What are Behavior Disorders?

The study of behavior disorders is fascinating to most of us. The dramatic symptoms of madness and the accounts of treatment in mental hospitals have attracted public attention as thesubjects of best-selling novels such as Millen Brand's The Savage Sleep, Hannah Green's I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, and Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Many people who read such books wonder secretly if they are normal themselves. There is really no clear-cut distinction, however, between "normal" and "abnormal" behavior. Each of us experiences frustration, anxiety and conflict to some degree. Abnormal behavior involves an exaggerated or distorted response to normal life problems. The amount of distortion depends on factors in the individual's history and, possibly, on his genetic heritage. The degree of abnormality that is labeled "sick" depends on the current cultural standards for acceptable behavior. Standards vary from place to place and from time to time.

This module addresses the question of normality and introduces the major types of disordered behavior.

As you read the text, try to answer the following questions.

1 The definition what behavior is considered abnormal varies from society to society

The definition of abnormal behavior is essentially cultural. Mental illness has no clearly defined state of normality with which it can be contrasted. Physical health is easy to describe: the organs of the body work properly to keep bodily functions, such as pulse, respiration, and body temperature, within norm limits. When a limit is exceeded, there is "abnormality."

This is not the case with mental illness. Mental illness, or behavior disorder, can be contrasted only with our vague and ill-defined notions of normal behav ior. What is considered normal depends to a great extent upon social expectations. Behavior that is considered acceptable and normal in one society or community is considered unacceptable and abnormal in another. For example, physical violence is more acceptable in some parts of our society than in others In the military services, the use of weapons is promoted; in civilian life, it is punished. In football, violent physical contact is part of the game; the same behavior before or after the game would be considered abnormally aggressive

Behaviors that are acceptable to society as a whole are called social norms In contemporary American society, it is generally acceptable to live in families composed of two parents and their children, to send the children to school rather than to work, and to depend more on the husband than the wife for family income. These are widespread social norms. In other cultures, however, other norms prevail. Certain primitive societies require children to work at a very early age. Little girls of six or seven may have to care for babies all day and have very little time for play. Other societies expect the wife to work in the fields while the husband stays at home. People who fail to conform to these norms are considered abnormal in their own culture.

The definition of abnormal behavior is, then, a cultural and ethical matter more than it is a medical one. In the United States, approximately one out of every fourteen people will be hospitalized for mental illness sometime during her life. America has about the same incidence of behavior disorders as do West European societies.

Not all behavior disorders require hospitalization. Mental illness is divided into a number of different categories (mood, schizophrenic, anxiety, somatoform, etc), according to the revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, called the DSM. Some of the categories depend on clinical syndromes, some on personality disorders, some on social disorders.

Many people with behavior disorders are anxiety disorders, sometimes called Neurosis or anxiety disorder , involving a great deal of anxiety and often develops symptoms which have the effect of reducing the anxiety. Compared with pschosis or schzophrenia, Neurosis or anxiety disorder is mild. An anxiety disorder may merely impairs the individual's efficiency or his happiness. A schizophrenic disorder may involve the individual being confused, he may have inappropriate feelings, he may hear or see things, and he may behave in bizarre ways. Personality disorders are disorders of trait or pattern. They may be mild or severe. Usually there is little anxiety involved in these disorders because the afflicted person sees his disorder as part of himself, rather than alien to himself. We will study personality disordes after we have discussed the anxiety and schizophrenic disorders. An important factor in abnormal behavior is the way the individual reacts to the conflicts and frustrations in his life

The categories are not as clear-cut as they may seem to be at first. Just as there is no sharp dividing line between normal and abnormal behavior, there is no clear border between the various kinds of behavior disorder. Each person copes with the inevitable problems of adjustment in his own way. His individual pattern of reaction to his conflicts, frustrations, and stresses may not fit nicely into any particular diagnostic category. Although we will discuss the kinds behavior disorder as if they were well defined, it is important to keep in mind that we are not dealing with clearly distinguishable diseases like measles or polio.


Now test yourself without looking back.

1. A behavior disorder characterized anxiety and by symptoms that cause the individual to suffer and that impair his efficiency, but that do not completely disrupt his life, is called:
a. anxiety disorder.
b. schizophrenic disorder.
c. Personality disorder.
d. (none of these)

2. Data on the incidence of behavior disorder indicate that of all Americans:
a. about half will be hospitalized for mental illness sometime during their lives.
b. about one in fourteen will be hospitalized for mental illness.
c about one in a hundred will be hospitalized for mental illness.
d. about one in a thousand will be hospitalized for mental illness.

3. The definition of normal behavior is made on what grounds?
a. Physical
b. Social
c. Intellectual

4. The most severe type of behavior disorder is:
a. personality disorder.
b. anxiety disorder. c.
schizophrenic disorder.

5. Match. 1 ) Personality disorder 2) Anxiety disorder 3) Schizophrenic disorder An elderly woman is so disturbed that she cannot leave her home, speak, or eat. She sits in the same chair every day, staring blankly at the wall. A garage mechanic is sloppy in work and appearance. He uses profanity even when customers can overhear. He is often late for work, and sometimes misses a whole day. He sees nothing wrong with his behavior and is resentful if criticized. A college student feels anxious and miserable even though he is doing well in all his courses. He can not explain why he is unhappy. 4 OR MORE CORRECT _ PAGE 7 FEWER THAN 4 CORRECT _ PAGE 4 3



Normal behavior is defined, for the most part, in terms of the society in which the person lives. Thus abnormal behavior is defined:
a. culturally or socially.
b. intellectually or conceptually.
c. individually or emotionally.
d. physiologically or chemically.
_______________________________________________ 4

A psychotic interferes radically with the patient's life, while a anxiety disorder impairs his efficiency.


