What Is Normal What Is Abnormal Essay

On By In 1




1. Introduction

2. Research Data

3. Why do people masturbate?
3.1 Hierarchy of Needs
3.2 Libido Theory
3.3 Mental Health Theory
3.4 Other theories
3.5 Benefits of Masturbation

4. Why do people refrain from masturbation?
4.1 Effect of attitudes on masturbatory behaviour
4.1.1 Attitudes in primitive cultures
4.1.2 Attitudes in Western society
4.1.3 Attitudes in religion
4.2 Freud
4.4 Myths about masturbation
4.5 Disbenefits of Masturbation

5. Normal versus Abnormal Leisure

6. Conclusion


Assessment Fehler! Textmarke nicht definiert

1. Introduction

Sex used to be a taboo in western society for centuries. Today, however, it is openly communicated: a sexual theme is mostly expected in movies, pornography can be viewed freely on the internet, adult bookshops liberally advertise their wares and services, people talk openly about their sexual habits, and “Sexpo, an exhibition promoting the use of sex aids and showcasing ´adult lifestyles´, attracted nearly 55,000 visitors” (Veal & Lynch 2002, p. 342). Yet, not all aspects of a human’s sexual life seem to share this outwardly social acceptability.

Masturbation still is widely considered a taboo, and the practice of it commonly connected to feelings of shame and disgust. Interestingly, in October 2000 the Eros Foundation, a lobby group for the sex industry, responded angrily to suggestions from the Liberal Member for Hughes, Dana Vale, that adult products should have ‘health warnings’. “Ms Vale is actually worried about the moral effect of masturbation on young minds because, it is well known that while x-rated videos do cause an increase in masturbation, they also have the added benefit of decreasing sex crimes.” (http://www.eros.com.au/pressrelease.php?id=7).

Why is it that some people pretend that it does not exist or consider it something abnormal? How can it be then, that in some cultures it is a normal part of human behaviour? This essay will examine this question about whether masturbation should be considered normal or abnormal leisure behaviour of human beings.

2. Research Data

A lot of people use items provided by the sex industry for their masturbation practices. Statistics provided by the Eros website state that 640,000 Australians are on adult video mailing lists. Further, 250 adult shops throughout Australia have an annual turnover of about $100 million. The China Daily website states that the X- rated video mail-order business (estimated by Eros) is worth $50 million per year, making it the ACT’s second biggest export business after timber.

However, this data only covers the economic dimension of sex as leisure. “The sex industries, and the search for pleasure that underlies them, are almost entirely missing from the field of leisure studies. Both the activities themselves and the study of them have been left hidden in the shadows of more conventional activities” (Veal & Lynch 2002, p. 343). For example, in Veal and Lynch´s leisure typology, sexual behaviour could be placed in the category of hobbies/pastimes in the home (Veal & Lynch 2002, p. 141). But examples only include “hobbies, gardening, cooking for leisure” (Veal & Lynch 2002, p. 141) - not the most ancient and possibly most common form of leisure: sex, not even speaking of masturbation.

Obviously there has been hardly any research conducted in this delicate field of leisure, which also resulted in the need to use older references for this report.

3. Why do people masturbate?

To explore the normality or abnormality of leisure we firstly need to examine the motives for masturbation.

3.1 Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow assumes that “a person’s motivational needs could be arranged in a hierarchical manner… (and) that once a given level of need is satisfied, it no longer serves to motivate” (Luthans 2002, p. 260). Therefore the needs of the next level become the person’s main motivators.

Maslow identified five levels of needs: physiological needs, safety needs, social and esteem needs, and the need for self-actualisation. Physiological needs, or primary motives, are “unlearned and physiologically based” and must be satisfied before moving to higher needs. Examples are “hunger, thirst, sleep, avoidance of pain, sex, and maternal concern” (Luthans 2002, p.250).

Maslow indicates that sexual needs, a primary reason for masturbation, are physiological and innate, and therefore normal.

3.2 Libido Theory

Freud identified two drives for human behaviour, “the drive for self-preservation and the drive towards procreation” (Brown 1964, p. 20), or libido. He defined sex as “any pleasurable sensation relating to the body functions” (Brown 1964, p. 20), which includes masturbation.

