Hope you’re all doing well!
I think that due to a wider acceptance of psychology as an important field of study and of course, thanks to the internet, more and more people are becoming increasingly aware of some of the basic signs and/or symptoms of the major psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) etc.
While I think that this increasing awareness is great, one possible downside is that sometimes people use their limited knowledge to diagnose themselves or others as having certain mental disorders.
We all have certain quirky or peculiar habits and behaviors and we all go through different emotions however, this does not automatically mean that we have some sort of mental disorder.
Here are the 6 most common criterion that psychologists often use to determine if certain behaviors are abnormal and possibly a sign of an underlying mental disorder.
One sign of possibly abnormal behavior is behavior that is unusual. One example would be going through extreme anxiety inside of a crowded elevator. One important thing to point out is that unusual should not be mistaken for uncommon. For example, there are many people who are very talented in one particular way and may be able to do things that the rest of us cannot do, however, this definitely does not mean that their behavior is abnormal.
As many of us know, every culture and society has its own set of norms and standards of appropriate and acceptable behaviors in any given situation. For example, in the U.S. and other Western societies giving eye contact to the person you’re talking to is an absolute necessity. However, there are some other cultures in which giving direct eye contact may be considered inappropriate or in extreme cases can be seen as a sign of disrespect.
An example of this would be hallucinating, where we see and hear things that are not present. Another example would be having the delusion that someone is out to get you. It is important to consider cultural norms. Hearing and seeing things that are not present is certainly considered abnormal in our culture, however, in certain other cultures, such as the Native American culture this may be seen as a perfectly normal or even as a spiritual experience.
Significant Personal Distress:
This is when an individual is always feeling one or more negative emotions such as fear and anxiety. Of course, we all go through our fair share of ups and downs and its totally normal to go through negative emotions. Having such emotions can be considered abnormal when these negative emotions are persistent for a very long period of time.
Maladaptive or Self-Defeating Behaviors
These are the types of behaviors that prevent an individual from properly fulfilling his or her roles and responsibilities. An example would be a person who consistently drinks too much alcohol and as a result is no longer able to function properly at work and/or in their interpersonal relationships. Also, any type of behavior that is a self-defeating behavior is considered abnormal. For example, there are people that have Agoraphobia which is basically a fear of going outside the house.
I think this one is pretty obvious. Any type of behavior that is a danger to ourselves or others is abnormal. Of course, the social context is important. In times of war, soldiers or others who risk their lives for the greater good are rightfully praised. Unfortunately, certain actions that could potentially harm innocent civilians are also considered normal due to the wartime context. A slightly unrelated but important point to be made is that contrary to popular opinion the overwhelming majority of people with a mental disorder are not a danger to society.
I would just really like to emphasize that the six criteria mentioned above are just some of the many criterion that mental health professionals use to judge whether a behavior is abnormal.
Meeting one or more of these criterion certainly does not mean that there is anything wrong with you. Only an experienced mental health professional can make a true and accurate judgment. This post is only for informational purposes.