This area is concerned with the extent to which the psyche or behaviour might depart from specified limits of experience and function, perhaps in the same way as the body does when under the influence of a clearly identifiable physical disorder. A major challenge in this field: what are the criteria for the establishment of the limits of normalcy for the psyche and behaviour?
Abnormal Psychology is of interest primarily to the clinical psychologist. Generally speaking, just as bodily systems are considered pathological if their functioning should transgress vary narrow, and usually measurable physiological limits, so do psychologists of the abnormal often assume that the psyche or behaviour can be judged similarly.
However, abnormality in psychology is much more difficult to define than bodily diseases, because the limits to psychic and behavioural normalcy are indefinite and unstable due to their qualitative aspects and to the application of social norms not shared by the much more inelastic body systems.
Notwithstanding diagnostic problems, there is a growing attempt to use the methods of biological materialism to find genetic and biochemical bases for diagnoses, especially the more severe among them. On the treatment end, there is little doubt that drugs are the major means of ‘symptom’ control today; one does not normally speak of cure in this field. However, the other major approaches to psychology discussed above have their own perspective as well; their treatments are called psychotherapy, and some of them look forward to a complete restoration of health.
A few of the major diagnostic categories in this field are mental retardation, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depression), major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, personality disorders and psychopathy. A complete list of diagnoses, categorized and described, is found in the easily available Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (D.S.M.) used by Psychiatrists.
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