Evolution of Abnormal Psychology From the 1800's Essay

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  • Subject: Psychology
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #38376738

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Evolution of Abnormal Psychology From the 1800's To The Present

The study and treatment of psychological dysfunction has evolved from early history until the present day. Prior to the 1800's, society believed deviant or abnormal behaviors were caused by supernatural forces or biological factors. Treatments for psychological problems prior to the 18th century included exorcisms and bloodletting. Early beliefs about the origins of emotional disturbances influenced public perceptions of mental illness and theories of abnormal psychology in the 19th century. Advances in medical science, and the use of scientific method influenced the research of theorists like Freud, and Pavlov and improved theoretical knowledge and treatments of mentally ill populations. Despite current mental health treatments and increased awareness of the etiology of psychological disturbance, people with mental disorders continue to experience difficulties including social stigma, hospitalization, homelessness, suicide, and incarceration (Barlow and Durand). A historical overview of the development of abnormal psychology from the 1800's until the present will be presented. In addition, the history of the mental health treatment will be explored.

Psychological disorders are prevalent throughout the world and in a variety of cultures. In America, 30% of the population is diagnosed with mental health disorders every year (Frank and Glied 20). The definition of a psychological disorder is a malfunction or atypical cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functions in human beings. A Mental disorder must also include a level of dysfunction which is severe enough to cause distress and impairment in social, occupational, and interpersonal relationships. The behavior must also occur at a level of frequency which is unusual according to cultural norms (Getzfeld 1-16). According to the American Psychiatric Association, abnormal psychological behavior or a mental disorder is defined in the following context:

In DSM IV each of the mental disorders is categorized as a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress (e.g. A painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability or loss of freedom. & #8230;.. Whatever its original cause, it must currently be considered a manifestation of a behavioral, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the individual. (American Psychiatric Association xxxi)

The study and treatment of mental disorders began in prehistoric times. Early man believed abnormal behaviors were caused by supernatural forces and spirit possession. Treatments for mental illness included de-possession, and trepanning; a surgical technique in which holes are cut into the skull to release evil spirits. There are archeological remains of ancient human skull which show evidence of trepanning (Getzfeld 1-16). Until recently, people with mental health diagnoses were perceived as being morally deficient, because their behavior was influenced by Satanic or supernatural forces.

Hippocrates and Galen, ancient Greek physicians, also influenced the development of abnormal psychology. Hippocrates believed the etiology of psychological dysfunction was biological. Based on theories developed by Hippocrates and Galen, people were classified as having the following temperaments; melancholic, sanguine, choleric, or phlegmatic. Hippocrates advised patients with psychological disorders to rest, eat nutritious foods, exercise, and avoid intoxicants. He believed mental abnormalities would diminish if the body was physically healthy (Barlow and Durand 1-26). The belief that psychological pathology has a biological basis continues to influence psychological theory.

Prior to the 1800's, because of societal beliefs that mental disorders were caused by moral deficiency and supernatural forces, mentally ill patients were incarcerated in mental hospitals or asylums. Mental patients were segregated from other members of society and had little contact with family or other community members. The conditions inside the hospitals were inhumane, and patients were beaten, tortured, starved, and often shackled. Medical treatment for people in mental asylums included blistering, whippings, electric shock, and drugs. Hospitals were founded for mentally ill patients in the late 1700's, in the United States, and modeled after European hospitals. In the 1800's, mental health treatment was reformed because of concerns the patients were being abused. Philip Pinel, a French physician, reformed mental health treatment in France, and his ideas were the basis for many modern psychosocial treatments. He advocated for the humane treatment of people with psychological disorders. Pinel proposed psychiatric patients should receive moral therapy. In addition, he believed mentally ill patients should be treated with kindness and dignity and have more opportunities to interact socially with the staff and community members. He suggested healthy relationships and increased social contact would improve the patient's psychiatric symptoms. Because of Pinel's influence and other crusaders, the American mental health system was also reformed. In the United States, proponents of the eugenics movement introduced legislation which committed people with mental illness to mental institutions (Barker 70-74). As a result of the abuses in the mental health system in the United States, reformers like Benjamin Rush, Dorothea Dix, and John P. Gray campaigned for the reformation of psychiatric care. Benjamin Rush, a Quaker, believed mentally ill patients could be cured if they were treated with a combination of manual labor, kindness, and religious discussion. John P. Gray also advocated for the humane treatment of mentally ill patients. He proposed the etiology of mental illness was due to physical causes. He believed abnormal psychological symptoms would diminish if physical health improved. Dorothea Dix, a former educator in the United States also crusaded for the reformation of the American mental health system. Dix informed the American public about the abuses in the American mental health system. She also campaigned for legislation to protect mentally ill Americans, and the establishment of mental hospitals in the United States. She founded the mental hygiene movement and advocated for the removal of psychologically disturbed patients from prisons and almshouses (Kemp 1-35).

