This week we tackle the difficult and sometimes painful subject of psychological disorders and their treatment. This is the topic that most people think of when they think of psychology. We will investigate a variety of disorders, discuss myths and stigma surrounding psychological disorders, as well as explore the many different treatment approaches to helping those with psychological disorders.
As you progress through your lesson this week, take full advantage of all of the features of this adapted learning lesson – complete the exercises, honestly assess your understanding of the material using the slider bars at the bottom of each screen, and review the support material suggested based on your progress. Be sure to ask your instructor if you have any questions over any of the concepts introduced this week.
On Monday, September 16, 2013, a gunman killed 12 people as the workday began at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC. Aaron Alexis, 34, had a troubled history: he thought that he was being controlled by radio waves. He called the police to complain about voices in his head and being under surveillance by “shadowy forces” (Thomas, Levine, Date, & Cloherty, 2013). While Alexis’s actions cannot be excused, it is clear that he had some form of mental illness. Mental illness is not necessarily a cause of violence; it is far more likely that the mentally ill will be victims rather than perpetrators of violence (Stuart, 2003). If, however, Alexis had received the help he needed, this tragedy might have been averted.
Clive Wearing is an accomplished musician who lost his ability to form new memories when he became sick at the age of 46. While he can remember how to play the piano perfectly, he cannot remember what he ate for breakfast just an hour ago (Sacks, 2007). James Wannerton experiences a taste sensation that is associated with the sound of words. His former girlfriend’s name tastes like rhubarb (Mundasad, 2013). John Nash is a brilliant mathematician and Nobel Prize winner. However, while he was a professor at MIT, he would tell people that the New York Times contained coded messages from extraterrestrial beings that were intended for him. He also began to hear voices and became suspicious of the people around him. Soon thereafter, Nash was diagnosed with schizophrenia and admitted to a state-run mental institution (O’Connor & Robertson, 2002). Nash was the subject of the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind. Why did these people have these experiences? How does the human brain work and what happens when the brain and behavior go awry?
Therapy and Treatment
What comes to mind when you think about therapy for psychological problems? You might picture someone lying on a couch talking about his childhood while the therapist sits and takes notes, à la Sigmund Freud. But can you envision a therapy session in which someone is wearing virtual reality headgear to conquer a fear of snakes?
In this module, you will see that approaches to therapy include both psychological and biological interventions, all with the goal of alleviating distress. Because psychological problems can originate from various sources—biology, genetics, childhood experiences, conditioning, and sociocultural influences—psychologists have developed many different therapeutic techniques and approaches.