Biological Approach to Psychopathology

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THE BIOLOGICAL APPROACH TO PSYCHOPATHOLOGY Introduction The earliest approach to explaining the causes of abnormal behaviour was the 'demonological approach’. This saw abnormal behaviour as being caused by 'demons' and 'evil spirits' possessing a person. According to this approach, the best way of treating abnormal behaviour was therefore to release these demons and spirits, by methods such as trephining. In the eighteenth century (‘The Age of Enlightenment'), this approach was abandoned as people began to see abnormal behaviour as a type of illness ('mental illness') rather than supernatural possession. In fact, the ancient Greeks had recognised that abnormalities such as epilepsy might be caused by brain disorders, but it was not until physiologists like von Haller and Greisinger argued that the brain played a crucial role in causing abnormal behaviour that the biological approach ‘took off’. The biological approach to the causes of abnormality The biological approach sees abnormality as being caused by physical factors. The three physical factors are: (1) Brain damage (2) Faulty regulation of brain biochemistry (3) Genetic factors Brain damage: Early support for the biological approach came from studies of patients suffering from a condition called 'general paresis of the insane'. This condition is characterised by delusions of grandeur and mental deterioration. However, far from being caused by 'demonic possession', research showed that its causes were biological (it occurs if syphilis is left untreated - the syphilis bacterium makes its way to the brain and causes damage to it). Brain damage has been implicated in several other conditions. For example, it is widely accepted that at least some cases of schizophrenia are caused by brain damage. This damage can occur at any time during life, and may even occur during foetal development, and manifest
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