There are multiple criteria that come into play when determining a psychological disorder. One reason is because, it is hard to know for sure if an action is abnormal or not. Something could be abnormal in our country, but a custom in another.
According to Psychology in Action, “[r]ather than being fixed categories, both “abnormal” and “normal” behaviors exist along a continuum, and no single criterion is adequate for [i]dentifying all forms of abnormal behavior” (Huffman). There are four criteria used to determine whether behavior is abnormal. These are known as the four D’s. The first is deviance, this means that someones thoughts are different than those in the their culture and/or society. The second is dysfunction, this is when a person’s behavior is interfering with their everyday life and functions. The third is distress, this means that the person has a substantial amount of distress and unhappiness which can lead to risky or immoral actions. The fourth and final D is danger, this is when the person’s actions indicate that they are a danger to themselves and others.
There are also seven psychological perspectives, they are thought to conduce to abnormal behavior. First is sociocultural, the problems reflect the values and beliefs of the culture. Second is behavioral, there is faulty conditioning or modeling. Evolutionary is the third, this is an exaggerated form of an adaptive reaction. Fourth is humanistic, where the personal growth is blocked. Fifth is psychoanalytic and/or psychodynamic, the unresolved or unconscious conflict. Cognitive is sixth, this is faulty thinking. Seventh is biological, this is problems with the brain, genetics, and biochemistry.
In Psychology in Action, Karen Huffman explains the relationship between the seven perspectives and abnormal behavior:
Consider the phenomenon of compulsive hoarding. Everyone sometimes makes an impulse purchase, and most people are reluctant to discard some possessions that are of questionable value. But when the acquisition of and inability to discard worthless items becomes extreme, it can interfere with basic aspects of living, such as cleaning, cooking, sleeping on a bed, and moving around one's home. This abnormal behavior is associated with several psychological disorders, but it is most commonly found in people who have obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD . . . (Ch. 14).
In the middle ages they had no way to explain this behavior. They believed the only diagnosis was evil spirits and/ or witchcraft. They tried trephining, which was drilling holes into the skull in order to let the evil spirits out. They also performed exorcisms, fasting, noise making, beating, and nasty brews in order to help these people. Later on they started thinking that these people chose to affiliate with the devil. They believed that were witches and they would either torchure them, imprison them for life, or they would be executed.
A very well known case of this happening is the Salem Witch Trials....