The psychological disorder definition.
You may often hear the term “psychological disorder” but what is it? How an individual with psychological disorder diagnosed? Determining whether or not a person suffers from a certain psychological disorder is a challenging task. Not only the definition varies across time, the construct alone is difficult to define.
Psychologists often encounter the challenges when diagnosing a psychological disorder. Deciding what psychological problem does a person experience is the hardest one. This is because no one could really pinpoint a person’s mental state. And the line that separates the normal and abnormal behavior is almost invisible.
Defining psychological disorders require the consideration of social norms and social practices. People from different cultures may behave in different ways. What is normal in your culture may not be normal in the other. This reality alone fades the boundary between normal and abnormal in many ways.
What experts agreed upon is the inclusion of criterion – the negative effect of behavior on the person’s functioning. The behavior can be considered abnormal if it impairs a person’s ability to function. This definition of the psychological disorder seems to be more safe and appropriate.
The psychological disorder definition changes from time to time. Today, most experts agreed that psychological problems cause significant impairment on the person’s life.
The psychological Disorder Definition
A psychological disorder also called the mental disorder is an umbrella term for several maladaptive behavioral patterns of a person. The reason why it is called maladaptive is that it negatively affects the person’s life in many areas. Most importantly, mental disorders cause distress to those who suffer from the condition.
The tool that is used to diagnosed psychological disorders is the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) published by the American Psychiatric Association. The manual defines the psychological disorder as:
…a syndrome characterized by a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognitive, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental process underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress in social, occupational, or other important activities.
However, not all uncommon behaviors – behaviors that do not conform to social norms are abnormal. In addition, certain responses to stressful events like bereavement are also not considered a psychological disorder. The behavior can only be regarded as a disorder if it causes dysfunction in one’s life.
How do professionals diagnose psychological disorders?
As mentioned, identifying psychological disorders is a difficult and challenging task. Mental health professionals often begin with classifying and diagnosing the condition. Unlike physiological diseases, psychological problems have no concrete diagnostic tools. Professionals solely rely on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association to identify what psychological disorder a person has.
Around the globe, there are many people who have mental conditions that aren’t diagnosed. Fear of social stigma holds them from identifying their mental problems. Going to a mental professional often mislabelled. But the true purpose of diagnosis is to properly classify and identify the mental problem in order for professionals to design and apply appropriate interventions.
The prevalence of psychological disorders seems increasing. The World Health Organization (WHO) report suggests that there are 450 million people are suffering from mental disorders. In fact, psychological disorders are one of the leading health problems worldwide.
The increasing number of incidence does not mean any lack of treatment possibilities but the fear of stigma. According to the same report, the fear to be discriminated is the number reason why many of those who suffer from diagnosable psychological disorders do not seek help.
People with mental disorders may be able to regain their normal life if they have the courage to face their fear. The society, at the larger scale, could also help the sufferers by changing the way people perceive and interpret the psychological disorder definition.
I’m a licensed psychometrician, author, and blogger. I’m currently working as a University instructor teaching psychology. I love writing and doing psychological research.