Psychologists are tasked with the responsibility of explaining human behavior. It is common phenomenon to experience people who suffer from abnormal mental disorders such as hysteria and schizophrenia (Durand, 2010). Appreciating that the disorders exist is not enough. It is important for all psychologists, students and the society to understand abnormal psychology.
This would be influential in addressing specific mental problems. Various models that explain the causes of abnormal psychology exist (Durand, 2010). This paper focuses on the historical perspectives of abnormal psychology.
Abnormal psychology is easily explained by use of three concepts namely; cultural and historical relativism, connection between mind and body and the principle of causality. It should be noted that abnormality is subject to cultural and historical dynamics. People have suffered from mental disorders since time immemorial.
Consequently, different society settings adopt varying strategies to cope with abnormal people. Primitive animism and spiritual theories assert that abnormal behavior is a form of animism (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Abnormal people are considered to possess an evil spirit that triggers mental disturbance.
In Ancient Greece, biological theories associated mental disorders with fluid imbalance. In view of this, four fluids namely blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow influenced human behavior. Black bile and yellow bile caused depression and anxiety respectively (Hansell & Damour, 2008). A proper balance among the four fluids was necessary. This would be achieved through dietary and behavioral changes.
The concept of the connection between mind and body appreciates the fact that the two components are inseparable in the understanding of abnormal psychology. The psychological and biological paradigms are vitally important in the understanding of mental disorders (Hansell & Damour, 2008).
Whereas some disorders may be attributed to psychological causes, others may require the attention of both psychological and biological causes. In view of this, separating the two is misleading and unacceptable in psychology.
The principle of causality asserts that though theoretical perspectives overlap, the results so obtained complement each other. In view of this, each perspective contributes to the understanding of abnormal behavior (Durand, 2010). The interaction of precipitating causes and predisposing causes is a practical example.
Whereas the former is the immediate trigger o an event, the latter is the underlying process that sets the stage for an event. Cases of alcoholism and schizophrenia require the understanding of both causes. The use of the diathesis-stress model is paramount in examining the interaction of these causes (Durand, 2010).
Several scientific perspectives have been proposed in the understanding of abnormal psychology. They include; biological, psychodynamic, humanistic, existential, behavioral, and cognitive perspectives. Biological perspectives are concerned with the abnormal biochemical functioning of the brain.
Genetic and environmental factors cause these abnormalities. Family pedigree studies and adoption studies aim at checking the likelihood of abnormal mental condition being transferred from one generation to the next (Hansell & Damour, 2008). In view of this, any biological treatment aims at improving the neurotransmission system.
Psychodynamic perspective is concerned with unconscious motives, thoughts, feelings and childhood experiences. Sigmund Freud developed the structural model of the human mind. He came up with three components namely; id (childhood desires), the superego (triggers choice between right and wrong) and ego (reconciles the id and the superego).
Psychodynamic therapies enable people to overcome their mental problems through mastery of conflicts (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Humanistic explanations emphasize on the need to restore self regard. Interpersonal connection, human freedom and personal choices for emotional well being are all important in the treatment of mental disorders. Person centered therapy is important in building self esteem and self actualization (Durand, 2010).
Existentialists associate emotional health with the ability to face facts in a responsible manner. People who fail to accept these facts end up developing emotional disorders (Durand, 2010). Consequently, they become inauthentic (untrue to themselves) and depressed.In view of this, treatment interventions aim at encouraging the clients to take responsibility in all instances.
Behavioral perspectives assert that behavior is learned. Normal or abnormal behavior is as a result of classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social modeling (Hansell & Damour, 2008). The conditionings are based on mental associations, reinforcement and punishment and imitation respectively.
Treatment interventions focus on eliminating maladaptive and abnormal behaviors. Conditioning and modeling techniques are often used. Cognitive perspectives are concerned with how beliefs and thoughts impact on human behavior. The latter is usually influenced by cognitive schemas (Hansell & Damour, 2008).
In view of this, people respond differently to circumstances. For instance, a person who ails an exam may get the compulsion to work harder. On the contrary, another person may be depressed. Realistic and constructive thinking is necessary for treatment of abnormal mental condition.
In conclusion, it is worthwhile to note that abnormal psychology is common phenomenon. In addition, it cannot be understood using one perspective. The adoption of the three concepts; cultural and historical relativism, connection between mind and body and the principle of causality are necessary.
Historical relativism proposes the animism and spiritual theories. The connection between mind and body emphasizes on the need to incorporate both psychological and biological paradigms in the understanding of abnormal psychology.
The principle of causality focuses on appreciating the diversity and complementary advantage that different perspectives have. Several scientific perspectives explain the causes of abnormal mental conditions. They are; biological, psychodynamic, humanistic, existential, behavioral and cognitive perspectives.
Durand, V. (2010). Essentials of Abnormal Psychology. Wadsworth/Cengage Learning
Hansell, J. & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal Psychology. John Wiley & Sons Inc.