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Study Abnormal Psychology

  • Learn more about Developmental disorders,Schizophrenia, Affective Disorders, Mood Disorders, Substance Abuse and much more...
  • Study in your own home with support from our highly experienced and friendly tutors.
  • A useful course for anyone interested in learning more about the signs and symptoms of different psychological conditions.

Course Structure

There are eleven lessons in this module as follows:

  1. Disorders Usually First Diagnosed in Infancy
    • Criteria for determining abnormality
    • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
    • Childhood Disorders
    • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
    • Conduct Disorder
    • Mental Retardation
    • Asperger's Disorder
    • Stereotypic Movement Disorder
    • Normal Functioning
    • Depression in Childhood
    • Anxiety Disorders
    • Types of Therapy; Alderian, Behaviourism, Existential, Gestalt, Person Centred Therapy, Psycho analysis, Rational Emotive, Reality Therapy, Transactional.
  2. Delirium, Dementia, Amnesic and Other Cognitive Disorders
    • Types of cognitive disorders
    • Delirium
    • Dementia
    • Types of Dementia
    • Alzheimer's Disease
    • Comparing Dementia and Delirium
    • Amnesia
    • Cognitive Disorder NOS
    • Pseudo Dementia
    • Research Methods in Biopsychology
  3. Substance-Related Disorders
    • Scope and nature of Substance Abuse
    • Reasons for Using Drugs
    • Substance Dependence
    • Intoxication and Withdrawal
    • Alcohol Dependence and DT's
    • Substance Dependence
    • Substance Abuse
    • Drug Misuse
    • Classes of Drugs
    • Amphetamines
    • Cocaine
    • Crack
    • Opium and Heroin
    • LSD
    • Other Drugs, steroids, ritalin, inhalants, etc
    • Risks with specific drugs
    • Older adults susceptible to Prescription Misuse
  4. Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders
    • Scope and nature
    • Psychosis
    • Treating Psychosis
    • Schizoaffective Disorders
    • Delusional (Paranoid) Disorders
    • Onset of Schizophrenia
    • Symptoms of Schizophrenia
    • Treating Schizophrenia
    • Schizophrenia and violence
    • Biology of Schizophrenia
    • Antipsychotic Medications
    • Psychosocial Treatments
    • Role of the Patients Support System
  5. Mood Disorders
    • Depressive Disorders
    • Determining Type of Depression
    • Unipolar disorders and bipolar disorders.
    • Risk Factors for Depression
    • Men and Depression
    • Diagnostic Evaluation and Treatment
    • Types of Treatment
  6. Anxiety Disorders
    • Scope and Nature
    • Anxiety Symptoms
    • Generalised anxiety disorders
    • Phobic anxiety disorders
    • Panic disorder
    • Treatments -intervention, drugs, etc.
    • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  7. Somatoform, Factitious, and Dissociative Disorders
    • Somatisation Disorder
    • Conversion Disorder
    • Pain Disorder
    • Hypochondriasis
    • Body Dysymorphic Disorder
    • Factitios Disorders; types, symptoms, causes, diagnosis
    • Munchausen's Syndrome
    • Disconnective Disorders
    • Psychogenic Amnesia
    • Psychogenic Fugue
    • Disconnective Identity Disorder
    • Depersonalisation Disorder
  8. Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders
    • Scope and Nature
    • Hypoactive Sexual Disorder
    • Sexual Aversion
    • Female Sexual Arousal Disorder
    • Male Erectile Disorder
    • Female and Male Orgasmic Disorders
    • Premature Ejaculation
    • Dispareunia
    • Vaginismus
    • Secondary Sexual Dysfunction
    • Paraphilia
    • Paedophilia
    • Gender Identity Disorder (Transexualism)
  9. Eating and Sleep Disorders
    • Scope and nature of Eating Disorders
    • Anorexia Nervosa
    • Bulimia
    • Binge Eating Disorder
    • Treatment Strategies
    • Research Findings and Directions
    • Sleep Disorders; scope and nature
    • Treatments for Sleep Apnoea
    • Prognosis for Sleep Apnoea
  10. Impulse-Control Disorders; Adjustment Disorder
    • Symptoms of adjustment disorders
    • Risk Factors for Adjustment Disorders
    • Impulse Control Disorders
    • Intermittent Explosive Disorder
    • Kleptomania
    • Pyromania
    • Pathological Gambling
    • Trichotillomania
    • Compulsive Skin Picking
  11. Personality Disorders
    • Scope and Nature of Personality Disorders
    • Antisocial Personality Disorder
    • Avoidant Personality Disorder
    • Dependent Personality Disorder
    • Histrionic Personality Disorder
    • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
    • Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder
    • Paranoid Personality Disorder
    • Schizoid Personality Disorder
    • Borderline Personality Disorder; symptoms, treatment, research, etc.



