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Comparison of 4 Major Psychological Disorders

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The Oxford dictionary defines psychology as "Science of the nature, function and phenomena of human soul or mind: mental characteristics." (1980). The normal mental characteristics of the human mind are very difficult to categorize; so when looking at the disorders of the mind a number of factors have been identified that "attempt to define" (Meteyard, 2007, p. 49) what is abnormal or psychopathological. For this assignment I will be looking at four disorders that come under different major categories defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-1V). They are:

* Mood Disorder (or Affective Disorder) - Major Depression

* Anxiety Disorder - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

* Eating Disorder - Bulimia Nervosa

* Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Overlaps into Dissociative Disorders. (Barker, 2006, p.10)


"Depressive disorders are among the most common psychological diagnoses, involving not just sadness but also negative views of the self and the future and physical and behavioural changes that impede enjoyment and activity". (Kendall, 1998, p. 121). The issues leading to depression can include medical problems e.g. low thyroid function, injuries, life threatening diseases, hormonal imbalances, chronic pain, etc. as well as stresses of life including family conflict, work and personality issues, death of close friends, relatives and even pets. Smoking, drugs and alcohol can all contribute to a depressive illness. (Beyond Blue, 2006) Or be caused be internal factors.

Symptoms of Depression: (can be emotional, behavioural, and physical) as cited in Management of Mental Disorders (2000);

1. Markedly depressed mood

2. Loss of interest or enjoyment

3. Reduced self-esteem and self-confidence

4. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness

5. Bleak and pessimistic views of the future

6. Ideas or acts of self-harm or suicide

7. Disturbed sleep

8. Disturbed appetite

9. Decreased libido

10. Reduced energy leading to fatigue and diminished activity

11. Reduced concentration and attention (p. 163)


Once depression has been diagnosed and any biological / medical abnormality has been treated or resolved, ("there is significant evidence as to the validity of a biological explanation for depression") (Meteyard, 2007, p.56) then other avenues of intervention can be looked at. Depression often requires medication with anti-depressant medication, as well as some form of psychotherapy. Exercise can also help overcome some aspects of depression.

Cognitive Therapy includes techniques that "are designed to identify, reality-test, and correct distorted conceptualizations and the dysfunctional beliefs (schemas) underlying [those with depression]. The cognitive therapist actively collaborates with the patient in exploring his psychological experiences, setting up schedules of activities, and making homework assignment." (Beck, Rush, Shaw, Emery, 1979, p.4).

Interpersonal Therapy focuses on "interpersonal rather than cognitive aspects of depression;" it uses the approach that depression is a medical illness happening in a social context. Thus this mode of therapy places emphasis on the relational and communication aspects of individual experience. (Ravitz, 2003, p.15) This therapy includes Non-directive person centred therapy.

Other areas of counselling include the Psychoanalytic (Psychodynamic) Therapy that focuses on past experiences, and childhood recollections to explain the present problems. Behavioural Therapy focuses on "the way people have been conditioned to act or respond to certain situations or stimuli" (Meteyard, 2007, p.57) and thus help them take initiative to change the way they respond to situations. The depressive person's responses to various situations are because they have 'faulty information processing': Behavioural Therapy therefore would not address the 'incorrect inferences' that consume their thinking processes only their actions. (Meteyard, 2007, p.57)

Socio-culturalists focus on the "social, cultural and familial contexts that affect people's experiences," and could also play a role in helping depressed people understand their illness and help them believe that they can change their lives and circumstances for the better.


OCD falls under the category of Anxiety Disorders that involve excessive fear, anxiety, or apprehension. People with OCD complain of repetitive and irrational worrying thoughts and carry out behaviours to nullify the risk that their thoughts might come true. Unlike Depression that affects moods and emotions and leads to inertia: this disorder affects thoughts and actions and leads to heightened levels of anxiety and behaviours.

Symptoms of OCD. As cited in Management of Mental Disorders, (2000);

1. Persistent, intrusive, unwanted thoughts that the individual finds difficult to control, and are recognised as the individual's own thoughts or urges.

2. Overwhelming urges to repeatedly perform specific behaviours. These behaviours are distressing to the individual, interfere with life activities, and cannot be resisted.

3. Anxiety leading to periods of depression

4. May lead to avoidance of certain objects or situations. (p.271)


Behavioural Therapy is the most effective treatment helping the individual to systematically expose themselves to the specific fears underlying their obsessions while encouraging them not to respond to the compulsive behaviours or neutralising thoughts. (Management of Mental Disorders, 2000, p. 273) This can sometimes be named exposure therapy. (Kalat, 2005, p.624) It is difficult, for these clients, to expose themselves to frightening thoughts, but with assistance, improvement can be realised. The use of a OCD



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