In addition to humane psychosocial treatments for people with psychological dysfunction; other psychological theories and treatment modalities evolved due to the industrial revolution, and psychological theorists like Freud and Wundt. In the 1800's advances, in medicine, including the discovery of syphilis, led to a resurgence of the biological theory of psychology. The symptoms of syphilis include delusions and hallucinations, including paranoid delusions and delusions of grandeur. The discovery of the biological origin of syphilis reinforced the idea that some psychological disturbances were biologically based (Getzfeld).

In the 1800's, research conducted using the scientific method allowed psychologists to develop theories about human cognition and behavior. The first psychology laboratory was founded in the 1870's in Leipzig by Wilhelm Wundt. He was the first experimental psychologist and conducted experiments on the nature of consciousness. Many of Wundt's disciples developed theories of cognition, intelligence testing, and abnormal psychology (Barlow and Durand).

Anton Mesmer was another researcher in the 1800's whose discoveries influenced psychological theory, especially the work of Sigmund Freud. Mesmer discovered animal magnetism and used hypnotic suggestions to treat psychological illnesses. He cured his patients by giving them hypnotic suggestions during therapy sessions. His work led to the discovery of hypnosis and its use by theorists like Sigmund Freud and Joseph Breuer (Barlow and Durand 1-26).

In the late 19th and 20th century, theorists like Freud, Pavlov, and cognitive therapists radically changed theoried of abnormal psychology. In addition, influences from eastern philosophical traditions like Buddhism and yoga and humanist psychology also transformed theories of psychology and mental health treatment. Inspired by the work of Anton Mesmer, Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis. His theories proposed the existence of the id, ego, super-ego, and the unconscious. He believed there were two innate drives in human beings, which included sex and aggression. Psychological dysfunction existed because of child hood traumas and infantile impulses originating from the id which were repressed in the unconscious. A client may be fixated at a developmental stage due to child hood traumas, which may result in neurosis. Repressed unconscious neurosis and fantasies could be safely released causing abnormal psychological symptoms to subside. Psychological techniques and theories developed by Freud included dream analysis, free association, defense mechanisms, and the psychosexual stages of development. His theories resulted in the psychoanalytic movement, and influenced later psychodynamic theorists like Anna Freud, and object relations theorists like Melanie Klein. The psychodynamic theorists adopted the ideas of Sigmund Freud. They proposed our earliest relationships with our parents or primary care givers were the source of conflicts and tensions in our adult relationships. In addition, psychodynamic theorists postulated the innate drives in human beings included the need to form interpersonal relationships (Barlow and Durand).

In contrast to psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theories, Ivan Pavlov the founder of Behaviorism and his disciples developed alternative theories of psychology. Pavlov theorized human behavior was the result of conditioned and learned responses. He rejected Freud's theories of the unconscious and Wundt's theories on cognition. In his experiments, Pavlov employed pairs of stimuli, like meat powder and a bell, to produce a conditioned response, salivation, in a dog. Later, he removed the meat powder and invoked the same response in the dog using a bell. His experiments illustrated fundamental theories of learning and behavior. His ideas regarding classical conditioning are still used in psychological treatments and…

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