1 ) Neurosis or anxiety disorder ________________

2) schizophrenia os psychosis_______________

a. Mr. A runs down the street in terror. He says millions of snakes are chasing him.

b. Mr. B feels unhappy and fearful about his chances of getting recognition as an artist.

c. Mr. C spends almost all his time with his hands pressed tightly over his eyes. He will not respond to questions and he will not eat. ____________________________ 3

Compared to psychoses, neuroses are generally:
a. milder.
b. more severe.


Match each of the examples below with the diagnostic category it represents by writing the letter of each example in the appropriate box on the chart.

a. Mrs. A conjures up Lucifer, talks to him, and believes that he has told her to kill her children and then kill herself.

b. Mrs. B feels that she has never made anything of her life, and feels a vague sense of dread. She is tense, cannot concentrate, and feels depressed most of the time.

c. Mrs. C runs a bill-collection agency. She is suspicious. and never really trusts anyone. She is eager to catch any of her employees talking behind her back. Even though her suspiciousness makes her isolated and unpopular, she feels no anxiety.

d. Mrs. D stands all day in the same position, never moving or speaking. She has to be tube-fed because she will not eat. She has not said a word to anyone in more than a year.
Category Description Example(s)
Anxiety Disorder or Neurosis Behavior disorders that impair efficiency or affect happiness. They are characterized by anxiety and the symptoms developed to reduce it.
Psychosis or Schizophrenia Behavior disorders that interfere radically with a person's life. They may include disorders of thought and feeling, hearing or seeing unreal things, and bizarre behavior.
Personality Disorders Behavior disorders that involve disturbances of trait or pattern. There is little anxiety, and there are few symptoms.



1 Neurosis or anxiety disorder : b
schizophrenia os psychosis: a, d
Personality disorders: c

2 a

3 1) b
2) a,c

4 1


1 ) Personality disorders in- a. volvedisturbances of trait or pattern with little anxiety and few symptoms.____________

2) Psychoses are behavior disorders characterized by disturbances of thought and feeling, by hearing and seeing unreal things, and b. by bizarre behavior. The psychotic's life is radically upset by his condition._________

3) Neuroses are behavior disorders characterized by anxiety and the symptoms that are developed to reduce it. The neurotic's efficiency is impaired and he is uncomfortable and unhappy.________

A. Mr. A is a loner. He is secretive, and avoids the company of others. He very seldom has strong feelings. Despite the fact that his life is empty of relafionships, he feels that nothing is wrong with him.

b. Mr. B has a good job and does satisfactory work, but he constantly feels uncertain and fearful. He cannot understand what is bothering him because everything is going well at home and in the offce.

c. Mr. C gets up out of bed several times each evening before he can get to sleep. He goes around me house, checking each door and window to make sure that it is securely locked. If his strong urge to check things out is frustrated, he gets extremely upset. d. Mr. D thinks that the people he passes on the street are talking about him. He hears voices telling him that he is sinful, and believes that there is a plot to kidnap and kill him.



1) Personality disorder ___________

2) Neurosis or anxiety disorder ________

3) Schizophrenia os psychosis____________

a. A severe behavior disorder that seriously interferes with the person's life.

b. A relatively mild behavior disorder that affects the person's efficiency and makes him uncomfortable or unhappy.

c. A behavior disorder involving disturbances of trait or pattern with little anxiety and few symptoms.

d. A physical illness characterized by a specific and definite pattern of symptoms.



1 1) c
2) b
3) a

3 1) a
2) d
3) b, c


1. What proportion of Americans will be hospitalized for mental illness at some time during their lives?
1/1 0,000

2. Match.

1) A relatively mild behavior disorder with anxiety and symptoms that disrupt a person's life somewhat._______________

2) A behavior disorder involving confusion, inappropriate feelings, and perceptual changes. The person with this kind of disorder may behave in a bizarre way._________________
a. Personality disorder
b. Neurosis or anxiety disorder
c. Schizophrenia os psychosis

3. Abnormal behavior is behavior that deviates from_______________________________________________________________________________

4. Write Neurosis or anxiety disorder , Schizophrenia os psychosis, or personality disorder after each case history.

a. Mr. W thinks that he is the incarnation of the Messiah, and that it is his destiny to tell the world that everyone must go naked or face God's wrath._____________________________

b. Mr. X is orderly, inhibited and inflexible. He is a confommist. He values hard work and a frugal life. Although his rigidity and obstinacy have kept him from meaningful emotional experiences and have blocked possible creative outlets, Mr. X says he wouldn't have his life any other way. He likes himself the way he is.___________________________________

c. Mr. Y is afraid of elevators. He would rather walk up several flights of stairs than take the elevator. He has a good business in a ground floor magazine store, but he could never take a job where he would have to ride an elevator every day.

d. Mr. Z is a college professor whose students think he is an excellent teacher. He secretly worries, however, about whether or not his departmental chairman is satisfied with his work, and whether he will be fired. Mr. Z feels worried and disturbed most of the time, and can seldom relax enough to enjoy his research.




Unit 11 Table of Contents

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