The libido theory assumes that children go through chronological stages of satisfaction of the libido: the oral phase, with attention focussed on the mouth; the anal phase, controlling the sphincter; and the genital phase, focussing on the penis. “In contrast to the autoerotic pregenital phases, phallic satisfaction requires an external object” (Brown 1964, p. 21). This suggests that Freud considers masturbation as pregenital.

Freud further assumed that the libido is a drive energy in a closed energy system, and that “any symptom removed by suggestion… will make its appearance in some other form” (Brown 1964, p. 22). For example, if a person ceases to masturbate due to social pressures, this will lead to a search for other outlets of the drive energy. This indicates that masturbation is a normal part of human behaviour.

3.3 Mental Health Theory

In early stages Freud had distinguished between psychoneurotic neuroses, originating from memories, and actual neuroses, originating from “contemporary disturbance of genitality, such as excessive masturbation or asceticism” (Robinson 1972, p. 23). Reich revived the latter concept and assumed that neuroses are caused by the “inability to achieve a satisfactory orgasm” (Robinson 1972, p. 24), as the release of energy is necessary to prevent illness.

Reich introduced several criteria for a true orgasm. It had to be “heterosexual, without irrelevant fantasies, and of an appropriate duration” (Robinson 1972, p. 24) - which excludes masturbation.

On the other hand, Reich demanded a sexual revolution involving guaranteeing a child “the right to masturbate and to play sexually with children of his own age” (Robinson 1972, p. 49).

Therefore it can be concluded that he considered masturbation normal for children.

3.4 Other theories

Gordon presents other motives for masturbation like the ease of accessibility, its being an expression of an individual’s “suppressed and asocial components”, and the fact that it is viewed as “forbidden fruit” (Gordon 1972, p. 75), and often the first act of independence of a child.

Another reason may be “that the autoerotic experience was more intense than, although not necessarily as satisfying as that resulting from heterosexual intercourse” (Gordon 1972, p. 75).

3.5 Benefits of Masturbation

DeMartino highlights 50 advantages of masturbation in the areas of sex, health, emotions and relationships. Listed below are some that are pertinent to this study:

I. It helps establish the philosophy that inherently sex is good, and that there is nothing wrong with experiencing it.

II. It can be practiced at a whim because it is easily available, ideal for experimental purposes and there are minimal restrictions in participation. III. It can save time, financial resources and physical energy attributed to interpersonal sex.

IV. Forms of sexuality that people can use in interpersonal sex can be learned.

V. Masturbation can result in more restful sleeping, aiding physical and mental health.

VI. It can be used as a distraction device to temporarily relieve feelings of anxiety and depression and release bodily and emotional tensions.

VII. It can avoid undesirable pregnancy, minimise menstrual tension and the risk of sexually or non-sexually transmitted diseases.

VIII. Masturbation requires none of the physical or financial resources that most leisure pursuits do, like venue, other people etc. (source: DeMartino 1979, pp.10-18)

4. Why do people refrain from masturbation?

In this chapter we will examine the various reasons why people do not masturbate.

4.1 Effect of attitudes on masturbatory behaviour

This chapter will examine several attitudes that have been or are still prevalent throughout history.

4.1.1 Attitudes in primitive cultures

In tribal societies “group survival was of paramount importance. The elders of the tribe considered it a social sin to waste sperm by any practice that did not procreate children” (Dearborn 1971, p. 37). However, the person’s anti-social attitude was condemned, not masturbation itself.

On the other hand, “some primitive cultures have recognised a soothing effect and have utilized masturbation in getting an infant to sleep” (Brooks 1967, p. 60), and obviously considered it normal.

Overall it can be concluded that in primitive cultures has been considered bot normal and abnormal.

4.1.2 Attitudes in Western society

Tissot´s Onana, A Treatise on the Diseases Produced by Onanism, first published in 1767, held a major influence on Western society up to the late 19th century. Tissot “spoke of the preciousness of the seminal fluid, the loss of one ounce of which enfeebled one more than the loss of forty ounces of blood” (Dearborn 1971, p. 38). Accordingly he “attributed most of the known disorders of his day to the loss of semen“ (Dearborn 1971, p. 38), like gonorrhea, dropsy, epilepsy, and insanity.

