Week 1 Lecture 1a History of Abnormality (Caff) Flashcards Preview

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Why is it important to be aware of the history of abnormal psychology?

  • History is important as it provides a context of the way in which modern day science has evolved
  • It is important to remember we are simply in a period of history that will also evolve as we acquire greater knowledge

What were the main beliefs about mental illness held in the Stone Age & which were the subsequent treatments for those deemed to have a mental disorder?

  • That mental illness is the result of possession by evil spirits or displeased gods
  • Treatment might be exorcism or trephination
  • Trephination involved creating a rather sizeable hole in the skull of the individual with a view to allowing the evil spirit to escape

In 400BC along came Hippocrates. What were his main beliefs and how did these influence treatment of mental illness at the time and currently?


*Hippocrates believed mental illness has physical causes
*Healthy behaviours are due to a balance of the 4 humors & mental illness was due to an imbalance
*Hippocrates separated medicine from religion and spiritual beliefs
Hippocrates named 3 mental illnesses: Mania. melancholia, & phrenitis
*Major influence today:
-behaviour is affected by bodily function
-abnormal behaviour is caused by a chemical imbalance


In the Middle Ages (200AD-1400’s) what were the main influences on beliefs & treatment of mental disorders?

  • The church took over control of treatment of those with mental health issues
  • Clergy & monks replaced physicians
  • Return to belief in supernatural causes of mental illness
  • Witch hunting occured: Malleus Maleficarum
  • Lunacy trials (England, 14th century) - crown would ‘protect’ mentally ill, & take control of their estates!!
  • Holy Trinity Hospital, Sailsbury (Asylum)

Asylums were introduced in Europe in 1400’s, (although there were asylums in Bagdad much earlier in 700’s AD). What are the main characteristics and changes that took place within asylums?

  • Asylums were originally leprosariums, & were converted after the crusades
  • St Mary’s of Bethlehem (AKA Bedlam) in London (founded 1243) is most well known
  • People were kept in deplorable conditions: little food, blood letting, low patient care, spread of disease
  • Asylums were reformed by Pinel (or Pussin, a former patient), and improved situations for the wealthy (in the 1700 - 1800’s)
  • Dorothy Dix further improved the moral treatment of patients in the 1800’s

Despite the poor conditions in asylums, what was the important philosophy that informed today’s practices?

  • Asylums attempted to identify the causes of mental illness and found approximately 50% of the causes to be biological
  • This led to a strong return to the philosophy of psychological & biological causes of mental health issues in the 19th & 20th centuries
  • This then allowed a return to scientific causes of mental health issues, as Galen held prior to the Middle Ages

How did Louis Pasteur’s development of the germ theory of disease dramatically support the biological approach to the causes and treatment of mental health issues?


The development of germ theory is:
*in late 1700’s general paresis was identified (cognitive problems & muscle weakness)
*in mid 1800’s syphilis was identified
*germ theory developed in 1860-1870
*in 1905 the micro-organism that causes syphilis was discovered
*together this led to the knowledge that what is true for syphilis can be true for other illnesses:
infection can led to brain pathology, which is turn can led to psychopathology


How did the Biological theory & approach to mental illness develop beyond germ theory?

  • Francis Galton identified that some mental illnesses ran in families
  • Unfortunate consequences include: eugenics & the holocaust; US state law preventing marriage & forcing sterilisation on people with mental health issues; very recent in our history (only ended mid 20th century)

What other treatments developed on the basis of the biological approach, and are they still used today?

  • ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) also developed to treat schizophrenia & depression - still used to treat severe depression that is not responsive to other treatments
  • frontal lobotomy: famously Walter Freeman performed 2,500 lobotomies, without always having severe symptomology
  • Howard Dully was 12 when lobotomised for seemingly being a slightly disruptive child (wrote a memoir about it)

What does psychological practice today draw from biological approaches to mental illness?

  • Psychology takes a largely biological approach to the causes of psychological disorders
  • It is well known that disorders arise as a result of inherited propensities
  • There is a large drive in knowledge due to technological advances
  • When it comes to genetics we now know that
  • genotype: is the genetic make up of the individual
  • phenotype is the physical characteristics & behavioural traits of an individual which arises as a result of the interactions between our genes and our environment

Give a brief history of the development of the psychological approaches to mental disorders between 1700 - the early 1900’s

  • late 1700’s-early 1800’s: Mesmer & Charcot: treatment of hysteria by magnetism
  • mid 1800’s-early 1900’s: Breuer’s work with Anna O led to the cathartic method - influenced Freud

Give a brief history of the development of the psychological approaches to mental disorders in the mid 1900’s

  • Freud developed psychoanalysis: how unconscious thoughts shape our behaviour; the better we understand it, the better we can treat this unconscious behaviour
  • Carl Jung developed the concept of the collective unconscious
  • Alfred Adler developed the notion of ‘individual psychology’ which holds that the individual cannot be taken alone, but must be understood in the context of the group and their environment

What do modern day psychologists take from the psychological approach to mental illness?

  • our childhood experiences shape adult personality
  • our unconscious influences our behaviour
  • the cause and purpose of human behaviour are not always obvious

What other influences have there been on the modern view of psychological illness?

  • in the mid 1900’s Behaviourism developed
  • in the late 1900’s & early 2000’s cognitive approaches developed
  • We know have a great number of cognitive behavioural treatment approaches including cognitive behavioural therapy

Give the history of the treatment of mental illness in a snapshot


s - ECT, lobotomy
lithium discovered in 1949 start of psycho-pharmacological approaches
Modern day - medication, psychotherapy


Provide the 5 key points Clare wanted us to take from this lecture :-)

  • early theories viewed mental illness as occupation by evil spirits
  • while mental illness was attributed to biological origins by 500BC, the rise of the church led to a decline in somatogenetic theories
  • By mid 1800’s biological origins of mental illness reformed after observation of those in Bedlam
  • This led to a series of neglectful treatment options BUT also paved the way for modern practices
  • Advances in Technology & science, particularly knowledge of psychogenetic theory, have shaped modern day thinking of mental illness

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