Outline and Evaluate the Biological Approach to Abnormality

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The biological approach is a way of looking at abnormality that assumes that psychological disorders are physical illnesses with physical causes. According to the biological approach, the cause of a psychopathology is to with genetics, neurotransmitters, infection or brain injury. Faulty genes are known to cause some diseases that have psychological effects, such as Huntington’s disease (leads to a deterioration of mental abilities), and Schizophrenia (leading to symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and disorganised behaviour.) A key study into the genetic basis of schizophrenia was done by Gottesman et al, who did a meta-analysis of 40 twin studies. It was found that having an identical twin with schizophrenia gave you a 48% chance of developing the condition. This reduced to 17% in non-identical twins. They concluded that schizophrenia has a strong genetic basis, however, if it was entirely down to genetics, we would expect this figure to be 100% for identical twins. The meta analysis was carried out on field experiments, so has high ecological validity. The fact that both twins wouldn’t always develop schizophrenia means that another factor must be involved, for example family environment. Too much or too little of a particular neurotransmitter may produce psychological disorders. For example, an increased level of dopamine is linked to schizophrenia, and drugs like cocaine, which increase dopamine levels, can lead to schizophrenia like problems. Also, depression can be effectively managed and often treated with drugs that manage serotonin levels in the brain. However, Watson et al found that low serotonin levels may in fact be due to environmental factors. Disorders may also be caused by infection, for example, general paresis is a condition involving delusions and mood swings, leading to paralysis and death. It is caused by syphilis and can now be
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