Models of Abnormal Psychology

To define abnormal behavior in particular and abnormal psychology in general, different schools of psychology define different models. These models help psychologists to understand abnormal behaviors and their causes, which ultimately help them to treat their patients.

What is Abnormal Psychology?

In order to get a better understanding of the models of abnormal psychology, one first needs to understand the meaning of abnormal psychology. Abnormal Psychology is defined as an abnormality marked by the 4 D's: Deviance, Distress, Dysfunction, and Danger. The term abnormality refers to a state that deviates from the normal.

The Four Models of Abnormal Psychology

Let us discuss in brief all the models of abnormal psychology.

Biological model of Abnormal Psychology

The link between a particular cluster of symptoms and an underlying impairment in physiologic function is emphasized in biological models of psychopathology or abnormal psychology. Medication and other methods believed to change the underlying biological abnormalities directly may be used to treat such diseases rather than just using therapy sessions to deal with abnormalities. Biological theorists adopt a medical approach, seeing anomalous behavior as a sickness brought on by organ systems that are not working properly. They typically blame the behavior on issues with the brain's chemistry rather than other factors such as the environment.

Brain Chemistry and Abnormal Behavior - Brain chemistry discusses the neurons and their functions. Here, psychologists relate the problems in the neurons to the cause of abnormal behavior. Neurotransmitters are responsible for transmitting messages in the brain. According to studies, certain neurotransmitters' abnormal activity can cause particular mental diseases. For instance, serotonin and norepinephrine neurotransmitter activity have been associated with depression.

Sources of Biological Abnormalities

  • Genetics
  • Evolution
  • Viral Infections

Behavioral Model of Abnormal Psychology

Unlike the biological model, the behavioral model focuses on behaviors or the responses an organism has to its surroundings. Behaviors might be internal or external, like going to work or thinking about something. Behavioral theorists have also based their justifications and remedies on learning principles, the mechanisms by which these behaviors alter in response to the environment. Under the behavioral model, learning is the primary causal factor. Learning requires memory since development cannot take place without a means of retaining what has been learned. As a result, the behavioral model's two main psychological pillars are learning and memory.

How did it start? - The behavioral model was developed in laboratories by psychologists researching simple learning processes like conditioning. The researchers altered rewards and stimuli and then watched how their changes changed the responses of their research subjects. The two important conditioning introduced by different behaviorist was classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

Cognitive Model of Abnormal Psychology

The cognitive model of abnormal psychology strongly emphasizes how an individual's perceptions and thoughts shape their moods and behavior. Cognitive theorists believe that cognition plays a very important role in shaping a person's behavior. They contend that a variety of cognitive issues can cause abnormal functioning. Some people may develop unsettling and false presumptions and attitudes.

Albert Ellis (1962) and Aaron Beck (1967), two clinicians, suggested that cognitive processes are at the core of actions, ideas, and emotions and that looking at cognition will help us understand abnormal functioning the best. This viewpoint is known as the cognitive model.

Cognitive Therapies - Cognitive therapists play a very important role in shaping the client's cognition, which leads to impaired or abnormal behavior. Counselors assistpatients in identifying the negative ideas, skewed perceptions, and logical fallacies that dominate their thinking and contribute to their feelings of depression.

Psychodynamic Model of Abnormal Psychology

It is the oldest model of Abnormal Psychology. Psychodynamic theorists contend that unconscious psychological factors have a significant role in shaping a person's behavior, whether it be normal or dysfunctional. These forces are said to be dynamic since they interact, resulting in behavior, thoughts, and emotions. The conflicts between these forces are seen as the cause of abnormal symptoms.The psychodynamic perspective was first bought into light by Sigmund Freud. Freud has discussed the different psychosexual stages of personality, naming the oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital stages. He also talked about three kinds of personality: id, ego, and superego. According to him, abnormal behavior occurs when there are conflicts between different personalities.

Psychodynamic Therapies - There are various therapies under the psychodynamic model of abnormal psychology. They are -

  • Free Association
  • Therapist Interpretation
  • Catharsis
  • Working Through

Some Other Models of Abnormal Psychology

It includes -

  • The Humanistic Existential Model of Abnormal Psychology - The humanistic-existential model is centered on the idea that people must successfully deal with philosophical issues like self-awareness, values, purpose, and choice to be happy in life. Humanists hold that the desire for self-actualization drives people, and strange behavior could happen when this drive is disrupted. Client-centered therapists, a subset of humanistic therapists, work to foster an environment where patients can examine themselves with candor and acceptance, thereby facilitating self-actualization. Gestalt therapists are a different group that employs more proactive methods to assist clients in identifying and accepting their needs.

  • The Socio-Cultural Model of Abnormal Psychology - The family-social approach considers three different types of external variables. Some proponents of this viewpoint concentrate on social labels and roles, contending that certain people are labeled as "mentally ill" by society and that these people then conform to the role implied by that term. Others place more emphasis on social links and supports because they think those variables like social isolation, a lack of supportive relationships, and others may play a role in psychological issues. Others focus on the family system because they think the dynamics or communication styles inside a family may cause people to act abnormally. Family-social model practitioners might offer community treatment or group, family, or couple therapy.


Scientists and therapists use models to comprehend and manage anomalous behavior. Clinical professionals follow the principles and methods of their favored models of treatment. These models help clinical practitioners deviate from individuals' different abnormal behaviors about the different models. Hence, these different models play a very important role in abnormal psychology.