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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Abnormal psychology is a sub-field within the area of Psychology which studies deviant human behavior. Deviant behavior refers to any salient behavior that detours from what is considered standard conduct within a specific community, culture, or society. 

The question of what makes conduct abnormal is analyzed under the paradigm of nature versus nurture. This ongoing debate aims to determine whether behavior is dictated by genetics (nature) or by the environment within which behavior is learned and acquired. Studies show that a combination of both factors is evident in all human conduct. 

Abnormal psychology is classified under the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) which is an inventory of all documented deviant behaviors to date. The classifications are:

  • Anxiety disorders - phobias, OCD, and behaviors involving fixations or fixed thinking patterns and extreme fears
  • Affective disorders- mainly disorders of mood such as depression, bipolar behavior
  • Dissociative disorders- severe personality disorders affecting decision making and endangering the individual
  • Adjustment disorders- trauma caused by a life-changing event
  • Eating disorders- caused by image or self-image distortion
  • Factitious disorders- fake, sham or made-up disorders that the patient believes to be true.
  • Impulse-control- caused by neurological conditions or badly-made connections during infancy.
  • Neurological disorders- genetically-prone or age-related diseases of the brain.