  • Identify disorders first prevalent under 18 years of age;
  • Describe how you would diagnose a case of suspected Autism in a child of 4 years of age;
  • Compare and contrast delirium and dementia;
  • Do an internet search for images of PET scans and MRI of brains affected by delirium or dementia include the images an essay discussing these disorders;
  • Distinguish between substance abuse disorders and substance dependence disorders;
  • Differentiate between psychotic disorders;
  • Describe briefly the subtypes of Schizophrenia;
  • Distinguish between Unipolar disorders and Bipolar disorders;
  • Outline a cognitive model of depression;
  • Describe different types of Anxiety Disorders;
  • Develop a treatment to overcome a client’s fear of spiders;
  • Distinguish between Somatoform and Dissociative Disorders;
  • Explain the primary criticisms of dissociative identity disorder;
  • Provide a diagnosis of a case study and justify your diagnosis;
  • Discuss Gender Identity Disorder, Paraphilias and Sexual Dysfunction;
  • Explain what distinguishes a preference of sexual act or object as a paraphilia;
  • Identify Eating Disorders and Sleep Disorders;
  • Explain how eating disorders develop;
  • Distinguish between Impulse Control Disorders and Adjustment disorders;
  • Develop a diagnostic table for impulse control disorders;
  • Distinguish between different types of Personality Disorder;
  • Differentiate between Narcissistic and Histrionic personality disorders.


    There are many different things that might be considered sufficiently abnormal to be of concern. Sometimes, abnormality may manifest in a change of mood, or cause a disorder of consciousness or perception. Another way that abnormalities may show, can be in a thought disorder. Each one of these manifestations can be an extensive area of study in itself. 

    Consider Disorders of Thought

    There are a number of different types of thought disturbance.

    Disorder of the stream of thought - this refers to disturbances to the speed of thought processing as well as the amount of thought. 

    • Poverty of thought - often a feature of depressive disorders and schizophrenia, this refers to a lack of thought and poor variety or richness.
    • Pressure of thought - this may occur in manic episodes and schizophrenia. There is great variety and abundance of thought.
    • Thought blocking - this is where thoughts are interrupted and the person reports an emptying of their mind. It is common in schizophrenia. It happens suddenly and often.  


    Disorder of form of thought - these are apparent through a person's speech or writing. 

    • Perseverance - this is continual repetition of the same thoughts which are inappropriate e.g. providing the same answer to a range of different questions. 
    • Flight of ideas - this is where a person shifts from one thought to another without completing the previous one. It occurs in manic episodes. There is usually a logical sequence of ideas it's just that none are completed. 
    • Loosening of associations - this is where thinking becomes unstructured as evidenced through speech which appears disorganised and confused. Derailment refers to changing topics in mid-sentence to a completely unrelated topic (unlike flight of ideas where there is evidence of a logical sequence. Verbigeration refers to repetition of speech sounds or words which make no sense. When extreme it is called 'word salad'. Talking past the point is where the person never gets to the point although they always seem like they are going to.     
    • Neologisms - these are words made up by a patient.
    • Over-inclusion - this is grouping things together which are not connected.   

    Delusions - this is a firmly held irrational belief which is maintained even when evidence to the contrary is presented. Delusions may be of primary onset where they seem to appear from nowhere, or they may have secondary onset where they are used to explain another abnormal experience. Delusions are considered to be complete but there are also partial delusions whereby the person may have some doubts about their delusions from the beginning or where they begin to doubt them during treatment.

