Introduction to Psychology/Abnormal Psychology
Abnormal psychology is the study of abnormal behavior in order to describe, predict, explain, and change abnormal patterns of functioning. Abnormal psychology studies the nature of psychopathology and its causes, and this knowledge is applied in clinical psychology to treating patients with psychological disorders.
There are a number of disorders and dysfunctions which are outside of the norm. Disorders and dysfunctions can be found within the Diagnostic classification system used by mental health professionals, called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), currently in the Fourth edition. The diagnostic classification system has its advantages and also has criticisms. However, it is used well enough to be considered a standard.
Problems of Anxiety and Mood
Problems of the Mind and Body
Problems of Psychosis and the Cognitive Function
One disorder that has attracted a great deal of attention is Autism or the Autism Spectrum of Disorders.
Autism spectrum disorders include five specific diagnostic categories: Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Rhett’s syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. These disorders have different criteria as found in the DSM IV, however, they fall under a spectrum of disorders that are developmental, usually presenting symptoms by the age of 3, with impairment in the following areas: 1) communication, 2) social functioning, and 3) restricted or repetitive interests, activities or stereotyped behavior.
Autism occurs in as many as 1 in 500 people with boys affected about 4 times as often as girls. It is the fastest growing category within special education. The causes are unknown, but it appears that there is a biological disorder in the form of abnormal brain development, structure and/or neurochemistry.
Most supported by research as effective are the use of early identification and interventions, specialized and individualized education, interventions with behavioral or applied behavior analysis approaches and other methods supported by well designed and peer reviewed research. Medications can be helpful for some symptom management, as well. Avoid basing your beliefs on celebrities with T.V. exposure, gurus and pundits with claims of miraculous cures or unconventional points of view who bypass the research peer review process or who fail to withstand it.
Some programs using behavioral approaches: *ABA, TEACCH, LEAP
Heward, W.L. (2006). Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education (8th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html (referencing the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders criteria)
This site is maintained by Dr. Stephen Barrett, MD, focusing on pseudoscience, unproven claims, and quackery.
Articles about scientific findings related to autism, including the following:
“ScienceDaily (Jun. 23, 2007) describes an interactive computer software program called FaceSay™ shown to improve the ability of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to recognize faces, facial expressions and emotions, according to the results of a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).”
“ScienceDaily (Mar. 5, 2008) — describes the use of "virtual peers" or animated life-sized children that simulate the behaviors and conversation of typically developing children to teach children with autism skills.”
“ScienceDaily (Apr. 4, 2007) — Emerging genetic research may help scientists recognize children with autism at a younger and potentially treatable age, according to an editorial in the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.”