Psychological Disorders

By: Casey Lavia

What is a psychological disorder?

Psychological disorders also known as mental disorders, are abnormalities of the mind that result in persistent behavior patterns that can seriously affect your day-to-day function and life.


Panic attacks symptoms-
  • palpitations
  • breathing difficulties
  • chest pains
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • fear of impending doom (fear of everything going wrong, death)
  • fear of going crazy of doing something uncontrollable
  • sense of reality
Reach their peak within a few minutes of the beginning of an attack, which can last from minutes to hours.

What causes a panic attack?

  • A biological vulnerability for panic, an event at the level of the brain.
  • Panic attacks arise from a hypersensitivity involving the locus coeruleus, a small group of cells deep in the brain stem.
  • Locus coeruleus is a seat of an 'alarming system' that triggers an increased heart rate, faster breathing, sweating, and other components of the fight-or-flight response, which can lead to the experience of panic.
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What is it like to have a panic attack?

"My breathing starts getting very shallow. I feel I'm going to stop breathing. The air feels like it gets thinner. I feel the air is not coming up through my nose. I take short rapid breaths. Then I see an image of myself gasping for air and remember what happened in the hospital. I think that I will start gasping. I get very dizzy and disoriented. I cannot sit or stand still. I start pacing. Then I start shaking and sweating. I feel I'm losing my mind and I will flip out and hurt myself or someone else. My heart starts beating fast and I start getting pains in my chest. My chest tightens up. I feel no one will be able to help me. I get very frightened I will die. I was to run to some place safe but I don't know where"

Post - Traumatic Stress Disorder

An anxiety disorder can occur as a consequence of traumatic event such as war, physical or sexual abuse, or natural disasters.

The diagnosis of PTSD is made when three conditions are met

  • The person experiences or witnesses an event that involves actual or threatened serious injury or death
  • The traumatized person responds to the situation with fear and helplessness
  • The traumatized person then experiences
- May take the form of intrusive, unwanted, and distressing recollection, dreams or nightmare of the event, or may involve flashbacks that can include illusions, hallucinations and a sense of reliving the event.

- Persistent avoidance of anything associated with the trauma and a general emotional numbing.

- Heightened arousal, which can cause people with PTSD to startle easy.


Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it hard to tell the difference between what is real and not real.

Positive Symptoms

  • Involve an excess or distortion of normal functions, such as hallucinations.
  • It is called positive not because they indicate something desirable, but they mark the presence of certain unusual behavior.

Negative Symptoms
  • Involve diminution or loss of normal functions, such as speech or movement.

Different Types of Schizophrenia

  • Paranoid
  • Disorganized
  • Catatonic
  • Undifferentiated

What is it like to live with Schizophrenia?

Jeffery DeMann describes his first hospitalization for schizophrenia at the age of 27. "I recall vividly the delusion of believing my mother was to take my place in the shock treatments. Then I was to be quietly murdered and placed in an acid bath grave, which would dissolve any physical evidence of my evidence of my existence. At the time, auditory hallucinations also were present. I could actually hear the slamming of my mother's body on the table while being administered the deadly shock. I truly believed my mother was now dead in my place. I also recall curling up on an old wooden bench and repeatedly chanting the words "Die quickly now"'
Meet "Seven" | Born Schizophrenic

Positive Symptoms

  • Include delusions and hallucinations
  • Usually more responsive than symptoms to antipsychotic medication
  • Delusions can be complex, centering on a particular theme, such as belief that someone or something is out to "get you"
  • Hallucinations in schizophrenia are typically auditory; hearing voices is a common symptom
  • Disorganized behavior can include inappropriate, childlike silliness of unpredictable agitation

Negative Symptoms

  • Include flat affect, alogia, and a volition
  • Flat affect is a general failure to express or respond to emotion
  • There may be occasional smiles or warmth of manner, but usually the facial expression is constant
  • Eye contact is rare and body language is minimal
  • Alogia is not an unwillingness to speak, rather the thoughts behind the words seem slowed down
  • Someone with avolition may sit for long periods without engaging in any behavior or social interaction
  • According to DSM-IV a diagnosis of schizophrenia requires that two or more symptoms are displayed for at least a week and the other signs of socially inappropriate behavior are exhibited for at least 6 months

