Awareness Health

Understanding Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal Psychology is a specialized branch of psychology, which is concerned with abnormal behavior and psychopathology in the clinical context. This branch covers a wide variety of disorders, like, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and much more. The professionals working in this field include clinical psychologist, psychotherapists and counsellors. The word abnormal has been the topic of various debates and discussion, as what can be considered as ‘normal’ and who can actually decide all this? The societal or cultural understanding of what is normal and what is abnormal can also vary over a period of time, and thus, it makes the process of defining this even more complex. 

What is Abnormal Psychology?

This field of psychology emphasizes the behavior, thoughts and emotions that can indicate a mental health concern. Psychologists in this branch aim to understand the distress level that might be caused by behavior, emotions and thoughts. If a certain behavior is causing issues in an individual’s life or raising concerns in life of others, then that behavior is considered as ‘abnormal’. It is in these circumstances when the individual is provided with interventions related to mental health.

There are varied clarifications of abnormal but the characterizing features can be understood as follows:

  • Abnormal behavior is infrequent in nature: In statistical understanding, abnormality in infrequent but that doesn’t only define this feature. There are times when some desirable or healthy behaviors happen in infrequent situations. Similarly, there are other uncommon behaviors that hold no responsibility for how the person acts and behaves. Thus, just because the behaviors or actions are rare and unusual, they cannot be described as abnormal.
  • Abnormal behavior builds distress: This kind of behavior may disrupt or trouble the individual or the people around them.
  • Abnormal behavior affects the functioning of the individual: Individuals who are portraying these behaviors can face a struggle in functioning normally in their various aspects of life, like, as their career, relationships, school, and personal life.
  • Abnormal behavior disturbs socially: It disregards the societal norms and makes it tougher for people to normally function in their social surroundings and maintain relations socially.


Classification Systems:

The major concerns in abnormal psychology are related to psychological disorders and its understanding, diagnosis, prevention, study and treatment. Psychological disorders can be understood as psychological or behavioral patterns of symptoms that influence several areas of functioning in a person’s life. There are two major classification systems: The diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by American Psychiatric Association (APA), and the International Classification of Disorders (ICD) is published by World Health Organization (WHO). In the Indian clinical setup, ICD classification of disorders is applied and in the education system, DSM classification is studied by students.

Some types of psychological disorders are as follows:


  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Mood Disorders
  • Neurocognitive Disorders
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Sexual Disorders
  • Substance Use Disorders


Critical Analysis:

The field of abnormal psychology also faces a lot of criticisms, from the usage of the word abnormal to considering this branch vulnerable to stigma, from diagnosing normal behavior as a pathology to overuse of medicines rather than a holistic approach. Even after all these debates and discussions, the field of abnormal psychology keeps on focusing on treatment, prevention, and recognition of maladaptive behavior, thoughts, and emotions. The mental health professionals in this branch serve to aim for a healthy life for everyone.


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