“Dr. E.T. Brady in 1891 was one of the first to question the part that masturbation was supposed to play in the causation of insanity” (Dearborn 1971, p. 39). In 1888, Lawson Tait “was among the first to try to divorce religious morality from a condition that he considered merely physical” (Dearborn 1971, p. 39).

However, even in the 1969s, Brooks states that “Western society works to restrict masturbation from its onset”, for example as people react with “anger when they discover a baby touching his genitals” (Brooks 1967, p. 60).

In the 1970s two trends could be seen in literature: the first considered masturbation as completely harmless; the second, coming from the area of psychoanalysis, “began to see new dangers in the practice” of masturbation (Dearborn 1971, p. 42).

Overall it can be concluded that masturbation has mostly been considered abnormal in Western societies. One reason might lie in religion.

4.1.3 Attitudes in religion

Religion continues to condemn masturbation. Johnson (1968) notes that its cultural prohibition in America seems to have “arisen from religious doctrine rather from any rational scientific basis”. (LoPiccolo & Lobitz 1972, p. 282)

One factor inhibiting masturbation is the perception that it is ‘dirty’. “Kinsey, et al. (1953) also found the amount of masturbatory behaviour to be clearly lower in the religiously devout than nondevout”. (Fisher 1973, p. 131)

Whilst most religious institutions are against masturbation, Ellis states that after the death of an eighteen century brothel-keeper who traded with consolateurs (dildos) “numberless letters from abbesses and simple nuns were found among her papers” requesting the shipment of a consolateur. (Ellis 1942, p. 190)

4.2 Freud

Freud’s first theories were based on his assumption that “repressed memories of actual events of sexual seductions in childhood” (Brown 1964, p. 19) later lead to neuroses, brought about by a strong sense of guilt.

Parents, especially in Western society, often suppress masturbation in children, which teaches the child that masturbation is wrong. Growing children will experience a need for sex (see 3.1), which can be satisfied by masturbating. Due to the sense of guilt developed by the parents’ attitude, this can lead to a perception of masturbation being a form of self-seduction and lead to neurosis. In Freud’s later studies he introduced the Id, a person’s drives, the ego into which the Id develops, and the superego, which consists of morals provided by socialisation like parents (Brown 1964, p. 29). This explains why “an individual may feel profound guilt after carrying out some action which his reason tells him is not at all immoral” (Brown 1964, p. 29), like masturbation.

4.4 Myths about masturbation

Besides Tissot´s accusations mentioned above, there have been lots of myths making people fear masturbation. The following present some of the most common myths, followed by their opposition:

Masturbation is immature

The Kinsey data, however, show that “adult males … of all ages frequently masturbate, and often do so even after marriage” (Ellis 1955, p. 56). In addition to this, in his study of free-living male rhesus monkeys, Carpenter “observed three instances of self-stimulation to the point of ejaculation in mature males whilst they were in association with females” (Gordon 1972, p. 75).

Masturbation leads to impotence/frigidity Sex tests have disproved that masturbation can “be practiced to excess” as sexual fatigue prevents it (Ellis 1955, p. 57).

Masturbation leads to sexual seclusiveness Actually it is the other way around. An individual with puritanical attitudes about sexual relations is more likely to be driven toward masturbation exclusively.

4.5 Disbenefits of Masturbation

Ellis states that, for a human´s whole life, masturbation is totally harmless “provided

(1) that the masturbator does not erroneously believe masturbation to be harmful or abnormal,

(2) that when socially approved non-masturbational outlets are available he also resorts to them, and

(3) that when other sex outlets are not available he remains interested in them and makes some effort to try to find them” (Ellis 1955, p. 56)

Ellis concludes, much like Freud, “masturbation can be a psychologically unhealthy practice - if an individual exclusively and compulsively uses it as a sex outlet when other sex outlets are easily available” (Ellis 1955, p. 55).

