What is Abnormal Psychology?

Abnormal psychology is among the branches of psychology that review individuals who are atypically different from individuals of a given society.

The term covers a broad scope of mental problems such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and more. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and even psychometricians work hand in hand in Abnormal Psychology to diagnose and help people cope and get through their mental health problems.


In understanding the concept of “abnormal”, it is initially important to consider the meaning of “norm” or “normal”.

The idea of normality is loose and hard to define because it varies from culture to culture or from person to person – not all deviant behavior is considered abnormal. However, as much as it is difficult to define “normal” in general, it is important to govern broad lines to determine, diagnose, and help people who might have mental disorders.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a manual used and developed by health care experts and published by American Psychiatric Association to present the specific guidelines to identify and sort the diagnosis and symptoms of particular mental disorders.

The DSM-5 is the updated version that was published last May 2013. This legitimate manual helps us draw the line between pathological or not.

But because Abnormal Psychology is something that changes and progresses with time, necessary revisions and removal of some mental disorders are needed to break the stigma, to better address and help people who are facing mental health problems.

According to DSM-5, the accepted definition of abnormal is it defines biological, behavioral, and psychological dysfunctions that are unusual in their cultural context that are affiliated with present distress and dysfunction or heightens the risk of pain, death, impairment, or suffering.


Psychopathology emphasizes the study of various psychological disorders and knowing what causes the disorder, the course of treatment, development, course, and its classification.

In this field, there are many health care professionals that are certified and specifically trained and educated to practice their respective specialty. Each has a particular background pertaining to the betterment of one’s mental health.

Clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists

Clinical psychologists usually focus on severe psychological disorders and help individuals identify behavioral, emotional, and mental problems that they are going through. A series of a battery of tests are conducted to provide necessary data to properly diagnose the client.

From there, the psychologist will formulate a treatment program that will meet the client’s needs and monitor the progress of the client depending on the schedule created to facilitate the sessions.

While other integrated psychologists including social psychologists and experimental psychologists investigate the fundamental determinants of behaviors but they do not treat or evaluate psychological disorders.


Psychiatrists are doctors that go through medical school and are specialized in psychiatry during their residency training period. They are more experts in investigating the biological points and prescribing drugs and other biological treatments.

Fact check

Many are confused with the proper differentiation and distinction between Psychiatrists and Psychologists. But they are both different in education and approach. Psychologists are graduates of master’s degrees, while Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialized in mental health.

Psychologists look into behavioral aspects – they will monitor the clients’ eating and sleeping patterns, and the intruding negative thoughts that may be a huge contributor as to why they are experiencing mental health problems. Meanwhile, Psychiatrists are responsible for prescribing medicines.

They can actually provide you with the diagnosis, but they also look into your overall health before making the diagnosis. For instance, psychiatrists need to make sure that you do not have thyroid or heart problems before actually calling the diagnosis for you.


Psychometricians are the ones responsible for testing, validity, reliability that are essential components in creating and standardizing tests. Psychometricians may be involved in writing test items, creating test specifications, conducting and choosing tests that are specifically appropriate, and necessary to extract what they are supposed to measure.

In addition to this, they are licensed to conduct tests that involve the measurement of knowledge, skills, abilities, and personality traits that differentiate between individuals, interpret results, and write the psychological report, and provide recommendations to the Psychologist based on the observation during the test facilitation.

Psychiatric social workers

Psychiatric social workers earn their material degrees in social work. They may also provide treatment that concentrates on family-related problems and conduct psychosocial assessments.

Psychiatric social workers are also responsible for supporting and coordinating with family members and manage difficult to manage cases that are in deep emotional distress that may also impose danger to themselves and to other people.

Psychiatric nurses

They assist psychiatrists and physicians to formulate a treatment plan for a detailed mental health plan for the patients.

In the course of treatment, psychiatric nurses can also be the ones to facilitate counseling, provide care, and groom the patients, they also respond to distressed patients in a sympathetic manner.

Family and marriage therapists and mental health counselors

Marriage and family therapists are responsible for diagnosing, treating psychological distress in the context of family and marriage. They provide different counseling such as child counseling, separation and divorce, relationship, and premarital counseling.

Systems in Diagnosing

Comprehensive research and treatment are constantly engaged to be able to make a decision of what suitable actions must be taken into account to treat and help patients from their psychological dilemma.

The diagnostic systems are important to be able to categorize mental illness to its proper sort. Here are the widely utilized systems to classify mental illness.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  (DSM)

This authoritative manual was made by the American Psychiatric Association to assess and help health care professionals determine the correct diagnosis for patients. The DSM-5 is the latest version of the manual and was published last May 2013.

The DSM-5 provides the distinguishable and specific criteria to assist mental health professionals to determine the proper diagnosis for a patient. A few of the mental disorders included in the DSM-5 are social anxiety disorder, bulimia nervosa, major depressive disorder schizophrenia, and more.

The reason for revisions is that psychopathology evolves and changes over time. Comprehensive research is made to improve treatment, diagnosis, and better mental health in general.

International Classification of Diseases (ICD)

This diagnostic system whose aims is to reduce the burden of diseases globally. ICD is a system used to classify diseases, causes of death, and injuries. It is also similar to DSM-5 – but there are distinct differences between them.

The first one is that ICD is released by the World Health Organization which is a global authority tackling health care, while DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association. While ICD is readily available on the internet, DSM-5 must be availed and is revenue by the American Psychiatric Association.

ICD includes medical and mental health diagnoses, while DSM is used for mental disorders and their treatments.


Abnormal Psychology is a comprehensive study of psychological disorders and because the world is progressive and moving research is an essential component in understanding human behavior and mental health in general.

About Admin

Nicole T. Conquilla is a 21-year old registered Psychometrician in the Philippines. She is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Psychology who is a strong mental health advocate and encourages people to discuss, help, and support one another to cope and get through their mental health problems.

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