Abnormal psychology or pathopsychology is a branch of clinical psychology that studies unusual patterns of the conduct, thoughts, and emotions. Today, abnormal psychology is an intensively developing branch of psychology. It discovers, classifies, and describes all functions of mental disorders. Knowledge of all mental illnesses is very important for psychologists. It helps to find some abnormal features of, at first glance, normal personalities. Mental disorder or mental illness is the state of mind that differs from a normal one. Doctors try to return such patients a mental health while treating them. Furthermore, a lot of areas use the term “abnormal” in their own meanings. Conceptions about mental health as well as illness have been changing a lot of times. For instance, several years ago, such illness as social phobia was apprehended as a normal state of mind. Thus, sick people were simply considered to be shy. On the other hand, a century ago, homosexuality was treated very seriously. It was thought to be a serious disease.
According to the International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems (2010), “Sexual orientation by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder.” Thus, today, doctors use different tests in order to identify whether a person is sick or not.
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Today, scholars differentiate different types of mental illnesses such as paralysis, multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia etc.
According to the Mayo Clinic staff (2012), there are a lot of different symptoms that help to identify the mental illness, such as: “Feeling sad or down, confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate, excessive fears or worries, extreme mood changes of highs and lows, detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations, extreme feelings of guilt, alcohol or drug abuse, sex drive changes, excessive anger, hostility or violence, suicidal thinking etc.” Abnormal psychology includes three main branches: subnormal, supernormal, and paranormal. According to the CliffsNotes.com (2012), abnormal psychology has five main perspectives including medical, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, and social-cultural perspectives (CliffsNotes.com, 2012).
A good example of abnormal psychology is a “Fight Club” film, of 1999. It is a cult American movie directed by David Fincher. Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter played the main roles. Norton plays the unnamed narrator which is unhappy because of leading a miserable life in the post-industrial society. Together with a soap seller, Tyler Durden (played by Pitt), creates an underground organization called the “Fight Club.” The narrator often suffers from insomnia and is unable to distinguish dream from reality. Instead of prescribing medicine, a doctor offers him to play sports and attend a meeting of men suffering from testicular cancer. There he meets a girl with an abnormal way of thinking. She states that one can die at any moment, but the problem is that the moment never happens. Under Tyler’s leadership, the fighting club becomes the “defeat” project aiming at spreading vandalism all over the country. In the end, the narrator finally realizes that he and Tyler are the same person. He suffers from multiple personality disorder. He decides to take an advantage of it and fires in his mouth. As a result, the bullet shoots narrator’s cheek and he remains alive. Tyler falls dead, with an open wound in the head. Alter-ego, in the face of Tyler dies. The main protagonist gain consciousness and personality.
Today, there exist a lot of different misconceptions about this disorder. First of all, individuals that suffer from it cannot alter their behavior or lose memory while switching personalities. Very often such individuals may have two and more various personalities. These switching are called “altars”.
According to Parekh (2012), in the film, the main protagonist experiences the symptoms common for the multiple personality disorder including amnesia, lack of contact with own personal reality, alteration in perception, sexual problems, suicide attempts or self-injury, feeling impulsive and out of control etc. (Parekh, 2012).
The psychodynamic perspective is the best way to treat such individuals. It helps people suffering from DID to prevent deepening of the emotional crisis and improve their relations with other members of the society. Doctors should apply some methods that integrate traumatic memories with the person’s own resources. Furthermore, very often hypnosis is used to help a patient learn more about his/her personality states. It also helps to better control these states. American Psychiatric Pub (1986) claims: “Treatment was characterized by efforts to draw all the personalities into the therapy, according them equal respect, and paying diligent attention to the therapeutic alliance” (p. xvii).
In addition, many doctors use a medical perspective as an additional treatment of multiple personality disorder. Medications help to cope with some aggressive and violent emotions occurring with DID.
The behavioral perspective pays attention to some abnormal behavioral faults or ineffective learning. First of all, doctors would try to change the behavior of a person by teaching him/her how to be appropriate and adaptive.
The cognitive perspective presupposes the treatment that influences the patient’s thoughts and behaviors. It helps a patient to develop a new way of thinking and new values.
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One more way of treatment is a social-cultural approach. It presupposes finding a way out by analyzing family and friends of an ill person. Often, a person falls ill because of some conditions in the community or culture he/she lives in.
Thus, the abnormal psychology is a relatively new science that studies the abnormal processes in the person’s mind and body. Unfortunately, it often faces one problem, where is the verge of being normal and abnormal. Probably, in several years the way of behavior that today is considered abnormal would be appropriate and acceptable in the future society.