5. Normal versus Abnormal Leisure

In the 1895 Durkheim stated in The Rules of Sociological Method that “the decicive characteristic of the normal form is that it is ‘generally distributed’” (Durkheim quoted in Rojek 2000, p. 141). Obviously this is a very vague and subjective definition.

Rojek, however, comes to a definition of abnormal leisure as occurring either “when the individual refuses to bestow respect or trust on the other” (Rojek 2000, p. 176), or when “pushing limit experience so that it threatens the self or others (Rojek 2000, p. 176). He proposes three categories of abnormal leisure: invasive, involving “a lack of respect for or trust in an element of one’s own self” (Rojek 2000, p. 178), mephitic, lacking respect and trust towards others, and wild, pushing limit- experience.

Applying this definition to masturbation, it can be concluded that it does not fulfil the criteria of abnormal leisure. It usually does not include threats to the self, and also does not come from a lack of respect for oneself or others. The only time when masturbation seems to turn abnormal is therefore, as also stated by Ellis (4.5), when the individual believes that masturbation is bad, and therefore conducts it with a feeling of shame.

6. Conclusion

This report has attempted to determine whether masturbation should be considered a normal or abnormal form of leisure by examining the reasons for and against masturbation, and by applying a definition of abnormal leisure.

From the motives for and benefits of masturbation it can be concluded that masturbation is mostly considered normal, only Reich considers it appropriate only for children.

The examination of the reasons for not masturbating show that the main obstacles are religious or historical prejudices, myths originating from them, and the feeling of guilt as a result.

This is reinforced when applying Rojek´s definition of abnormal leisure.

Therefore it can overall be concluded that masturbation is a normal form of human behaviour, only hindered by social obstacles.


Brooks, Patricia A. 1967 Masturbation in: DeMartino, Manfred F. 1979 Human Autoerotic Practices Human Sciences Press, New York, pp. 58-70

Brown J.A.C. 1964 Freud and the Post-Freudians Penguin Books, London

China Daily website, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/star/2001/0809/fe20-1.html accessed on June 15th, 3pm

Dearborn, Lester W. 1971, Masturbation in: DeMartino, Manfred F. 1979 Human Autoerotic Practices Human Sciences Press, New York, pp. 36-54

DeMartino, Manfred F. 1979 Human Autoerotic Practices Human Sciences Press, New York

Ellis, Albert 1955 Myths Concerning Autoeroticism in: DeMartino, Manfred F. 1979 Human Autoerotic Practices Human Sciences Press, New York, pp. 55-57

Ellis, Havelock 1942 Auto-Erotism: A Study of the Spontaneous Manifestations of the Sexual Impulse in: DeMartino, Manfred F. 1979 Human Autoerotic Practices Human Sciences Press, New York, pp. 185-197

Eros website, http://www.eros.com.au/pressrelease.php?id=7 accessed on June 15th, 3pm

Fisher, Seymour 1973, A Summing up of Feminine Sexuality, in: DeMartino, Manfred

F. 1979 Human Autoerotic Practices Human Sciences Press, New York, pp. 129-139

Gordon, David Cole 1972 The Benefits of Autoerotism - Unifcation and Sexuality in: DeMartino, Manfred F. 1979 Human Autoerotic Practices Human Sciences Press, New York, pp. 71-79

LoPiccolo, Joseph; Lobitz, W. Charles 1972, The Role of Masturbation in the Treatment of Orgasmic Dysfunction rchives of Sexual Behaviour in: DeMartino, Manfred F. 1979 Human Autoerotic Practices Human Sciences Press, New York, pp. 280-294

Luthans, F. 2002 Organisational Behaviour McGraw-Hill, Tokyo.

