Psychodynamic Model of Abnormality

Psychodynamic Model of Abnormality The psychodynamic approach emphasises the dynamics of behaviour and what drives us to behave in particular ways. As individuals develop and change, so do their underlying drives. Abnormality is explained as being caused by underlying psychological conflicts of which they are not aware of (called unconscious forces). The focus is mostly on past experiences, particularly early parent/child relationships which are believed to be the root of the majority of psychological conflicts.

Assumption about Causes: Disorder from psychological causes – unresolved conflicts from childhood which are unconscious Unresolved conflicts cause mental disorder – unresolved conflict between the Id, Ego and Superego of a person. If defence mechanisms are overused they could cause disturbed behaviour, e.g. abnormality. Early experiences cause mental disorder – the Ego is not developed enough as a child to deal with traumas so they are repressed

Unconscious motivations cause mental disorder – the unconscious is the largest part of the mind and has a powerful affect on behaviour; it can’t be controlled unless it’s brought into the conscious. Assumption about Treatments: Making the unconscious conscious – this is bringing out the traumas into the conscious mind and dealing with them. This is done in many ways, e.g. hypnosis, ink blot tests, psychotherapy, dream analysis, etc. Treatment concerns the past – the focus of psychoanalysis is on the person’s childhood and not what’s happening now

Criticisms of Causes: Very influential – Freud’s theory has had a huge influence on our understanding of normal and abnormal behaviour. He was the first to focus on the unconscious and the effects of a person’s childhood on their adult life. Too much emphasis on sex – didn’t pay attention to social factors in regards to peoples’ mental health. Also, most of his patients were sexually repressed female Viennese Jews.

Poor research evidence: – Freud only studied a small sample of people and he generalised his findings to all humans which is inaccurate to do so. – Also, the only child he ever studied was by correspondence with his father, yet his whole theory is based on childhood (although he did observe his own children). Criticisms of Treatments: Ignores the present:

– May be related to past but ignoring present factors too is dangerous. Only suitable for certain people: – Psychotherapy is only suitable for certain people; YAVIS (young, attractive, verbally skilled, intelligent and successful) – Treatment is highly subjective as there is only one psychologist making the analysis Highly subjective and not falsifiable: – It’s impossible to prove Freud wrong because his theory cannot be scientifically tested. – Psychodynamic psychologists have an answer for everything (person is “in denial” if they cannot remember any traumas consciously)


During psychotherapy, the analyst attempts to find out about the individual’s unconscious thoughts. This could be done through: – free association: a patient talks freely about anything that comes into their mind at the mention of a particular topic – rich interpretation: of the patient’s thoughts and feelings in reference to Freud’s theory – dream analysis: dreams are considered repressed wishes. The dream (known as the manifest content) represents the real meaning of the dream (known as the latent content) through symbols. These may be personal or universal, e.g. a tower represents a phallus.

Biological Model of Abnormality This model is prescribed (no pun intended!) to the views of psychiatry, also known as medical psychology. Abnormality is said to be caused by genetic factors or bodily malfunction, rooted in underlying psychological processes. A cure is employed to remove that cause. A strong belief here is that mental disorders should be called illnesses and dealt with in the same manner that physical illnesses are. They use the DSM- IV (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual) which outlines different disorders. This model places much emphasis on scientific investigation and understanding, so it is highly respected for being a more “scientific” approach to psychology. However, the view that disorders are “diseases” is a controversial one.

Freud and others developed the psychodynamic model. It is the idea that conscious thoughts, feelings and behaviours are determined by unconscious processes, and that being mentally healthy requires a good balance between the id (desires), the superego (morality) and the …

Outline and Evaluate one or more alternative therapies from either Psychodynamic or cognitive approaches (30 marks) The psychodynamic model of abnormality makes a number of assumptions in relation to the causes of abnormal behaviour. Firstly the model assumes that abnormal …

The psychodynamic approach believes that mental disorders have psychological, not physical causes and underlying psychological conflicts of which they are unaware. Freud’s psychodynamic approach states that mental illnesses are the result of unresolved childhood conflicts. These conflicts occur between the …

The superego which develops from eighteen months and onwards is governed by the morality principle, this is our conscience. Freud believed that our personality fully developed by the age of six. The approach suggests that if the Id is dominant …

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