Discuss the psychodynamic approach to psychopathology. (12 marks)
Psychopathology is the study of abnormality. Abnormality is a psychological behaviour that deviates from the norm or is harmful and distressing to those around them.
The psychodynamic approach to psychopathology looks at what drives us to behave in a particular way. Freud believed that a mental disorder is caused by unresolved conflicts of childhood which are unconscious.
According to Freud the human mind or psyche consists of the id, ego and superego and conflict between these cause anxiety. The id is the irrational part of our personality which uses the pleasure principle: it seeks to have fun. The ego is the conscious rational part of personality, it uses the reality principle. The superego is the moral sense of right and wrong. ...view middle of the document...
This has a powerful effect on behaviour which frequently leads to distress because the person does not understand why they are acting a particular way. The unconscious motivations cause mental disorder. In early childhood the ego is not developed properly and therefore represses traumas instead of dealing with them. For example, the emotions produced by the death of a parent at an early age will be repressed and if in later life other losses happen it can lead to depression. This is due to the emotions being re-experienced from the earlier loss.
The case on Little Hans shows that childhood experiences are a big factor in mental illnesses. At five years old, Little Hans became terrified of horses pulling a laden cart. However, it was not the horse he was scared of, he projected one source of anxiety onto another. He was scared his mother would leave him and projected this anxiety onto the small fear of being bitten by a white horse.
Most of the psychodynamic theory was based on case studies, all of which are unique and cannot be generalised. There are many limitations to the psychodynamic approach. One is that the concept of the id, ego and superego are difficult to define and research because actions motivated by the psyche are primarily unconscious. We can not be sure that they are occurring. The approach is subjective this means you cannot create a testable hypothesis because you can not test the part of the mind we are not aware of. It is merely a matter of opinion and is unscientific. The theory is also very difficult to approve and disprove, this is because if a person behaves the way Freud predicted then it proves the theory. But, if they act differently to what Freud predicted then the theory is not rejected it could simply mean that the persons behaviour is a consequence of their defence mechanism. However, the strength of the psychodynamic approach is that it shows how early childhood experiences can affect our personality in adult life.