Robinson, Paul A 1972 The Sexual Radicals Granada Publishing Limited, London

Rojek, Chris 2000 Leisure and Culture Palgrave, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, New York

Veal, A.J.; Lynch, Rob 2001 Australian Leisure Longman Pearson, Australia

14 of 13 pages - scroll top

More coursework: 1 - A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I - J | K - L | M | N - O | P - S | T | U - Y

Abnormal behavior


Abnormal Behavior, what is it? Who is to say, what is normal and what is not normal? Now, take it a step further. Who determines abnormal behavior verses normal behavior? Who differentiate between the two? Is it us, (the people, who claim to be normal), your parents, your peers, your environment, or is it society? Often times we are quick to pass judgment on individuals who are acting in a manner that is unacceptable, but unacceptable to, whom? We all have been taught the difference between right and wrong, but is that difference so great that it flirts along the lines of what is normal, and what is not normal? Is it normal for a two-year-old child to talk back to his or her parents? Is it normal for a people to speak to one another when they have made eye contact? Is it normal for men to watch football on Sundays, and for women to watch daytime drama shows during the week? Before we can answer any of these questions we need to know what is behavior, and then differentiate between what is normal, and what is abnormal behavior?

Behavior is the manner in which a person behaves, whether they can conform to the standards, or whether they cannot conform to the standards. And once again I pose the question who sets the standards? Society, that’s who. We as a people have already laid out a path of what we think is acceptable and what is not acceptable, the same way that we as a society have deemed what is normal and what is abnormal behavior. When we ask a society how they define abnormal behavior, we are asking first, where does that society draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior and, secondly, which unacceptable behaviors the society views as evidence of "abnormal" rather than simply, undesirable. How are these questions best answered? It is simple, these questions are best answered through what we call society’s norms.

It has been said that psychology "has a long history but a short past." This is certainly true of abnormal psychology. Although examples of bizarre behavior are seen throughout history, and considerations of why people act as they do have appeared and reappeared in literature and philosophy, the scientific study of abnormal behavior really only began around 1900. Society begins with a discussion of the difficulty of defining abnormal behavior and of the importance of developing explanations supported by scientific evidence. Then, the meaning of the term "abnormal" is discussed along with a description of contemporary procedures to classify the different ways psychological disturbance may be expressed. Psychologist express an emphasis on the importance of obtaining scientific data, and a description of the various research methods used to study behavior, both abnormal and normal.

Abnormal behavior is defined as behavior that is considered to be maladaptive or deviant by the social culture in which it occurs. Though disagreement exists regarding which particular behaviors can be classified as abnormal, psychologists have defined several criteria for purposes of classification. One is that the behavior occurs infrequently and thus deviates from statistical norms. Another is that the behavior deviates from social norms of acceptable behavior. A third is that the behavior is maladaptive, that it has adverse affects on the individual or on the individual's social group. Lastly, abnormality may be defined based on the subjective feelings of misery, depression, or anxiety of an individual rather than any behavior he exhibits.

(The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, DSM-IV,), is a classification system of abnormal behaviors which aids psychologists and other mental health professionals in diagnosing and treating mental disorders. DSM-IV includes the major categories of abnormal behavior which are anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorders and phobias; affective disorders, which are disturbances of mood such as depression; schizophrenic disorders, which are characterized by major disturbances in personality and distortion of reality; and various personality disorders.

While psychologists use similar criteria to diagnose abnormal behavior, their perspectives in understanding and treating related disorders vary greatly. For instance, a psychologist with a psychoanalytic approach would explain depression as a reaction to loss, worsened by anger turned inward. A behavioral psychologist would assume a lack of positive reinforcement to be a significant cause in the disease. A cognitive theorist would focus on the negative thought patterns and attitudes of an individual in contributing to his depression. And a psychologist with a biological perspective would consider a chemical imbalance in the nervous system of a depressed individual to be responsible for his disorder. Many studies have shown that a number of these factors may come into play in the life of an individual suffering from a mental disorder characterized by abnormal behavior.

Before we can write about specific behavioral disorders, we must define 'abnormal'. And what is normal behavior?

The following criteria are used to determine whether a persons behavior is abnormal or not:

Deviation from statistical norms; the word abnormal means 'away from the norm'. Many population facts are measured such as height, weight and intelligence. Most of the people fall within the middle range of intelligence, but a few are abnormally stupid. But according to this definition, a person who is extremely intelligent would be classified as abnormal. Thus in defining abnormal behavior we must consider more.

Deviation from social norms; every vulture has certain standards for acceptable behavior; behavior that deviates from that standard is considered to be abnormal behavior. But those standards can change with time and vary from one society to another.

