Treating Abnormal Psychology Disorders

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated April 18, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC

Over the last century, the way that psychologists treat abnormal psychology disorders has changed drastically. People are no longer locked up in insane asylums for disabilities and mental health issues. Instead, new and more humane treatment options are available for patients with abnormal psychology disorders. The term abnormal psychology refers to a broad range of disorders that produce abnormal behaviors, from obsessive-compulsive disorders to schizophrenia and personality disorders. Treatment for each disorder will be varied from patient to patient. However, there are treatment options for everyone.

What Are Abnormal Psychology Disorders?

Abnormal Psychology is the study of mental disorders. Mental disorders are defined as psychological disorders that cause a person to act outside of the norm. Psychologists use the DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual to diagnose abnormal psychology disorders. There are 12 categories of mental disorders recognized by the DSM and several specific disorders listed under each.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurodevelopmental disorders are usually diagnosed during early childhood and impair how a brain develops or works with the neurological systems in the body. Some examples of Neurodevelopmental disorders are:

  • Intellectual Disability
  • Global developmental delay
  • Communication disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Neurodevelopmental Abnormal psychology disorders are usually treated with therapy services such as speech, occupational, developmental, socio-emotional therapies, and sometimes medication. Some neurodevelopmental disorders have been linked to genetic abnormalities. The National Center for Biotechnology Information, NCBI, has reported that some abnormalities can be reversed through genetic manipulation to treat these disorders in adulthood.

Bipolar And Mood Disorders

Bipolar and mood disorders affect a person’s mood and general activity, and energy levels. Bipolar specifically relates to an abnormal shift between feelings of mania and depression-highs and lows. These moods are usually pronounced, and when experiencing these moods, people can become easily agitated, anxious, and disruptive.

People who experience mania feel very excited or happy, sometimes even showing hyperactivity. People experiencing mania are often described as being arrogant or overly confident. Mania also causes people to engage in impulsive behaviors that can often harm themselves or others. Patients with mania may also gamble and spend exuberant amounts of money while shopping, not thinking about the long-term consequences.

Depressive episodes are marked by periods of extreme sadness, irritability, and fatigue. People may feel experience feelings of guilt, isolation, and abandonment that are not based on reality. People with bipolar when in a depressive state, will not participate in activities, may not leave the bed or go to work, will not uphold their responsibilities, and be easy to anger.

Other mood disorders include:

  • Major Depression
  • Dysthymia
  • Substance-Induced Mood Disorder

Mood disorders can be treated with therapy and medication. Because a chemical imbalance generally causes mood disorders in the brain, medications can help the brain produce and regulate the correct hormones and chemicals in the brain.

Anxiety Disorders

People with anxiety disorder often experience constant and persistent worry or fear over real or perceived threats. This fear creates an emotional response that can make it hard for people with anxiety to complete everyday tasks in difficult situations may hinder their social health and can cause disruptions to the lives of people around them. There are several types of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social Anxiety
  • Phobia Disorders
  • Panic Disorder
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder

Treating anxiety disorders is most often done through cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, Dialectical behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy.

Four major classes of medications are used to treat anxiety disorders: SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), a tricyclic antidepressant, and benzodiazepine. There are also alternative treatments for anxiety, including EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and deep brain stimulation.

Trauma Disorders

Trauma and stress can induce disorders similar to anxiety disorders. Trauma disorders are categorized separately now, however, because the patient must have experienced a trauma or significant stressor event to be diagnosed with trauma disorders, whereas anxiety disorders need no event.

Trauma-related disorders are treated with psycho and family therapy and medications such as antidepressants.

Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative Disorders are severe abnormal psychology disorders because they deal with an interruption in a person’s consciousness. These interruptions can cause issues with identity, memory, and safety.

  • Dissociative Amnesia
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder
  • Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder

Treatments for dissociative disorders revolve around helping the patient recall and process the repressed memories causing the dissociation from reality so that therapy can treat the past trauma. There are no medications that are specifically slated for dissociative disorders. However, there are some medications to help relieve the symptoms produced by these disorders.

Somatic Symptom Disorder

Somatic Symptom Disorder occurs when people have prominent physical symptoms with no biological medicine determined cause. These symptoms cause the patient to obsess over the symptoms, resulting in emotional distress and disruptions to their daily life. Other related illnesses include:

  • Illness Anxiety Disorder
  • Conversion Disorder
  • Factitious Disorder

The treatment plan for somatic symptom disorders focuses on improving daily functioning rather than treating the disorder. Reducing stress, counseling, and cognitive behavioral therapy are the best treatment options for people dealing with these disorders.

