Mental disorders

The purpose of this essay is to discuss and evaluate different approaches that are used to find the cause and treat various mental disorders. There are five major approaches in Psychology, which are: The Behaviourist Approach, The Cognitive Approach, The Psychodynamic Approach, The Humanistic Approach and lastly The Biological Approach. Behaviourists believe that all behaviour is learned. The Cognitive Approach argues that abnormalities and disorders are due to faulty and irrational thinking.

The Psychodynamic Approach-Freud believed that our behaviour is determined by thoughts feelings and experiences that are present in the unconscious mind. The Humanistic Approach focuses on the individual. Finally The Biological Approach looks at factors such as faulty genes and the environment to explain mental disorders. All of the five approaches view abnormalities differently, and believe there are specific causes and treatments.

In this essay I will be discussing in detail two approaches as well as outlining major assumptions of these approaches and their therapies. The Behaviourist Approach explains that all behaviour is learned therefore mental disorders are learned. The process in which behaviour is learned is known as conditioning. There are two main processes of conditioning which are known as classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

Classical conditioning involves learning an association between two stimuli. Learning through association was first discovered by Pavlov (1903) with his study famously known as Pavlov’s Dogs. During this study, Pavlov’s Dogs were given a meat powder and had their saliva collected by a surgically implanted tube. A bell was used to make noise when the dogs were fed, over time Pavlov noticed that the dogs began salivating just by hearing the noise of the bell. The meat powder is known as an unconditioned stimulus and the dog learns to associate the bell with food, which then becomes a conditioned stimulus.

Operant conditioning is classed as learning through reinforcement; responding to a stimulus. The responses are sometimes reinforced and then repeated. We learn through the consequences of our behaviour by positive reinforcements where rewards are received for good behaviour and negative reinforcements where punishment is received for undesired behaviour. The Token Economy Programme is a good example of operant conditioning which is still used today in some mental institutions and hospitals. The programme involves receiving tokens for good behaviour, after a certain amount of tokens are received, the patient can use them in any way they wish such as buying sweets or a visit to the shopping centre. This programme therefore reinforces good behaviour, and the behaviour is repeated for more tokens.

According to Behaviourists, therapies such as Flooding cure disorders such as arachnophobia and other phobias. The approach suggests that phobias are learned therefore they can also be unlearned. Flooding involves a process where fear is replaced with relaxation. The therapy works on the inverted U principle of anxiety. Patients are directly faced with their fear, at first the anxiety rises, then peaks and eventually the fear begins to decrease and is replaced with relaxation. Another therapy used by Behaviourists is Aversion Therapy. This involves using something that the patient finds to be desirable and pairing it with something they find unpleasant. In the past Aversion Therapy has been used with alcoholics where alcohol has been paired with the drug Antabuse.

The second approach I will be discussing is The Psychodynamic Approach, it is said that it is through our unconscious that our thoughts and feelings are determined; this is where they take place and sometimes where they are hidden. The Psyche suggests that the mind is composed of three parts: The Id, The Ego and The Superego. The Id is present from birth and is also regarded as the pleasure principle. According to Freud the Id demands instant gratification such as wanting to be fed immediately for pleasure and satisfaction. The ego is grown out of the Id, after the age of one and is governed by the reality principle; it is regarded as the manager of the Psyche.

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