Maladaptiveness of behavior; this third criterium is how the behavior affects the well-being of the individual and/or social group. Examples are a man who attempts suicide, an alcoholic who drinks so heavily that he or she cannot keep a job or a paranoid individual who tries to assasinate national leaders.

Personal distress; the fourth criterium considers abnormality in terms of the individual's subjective feelings, personal distress, rather than his behavior. Most people diagnosed as 'mentally ill' feel miserable, anxious, depressed and may suffer from insomnia.

In the type of abnormality called neurosis, personal distress may be the only symptom, because the individual's behavior seems normal.

None of these definitions provides a complete description of abnormal behavior. The legal definition of abnormality declares a person insane when he is not able to judge between right and wrong, but this criterium is not used by psychologists. In this paper, I will try to explain what we the society views as abnormal behavior.

Every human group lives by a set of norms-rules that tell us what it is "right" and "wrong" to do, and when and where and with whom. Such rules circumscribe every aspect of our existence, from our most far-reaching decisions to our most prosaic daily routines.

Consider, for example, the matter of how close we stand or sit to a person we are talking to. This is something that is taken for granted by people within a society, but it differs widely among societies. In North America, when two people who do not know one another well are conversing, they will stand about 3 feet apart, but in South America they stand much closer, and in Asia, much farther apart. In one study, Japanese, American, and Venezuelan students were asked to have a five-minute conversation with a stranger of the same sex and nationality. The Japanese sat about 40 inches apart; the Americans, 35 inches; the Venezuelans, 32 inches (Sussman & Rosenfeld, 1982). Arabs come even closer than South Americans. According to Edward Hall (1976), the primary investigator of this subject of "personal space":

In the Arab world, you do not hold a lien on the ground underfoot. When standing on a street corner, an Arab may shove you aside if he wants to be where you are. This puts the average territorial American or German under great stress.....Years ago, American women in Beirut had to give up using streetcars. Their bodies were the property of all men within reach. What was happening is even reflected in the language. The Arabs have no word for trespass.

So the definition of personal space is a norm which differs from culture to culture. People who stand too close to us may seem to us pushy; people who stand too far away may seem cold. And while we may shrug off such social oddities, psychological professionals do not. (In a marriage counselor’s office, how close a couple sit to one another will be a potentially importand observation.) In other words, norm violation within one’s culture tends to be viewed, in varying degrees, as abnormal.

Norms, however, are not the only standard for defining abnormal behavior. Other criteria are statistical rarity, personal discomfort, maladaptive behavior, and deviation from an ideal state.

From a statistical point of view, abnormality is any substantial deviation from a statistically calculated average. Those who fall within the "golden mean"-those, in short, who do what most other people do-are normal, while those whose behavior differs from that of the majority are abnormal.

Another criterion for defining abnormality is personal discomfort. If people are content with their lives, then their lives are of no concern to the mental health establishment. If, on the other hand, they are distressed over their thoughts or behavior-then they require treatment.

A fourth criterion for defining a behavior as abnormal is whether it is maladaptive. Here the question is whether the person, given that behavior pattern, is able to meet the demands of his or her life-hold down a job, deal with friends and family, pay the bills on time, and the like. If not, the apttern is abnormal. This standard overlaps somewhat wit that of norm violation. After all, many norms are rules for adapting our behavior to ur own and our society’s requirements. (To arrive for work drunk is to violate a norm; it is also maladaptive, in that it may get you fired.) At the same time, the maladaptiveness standard is unique in that it concentrates on the practical matter of getting through life with some measure of success. If the man with the fear of flying had a job that required travel, he would be seriously inconvenienced, and his behavior could be considered maladaptive.

Several psychological theories describe an ideally well-adjusted personality, any deviation from which is interpreted as abnormal to a greater or lesser degree. Since the ideal is difficult to achieve, most people are seen as being poorly adjusted at least part of the time. One may strive to achieve the ideal, but one seldom makes it.

