119‘Abnormality is very difficult to define to decide where normal behaviour ends and where abnormal behaviour begins’ discuss two or more definitions of abnormality. (12 marks)

Another possible way to define abnormality is the failure to function adequately. Most people who seek psychiatric help are suffering from a sense of psychological distress or discomfort. In most societies we have expectations of how people should behave and live their lives. An example where this definition can be applied is when someone is suffering from severe depression, which leads to apathy and inertia, this means the depressed person may fail to even get up in the morning or hold down a job and relationship. Failure to function adequately is a general sign of disorder and not itself specific to any condition. Rosenham and Seligman suggest that the most suitable approach to defining mental abnormality may be to identify a set of seven abnormal characteristics consisting of suffering, maladaptiveness, vividness and unconventionality of behaviour, unpredictability and loss of control, irrationality and incomprehensibility and observes discomfort. It is suggested that the more an individual has these characteristics the more they are classed as abnormal.

A second definition for abnormality is the deviation from ideal mental health. This approach unlike the previous one seeks to identify the characteristics people need to be mentally healthy rather than identifying the problems. An example is someone suffering from schizophrenia who often experience hallucinations and delusions, some patients also experience lack of emotional response. Jahoda perceives abnormality in a similar way to the perceptions of ideal mental health and looks for an absence of well-being. She identifies 6 major characteristics that individuals should exhibit in order to be normal. It is the absence of these criteria which indicate abnormality and therefore displaying deviation from ideal mental health. These criteria consist of self attitudes, personal growth, integration, autonomy, perception of reality and environmental mastery. Those who suffer from schizophrenia consequently suffer from an absence of having an accurate perception of reality as well as being unable to empathise with others. This absence indicates a deviation from ideal mental health and thus may classify someone as being abnormal.

One problem with Rosenham and Seligman’s features is that most of them involve making subjective judgements. This is a significant limitation because behaviour causing severe discomfort to one observer may have no effect on another observer whilst behaviour that violates one person’s moral standard is consistent with another person’s moral standards. The other problem with the categories is that they also apply to people who are non-conformist and people who simply think differently to the majority of society but are mentally healthy. Therefore there are no clear objective measures of normality or abnormality. This becomes even more difficult when some people are not aware of their failure to function adequately, many people with schizophrenia deny they have any problem. Thus it would make it very difficult to diagnose such a person as schizophrenic whilst going by the ‘failure to function adequately’ definition.

Cultural variations are also a limitation to the FFA approach to abnormality. Standard patterns of behaviour and societal norms and values vary across cultures leading to significant differences in the way people perceive normalcy. What one person may deem abnormal and deviant in one culture may be entirely consistent with another culture this makes it difficult to use the FFA as a definition of abnormality and to use it as an objective tool of measurement for abnormality. In England if a stranger was to start conversing with you in for example a train, most likely they would be thought to be a little abnormal as social norms here dictate that people should keep their distance from others in public transport and in most other places too as the British population value their private space and quiet . However, in many other countries such as The Netherlands it is completely normal and consistent with their societal norms to smile and say ‘good morning’ and even start a conversation. This shows that in effect if some of these people were to come to Britain and behave the same way they did at home they may be labelled as slightly abnormal so the FFA approach can be very subjective.

The ‘deviation from ideal mental health’ definition of