An Overview Of Abnormal Psychology: Disorders And Treatments

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated September 20, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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

Diverse Treatments Are Available For Many Mental Illnesses

Abnormal psychology examines psychopathology and abnormal behavior. The term covers a range of disorders, which include mood disorders, personality disorders, and any type of behavior that deviates from what’s considered a “healthy” 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 when abnormalities do fall on the negative end of the spectrum. There are cases where certain individuals experience mental health issues, emotional disorders, or various problems that deviate from the norm. There are a variety of approaches used in abnormal psychology, which we will examine them in this article.

The Psychoanalytic Approach

The psychoanalytic approach of abnormal psychology emphasizes the roles that subconscious memories, thoughts, and urges wield on atypical conduct. In most cases, specialists who approach abnormal psychology from a 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 in 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 adverse, atypical behaviors. The goal of this particular approach is to eliminate 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 that 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 that biology, chemical imbalances, and even bodily illnesses can play on certain atypical behaviors. This particular approach is critical because there are certain biological and genetic factors that can play a role in mental illnesses and other disorders.

The Cognitive Approach

In the cognitive approach, internal reasoning, interpretations, and thoughts are emphasized. 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 (CBT) is an excellent form of treatment that can treat mood disorders that 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 that can impact the intensity of certain disorders; sometimes, people undergo traumatic experiences that cause certain psychological issues. A common example of this is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Genetics and biology play a role in one's psychological health. However, just because you have a genetic history of mental illness doesn't mean you're going to develop it. There are many elements that can impact whether or not certain illnesses or disorders are inherited or whether they manifest. 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 use disorders

  • Mood disorders

  • Personality disorders

  • Neurocognitive disorders

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Neurodevelopmental disorders

Treatment For Psychological Disorders

The treatment and rehabilitation administered for various psychological disorders varies and depends upon a series of factors. One important factor is simply the approach that the specialist takes. Some specialists believe that the medical approach is the best way, while other psychologists prioritize a psychoanalytic or behavioral approach. Many therapists will even combine approaches to address different facets of complex mental health conditions.

It is important to know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for treating mental health conditions. 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 by undergoing CBT. 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, also it is critical to know that experiencing this issue does not make you less than others. Working with a mental health specialist can 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.

Diverse Treatments Are Available For Many Mental Illnesses

There's a stigma surrounding abnormal psychology, and organizations like BetterHelp are working against it every day. Some individuals who have mental health issues are told to brush things off and get over it. That is an extremely harmful approach which has resulted in a significant amount of harm. As time has progressed, more and more people realize the immense value of studying abnormal psychology and the help that 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. That is not true. Everyone goes through tough times regardless of how strong or independent they may seem on the outside.

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

The Benefits Of Online Therapy

More and more people are gravitating toward online therapy, especially in areas where availability to in-person therapy services is limited. In many instances, online therapy is a more cost-effective option than face-to-face therapy. Additionally, online therapy platforms like BetterHelp enable the user to schedule appointments at convenient times and from preferred locations. All you need is a reliable internet connection. 

Many studies have been conducted regarding the efficacy of online therapy in treating a variety of mental health disorders, including substance use disorders, depression, PTSD, and anxiety. In one study involving nearly 100 patients experiencing post-traumatic stress reactions, researchers determined that internet-based therapy was effective in reducing PTSD severity along with co-morbid depression and anxiety. Participants, in general, reported high ratings of the therapeutic alliance with their therapists. In a separate literature review of studies using guided internet-based CBT as an intervention for anxiety disorders, researchers affirmed that iCBT is efficacious either as a complement or a replacement for face-to-face CBT.


We're fortunate to live in a time when mental health services are becoming significantly more convenient and affordable to those who need them. BetterHelp is an excellent place to get mental health treatment. There are empathetic psychologists, therapists, and mental health specialists who would be honored to work with you. Our top priority is providing the best care possible for your mental health.

Things may seem challenging now, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. You can rise above difficult circumstances and chart 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 by clicking here.

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