Abnormal psychology is the scientific study of people whose thoughts and behavior deviate from accepted norms to such an extent that participation in adapting to normal situations is compromised.
Abnormal psychology deals with behaviors that are considered negative or harmful, rather than abnormal in the sense that they simply deviate from the norms. For example, a person with an exceptionally high IQ would not fall under the domain of abnormal psychology like someone with an eating disorder.
Since most patients seek help for suffering and mental illness, psychiatrists and psychologists in clinical practice often focus on abnormal psychiatry , rather than their positive psychology counterpart , which works with a healthy mind and personal growth.
Abnormal psychology covers a variety of psychological disorders, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, cognitive disorders, developmental disorders and adjustment disorders. In clinical practice, psychologists and psychiatrists treat patients with disorders ranging from depression to bipolar disorder to severe phobias .
There are three basic therapy approaches used in clinical practice. They are as follows:
Cognitive: Cognitive therapy focuses on a person’s thought patterns and beliefs and how they contribute to mental illness. The cognitive therapist helps the patient to change his thinking to a healthier pattern.
Behavioral: The behavioral approach to abnormal psychology focuses on a person’s outward behavior. The goal is to reinforce positive behaviors and reduce harmful ones. This approach can be combined with cognitive therapy to deal with both thinking and behavior. This is called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) .
Medical: The medical approach deals with the biological cause of mental illness, such as a chemical imbalance or an infection. Patients are typically treated with medication.
Example: A university student relies heavily on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) when she studies abnormal psychology .