1: Definitions of Mental Illness
Deviation from Social Norms
Social norms are the unwritten rules of behaviour for a situation. If people break social norms, their
Behaviour is said to be deviant. This in turn could be a symptom of a mental illness. For example, schizophrenics often show inappropriate levels of emotion i.e. laughing at a death.
Y: We expect people to behave in a certain way. If they do not, this helps us to help them seek medical treatment.
X: Cultural Differences: What is considered abnormal in one culture may be normal in the other.
Also, people often regard the behaviour of white Western cultures as the norm, and anything else to be deviant.
X: Context: Whether or not behaviour is abnormal can depend on the context in which it takes place. X: Control: Some behaviour is labelled as abnormal in order to impose control. For example, people who go against the industrial work ethic in Japan are labelled as mentally ill.
X: Eccentric or Abnormal? Is a person’s behaviour simply eccentric or abnormal? Does it take place to the point where you could consider it to be a mental illness?
X: Abnormal or Criminal?: People who break the law are not seen to have a psychological disorder, but what normal person could commit crimes such as rape, murder etc?
X: Change With the Times: People’s view of what is abnormal has changed over time. For example, until 1967, homosexuality was a criminal offence.
Failure to Function Adequately
People with mental disorders often cannot cope with aspects of their daily lives, and so this needs to be taken into account when diagnosing someone with a mental disorder.
Y: This definition is the most humane, as the person them self decides if they seek medical help.
X: Not the Whole Picture: A person’s failure to function may not necessarily define if they are abnormal. Comer 2005 points out that a behaviour may be abnormal, but it may not affect a person’s ability to function.
X: Exceptions to the Rule: There are certain situations where this definition cannot be applied i.e. exam stress.
X: Cultural Issues: A person’s functioning may be effected by cultural issues. Cochrane and
Sasidharan 1995points out that high level of prejudice can lead to psychological disorder. X: Treatment: This definition states that anyone who experiences a failure to function should seek medical help, however, there is very little NHS provision for people with minor psychological disorders. Deviation from Ideal Mental Health
Put forward by Maria Johoda (1958), this definition defines abnormality in terms of the absence of six key characteristics that should be displayed by a mentally healthy person:
‐ Positive View of Self: People with a positive view of self should display characteristics such as a good level of self respect and self esteem. People who have a positive attitude to themselves have learned to live with their problems, and view themselves realistically and objectively. Johoda acknowledges that it is not always possible to retain a positive view of self due to factors such as being made to feel small/demoralised.
‐ Actualization of Potential: Abraham Maslow (1986) ‐ People have a potential which they strive to fulfil. Abnormality occurs when we are prevented from fulfilling this potential.
‐ Resistance to Stress: Have strategies that enable you to deal with stress well. Research has found that people with high levels of anxiety are more likely to develop psychological disorders.
‐ Personal Autonomy: Autonomous people are self sufficient, rely on their own resources and are not dependent on the behaviour others.
‐ An Accurate Perception of Reality: View things in real life contexts. Don’t be too optimistic/pessimistic or look at things through “tinted glasses”.
‐ Adapting and Mastering the Environment: Be competent in all areas of life and be able to adapt to change. People who are unable to