Abnormal psychology is one branch of psychology that analyses people who are “abnormal” or “atypical” in comparison to members of a given society (McLeod, 2018). According to Foley & Jr. (1935), abnormal psychology is strictly a scientific discipline that seeks to observe, compare and categorize the facts of abnormal behavior for the primary purpose of understanding them and thus not be confused with medical psychology, clinical psychology, mental hygiene, psychoanalysis or psychical research. It deals with psychopathology and abnormal behavior, which is usually in the clinical context and covers a wide range of disorders, ranging from depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to personality disorders (Cherry, 2018). In abnormal psychology, the focus is usually on the level of distress or disruption that the upsetting behavior is causing. When the behavior is having an impact in the person’s life or disruptive to other people, then certain type of mental health intervention may be required to handle this ‘abnormal’ behavior (Cherry, 2018). In the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition’ (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association states that though ‘no definition can capture all aspects of all disorders in the range contained in the DSM-5’, certain aspects are required and these include Dysfunction, Distress, Deviance and Dangerousness (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Thus, together the four Ds form the mental professionals definition of behaviors or feelings of being abnormal. They include what many of us mean when we say something is abnormal and at the same time avoiding some of the problems of using only the cultural relativism, unusualness, distress, and illness criteria. However, there is no clear line between normal and abnormal.
2. Characteristics of someone who is considered to be abnormal
The characteristics of someone who is considered to be abnormal clinically is when the ‘Four D’s” of abnormal psychology consisting of deviance, dysfunction, distress and danger are present. The ‘Four D’s’ is a valuable tool for all practitioners when assessing the reported traits, symptoms or conditions so as to illuminate the point at which these factors might represent a SDM IV-TR disorder (Davis, 2009). One of the challenges is the difficulty in determining what level a particular trait or problem becomes a clinical diagnosis. Deviance, the first ‘D’ is any behavior that is extremely unusual and bizarre and is usually departing from the cultural norms. Different cultures have different standards, norms and benchmarks for acceptable behaviors and it will be considered abnormal if the behavior deviates or differs from those norms. Apart from the formal classification schemes provided in the DSM IV-TR diagnostic criteria, other tests providing the norms for the general population can help determine the degree of deviation from the norm (Davis, 2009). Information derived from clinical interviews is also useful in determining the degree of deviation. According to Wilmhurst (2005), many disorders share common patterns of deviance and thus need to be scrutinized in a differential diagnostic mode. Deviance was the hallmark of the disorder through 302.2 Pedophilia, a DSM IV-TR diagnosis (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). According to Davis (2009), pedophilia is a precise paraphilia, a class of disorders characterized by repeated intense, sexually arousing fantasies, behaviors or urges existing. Pedophilia must be in existent over a minimum period of over 6 months and directed towards children 13 years old or younger, and the individual must be over 16 years old or 5 years older than the desired subject and these symptoms must present critical distress or impairment (Davis, 2009). Dysfunction is the second ‘D’ and is used to establish if there is evidence that is significant enough to have an impact on the individual’s life in some critical manner before it can be diagnosed as abnormal. Dysfunction disorder is characterized by minimum of two or more episodes of a major depression episode and where severity classification is being used, it shows that this episode has elevated to the extent that the individual’s occupational or social life has been affected (Davis, 2009). However, the interference must be expressed by the existence of a minimum number of the symptom classification as outlined in the criteria before it can be warranted as a diagnosis (Davis, 2009). When an individual is experiencing a depressed mood most days, this will definitely affect his or her relationship with others, lack of interest in activities of life, lack of sleep, lack of concentration for any period of time, neglecting personal hygiene and always on sick leave, which lead to dysfunction which will definitely interfere with his or her daily tasks at some point. When an individual is diagnosed with major depression, the individual will have experienced some dysfunction in almost every area of life as well as severe dysfunction in many areas (Davis, 2009). Distress, the third ‘D’ occurs when an individual experience a significant amount of dysfunction and very little distress and vice versa. It is related to dysfunction as an important way to evaluate perceptual dysfunction in an individual’s life (Davis, 2009). According to Wilmhurst (2005), the extent to which the issue distressed the individual is the most important component of distress and not the objective measure of the severity of the dysfunction. An example of distress is the diagnosis of hypochondriasis (American Psychiatric Association, 2000) and the fear of an individual’s preoccupation of having or the idea that one has a serious disease was the features of Hypochondriasis. Davis (2009) states that this fear was based on the misinterpretation of an individual’s bodily symptoms and the diagnosis is currently classified as somatoform disorder, and elements of anxiety disorder are also featured. Danger is the fourth ‘D’ and it encompasses two themes, danger to self as well as danger to others (Davis, 2009). In every diagnosis, there will definitely be an element of danger and a degree of the severity of the danger. According to Davis (2009), diagnostic tools categorize the nicotine dependence as a substance abuse disorder whereby tolerance and withdrawal elements are also featured and it can be a danger to others through the effects of second-hand smoke. The danger to self arises from the usage of the substance and diagnosis of depending on nicotine has shown that there are dangerous effects on health conditions related to it. Davis (2009) states that dangerous mental health effects are evidenced by the emotions and behaviors exhibited by people when nicotine is not available, limited or when they try to quit. Individual may also avoid activities or situations that have a negative impact on their lives because of the incapability to use the substance.