I. Literature Review:
A. Summary of how diagnoses and treatments for psychological disorders have developed
The diagnosis of psychological disorders still requires clinicians to use fallible subjective judgments exclusively rather than conduct objective biological tests on psychiatric patients. Most mental disorders are still diagnosed and treated through subjective judgments, save for Alzheimer’s disease, which has shown some promise of yielding some laboratory diagnostic methods. Most biological findings on psychiatric diagnosis have remained less test-worthy and underdeveloped because they still show large within-group variabilities as compared to their between-group variabilities. For this reason, most literature will still focus on descriptive psychiatry for many years in future. They have been historical challenges in developing confidence in descriptive psychiatry. In the first case in the 1970s, two public studies questioned the inaccuracy, and possible incredibility of psychiatric treatment after some psychiatrists from the US and Britain reached two opposing psychiatric conclusions over the mental health of the same patient.
The DSM-III standards developed in the 1980s defined some specific mental disorders and reliable psychiatric approaches for treatment – leading to a revolutionary development and the emergence of a new fully-fledged research area. In recent years, the concept of mental disorders continues to expand, with drug companies leading a market-driven campaign to sell psychiatric diagnoses that are based on some expensive drugs. The mental order concept has been growing over the years, leading to an emergence of new unintended consequences. Even though a mere 5% of the general world population lives with a severe mental disorder, some other 20% live with temporary and mild mental conditions that are indistinguishable from routine life problems but show placebo response.
B. Summary of how biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors contribute to the development of psychological disorders
Biological factors such as genetics, toxins, physical trauma, and infections can influence psychiatric illnesses. Some patients inherit genetic vulnerability that makes them susceptible to severe mental disorders. Suppose a monozygotic twin acquires schizophrenia, the co-twin develops a 60% probability of developing the same psychiatric disorder. The remaining 40% probability is an indicator that other extraneous factors influence the development of schizophrenia in the co-twin other than genetic inheritance.
Psychological factors such as persistent negative thoughts, emotional trauma, and lack of self-control may contribute to the development of psychological disorders. People with negative thinking are more likely to fall into depression than those who maintain a positive mindset. A person with genetic vulnerability may have exacerbated conditions of he is predisposed to negative psychological factors. A person with an attitude for high risk has higher chances of falling into depression and poor mental health when he runs into a problem.
Sociocultural factors such as culture, socioeconomic status, religion, varying belief systems, and expectations may contribute to the development of psychological disorders. A person who faces trouble in his marriage or loses his job may have a high risk of depression and other mental health disorders such as anorexia nervosa. A patient’s belief on whether his mental disorder had been caused by psychosocial factors or biological factors significantly affect their belief on the efficacy of the treatments given. Clinicians also hold varying viewpoints on the biological and non-biological causes of mental disorders. These beliefs create new implications for psychiatric patients by determining the specific treatments that will be given to the patient. In some cases, clinicians lay blame on psychiatric patients if they believe that the patient’s mental disorder is caused by psychological factors rather than biological ones.
C. Explanation of how the view of psychopathology has evolved over the history of abnormal psychology
The earliest practice of psychopathology dates back to the Stone Age when people cast out demons and evil spirits from others. With little knowledge at the time, the people believed that abnormal behavior could only be caused through possession by evil spirits. The possessed person could be tortured and sent on witch trials to rid the evil spirits. New perceptions about psychopathology started to develop in the 18th century. People started to perceive madness as an illness beyond one’s control as opposed to some demon possession.
Formal medical models of treatment started to emerge, with a new emphasis on the possible ways of diagnosing and treating different mental health problems. This study exposed the positive influence on psychology in determining one’s cognitions, emotions, behavior, and mental illness. Emil Kraepelin would then create a system for diagnosing different diseases using specific symptoms and treatment outcomes. The US federal government made the early steps to develop a system for classifying mental disorders back in 1840. Around this time, the US government also made significant progress in developing psychiatric nosology. The first category was ‘Idiocy’ with insanity. Some other categories like monomania, epilepsy, mania, dipsomania, melancholia, dementia, and paresis were added by 1840. The government would then create a new systematic nomenclature to define more specific treatment regimens to these psychopathologic categories. The psychiatric nosology would later be changed the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: Mental Diseases (DSM-1) after the widespread mental disorders among US veterans in World War 2.
In 1952, the DSM-1 with a purely psychological approach was published by the American Psychiatric Association to provide official nomenclature for diagnosing and treating psychopathology. In 1968, the DSM-2 was published as an improvement to DSM-1. It aligned DSM-1 with the terminology for the International Classification of Diseases that had been developed by the World Health Organization. Illness could now be reported officially after performing multiple diagnoses on a patient. DSM-3 would then be published in 1980. DSM-4 was published in 2000, with its improvement being developed in 2013.
D. Conclusions about Abnormal Psychology
Abnormal psychology is a research discipline that is less developed. It still uses descriptive models to perform diagnosis and offer treatment. Even though the current standards are a culmination of many decades of improvement, there is still an opportunity to improve the diagnostic criteria listed in DSM-V to achieve a better diagnosis, more specific clinical judgments, and effective therapies for psychiatric patients.
E. Describe the specific research designs used in the foundational research presented in the course used to address research questions. For example, what were the specific methods used to address the research question? What type of research design was used?
The foundational research presented for the course used a qualitative research design. The researcher used qualitative surveys and interviews to collect data from the participants. The researcher then conducted statistical analyses on the data to determine a conclusion for the research study.
