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A Brief Lecture on Introduction to Abnormal Psychology by Dr. Brouk


Introduction to Abnormal Psychology and Life

Perspectives on Abnormal Psycholog

Risk and Prevention of Psychological Disorders

Diagnosis and Assessment of Psychological Disorders

Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive, and Trauma-Related Disorders

Somatic Symptom and Dissociative Disorders

Depressive and Bipolar Disorders

Eating Disorders

Substance-Related Disorders

Personality Disorders

Sexual Dysfunctions

Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders

Developmental and Disruptive Behavior Disorders

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What Is a Psychological Disorder or a Mental Disorder?

A mental disorder or a psychological disorder indicates abnormality in thoughts, emotions and behavior. Individuals diagnosed with a mental disorder experience unhealthy thoughts, emotions and behavior, suffer from stress and have difficulty adapting to change.

What Is Abnormal?

Abnormality can occur in cognitions (the activities of our minds such as thinking, interpretation, judgment, etc.), emotions (the way we feel), and behavior (the way we act) over a specific period. Generally speaking, abnormality takes place when our thinking, emotions and behavior:

  • Are unhealthy and maladaptive (harmful and inability to adapt to change)
  • Interfere with our daily functioning and responsibilities
  • Are culturally atypical (unusual and uncommon) or go against the social norm (socially unacceptable)
  • Cause us or the people around us distress or discomfort
What Is Abnormal Psychology?

Abnormal Psychology is the scientific study of disturbances in thoughts, emotions and behavior.

What Is the Stigma Associated with Mental Illness?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, stigma is “a mark or token of infamy, disgrace, or reproach.”

When we stigmatize someone diagnosed with a psychological disorder, we subsequently brand or characterize them as shameful and deserving of disrespect.
The stigma associated with psychological disorders is caused by myths, misinformation, and fear.

Common Myths and Misperception

Myth #1: Psychological disorders only affect certain people (the poor and the uneducated) and not people like me or my family.
The fact is that psychological difficulties have no boundaries. They affect everyone regardless of age, gender, education, economics, religion, and ethnicity.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM), about 57.7 million Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. Many successful leaders, athletes and artists have had a history of mental illness. For instance, did you know that:

  • Our beloved sixteenth President Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression and suicidal ideation.
  • Lionel Aldridge, a defensive end for Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers of the 1960s who played in two Super Bowls, experienced paranoid schizophrenia.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (composer), Vincent Van Gogh (artist), Isaac Newton (scientist), and Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of Great Britain) all experienced Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as manic-depression).

Myth #2: People with psychological difficulties are dangerous and violent.
Fact: The media’s portrayal of people with psychological difficulties is often inaccurate. When reporting crime or mass shooting, the media stresses the history of mental illness. But statistically, individuals diagnosed with mental illness are no more likely to commit a violent act than are people who do not have a mental illness. Unfortunately, they are often harmful to themselves. In the United States, there are twice as many suicides as homicides.

Myth #3: Psychological difficulties are long-term and incurable.
Fact: Most psychological difficulties if treated are temporary, and people will return to their satisfying and productive lives. In a few disorders such as bipolar disorders and schizophrenia, the affected individual may need ongoing care and treatment.

Myth #4: People with psychological difficulties are weak and irresponsible.
Fact: Psychological difficulties are not indicative of character flaws, weakness or laziness. They are legitimate conditions caused by the interaction of our biology and life experiences.

For those touched by mental illness, the consequences of such myths can be worse than the illness itself. They may try to pretend nothing is wrong, and refuse to seek treatment to avoid negative attitudes, disparaging remarks, work problems and discrimination.

A survey showed that many people would rather tell potential employers that they have committed a petty crime and served time in jail, than to admit to being in a psychiatric hospital.

Some mental health professionals believe that the stigma of psychological disorders is the greatest obstacle to recovery. They assert that stigma leads to discrimination and discourages individuals and their families from receiving the help they need and deserve. In many cases, stigma also discourages prevention of psychological disorders.

How Can We Diminish Stigma?
  • Focus on promoting mental health and prevention of mental illness.
  • Educate the public and the media.
  • Encourage seeking treatment, support and advocacy.
  • Emphasize abilities, not limitations.
  • Normalize the topic of mental illness through open and honest discussion.
  • Increase involvement with individuals affected by mental illness, mental health-related activities and causes.

Stigma and Mental Illness by CDC

Stigma has been defined as an attribute that is deeply discrediting.1 This stigmatized trait sets the bearer apart from the rest of society, bringing with it feelings of shame and isolation. Often, when a person with a stigmatized trait is unable to perform an action because of the condition, other people view the person as the problem rather than viewing the condition as the problem.2 More recent definitions of stigma focus on the results of stigma—the prejudice, avoidance, rejection and discrimination directed at people believed to have an illness, disorder or other trait perceived to be undesirable.3 Stigma causes needless suffering, potentially causing a person to deny symptoms, delay treatment and refrain from daily activities. Stigma can exclude people from access to housing, employment, insurance, and appropriate medical care. Thus, stigma can interfere with prevention efforts, and examining and combating stigma is a public health priority.4

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the CDC have examined public attitudes toward mental illness in two surveys.4 In the 2006 HealthStyles survey, only one-quarter of young adults between the ages of 18–24 believed that a person with mental illness can eventually recover (HealthStyles survey [228.5 KB]). In 2007, adults in 37 states and territories were surveyed about their attitudes toward mental illness, using the 2007 Behaviorial Risk Factor Surveillance System Mental Illness and Stigma module. This study found that

  • 78% of adults with mental health symptoms and 89% of adults without such symptoms agreed that treatment can help persons with mental illness lead normal lives.5
  • 57% of adults without mental health symptoms believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness.5
  • Only 25% of adults with mental health symptoms believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness.5

These findings highlight both the need to educate the public about how to support persons with mental illness and the need to reduce barriers for those seeking or receiving treatment for mental illness.

Source: Attitudes Toward Mental Illness—35 States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, 2007

SAMHSA's Resource Center to Promote Acceptance, Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with Mental Health (ADS Center)

Learn more details on Stigma at SAMHSA or Carter Center.


  1. Goffman, E. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1963.
  2. Braithwaite, D. O. “Isn’t it great that people like you get out?”: The process of adjusting to disability. In E. B. Ray (Ed.) Case Studies in Health Communication (pp. 149-160). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates;1993.
  3. Link BG, Phelan JC. Conceptualizing Stigma. Annu Rev Sociol 2001;27:363–85.
  4. CDC. Attitudes Toward Mental Illness—35 States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, 2007. MMWR 2010;59(20);619–625. Available at
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An Example of a Campaign

The following is a public awareness campaign to reduce the stigma connected to mental illness. Furthermore, we hope that it will promote recovery and it will inspire the community and those affected by mental illness to take action towards mental well-being.

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Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator

Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator By entering your zip code at, you can quickly find alcohol and drug abuse treatment or mental health treatment facilities in your area. This service is courtesy of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which works to "to improve the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, alcohol and drug addiction treatment, and mental health services." (SAMHSA)

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