The Four Approaches To Psychopathology

The Biological Approach

Basically, the biological approach to psychopathy is assuming that the mental disorder the person is suffering from is caused by faulty biological mechanisms. The mental disorders are treated like your usual illness in that they are cured by removing the root cause of the illness to restore the body back to its normal state. The biological approach says that mental disorders illnesses are caused by four things:

  • genetic inheritance

Abnormal neuroanatomy/chemistry can be characteristics that were passed down from a person’s parents. For a long time, psychologists have studied identical twins to try to investigate this theory that psychopathy or abnormalities are genetic. Psychologists will compare identical twins to see if when one twin shows symptoms of a mental disorder, whether the other one will too. For some mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, if one twin has it then the other one will often have it too—this shows that it could very well be genetic.

  • biochemistry and neuroanatomy

Once again genes play a huge role in this theory of how mental disorders come about. Genes determine a lot of functions in our body, they determine hormone and various neurotransmitter levels. How does this cause a mental disorder? Well, take the neurotransmitter serotonin for example. The levels of serotonin will be determined, for the most part, by your genes. High levels of serotonin have been associated with anxiety and low levels have been associated with depression. This shows that a person’s mental state can rely on their hormone or neurotransmitter levels and thus their biochemistry or neuroanatomy.

  • viral infection

Some research (such as that done by Torrey in 2001) shows that the occurrence of certain mental disorders can be related to the exposure the individual had to certain viruses whilst in the womb. Torrey found that the mothers of individuals with schizophrenia had contracted a specific strain of flu during pregnancy. This virus may then stay in the child’s brain until certain hormones activate it (i.e. during puberty) and the child will develop schizophrenia or associated symptoms.

The Behavioural Approach

Basically, the behavioural approach to psychopathy suggests that the response that a person makes to their environment, albeit internal or external, are what determines their mental state rather than their underlying pathology or other such things. This approach is based on the idea that abnormal behaviors are no different from normal ones in terms of how we learn them and are all learned through social learning or classical conditioning.

Also, it is thought that the environment the individual is in will be partly to blame for their mental disorder. For instance, if an individual were to show depressive symptoms or behaviours, someone else might be more inclined to help that person. Also, things we see in the media can influence our mental state, for example, if you saw someone on TV crash their car you might then develop a phobia of crashing your own car.