F. Explain how research designs were used by authors to research in abnormal psychology. In other words, how did the research designs used by researchers help in researching abnormal psychology?
The sampling process for participants sought to exclude all participants who did not have any history of mental illness. The DSM-V diagnostic criteria were used to exclude participants who failed to meet the psychopathologic conditions described in the system.
G. Discuss how issues of ethics have been addressed in the foundational research presented in the course. For example, how did the authors inform the participants of what the experiment would entail? How did the authors account for any potential risks to participants associated with the study?
The researcher addressed several issues of ethics when conducting the research. For instance, he sought informed consent from the participant after explaining to them about the specific details of the intended research study. The participants were also told of their liberty to leave the study and withdraw any of their data at any point during the study. The researcher also took moral responsibility or protecting the study participants from any unnecessary psychological pain or physical injury beyond their ordinary daily experiences.
H. Discuss how issues of ethics in abnormal psychology have been viewed historically. In other words, how have issues of ethics in the field been viewed over time? Has this view changed as the field has progressed?
Ethics is a serious concern for researchers in abnormal psychology. These researchers also face the challenge of dealing with study participants who have reduced autonomy and inadequate capacity for decision-making. The researcher wields significant trust and authority from the caregivers of the mentally ill participants. He is expected to maintain this trust by acting in honesty and respect throughout the study. The researcher is supposed to protect the rights of the mentally ill participants.
Currently, psychopathology is diagnosed using subjective criteria that rely on observations of behavioral symptoms. These diagnostic criteria are frequently revised during new classifications. For this reason, there is a hazy distinction between abnormal and normal behavior among psychiatric patients. Two psychiatric patients may also show similar typical symptoms with varying degrees of severity. This variance may cause the two psychiatric patients to be placed under different diagnostic classifications. The clinicians may end up making the wrong diagnosis due to their exclusive reliance on symptomatology.
II. Research Design:
A. The identified gap in abnormal psychology research presented in the course that is unexplored or underdeveloped.
There is little past research in the potential contribution of childhood trauma towards severe psychopathologic disorders in adult life. This research gap exists because no researcher has done a comprehensive research psychoanalytic study that trails child participants from their early traumatic experiences until they become young adults. The researcher proposes a study to determine whether there is any causal link between traumatic experience in early-life and one’s likelihood to use psychotropic medications in later life.
The researcher will explore the possibility of a correlation between personal trauma in early childhood and the use of mind-altering medication and personal trauma. Many trauma victims in early childhood normally lack appropriate tools to manage the psychopathologic signs in their life. They only seek medication after attaining adulthood (Harley et al., 2009). This hypothetical study seeks to establish the strength of correlation between traumatic experiences in early childhood and the increased likelihood of using psychotropic medication during adulthood.
B. Develop a basic research question addressing the identified gap
This hypothetical study will seek to answer the following research question:
– Does early-life misfortune increase the likelihood of psychotropic medication use in later life?
C. The appropriate research design that addresses the research question regarding abnormal psychology, and an explanation of why it was chosen
The researcher will use a quantitative methodology to conduct the study. During the study, the researcher will recruit a large population sample to achieve highly representative study findings. The study sample will include a group of fifty adults, ranging from their mid-twenties to the early sixties. As part of the research design, the researcher will segment the participants into two categories (Kerr et al., 2009). The first category will be for those participants who faced trauma in their childhood and are currently using psychotropic medicine. The second category will include those participants who suffered trauma during their childhood but are presently not using psychotropic medications.
The researcher will give the participants some survey questions. The survey questions will be designed to capture the participants’ self-reports about their early traumatic experiences and their current use of psychotropic medications. The researcher will then collect the data and perform a regression analysis. The aim would be to establish any correlation between early traumatic experiences and the participants’ current use of psychotropic medications.
D. How the researcher will account for issues of ethics associated with the proposed research
In this hypothetical study, the researcher will bear the moral responsibility of protecting the research participants. The researcher will also uphold the right and dignity of the participants by ensuring that the study does not cause pain, physical discomfort, or psychological burden to the participants. The researcher will obtain informed consent from the participants by telling them about the intended research study, its intentions, and possible implications before asking them to participate in the study. In cases where informed consent is difficult to obtain, the researcher will ask a similar group of people to say whether they would be willing to participate in such a study. The researcher would then use their responses as presumptive consent.
E. How was the selected approach to accounting for issues of ethics informed by the researcher’s review of the research presented in the course?
The research presented in the course handled user data with confidentiality. There is still a lot of stigma directed at people with psychiatric disorders. For this reason, the researcher will pay keen attention to protect the identity of all the participants in this study. All the data obtained from the participants will be handled with the utmost confidentiality. The researcher will use anonymous identities when processing the study data obtained from the participants. The researcher will allow the participants to leave the study and withdraw their data at any time during the study or after completion.
Harley, M., Kelleher, I., Clarke, M., Lynch, F., Arseneault, L., Connor, D., . . . Cannon, M. (2009). Cannabis use and childhood trauma interact additively to increase the risk of psychotic symptoms in adolescence. Psychological Medicine,40(10), 1627-1634. doi:10.1017/s0033291709991966
Kerr, T., Stoltz, J., Marshall, B. D., Lai, C., Strathdee, S. A., & Wood, E. (2009). Childhood trauma and injection drug use among high-risk youth. Journal of Adolescent Health,45(3), 300-302. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.03.007