The Brain

  • Having relatives with schizophrenia increases the risk of developing it. (The closer the relative the greater the risk)
  • Even in the case of the highest genetic resemblance, identical twins, the co-twin of a schizophrenia twin has only 48% risk of developing the disease.
  • A fraternal co-twin has only 17% likelihood of developing the disorder.
  • If the disease were entirely genetic, we would expect a 100% risk in this circumstance.
  • Evidence from autopsies and brain-scanning studies suggest that schizophrenia may involve abnormalities in brain structure.
  • More likely to have enlarged ventricles, cavities in the center of the brain filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
  • Increased ventricular size means a reduction in the size of other brain areas, including the frontal cortex, which plays a central role in abstract thinking and planning.
  • Enlarged ventricles are also associated with decreases in the size of the temporal lope, and of the thalamus, which transmits sensory information to to her parts of the brain.
  • Neurotransmitters, dopamine, have been implicated in schizophrenia.
  • It was once thought that an overproduction of dopamine, or an increased number of sensitivity of dopamine receptors, was responsible for schizophrenia.
  • Medications that decrease the amount of dopamine reduce the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • When someone who doesn't have schizophrenia takes the drug that increases your dopamine they experience schizophrenia like symptoms.
  • Excess dopamine triggers a flood of unrelated thoughts, feelings, and perceptions and the delusions are attempts to organize the disconnected events.
  • It is found that from infancy through adolescence these people exhibited more involuntary movements, like excessive movements of the tongue, lip, or arm.
  • The more involuntary movements, the more severe the schizophrenic symptoms in adulthood.
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The Person

  • Children who exhibit fewer expressions of joy than their unaffected sibling go onto developing schizophrenia.
  • This emotional dampening may also cause other people to respond less positivity.
  • Someone who has had episodes of schizophrenia, stressful life event may act as a trigger, leading to a recurrence of symptoms.
  • And what counts as stressful, depends on the person.

The Group

  • Almost 2/3 of people who have been hospitalized with schizophrenia and have moved home with their families can have a recurrence of acute symptoms by the way their family members act towards them.
  • High expresses emotion families, are more likely to have a person with schizophrenia.
  • Social selection refers to "drifting" to lower socioeconomic classes of those who have become mentally disabled.
  • Social causation refers to the chronic psychological and social stress of life in an urban environment, particularly for the poor.

Eating Disorders

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia
  • Usually occur in women

Anorexia Nervosa

  • A potentially fatal disorder characterized by a refusal to maintain even a low normal weight.
  • Someone with anorexia pursues thinness regardless of the physical consequences.
  • Of those hospitalized with anorexia, about 10% will eventually die of causes related to the disorder.
  • Symptoms of anorexia nervosa are distortions of how people with this disorder see their bodies, an intense fear of becoming fat, and a refusal to maintain a healthy weight.
  • It is common for extremely anorexic women to "know" that they are underweight, yet when they look in the mirror they "see" fat that is not there, or they overestimate the size of their body.
  • The person often will deny that their low weight is a problem, or even that they have a problem.
  • Some, but not all, people with this disorder periodically engage in binge eating (eating substantially more food within a certain time period than most people would eat in similar circumstances) or purging (getting rid of unwanted calories through vomiting or the misuse of laxatives).

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Bulimia is marked by recurrent episodes of binge eating, followed by an attempt to prevent weight gain.
  • When that attempt is made through purging, the diagnosis of bulimia is further specified as purging type.
  • Attempts to restrict weight gain may also occur through other methods such as fasting or excessive exercise, and in this case this disorder is the non purging type.

What is it like to be anorexia nervosa?

"Yesterday...I had a grapefruit and black coffee for breakfast, and for dinner I had the..salad I eat every night. I always skip lunch. I had promised myself that I would only eat three-quarters of the salad since I've been stuffed after it lately-but I think I ate more than the three-quarters. I know it was just lettuce and broccoli but I can't believe I did that. I was up all night worrying about getting fat."


  • Kosslyn, Stephen Michael, and Robin S. Rosenberg. Fundamentals of Psychology: The Brain, the Person, the World. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2005.