12: Defining Psychological Disorders
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The focus of the next two chapters is to many people the heart of psychology. This emphasis on abnormal psychology—the application of psychological science to understanding and treating mental disorders—is appropriate, as more psychologists are involved in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorder than in any other endeavor, and these are probably the most important tasks psychologists face. About 1 in every 4 Americans (or over 78 million people) are affected by a psychological disorder during any one year (Kessler, Chiu, Demler, & Walters, 2005), and at least a half billion people are affected worldwide. The impact of mental illness is particularly strong on people who are poorer, of lower socioeconomic class, and from disadvantaged ethnic groups. In this chapter our focus is on the disorders themselves. We will review the major psychological disorders and consider their causes and their impact on the people who suffer from them.
- 12.1: Psychological Disorder- What Makes a Behavior “Abnormal”?
- People with psychological disorders are often stigmatized by the people around them, resulting in shame and embarrassment, as well as prejudice and discrimination against them. Thus the understanding and treatment of psychological disorder has broad implications for the everyday life of many people.
- 12.2: Anxiety and Dissociative Disorders- Fearing the World Around Us
- Anxiety is an important and useful human emotion; it is associated with the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the physiological and behavioral responses that help protect us from danger. But too much anxiety can be debilitating, and every year millions of people suffer from anxiety disorders, which are psychological disturbances marked by irrational fears, often of everyday objects and situations.
- 12.3: Mood Disorders- Emotions as Illness
- The everyday variations in our feelings of happiness and sadness reflect our mood, which can be defined as the positive or negative feelings that are in the background of our everyday experiences. In most cases we are in a relatively good mood, and this positive mood has some positive consequences—it encourages us to do what needs to be done and to make the most of the situations we are in (Isen, 2003).
- 12.4: Schizophrenia- The Edge of Reality and Consciousness
- The term schizophrenia, which in Greek means “split mind,” was first used to describe a psychological disorder by Eugen Bleuler (1857–1939), a Swiss psychiatrist who was studying patients who had very severe thought disorders. Schizophrenia is a serious psychological disorder marked by delusions, hallucinations, loss of contact with reality, inappropriate affect, disorganized speech, social withdrawal, and deterioration of adaptive behavior.
- 12.5: Personality Disorders
- To this point in the chapter we have considered the psychological disorders that fall on Axis I of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) categorization system. In comparison to the Axis I disorders, which may frequently be severe and dysfunctional and are often brought on by stress, the disorders that fall on Axis II are longer-term disorders that are less likely to be severely incapacitating. Axis II consists primarily of personality disorders.
- 12.6: Somatoform, Factitious, and Sexual Disorders
- Although mood, anxiety, and personality disorders represent the most prevalent psychological disorders, there are other disorders that affect people. This complexity of symptoms and classifications helps make it clear how difficult it is to accurately and consistently diagnose and treat psychological disorders. In this section we will review three other disorders that are of interest to psychologists and that affect millions: somatoform disorder, factitious disorder, and sexual disorder.