Life is complex and things do not always go smoothly. We are all troubled by major and minor tragedies. So why are some people, but not others, able to cope with life’s problems. What is abnormal behavior? Most of us would have a difficult time precisely specifying the differences between normal and abnormal behaviour. Some psychologists have argued that abnormal behaviour is culturally defined, and that behaviour that is considered evidence of a mental disorder in one culture, would be considered normal in another.
There may be some truth in this, but severe disorders such as schizophrenia occur in people of all cultures, regardless of their particular lifestyles. People whose behaviour differs widely and steadily from normal social requirements or social ‘norms’ are called abnormal. Societies differ in their requirements, an act that is normal in one place may be abnormal in another. There is no society that does not have some moral, ethical or criminal laws. In every society, consistent, serious and inappropriate disobedience is considered a sign of abnormality. How exactly do we distinguish normal from abnormal behaviour?
Abnormal behaviour is fairly easy to recognise but difficult to define precisely. Various psychologists have suggested the following four major criteria of abnormality, although no single criterion is completely satisfactory. *Abnormal as infrequent. *Abnormal as deviant. *Abnormal as maladaptive, and *Abnormal as personal distress. At some time all of us feel, think or act as disturbed people would much of the time. We too may be anxious, depressed, withdrawn or anti-social. Abnormal people share these characteristics with ‘normal’ people, but their experience is intensified and more enduring.
Most people would agree that someone who is too depressed to get out of bed for weeks at a time is suffering from a psychological disorder. But what about those who, having experienced a loss, are unable to resume their usual social activities? Where should we draw the line between normality and abnormality. In other words how should we define psychological disorders? Or equally important, how should we understand disorders as sicknesses that need to be diagnosed and cured, or as natural responses to a troubled environment.
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