In diagnosing a person’s psychological issues, we run the risk of fitting him or her into a box, and forget that this is a real person with unique feelings and needs. At the same time, diagnosing psychological issues has allowed us as professionals to identify a problematic pattern of behavior, communicate effectively about it, and to work toward a successful treatment.
Read the case studies below and assess whether the individual described is displaying a psychological disorder. Choose TWO individuals to assess.
Abner has lived a turbulent life. As a young child, he skipped school often. When he did attend he was a frequent behavior problem, often getting into fights with other boys. As a teen, he was finally expelled from school after stabbing another student. Abner has never held a job for any length of time. Soon after his expulsion, he began breaking into homes and stealing whatever he could get his hands on. However, he appears to feel no guilt about any of his behaviors. He has several children with different women; he is not committed to either the women or his children, whom he never sees, nor does he provide financial support. Despite these characteristics, Abner is a colorful and entertaining person and has a certain charm. If asked, he will tell you that he is content with his life and doesn’t care that he has hurt others physically or emotionally.
Brittany reports bouts of dizziness and sweaty palms since the birth of her daughter two years ago. Often when she is alone with her daughter, Brittany reports having difficulty breathing, feeling agitated, that the room is closing down on her. Brittany is usually able to calm herself, but more recently, she has felt the need to leave the room. Brittany is concerned that she may inadvertently have to leave her young child in an unsafe situation because of these feelings. She worries about this problem constantly, and often finds herself unable to sleep. The patient is one of five children. She remembers her mother as being indifferent. Her father was said to have been cold; she remembers little of him though she recalls his arguments with her mother about producing all girls. The family struggled financially after father left, but each of the girls managed to graduate from high school and find jobs. Brittany reported that she always thought of her childhood as “average,” but she recently began to recall episodes of physical and verbal abuse by her father toward her mother. She had memories of beatings or verbal assaults of her father against her mother; afterwards, her mother would hide in her bedroom, while her father would continue to throw things and curse as the children watched in fear. Soon after this memory emerged, Brittany had a particularly frightening dream of a woman holding Brittany down while Brittany’s father chewed at her hands and feet.
Carly is the only child of two professional parents. She did well in high school and had several close friends. However, her grades suffered when she got to college, and she spent one semester on probation before she graduated. While in college, she met Dan, and the two married soon after graduation and had two children. Carly and Dan decided that she would stay home until the children were in school, since his job with a prestigious accounting firm would allow him to support the family. Three months ago, Dan came home from work and announced that he was having an affair and that he had decided to leave Carly. The divorce proceeded quickly, and while Carly retained custody of the children, she had to move to a smaller apartment. She began looking for work but found that it was difficult to find a job, and eventually took a job she disliked. Carly often finds herself thinking about how quickly her life has changed in the last few months. She becomes very sad and will sometimes lie in bed crying after the children are asleep. She finds herself eating a lot more than usual, and sometimes, she has difficulty getting to sleep at night.
Choose TWO of the three cases presented.
1) For the TWO cases you chose, explain why the individual does or does not have a psychological disorder.
- (20% of your score) be sure to identify the criteria for a psychological disorder – how do professionals know what is “normal” and what is “abnormal?”
2a) (parts 2a/2b are worth 40% for each case) If you believe a case is an example of a disorder, what diagnosis would you give and why?
- be sure to identify the symptoms* of the case and how it fits the criteria of the disorder you are considering.
2b) If you believe a case is NOT an example of a disorder, explain why not.
- be sure to identify the symptoms* of the case and how it doesn’t fit the criteria of the disorder you are considering.
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