic issues which could contribute to atypical behaviors. Sometimes, psychotherapy is issued as a form of treatment when this particular approach is taken; however, the medical angle of abnormal psychology emphasizes the role which biology, chemical imbalances, and even bodily illnesses can play on certain atypical behaviors. This particular approach is very critical because there are certain biological and genetic factors which can play a role in mental illnesses and other disorders.

The Cognitive Approach

The cognitive approach to abnormal psychology shares some similarities to the psychoanalytical approach. However, with the cognitive approach, internal reasoning, interpretations, and thoughts are highlighted. When undergoing cognitive treatment, patients are encouraged to alter their internal thoughts or their external reactions to certain occurrences in the real world. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an excellent form of treatment that can treat mood disorders, which fall under the category of abnormal psychology.

Reviewing Psychology Disorders


It's important to understand that there are a variety of psychological disorders. There are many factors which can impact the intensity of certain disorders; sometimes, people undergo traumatic experiences which cause certain psychological issues. A common example of this is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Genetics and biology play a role in one's psychological health. Just because you have a genetic history of mental illness, doesn't mean you're doomed to suffer. There are many elements which can impact whether or not certain illnesses or disorders are passed down. Many psychologists and mental health specialists are still studying and learning about the causes of mental illness.

There are a plethora of psychological disorders. Some examples of the applicable categories include:

  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders

Treatment for Psychological Disorders

The treatment and rehabilitation, administered for various psychological disorders, vary and depend upon a series of factors. One primarily important factor is simply the approach which the specialist takes to the existence of abnormal psychology. Some specialists believe that the medical approach is the way, while psychologists specialize in the psychoanalytic or the behavioral approach.

When dealing with abnormal psychology, there is no one-size-fits-all. Some approaches are more appropriate and fitting for certain disorders than others. The medical approach may work for individual patients, whereas a different patient may be rehabilitated from undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy. The specialist who is responsible for treating the afflicted patient has the responsibility of determining which approach is most appropriate. It takes years of study, credentials, and licenses before one can practice as a psychologist.

You're Not Alone

If you believe that you may have a psychological disorder, you are not alone. It's also critical to know that dealing with this issue does not make you less than others. However, working with a mental health specialist to be beneficial. No matter who you are or what your situation may be, a psychologist can be of great service to you and provide the proper care and guidance.


Overcoming the Stigma Surrounding Abnormal Psychology and Seeking Help

There's a stigma surrounding abnormal psychology, but we're working against it every day. Some individuals who have mental health issues were told to brush it off and get over it. It was extremely harmful malpractice, which did an astounding amount of harm. Thankfully, as the times have progressed, more and more people realize the immense value of studying abnormal psychology and the help which these studies can provide to afflicted individuals.

The stigma surrounding the decision to seek out psychological help is gradually going away, although it remains present in certain circles. Sometimes, individuals are led to believe that asking for help makes them weak or otherwise less than others. It is not true. Everyone goes through tough times regardless of how strong or independent, which they may seem on the outside.

There is never any shame in asking for help, meeting with a mental health professional to talk about your problems. No two people are exactly alike, nor will any two people precisely benefit from therapy.

Help is Available

We're lucky to live in a time where there are mental health services available to those who need them. BetterHelp is an excellent place to get mental health treatment. There are great psychologists, therapists, and mental health specialists who would be thrilled to work with you. Our top priority is providing the best care possible for your mental health.

Things may seem dark or challenging now, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. You can rise above anything and make a better life for yourself. As far as BetterHelp is concerned, we will always be there to provide the needed assistance and guidance.

Whenever you are ready to take that step and make the rest of your life the best of your life, you can do so with BetterHelp at any time by clicking here.

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