The questions raised by these different criteria for defining abnormality can be summarized as one question: Should our standard be facts, (such as statistical rarity or a clearly dysfunctional behavior) like failure to eat, or should it be values, like adaptation or adherence to norms? Many professionals feel that the question cannot be decided one way or the other, but that the definition of mental disorder must rest on both facts and values. Jerome Wakefield (1992), has proposed that mental disorder lies on the boundary between the given natural world and the constructed social world; a disorder exists when the failure of a person’s internal mechanisms to perform their functions as designed by nature impinges harmfully on the person’s well-being as defined by social values.

People diagnosed as schizophrenic, for example, often cannot think or speak coherently; their internal mechanisms, in Wakefield’s terms, are failing to perform "their functions as designed by nature." And these disabilities in turn impinge on their "well-being as defined by social values"-for instance, their ability to hold down a job or raise children. Much professional dispute surrounds the definition of abnormal behavior, it should be kept in mind that most societies identify the same categories of behavior as indicative of mental disorder. As W. B. Maher and Maher (1985) point out, there are four basic categories:

1. Behavior that is harmful to the self or that is harmful to others without serving the interests of the self.

2. Poor reality contact-for example, beliefs that most people do not hold or sensory perceptions of things that most people do not perceive.

3. Emotional reactions inappropriate to the person’s situation.

4. Erratic behavior-that is, behavior that shifts unpredictably.

Which actions fall into these categories depends, again, on the society’s definitions of what is normal and appropriate, but these are kinds of deviations that most people, worldwide, consider possible signs of mental disorder.

According to Sigmund Freud, (1856-1939), human beings are just mechanical creatures, whom he views as prisoners of primitive instincts and powers, which we can barely control. He states that our purpose is to control these instincts and powers.

Whatever the explanation of abnormal behavior, most societies feel that something must be done about such behavior. How do human groups arrive at a way of treating the deviant in their midst?

This process depends on many factors. One is the structure and nature of the society. In a small, traditional community, where deviant persons can be looked after, they may remain at home, and their odd ways will be seen as a problem for the family rather than for the society. Typically, they will be prayed over, relieved of responsibilities, and treated with mixed kindness and ridicule. A large technological society, on the other hand, will tend to isolate deviants so as to prevent them from disrupting the functioning of the family an the community.

A second factor influencing the treatment of abnormal behavior, or at least the objective of such treatment, is the criterion by which it is identified. The standard of normality against which abnormality is defined-adherence to norms, personal satisfaction, adequate "coping"-will be the goal of treatment.

The specific treatment procedures typically follow from the society’s explanation of abnormal behavior. If, as has been the case in some societies, bizarre behavior is interpreted as resulting from possession by evil spirits, then the logical treatment is to draw out such spirits-by means of prayer, special baths, special potions, or whatever. If, in keeping with the medical model, abnormal behavior is assumed to be the result of organic pathology, then the appropriate treatment is medical intervention-by means of drugs, hospitalization, or perhaps even surgery. If abnormal behavior is interpreted according to psychological theories, it will be treated via psychological therapies. Many psychological professionals today feel that whatever its ultimate cause-if indeed ultimate causes can be found-abnormal behavior involves important psychological and biological components. Accordingly, in recent years there has been increased interest in multimodal treatments, combining tw!

o or more kinds of therapy, for example, "talk" psychotherapy and drugs.

In conclusion, how abnormal behaviors are defined, explained, and treated in our society is the subject of this paper. Our modern approaches are not new, however, they are the result of centuries of trial and error. Society’s viewpoints on normality will always be viewed against what we call acceptable and unacceptable behavior.



1). The Diagnostic and Statisical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, DSM-IV

2). Fitzgerald & Hesson-McInnis 1989

3). Edward Hall(1976)

4). Jerome Wakefield (1992) 2nd edition

5). W.B. Maher and Maher (1985)

6). Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

7). Doley’s M.D. (1989

Not what you're looking for?

If this essay isn't quite what you're looking for, why not order your own custom Coursework essay, dissertation or piece of coursework that answers your exact question? There are UK writers just like me on hand, waiting to help you. Each of us is qualified to a high level in our area of expertise, and we can write you a fully researched, fully referenced complete original answer to your essay question. Just complete our simple order form and you could have your customised Coursework work in your email box, in as little as 3 hours.

Linda Senior Lecturer in Economics, Essay UK Researcher Team.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *