Approaches to Psychopathology
Psychological Approaches to Psychopathology
Variety of approaches which make assumptions about the cause of
• Biological – biological factors
• Cognitive – thought processes underlying the process
• Behavioural – learning experiences are critical in understanding
• Psychodynamic – early experience and unconscious processes are the
key influences on behaviour (normal and abnormal)
• To understand how the biological approach views mental disorders
• Biological Approach is also known as the Medical Model and/or
Somatic* Model* somatic = ‘of the body’
• Bio approach to psychopathology studies THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
BEHAVIOUR AND THE BODY’S VARIOUS PHYSIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS Most
important is the NERVOUS SYSTEM, esp.
• THE BRAIN, as this is the ‘processing centre’ controlling all complex
• In theory ALL BEHAVIOUR, AB/NORMAL CAN BE RELATED TO CHANGS
IN BRAIN ACTIVITY
Psychological disorders are physical illnesses
• When the same symptoms frequently occur together, they represent a
syndrome or disorder.
• The cause, or ‘etiology’ may be one or more of the following:
• Brain injury Infection Neurotransmitters Genetics
• Think BING !Brain injury – hitting the head might cause psychological disorders –
people who knock their heads might become ‘different people’ after wards Infection –
infections such as syphilis can cause mental disorder type symptoms...
• Neurotransmitters – too much or too little of a neurotransmitter might produce
• high levels of dopamine are linked to schizophrenia
• Faulty genes might cause some diseases that have psychological effects e.g.
Huntington’s disease leads to a wearing away of mental abilities
Brain injury - Remember Phineas Gage?
• Accidental Brain damage can lead to psychological disorders.
• After the accident, Phineas Gage was described as impulsive, disordered and
having a different personality Some months after the accident, probably in about
the middle of 1849.
• Phineas felt strong enough to resume work.
• But because his personality had changed so much, the contractors who had
employed him would not give him his place again.
• Before the accident he had been their most capable and efficient foreman, one
with a well-balanced mind, and who was looked on as a shrewd smart business
• He was now fitful, irreverent, and grossly profane, showing little
deference for his fellows.
• He was also impatient and inflexible, yet capricious and vacillating,
unable to settle on any of the plans he devised for future action.
• His friends said he was "No longer Gage “characterized by
irreverence or contempt for god or sacred principles or things;
irreligious (not devoted to holy or religious purposes); unconsecrated;
secular ( opposed to sacred), unholy; heathen; pagan: profane rites,
not initiated into religious rites or mysteries, as persons, common or
• A degeneration or malformation of brain cells can cause memory loss often present
in Alzheimer’s disease.
• Korsakoff’s syndrome occurs when Alcohol and drugs damage part of the brain
involved in memory.
• Korsakoff's syndrome is caused by lack of thiamine (vitamin B1), which affects the
brain and nervous system.
• Thiamine deficiency is often seen in people who consume excessive amounts of
• This is because:
• Many heavy drinkers have poor eating habits.
• Their nutrition is inadequate, and does not contain essential vitamins.
• Alcohol can inflame the stomach lining and impede the body's ability to absorb the key
vitamins it receives.
• The main symptom is memory loss - particularly of events arising after the onset of the
• Sometimes, memories of the more distant past can also be affected. Other
symptoms may include:
• difficulty in acquiring new information or learning new skills
• change in personality − at one extreme the person may show apathy (unconcern, lack of
emotional reaction), or at the other, talkative and repetitive behaviour
• lack of insight into the condition.
• Even a person with great gaps in their memory may believe that their memory is
• confabulation − inventing events to fill the gaps in memory. For example, a patient who
has been in hospital for several weeks may talk convincingly about having just visited his
auntie on the south coast earlier that day.
• This is more common in the early stages of the illness.
• Sometimes an infection can cause a direct impact on the brain or one
illness it causes can lead to a secondary illness that has psychological
• Example Syphilis bacterium causes a sexually transmitted disease known as
• It causes short-lived sores followed by general paresis - forgetfulness, mental
deterioration and delusions of grandeur and persecution.
• The influenza virus has been linked to schizophrenia.
• Brown et al (2004)found that 14% of schizophrenic cases may be linked to
the fetus being exposed to the ‘flu virus in the womb during the first
• Too much or too little of a particular neurotransmitter can lead to
• One of the factors involved in schizophrenia is an excessive amount of
• High levels of serotonin have been thought be involved in the manic state
of bi-polar depression.
• Neurotransmitters have been studied quite a bit in relation to psychology
and human behavior.
• What we have found is that several neurotransmitters play a role in the way
we behave, learn, the way we feel, and sleep. And, some play a role in
• The following are those neurotransmitters which play a significant role in our mental health.
• Dopamine – correlated with movement, attention, and learning
• Too much dopamine has been associated with schizophrenia, and too little is associated
with some forms of depression as well as the muscular rigidity and tremors found in
• Drugs like cocaine increase dopamine levels and can induce schizophrenia –like symptoms.
• Serotonin – plays a role in mood, sleep, appetite, and impulsive and aggressive behavior.
• Too little serotonin is associated with depression and some anxiety disorders, especially
• Some antidepressant medications increase the availability of serotonin at the receptor sites.
• GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid) – inhibits excitation and anxiety
• Too little GABA is associated with anxiety and anxiety disorders.
• Some anti-anxiety medication increases GABA at the receptor sites.
• Individuals may inherit a predisposition* to certain illnesses. These are carried on genes,
through DNA, which pass from one generation to the next*PREDISPOSITION = Increased
vulnerability to a particular disease based on genetic factors
• Every human has 46 chromosomes (DNA) divided into 23 pairs.
During reproduction, 23 chromosomes from mum and 23 chromosomes from dad are
combined to make an embryo.
• This is how we get our characteristics from both of our parents. If a disorder is caused
genetically then we would expect individuals who are closely related to be more likely to
• How do we measure this?
Concordance rate: measures how often two individuals who are closely related have the
• Research Twin Studies: Twins can be identical (monozygotic, MZ) or fraternal (dizygotic,
DZ). Monozygotic (MZ) twins have identical DNA
• McGuffin et al (1996)Studied twins where one of the pair already suffered from
• Assessed the co-twin and found…46% concordance rate for depression (MZ)20%
concordance rate for depression (DZ)