3 Important Things About Abnormal Psychology

What is abnormal psychology? What does it mean? I don't know about you, but this phrase has a negative connotation to me. Abnormal is a term that reminds me of something weird or different. If someone has an abnormal psychology, does that mean they are weird?

In reality, abnormal in this context is "varying from typical behavior". This means that abnormal behavior or psychology is something that we do not see in everyone, but in a fewer populations of people. I do not think that "abnormal" should be looked at in a negative way. Mental health is much more talked about in our culture today. We are realizing that there are more and more people struggling with mental disorders. Thankfully, there is less of a stigma now then there was years ago. 

Therefore, if you study in an abnormal psychology class, you will learn about the different mental disorders that researchers study. The description, symptoms, and explanations of these disorders can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). If you have a future career in psychology, you will be very familiar with the DSM-5

In an abnormal psychology class you may also learn about theories, research, methods, treatment, and prevention. An abnormal psychology class is likely one of the first classes you will take in your psychology undergraduate journey. You may also take this class if you are a social work major. I highly recommend learning more about the content within abnormal psychology- it is an incredible stepping stone into your future career. 

Below are a few things I learned from taking an abnormal psychology class:

1.   The class is required for graduate school

If you plan on getting a graduate degree in some sort of psychology, you need to take abnormal psychology in your undergraduate career. I know this from personal experience! I was not a psychology major, but in my senior year of college I knew that I wanted to go to graduate school to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. SO, I took several psychology classes, including abnormal psychology because I knew that I would need this class to be accepted into a graduate program. You will likely have to take an introductory psychology course before you can take abnormal psychology. 

It's not the end of the world if you do not take this class. Some universities let you take it your first semester of your program. All in all, take abnormal psychology in your undergrad, but if you can't, ask the admissions office at your future graduate school to hear more about their qualifications for getting into a program. 

2. There are many types of mental illnesses

There are over 150 diagnoses in the DSM. I never knew that there were so many different types of mental disorders. This can be overwhelming to think about for future therapists- how are we supposed to have all of these memorized?! Thankfully, we have the DSM for reference when we are working with clients. 

3. Untrained professionals should not diagnose other individuals

If you do not have a degree or a license to diagnose clients, don't do it! This was one of the most repetitive things that my professor would say to my class. It can be easy to learn all of these different disorders and then start "diagnosing" our friends and family (and ourselves). It does not help anyone when untrained professionals give their opinion about a potential diagnosis of a person. However, if you recognize some symptoms of a certain disorder, such as depression, it may be beneficial to learn more about the persons symptoms and potentially refer them to a professional to be treated. 

I learned so much more than this, but here are the most important things I learned from taking abnormal psychology. I hope you get an opportunity to take this class! You not only learn a lot about mental disorders, you also learn a lot about yourself. What are you most looking forward to learn about abnormal psychology? Any other important information I missed? Whatever you decide to do in your future career I know that you are going to do great things!

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