Criteria of Abnormality- MCAT Psychology | MedSchoolCoach

Criteria of Abnormality

MCAT Psychology - Chapter 4 - Section 1 - Psychological Disorders - Diagnosis
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Sample MCAT Question - Criteria of Abnormality

An individual with generalized anxiety disorder would meet which criterion of abnormality?

a) Violation of social norms

b) Danger

c) Maladaptiveness

d) None of the above

C is correct. An individual with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) would be prone to excessive worrying or anxiety that interferes with daily life and is therefore maladaptive. A is incorrect. Individuals with GAD do not necessarily behave in ways that violate social norms. B is incorrect. Individuals with GAD are not likely to pose a danger to others as a result of their excessive worrying.

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Criteria of Psychological Abnormality for the MCAT

In the vast and captivating field of psychology, understanding the criteria of abnormality is a crucial aspect of diagnosing psychological disorders. It is also a vital topic to master in order to score well on the MCAT. This post aims to shed light on the criteria used to define psychological abnormality, providing you with a solid foundation for comprehending the complexities of psychological diagnoses.

Statistical Criterion

First is the statistical criterion. This refers to behaviors that are statistically uncommon or rare. If a person is exhibiting a behavior that is very common within the population, that would be considered normal. Therefore, abnormal behaviors must be those that are statistically uncommon or rare. 

Violation of Social Norms Criterion

Next, we have the violation of social norms criterion. This refers to behaviors that violate social norms. Examples would be a man who wears women’s clothing to get sexual arousal, or a person with an excessive amount of body piercings. 

Maladaptive Criterion

Next, we have the maladaptive criterion. This is when an individual responds to stress in a way that is detrimental to their life. Examples include a person who drinks themself to sleep every night or a person that relies on drug use to the point where it disrupts their daily life. 

Personal Distress Criterion

Next, we have the personal distress criterion. This is an individual’s self-report of significant and prolonged personal distress. When you think about some psychological disorders, such as depression, you may realize that not all of them are going to exhibit behaviors that violate social norms or are maladaptive. Some of these people instead will report intense feelings of personal distress, and that is still considered abnormal and can be categorized as a psychological disorder. An example is when you experience the death of a close family member. There’s a very good chance that you will experience personal distress. This is not abnormal, however, if their personal distress lasts for an extended period of time or is particularly intense, that may be considered abnormal. 

Deviance From Ideal Criterion

Next, we have the deviance from an ideal criterion. This one’s a little tricky because it requires defining what is considered ideal behavior. So, a person would be considered abnormal if their behavior differs from what is defined as ideal. 

Danger Criterion

Finally, we have the danger criterion. This one’s straightforward. Individuals will fulfill this criterion if they are dangerous to themselves or to other individuals. 

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