One of the objectives of Abnormal Psychology was to help me understand abnormal behavior and different types of disorders. Undertaking this unit has given me the capability to apply the content acquired at a personal level and relate to the content covered in psychopathology. During the course, I have been exposed to different psychological perspectives and relevant treatment procedures. By taking this course, I have been empowered with knowledge and skills that will enable me to tackle mental disorders and abnormal behaviors in a more professional way than before. As a student, I have always had a general view that mentally ill patients are generally violent, unpredictable, and unbearable in all situations. At the beginning of the course, I felt anxious because what I feared most would come my way. During the course, through observation and active participation, the anxiety faded away as I felt more comfortable with encountering an individual with a disorder. I had always feared persons with disorders to the extent that on one occasion when I was in the hospital, I felt that one patient who was sniffing in her chair would smack or hit me.
Abnormal Psychology often involves the description, probable causes, and treatment of unusual behavior patterns exhibited by patients of different categories. Abnormal psychology leads to massive suffering to affected individuals because of social, emotional or cognitive defects. Strange behaviors may lead to the disruption of an individual’s functioning or action because of a psychological disorder. The definition of abnormal behavior has helped me to distinguish psychological disorders from other defects. Some of the features that can be used to classify abnormal behavior are social defiance, personal distress, unusualness, maladaptive behavior, and being dangerous. All of these traits need to be given close attention and diagnosis should be urgent. Abnormal behavior often leads to conflicts, tensed environment, unhappiness or discomfort to the individual’s way of life, and adversely affects others.
I also realized that behavior that may be considered normal in one region might be regarded as abnormal in other areas; hence, this implies that I must be confined to the cultures in different parts of the world and the patient’s culture. Therefore, I have to be cognizant of the different cultures to suit my course. Different cultures have different views on mental disorders and normality. Thus, culture is essential because it determines different ways that people approach solutions to an individual’s behavior. During the course, I learned how America and Sub-Saharan cultures approach mental disorders.
During the lessons, I was also exposed to different perspectives with regard to psychology and the approaches used to administer treatment. The different perspectives of psychology were well tackled in the bio-psychosocial model. The model can be classified as an integral model, and it gives an overview of abnormal behavior through interactions. The interactions can be biological, social, cultural, or even psychological. I believe this is the best model because it accounts for all of the factors responsible for mental illness. Another interesting model is the diathesis-stress model, which caught my attention. The model explains how individuals end up suffering mental disorders, which give two assumptions; that mental disorders are a result of life experience and genetics. The model was attractive because it helped me remember the teenage girl in my neighborhood who was sexually assaulted by her father with the knowledge of the mother. It made me understand and relate how psychological stress is a disorder. Another real-life scenario that I can relate to psychological stress is when a young woman attempted to commit suicide because of lack of support from the parents.
Technically, I had never known what drives people to make irrational decisions until I took this course. I learned that an individual who is genetically susceptible, even minimal stress from the surrounding could lead to a mental disorder in contrast to an individual who can withstand unbearable environmental stress and survive mental illness.
During the course, I also learned that mental illness leads to a disturbance in an individual’s thought, and may be a result of emotional experience. Mental illness tends to make life unbearable since an individual finds it impossible to maintain or sustain relationships or even a job. Mental illness also leads to demotivation of oneself in the day-to-day activities. In cases where there is no treatment administered, life can be very intolerable. From this course, I have learned how mental disorders can change one’s way of life and can lead to severe consequences. Cognitive behavior therapy is one the effective treatment that I discovered during the lessons because it applies behavioral principles of learning. I learned that the therapy is essential in realigning thoughts of an individual. Even though disorders results to hopelessness, the therapy has been approved and works effectively.
Through the course, I also discovered that depression is the most common type of mental illness in the world. Before I attended this course, I thought that depression would never be classified as an illness. However, I discovered that many people in the world have a high prevalence of depression than other common diseases and this has drastically changed my perception of depression. I have hardly encountered a person diagnosed with depression, and this makes me wonder the reason for the gap between what I learn in class and what I face in the real world.
To understand depression with greater insight, I have been evaluating what I perceived about depression and realized that I closely associated depression with sadness. I never knew it could be a kind of a disorder and I was clueless about it. Depression is a normal thing especially for people who encounter unfortunate events in their day-to-day lives. I have never come across anyone who has seen a doctor because of depression, and this makes me think it is because of ignorance. Majority of the people in my country have the same perception I used to have, that depression cannot be diagnosed. My opinion is that culture has in one way or another altered the way of life and many people are living a life full of misconceptions, which may significantly affect them. The worst thing is that many people do not know what to do even after discovering that they are depressed. I can perceive that under-diagnosis of depression is because of the public neglect medical treatment.
What intrigued me most in the coursework is the personality disorder. Before the class, the word “personality disorder” had never crossed my mind neither had I ever heard it being mentioned. I am now able to relate what I learned in class with what I have been seeing. Most of the times I wondered why a specific group of my friends had problems with emotional regulation, but after this class, I have understood what goes on behind the scenes. I discovered that almost 10 percent of the world’s population has a personality disorder. I also realized that people with personality disorders tend to respond to different situations with a lot of rigidity in the constellation of thoughts and behavior. What was more interesting was that personality disorders could be diagnosed. I realized that the common cause of personality disorder is drug and substance abuse.
I also learned that the diagnosis of personality disorder is usually very complicated because it may concur with other psychiatric categories of disorders. The criteria used in identifying persons with disorders are significant impairment for interpersonal functioning and self-identity, which may be consistent. There are effective treatments for personality disorders, which are transference-focused therapy, schema therapy, cognitive-behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and mentalization-based therapy. I also learned the psychological origin of personality disorders, which are explained in various psychological theories, which are object relations theory, cognitive behavior theory, and attachment theory.
During the coursework, I learned something unique about myself. I have acquired the basic skills of counseling, which have been spearheaded by the variety of cases I have come across. From the coursework, I am now able to identify potential problems, analyze them, and provide solutions basing on the concepts learned in class. The class has also helped to improve my interpersonal relationship with the people I thought would be harmful. I am proud that even before this course ends, I have helped many of my friends to find life meaningful and are living a normal life. I have learned that to support a recovery of people with disorders, it is important to understand the culture, which is embedded in the values and trust. Understanding abnormal behaviors and disorders have helped look at my past and realize the mistakes that people made including myself. The lessons have expanded my capability, and I believe I am not the same as when I began the course.