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PSY 3761 Abnormal Psychology

Course Description

Examines psychological disorders, including theories for their development, symptomology, and system of classification

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to

  • Define a mental disorder and the classification of that disorder
  • Describe the ways mental disorders are assessed and the properties of those assessments that ensure accuracy
  • Explain the stress-diathesis model and the impact of stress on mental health
  • Differentiate between the symptoms of different anxiety, mood, dissociative, somatic, psychotic, personality, childhood, and late-life disorders
  • Identify the impact of mental illness in the legal setting and the role of psychologists in that setting
  • Differentiate theoretical models for treatment

Week 1

Lecture: Instructor Introduction
Lecture: Course Introduction
Lecture: Paradigms and Diagnosis/Assessment


  • Define a mental disorder using the concept of the 4 D's
  • Explain how the meaning of stigma applies to people with mental disorders
  • Describe different types of mental health professions, including the training involved for each and the expertise developed
  • Describe the four major paradigms of psychopathology (genetic, neuroscientific, psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral)
  • Explain the importance of culture, ethnicity, and social factors in the study and treatment of psychopathology
  • Explain the diathesis-stress integrative paradigm
  • Describe the 5-Axis system of the DSM-IV-TR
  • Differentiate between reliability and validity and discuss the importance of valid and reliable forms of psychological assessment
  • State the strengths and weaknesses of a categorical system like the DSM-IV-TR

Week 2

Lecture: Research and Stress/Health


  • Discuss the importance of random assignment in psychological research
  • Differentiate causation and correlation
  • Describe the basic features of experimental design
  • Distinguish the definitions of stress, coping, and social support
  • Explain the theories of the stress-illness link, especially the concept of allostatic load
  • Describe major psychological treatments for psychological factors affecting medical conditions

Week 3

Lecture: Anxiety and Mood


  • State the common symptoms for each of the following: Panic Disorder, Phobia, GAD, PTSD, and OCD
  • Describe how anxiety disorders often co-occur and give explanations why this may be
  • Describe common treatment approaches across the anxiety disorders and how they may be modified for a specific disorder
  • Discuss gender and sociocultural factors in anxiety disorders
  • Describe the etiology of specific phobias, social phobia, and panic disorder
  • Describe the symptoms of depression and mania
  • Distinguish between Dysthymic and Major Depressive disorder
  • Distinguish between Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymic disorder
  • Differentiate between hypomania and mania
  • Describe two cognitive theories of depression and how psychological treatment of depression relates to them

Week 4

Lecture: Dissociative and Somatoform


  • Define the symptoms of dissociative and somatoform disorders
  • Discuss the possible etiology of dissociative identity disorder
  • Explain both the psychodynamic and sociocultural perspectives on conversion disorder
  • Discuss the cognitive behavioral model of somatoform disorders
  • Describe available treatments for dissociative and somatoform disorders

Week 5

Lecture: Eating, Substance, and Late Life


  • Distinguish the symptoms of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder
  • Discuss the sociocultural issues surrounding eating disorders
  • Describe treatments for eating disorders
  • Differentiate between substance abuse and substance dependence
  • Describe the long-term effects associated with the different classes of drugs
  • Discuss approaches to treatment for substance-related disorders
  • Discuss the psychosocial factors unique to late life
  • Describe the symptoms of dementia focusing mainly on Alzheimer’s disease
  • Discuss current treatment options for older adults with dementia

Week 6

Lecture: Disorders Beginning in Childhood and Sexual Disorders


  • Discuss the different types of sexual dysfunction
  • Describe the diagnostic criteria for gender-identity disorder
  • Describe the treatment options for paraphilias
  • Differentiate ADHD, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder
  • Discuss the causes of mental retardation
  • Describe the symptoms and treatments for autism and Asperger’s syndrome

Week 7

Lecture: Schizophrenia and Legal Issues


  • Describe positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia
  • Differentiate between the different subtypes of schizophrenia 
  • Discuss the etiology of schizophrenia
  • Discuss how psychosocial factors impact schizophrenia
  • Describe the various treatment options for schizophrenia
  • Differentiate the legal concepts of insanity and the various standards for the insanity defense
  • Describe the issues surrounding competency to stand trial
  • Discuss under what conditions a person can be committed to a hospital
  • Discuss the issues surrounding the right to receive and refuse treatment
  • Describe the ethics surrounding psychological research and therapy

Week 8

Lecture: Personality and Treatment


  • Differentiate between personality disorders and other mental illnesses
  • Discuss alternative dimensional approaches to personality disorders
  • Define key features of each personality disorder
  • Discuss risk factors and etiology of personality disorders
  • Describe available treatment for personality disorders
  • Describe the major forms of psychological treatment
  • Explain standards and issues for psychotherapy outcome research
  • Discuss how ethnicity and culture play a role in the therapeutic process
  • Discuss goals of psychotherapy process research
  • Discuss goals of community psychology

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. April 2012