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Historical Perspective of Abnormal Psychology Essay


There is a thin line between abnormal behavior and normal behavior. For instance, to some people, your behavior might seem arkward but to you, it seems okay. The field of abnormal psychology is therefore concerened with the study of abnormal behavior. The essay shall endevor to explore the origins of abnormal psychology and how it has evolved over time into a scientific discipline. In addition, the essay shall also examine the various theories associated with abnormal psychology.

Origins of Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology has been in existence for more than 3000 years. One of the ways through which this phenomenon has been rationalized is via the spiritual approach. In the early days, most of the believers would come up with theories and assumptions of how the spiritual realm would affect their physical and mental wellbeing, as well as their perception of the world around them (Damour & Hansell, 2008).

There is ample evidence that even in these early days, beleiver excercised psychopathology. As early as 3000 BC, physicians would drill holes through patients’ skulls in what was belevied to be an attempt to release evil spirits (Shieff, Smith & Wadley, 1997).

Hippocrates developed a theory that sought to explain abnormal human behavior as purely biological in nature. According to Hippocrates, the four human fluids namely, phlegm, blood, black bile and yellow operated out of sync with each other. He further stated that mental illness was as a result of the four fluids being out of balance (Damour & Hansell, 2008). With time, however, science proved that these observations were far from the truth.

Even though Hippocrates’ scientific reasoning was unsound, it represented an area of growth in scientific evolution, especialy in the analysis of abnormal behavior. Thanks to Hippocrates’ reasoning, psychopathology foundations of science were developed in a bid to better understand abnormal behavior (Damour & Hansell, 2008).

The challenge that lies in the definition and classification of abnormal psychology is the issue of culture given that our cultural diversity differs. As such, we are likely to lok at various issues differently largely due to this cultural diversity. Consequenlty, it becomes hard to develop a standard classification of abnormal psychology.

Overview of abnormal psychology

The Greeks were the first people to correctly diagose hysteria. They also went ahead to prescribe treatment for this mental condition. Those diagnosed with hystreia exhibited its symptoms over time, and most of them were women. It was never revealed why women were affected the most, and not men. Most of the hysteria patients exhibited signs of paralysis, loss of sensation, and confusion (Damour & Hansell, 2008).

In 1896, Freud proposed the use of systematic theory as a way of accounting for psychological hysterical components over time. One of the ideas that Freud put forth is that hysteria developed due to conflict between both the conscious and the subconscious mind. Even though this point of view has a scientific basis and is objective in nature, there is still no evidence to support the theory. It was only after Wilhelm Wundt developed the laboratory that most scientific clarifications were conducted (Damour & Hansell, 2008).

It was not until 1952 that Stanley Hall developed the first diagnostic manual for mental disorders. This manual enabled physicians to conduct various diagnostics for various mental illnesses. In 1892, the first clinic for abnormal psychology was opened at the University of Pennsylvania (Masterpasqua, 2009).

Analysis of abnormal psychology theories

The biological model of abnormal psychology is quite popular due to the nature of biochemical execution found in the brain. The psychological actions of a human body are deemed to relate to psychology in regards to a physical injury, hormones, genetics and hormonal imbalances (Osborne, Lafuze & Perkins, 2013).

Osborne et al. (2013) have further observed that the biological as well as the medical models of abnormal psychology entail a highly physical mechanism. Even though this model has been highly linked with the physical world, it is also influenced by the social nature of how abnormal behavior may arise.

The sociocultural model on the other hand is related and concerned with the way various conditions can result in abnormal behavior and how the behavior can be understood. Most of it is highly concerned with the nature of the social and cultural aspects of behavior and how they in turn influence behavior (Damourv & Hansell, 2008, p. 63).

The environment that one is exposed to may influence one’s future behavior. For example, criminal behavior might be the result of constant exposure to poverty and discrimination (Osborne et al., 2013). It is further noted that the environment of an individual also influences their mode of learning (Aziz, Bellack and Rosenfarb 2006).


Abnormal psychology is a discipline that has been in existence for centuries. Before people started looking at abnormal psychology as a discipline in a scientific way, they rationalized it from the spiritual perspective. Over the years, however, the field has evolved greatly with various scientists coming forth with diagnostic mechanisms and treatment measures using the DSM manual as a diagnostic tool.

Reference List

Aziz, N., Bellack, A. S., & Rosenfarb, I. S., (2006). A sociocultural stress, appraisal, and coping model of subjective burden and family attitudes toward patients with schizophrenia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115(1), 157-165.

Damour, L., & Hansell, J., (2008). Abnormal psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Masterpasqua, F. (2009). Psychology and epigenetics. Review of General Psychology, 13(3),194-201.

Osborne, R.E., Lafuze, J., & Perkins, D. (2013). Case Analyses for Abnormal Psychology: Learning to Look Byond the Symptoms. Hove, United Kingdom: Psychology Press.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Historical Perspective of Abnormal Psychology." November 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/historical-perspective-of-abnormal-psychology/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Historical Perspective of Abnormal Psychology'. 29 November.

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