Prior to understanding how one can assess abnormal behavior, one must first clearly define “abnormal” and how it differs from what is considered normal. Having this in mind, one must carefully evaluate one’s supposed abnormal behavior based on criteria which has been created, objectively assessed, and trusted by leading psychologists and brain experts worldwide. Abnormal behavior can only be assessed as such if the specific behavior in question deviates from known and valid statistical norms. This particular criterion may be the safest way to assess abnormal behavior since it relies on valid statistical norms amassed from careful research and study.
However, in trying to measure abnormal behavior based on statistical norms, one must remember to be quite cautious in inferring and diagnosing such behavior based on the population and the culture used to come up with the statistical norms. Questions such as the validity, possible erroneous errors, and how recent these norms are must be put in mind. Another criterion used in assessing the abnormality of behavior is its deviation from social norms. These social norms also dictate the appropriateness and frequency of such behavior, and are quite known and obvious in most societies. However, these standards change from time to time, and vary from one society to the other, even quite significantly in some. Checking on the “maladaptiveness” of behavior is another criterion that is based on how the individual’s behavior affects his/her general well-being, as well as the society s/he belongs to.
Psychological assessments must always be reliable and valid; interview, observation and tests are the three types of assessment that are commonly used in assessing abnormal behavior. Empathy is emphasized in assessing the psychological make-up of a person. In assessing severe anxiety, it is important to check the physical status of the person since it may be due to an over-activity of the thyroid hormone or the effect of excessive drug use. Once the reason has been established, a licensed or certified psychological expert may proceed with an interview, which is mostly a combination of the unstructured or the more flexible and free-flowing type, and the structured or the standardized type.
Assessment of the individual’s behavior and the environment where the person belongs to may then follow. This is usually done by the clinician and may also be considered as part of the “observation” facet of psychological assessment. Psychological testing usually follows which stresses the importance of its reliability and validity. There are self-report inventories, projective tests, thematic apperception tests, and neurological evaluations that may be used to assess the severity of anxiety.
It is believed that those with phobias can be treated effectively using classical conditioning techniques that are designed to decrease the fears to both dangerous and non-dangerous stimuli. Flooding is one of the popular techniques used to treat phobias; a person with a phobia is exposed to the stimuli which s/he finds scary and aversive until the fear fades away. Another technique is the counter conditioning technique that allows the individual to replace a fear response with a relaxation response. Systematic desensitization is another technique that employs following a number of steps to decrease one’s phobias. During systematic desensitization, the individual is first trained to relax his/her body, after which s/he must determine why s/he feels anxious about the stimuli; and finally s/he must employ counter-condition moderation techniques to combat the feared stimulus. Systematic desensitization is commonly used with modeling, which takes on a more social approach to treat with phobias.
It is a known fact that people differ in the ways they respond to stress. This is basically because people perceive stressors differently; some stimuli may be stressful to some but may not actually be stressful for others. These stressors are those that trigger one’s stress response. One factor that determine an individual’s stress response is the way s/he appraises stressors. During appraisal, a person tries to gauge the predictability of the said stressor. Elements such as whether or not the stressor may be controlled, its stability, specificity and source are considered during appraisal. The person’s appraisal of the stressors may then determine how s/he reacts to the stressor. Another factor which affect the individual’s stress response is his/her personality. It is believed that there are particular personality traits that may help people better deal with stress.
Hardiness, resistance, self-control, commitment and challenge are some traits that are believed to decrease the severity of stress as perceived by the individual. There are also people with particular personality traits who respond to stress more dramatically compared to others. Another factor that greatly affects how an individual moderates stress response is demographic elements. Age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and career status are some of these variables that may determine how individuals respond to stress. There are a number of studies that compare and contrast a number of known stress responses based on demographic variables.