AP Psychology

Unit 12: Abnormal Behavior

In this portion of the course, students examine the nature of common challenges to adaptive functioning. This section emphasizes formal conventions that guide psychologists’ judgments about diagnosis and problem severity.

AP students in psychology should be able to do the following:

“I felt the need to clean my room at home in Indianapolis every Sunday and would spend four to five hours at it. I would take every book out of the bookcase, dust and put it back.... I couldn't stop.”

Marc, diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (from Summers, 1996)

“Whenever I get depressed it's because I've lost a sense of self. I can't find reasons to like myself. I think I'm ugly. I think no one likes me.”

Greta, diagnosed with depression (from Thorne, 1993, p. 21)

“Voices, like the roar of a crowd, came. I felt like Jesus; I was being crucified.”

Stuart, diagnosed with schizophrenia (from Emmons et al., 1997)

People are fascinated by the exceptional, the unusual, the abnormal. “The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so” observed Ralph Waldo Emerson, “but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and [unusual] people.”

Why such fascination with disturbed people? Even when we are well, do we see in them something of ourselves? At various moments, all of us feel, think, or act the way disturbed people do much of the time. We, too, get anxious, depressed, withdrawn, suspicious, or deluded, just less intensely and more briefly. No wonder studying psychological disorders sometimes evokes an eerie sense of self-recognition, one that illuminates our own personality. “To study the abnormal is the best way of understanding the normal,” proposed William James (1842-1910).

Another reason for our curiosity is that so many of us have felt, either personally or through friends or family, the bewilderment and pain of a psychological disorder that may bring unexplained physical symptoms, irrational fears, or a feeling that life is not worth living. Indeed, as members of the human family, most of us will at some point encounter a person with a psychological disorder.

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2010) reports that, worldwide, some 450 million people suffer from mental or behavioral disorders. These disorders account for 15.4 percent of the years of life lost due to death or disability – scoring slightly below cardiovascular conditions and slightly above cancer (Murray & Lopez, 1996). Rates and symptoms of psychological disorders vary by culture, but two terrible maladies appear more consistently worldwide: depression and schizophrenia.

 65Introduction to Psychological Disorders
 66Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
 67Mood Disorders
 69Other Disorders

PowerPoint: Chapter Slides 12 | Chapter Definitions 12
Study Guide 12 (and Answers 12)
Textbook (sort of an “e-book”)