Feeding And Eating Disorders

Abnormal psychology disorders that involve food and eating fall into this category. The most commonly known include anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. However, a few other disorders involve eating or food that are categorized here as well.

  • Rumination Disorder
  • Pica
  • Binge-eating Disorder

Because eating disorders can cause death and severe illness, many people with severe bulimia and anorexia may require inpatient hospital treatment. Intensive treatment is provided for those who have stopped eating completely, are depressed or mentally unstable, and have developed other medical conditions such as diabetes due to the eating disorder. Residential treatment requires no intensive medical intervention; however, the patient may be impaired or unable to respond to outpatient treatment options.

For patients who do not require intensive intervention or residential services, partial hospitalization is available when they are medically stable. Still, the assessment is needed to determine the risk of medical injury. Outpatient therapy is also available, and medical marijuana is now often prescribed for those suffering from eating disorders to stimulate the appetite.

Sleep Disorders

When people have trouble sleeping, they may have a sleep disorder. To have a disorder, the sleeping troubles must disrupt your daytime functioning and lead to distress. One night of insomnia does not qualify someone for a sleep disorder. The sleep-related issues must be persistent and ongoing.

  • Narcolepsy
  • Insomnia Disorder
  • Hypersomnolence
  • Breathing-Related Sleep Disorders
  • Parasomnias
  • Restless Leg Syndrome

There are many different treatment options for sleep disorders. Because sleep disorders can have many causes, it is important to have a sleep study to determine where the issues lie. After a sleep study and diagnosis, treatment options may include sleeping pills, natural supplements like melatonin, medication for other health issues, breathing devices, and dental guards for sleep teeth grinding. Iron has also been shown to help reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, especially in children.

Along with medical treatment, people with sleep disorders need to commit to lifestyle adjustments and sleeping schedules.

Behavior Disorders

Some abnormal psychology disorders can greatly impact a person’s behavior in ways that may make that person dangerous. Behavior disorders are sometimes called impulse control disorders and cause a person to not be in conscious control of their feelings, emotions, and impulses. They often cannot regulate their behavior, and the behaviors can often lead to violence, aggression, and destruction.

  • Kleptomania
  • Pyromania
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Behavior disorders have no known cure and, many times, no known cause. Cognitive Behavior therapy is usually prescribed for these disorders and mood stabilizers and other medications to help manage the symptoms. For patients with extreme behavior disorders that cause danger or threat of danger to themselves or others, inpatient and residential treatment facilities are available. There are also luxury facilities for patients with the means to procure treatment in a nontraditional environment.

Substance Abuse And Addiction

The DSM categorizes addiction as a mental health issue that needs and can be treated. There are specific disorders for the type of addiction, from alcohol abuse to stimulants, tobacco, and even gambling, among many others.

Substance abuse and addiction are treated with psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. Therapy focuses on treating the underlying mental and emotional disorders that lead to addiction and substance abuse. Medical detox is also available for those who wish to get and stay clean.

Neurocognitive Disorders

Neurocognitive disorders are deficits in neurological functioning that are acquired, not natural. These disorders are characterized by a decline in cognitive ability, memory, attention, language, perception, and learning ability. These conditions can be caused by other biological, medical conditions such as Parkinson’s or vascular disease.

Delirium is a very serious neurocognitive disorder that can cause confusion and safety risks for the patient. Delirium happens over a short period and can also cause disturbances in awareness, reality, and attention.

Treating neurocognitive disorders begins with seeing a neuropsychologist, and for seniors, a geriatric psychologist. Antidepressant medications are usually prescribed as well as medications that can help memory function. Psychotherapy and psychosocial therapy can both be used for managing these disorders, which are often degenerative.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are the most commonly thought of mental disorders when referring to abnormal psychology. Personality disorders can cause major life disruptions for both the patient and those around them. These abnormal psychology disorders can make relationships difficult to maintain.

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Dependent Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Treatment for personality disorders will vary depending on the diagnosis. Most treatments involve a team approach to ensure that social, physical, and mental needs are treated. Treatment for personality disorders must be ongoing to be effective and may include social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and nurses. For severe cases, residential and inpatient programs are offered.

Finding Help For Abnormal Psychology Disorders

If you or a loved one are suffering from an abnormal psychology disorder or symptoms, you should seek medical help. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, you should call 911. If you are ready to start your therapy journey and begin talking to someone today, CLICK HERE to get connected with an online therapist!

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