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Historical Perspective of Abnormal Psychology Essay Sample

Historical Perspective of Abnormal Psychology Pages
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Although humans have attempted to understand their own behavior since the beginning of time, it wasn’t until the latter part of the 19th century that academics attempted the creation of a new field of science called abnormal psychology. Origins

“In 1879 the first psychological laboratory was set up by Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzip Germany, which set the stage for the scientific elucidation of the causes of psychological dysfunction. In 1892 the American Psychological Associate (APA) was put together by G. Stanley Hall, and in 1952 released the first diagnostic manual for mental disorders (DSM-I)” (Anthony & Goldstein, 1988). “As a scientific discipline abnormal psychology has existed for a little more than 100 years. Over the period of 100 years the core concepts have and still are the central ideas for abnormal psychology. To understand these concepts we go back to the beginning when the ancient Greeks first tried to diagnose and prescribe a course of treatment for hysteria, now called conversion disorder.

The symptoms of hysteria include paralysis, confusion, various pains and ailments, and loss of sensation. These symptoms usually follow neurological damage, but in the case of hysteria no neurological damage could be found to account for the physical symptoms. Since hysteria was observed in mostly females and the affected parts of the body changed over time, the Greek physicians hypothesized that the uterus moved around the body, thereby causing the blockage of fluids. It was not until 1896 in Vienna that Sigmund Freud first proposed a systematic theory of psychodynamics that could account for the psychological components of hysteria” (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

“Abnormal psychology has a somewhat different history combining French, American, and other sources. Theodule-Armand Ribot (1839-1916) was among the first to communicate to French colleagues the new psychological research going on in Germany and England. He is also the most likely candidate to be considered the founder of the field of abnormal psychology” (Routh, 2010). “The importance of context in defining and understanding abnormality is the continuum between normal and abnormal behavior, cultural and historical relativism in defining and classifying abnormality, the advantages and limitations of diagnosis, the principle of multiple causality, and the connection between mind and body” (Hansell & Damour, 2008). “Five Commonly Used Criteria for Defining Abnormality also known as (Acronym: HIDES) are Help seeking, Irrationality/Dangerousness, Deviance, Emotional distress, and Significant impairment” (Hansell & Damour, 2008). The brain regulates and controls the physical and psychological functions of the human beings. Many psychological disorders are directly related to chemical and hormonal imbalances. “Freud’s psychodynamic theory is predominantly based on case histories of patients who displayed abnormal behavior. Freud was totally right: most forms of abnormal behavior originate in childhood” (Muris, 2006). Psychosocial

The four zones that represented the psychosocial model detachment, decline and denial, maximizing coping, and distress. Erikson developed the psychosocial theory that has the main element of ego identity is developed through social interactions. An individual’s ego is constantly changing based on his or her social interactions. Erikson’s theory has eight stages the first is trust versus mistrust, the second is autonomy versus shame and doubt, third is initiative versus guilt, fourth is industry versus inferiority, fifth is identity versus confusion, sixth is intimacy versus isolation, seventh is generativity versus stagnation, and the eighth is integrity versus despair (Studer, 2006). Each of these stages leads to an understanding of how the individual’s interactions if not developed in a normal manner can lead to an abnormal disorder. Biological/Medical

The second theoretical model is the biological/medical model this involves the bio-chemical functioning of the brain and the physiological happenings of the body and how they relate to abnormal psychology. Some of the causes are genetic abnormalities, physical injury, and neuro-chemical disturbances of the brain. Because the biological/medical model tends to deal exclusively with the physical parts of human psychology it attempts to explain abnormal psychology in purely material terms. Despite the recent prominence of the biological perspective within abnormal psychology, at present few biological tests are helpful in the assessment of mental disorders (Hansell, & Damour, 2008).

“The sociocultural model explains that social and cultural context define the terms by which abnormal behavior is understood. Sociocultural is the theoretical perspective that focuses on the influence of large social and cultural forces on individual functioning” (Hansell & Damour, 2008). The sociocultural theory adds causality and contest to the discussion of abnormal psychology. It addresses the issues of race, gender, and economic background in the diagnoses of abnormal behaviors.

The origins of Abnormal Psychology consist of a hodgepodge of theories and founders in multiple regions of the world. The combination of these differing schools of thought formed the basis for abnormal psychology and eventually became and recognized scientific discipline.


Goldstein, W. N. (1988). The Diagnosis of Depression and the DSMs. American Journal of
Psychotherapy, 42(2), 180. Retrieved September 5, 2012

Hansell, J. & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Retrieved September 5, 2012
Muris, P. (2006). Freud was right… about the origins of abnormal behavior. Journal of Child and
Family Studies, 15(1), 1-1-12. doi:10.1007/s10826-005-9006-9. Routh, D. K. (2010). How Abnormal Psychology and Clinical Psychology got their Link. Niwot, Colorado, US: APA Division 12, Society of Clinical Psychology. Retrieved September 4, 2012

Studer, J. R. (2006). Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages applied to supervision. Guidance & Counseling, 21(3), 168-173. Retrieved September 4, 2012, from Academic Search Complete Database

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