    Delusional mood refers to the mood from which a delusion arises. There is an emotional reaction when an individual experiences a delusion for the first time. Sometimes a person may attribute meaning to a perception in what is called delusional perception. Delusional memory refers to attaching new meanings to past memories. Occasionally delusions may be shared, particularly where one person lives with another. This is known as a 'folie a deux'. Many different types of delusion are recognised with regards to various themes and some notable ones are as follows:   

    • Delusions of reference - this is where the person believes that particular people, objects or events are associated with them e.g. commentary they hear on the TV relates specifically to them and is either a message to them or a message informing others about them.    
    • Delusions of persecution - these usually concern the belief that an organisation or individual is attempting to undermine the person or inflict some sort of wrongdoing on them.     
    • Delusions of grandeur - these refer to erroneous beliefs that the individual is of great importance e.g. of royal descent, extremely intelligent or wealthy, or having an extraordinary talent. 
    • Delusions of jealousy - these are more common in men and usually involve doubts about a partner's fidelity. They can culminate in aggressive behaviour towards the person thought to be unfaithful. The person may examine clothing and follow their partner to try and uncover evidence of indiscretions. Even where evidence cannot be found to support their delusion, they will continue to look for it. 
    • Delusions of control - this is where someone believes that an outside agency has control over their thoughts and behaviours. This is sometimes called delusions of mind being read.
    • Delusions of possession of thoughts - these are most usually associated with schizophrenia. They include delusions of thought insertion whereby the individual believes that someone is implanting thoughts into them, delusions of thought withdrawal where an individual believes that their thoughts are being extracted from their minds, and delusions of thought broadcasting where the person believes that their thoughts are being made available to others through telepathy, radio waves or some other means.   
    • Delusions of guilt and worthlessness - these are associated with beliefs such as a minor misdemeanour will bring about shame on the person's family. They are more likely to be present in depressive disorders
    • Delusions of religion - these should be distinguished from normal religious beliefs held by members of a particular religious group. They are not as common in Western society as they were when religion played a greater role in everyday life.
    • Delusions of nihilism - these are often associated with depressive disorders. It is where the individual believes that something terrible is going to happen or has happened which involves death or non-existence. Common themes include the world is about to end. 
    • Cotard's delusion - this is a form of nihilistic delusion where the individual believes that they are dead. It is sometimes called 'walking corpse syndrome'.
    • Delusions of hypochondria - also called somatic delusions, these are beliefs that a person has some form of physical illness even though all the evidence presented to them suggests otherwise.  
    • Sexual delusions - these involve themes about love and sex and are also sometimes classed as erotomania. They involve misplaced beliefs that someone is sexually attracted to or in love with the individual. Typically the focus of the delusion is someone who is inaccessible and with whom they have had no previous contact. They may attempt to contact the person through phone calls, emails or letters and sometimes may resort to stalking them. 

    Intrusive thoughts - these are thoughts which interfere with thinking. They can be associated with specific conditions e.g. substance abuse disorders where thinking is interrupted by cravings for a substance following periods of withdrawal. They are also associated with anxiety and depressive disorders because they often trigger an emotional response. These thoughts can often be controlled using techniques to stop them or by using distraction.   

    Overvalued Ideas - these are not the same as delusions or obsessions. They are beliefs which feature heavily in an individual's life and which can influence their decision-making, but usually there is an understandable explanation for them even though the beliefs may be faulty. They are present in anorexia nervosa where the person believes that they are overweight and look fat despite evidence to the contrary.  

    Obsessive symptoms - obsessions are impulses, images or thoughts which keep returning even though an individual tries to stop them. The person who experiences obsessions feels that they are constantly battling to prevent them. They also believe that thinking about something will increase the likelihood of it happening. Unlike delusions, the person knows that the thoughts are of their own making and that they are not true and pointless. If they are unable to rid themselves of the obsessions, over time they may show less resistance to them. Although obsessions can concern any theme some commonly occurring ones include:

    • Orderliness e.g. thoughts about arranging objects symmetrically or in an exact way
    • Contamination e.g. thoughts concerning spreading disease to others
    • Illness (somatic) e.g. thoughts about developing terminal cancer
    • Aggression e.g. thoughts about hitting people
    • Hoarding e.g. thoughts concerning not throwing anything away
    • Pathological doubt e.g. thoughts that something has not been done
    • Religion e.g. thoughts concerning doubts over whether sins have been confessed properly
    • Sex e.g. thoughts concerning shameful sexual activities. 

    A number of different types of obsession have been identified:    

    • Obsessive thoughts - these are intrusive phrases or words which upset the person. For instance, a straight male may keep thinking of homosexual acts or words associated with them.
    • Obsessive doubts - these involve a person recurrently doubting that they have undertaken a particular action e.g. unplugging electrical items and turning the switch off at the wall because the person is concerned over the risk of fire. The concern is recognised as being excessive.
    • Obsessive ruminations - these are recurrent themes which interfere with a person's thinking. They are more convolute than obsessive thoughts.  
    • Obsessive impulses - these are strong urges to carry out a particular behaviour which is usually aggressive, risky or demeaning to them in some way. They don't want to do it and they resist acting on the impulse. For instance, a man has obsessive impulses about going to work dressed in his wife's clothes. 
    • Obsessive phobias - these concern avoidance and anxiety. An obsessive impulse about cross-dressing may lead a man to avoid women's clothing.  

