Psychological disorders must meet with several criteria before they can be diagnosed. Sometimes people only need to meet one criterion in order to be diagnosed with a disorder but many require the meeting of multiple criterion. One of the most common criteria that must exist in order to diagnose a psychological disorder is when a person violates cultural standards for behavior. If an individual believes that they are a new prophet and this belief causes them to stand on random street corners and in parks lecturing other strangers about their immorality then this would serve as a violation of cultural standards. One of the next most common criteria that must exist in order to diagnose a psychological disorder is when a person exhibits behavior that would cause harm to themselves or others. For example: if an individual drinks so excessively that they cannot maintain their job this would be considered harmful to themselves. Those who experience distress may also fulfill one of the criteria in order to diagnose a psychological disorder. People who suffer from physically painful anxiety or chronic painful anxiety would fall into this category.
There are different models used by psychologists to understand as well as describe and treat different psychological disorders. If a psychological disorder is a disease then a medical model would be used to describe and explain the disorder. Many terms which are used to talk about a psychological disorder are rooted in the medical model. The term “diagnose” refers to a medical process of distinguishing one disorder from others. The term “etiology” refers to the origin of a particular disorder. The term “prognosis” refers to a prediction made by a doctor about the probably outcome of a particular disorder.
Many people argue that a medical model is insufficient for describing psychological problems as not all psychological disorders are illnesses and are instead behaviors. That is why there exist alternative models such as the vulnerability-stress model. This model states that individuals with biological vulnerabilities will only have their disorder if there are specific environmental stressors present. This idea states that psychological disorders stem from an interaction between environmental factors and biological factors. The learning model is yet another model which states that psychological disorders are actually the result of abnormal behavior that has been reinforced throughout the lifetime of the individual. The psychodynamic model is one which states that disorders are a poorly adapted defense mechanism that is unconsciously applied.
Whatever method is used professionals can only assess a disorder by using projective or objective testing. Objective tests are similar to standardized tests while projective tests allow psychologists to make judgments based the interpretation the subjects have of word association or inkblots.
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