    Compulsions - these are behaviours which are conducted in a repetitive way. Like obsessions, the individual tries to resist them and they are acknowledged as being pointless. They serve no pleasure and are recognised as being excessive. Often they are associated with an obsession e.g. to deal with obsessions concerning contamination an individual may wash their hands repeatedly. Sometimes a compulsion may be of the form that if a particular behaviour is not carried out in a specific way according to rigid rules then harm may come to others. Often obsessions and compulsive acts take up a lot of time and slow people down. Sometimes slowness itself can be a primary feature. Some common compulsions include:

    • Checking e.g. that electrical equipment is switched off at the wall and unplugged
    • Cleaning e.g. repeatedly washing hands or cleaning door handles
    • Counting e.g. counting in fives, and then counting gain to check that is was done properly
    • Dressing e.g. arranging clothes in a specific pile and dressing in a stereotyped way


    Abnormality can be Caused by Many Different Things 

    Abnormal behaviour can be caused by any many different things from genetic disorders to brain damage and substance abuse. Sometimes the issue is very obvious, and other times it may be relatively unnoticeable.
    Substance use disorders are conditions that arise from misuse of alcohol, psychoactive drugs and other chemicals. This also includes people who report symptoms attributed to the effects of drug abuse, the side effects of medications, or exposure to toxic materials. Substances are usually grouped into eleven separate classes:
    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine
    • Nicotine
    • Opioids
    • Amphetamines
    • Cocaine
    • Cannabis
    • Hallucinogens
    • Phencyclidine (PCP)
    • Sedatives, Hypnotics or Anxiolytics
    • Inhalants
    You have probably heard the word psychosis, it is often used in the everyday language of the layperson to mean “very mad”. In psychology, it is a condition where the person is not in contact with reality like most people. It can take several forms such as :
    • Hallucinations where you think something is there which in reality is not.
    • Delusions where you believe things that are not based on reality
    • Poor insight, where you think you are normal, when you are not.
    • Unclear or Confused thinking such as thought insertion, withdrawal, broadcasting thoughts.

    Want to learn more about Psychosis, such as schizophrenia, manic depression, bipolar disorder and other interesting topics relating to abnormal psychology - then why not enrol today?






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    Study Abnormal Psychology by distance learning and learn more about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, mania, childhood disorders and much, much more...

    Understand abnormal behave as the first step towards supporting others as a professional, friend or acquaintance.

    A valuable course for anyone who wants to help and support others.

    Learn more about psychological disorders, their causes and treatments.

    Study in your time and at your own pace.

    Learn from our tutors – experts in the field.

    Meet some of our academics

    Tracey Jones B.Sc. (Hons) (Psychology), M.Soc.Sc (social work), DipSW (social work), PGCE (Education), PGD (Learning Disability Studies) Tracey began studying psychology in 1990. She has a wide range of experience within the psychology and social work field, particularly working with people with learning disabilities. She is also qualified as a teacher and now teaches psychology and social work related subjects. She has been a book reviewer for the British Journal of Social Work and has also written many textbooks, blogs, articles and ebooks on psychology, writing, sociology, child development and more. She has had also several short stories published.
    Miriam ter BorgPsychologist, Youth Worker, Teacher, Author and Natural Therapist. Miriam was previously an Outdoor Pursuits Instructor, Youth Worker, Surfing College Program Coordinator, Massage Therapist, Business Owner/Manager. Miriam's qualifications include B.Sc.(Psych), DipRem.Massage, Cert Ourdoor Rec.
    Lyn Quirk M.Ed.,Dip.Med.,Dip.SportsOver 35 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head for TAFE, she brings a wealth of skills and experience to her role as a tutor for ACS.M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy
    Gavin Cole B.Sc.,M.Psych.Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Gavin has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. He has co-authored several psychology text books and many courses including diploma and degree level courses in psychology and counselling. Gavin has worked for ACS for over 10 years.

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    How Children ThinkAnyone who has ever tried to make a child do anything (clean up their mess, desist from throwing mud, stop drawing on the walls) knows that children think differently to adults. This book attempts to provide the skills and knowledge to develop a greater understanding of children.