Abnormal Behavior Diagnostics and Culture

Major Means Used to Judge Abnormal Behavior

Sue, Sue, Sue, and Sue (2012) suggested a four-dimensioned multipath model approach to judging abnormal behavior. It is worth noting that the four methods complement each other and none is comprehensive on its own. Two of the methods include the social and the sociocultural approaches.

The social method emphasizes factors such as “family, relationships, social support, belonging, love, marital status, community among others” (p. ES-2). As such, unconformity to social customs is regarded abnormal. A key strength of the social model is that it highlights the crucial aspect of individual lives in the context of social environments. Moreover, the model appreciates the social nature of human being and that interpersonal relationships highly influence personal behavior. Nevertheless, the model has been criticized for adopting non-rigorous studies and subjecting some parents and caregivers to the guilt of phenomenon beyond their control (Sue et al., 2012).

The sociocultural approach, on the other hand, stresses on factors such as “race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, ethnicity culture” (p. ES-2) among other factors. Therefore, persons whose behavior do not conform to any of these sociocultural factors in specific cultural settings are considered abnormal. The sociocultural approach marshals its strength from providing an understanding of abnormal behavior from broader perspective relative to other approaches such as the biological and the psychological methods. Nevertheless, the sociocultural model is criticized for providing multicultural counseling (which is not research-based) and functioning from a relativistic framework, which relies on the social determination of abnormal behavior.

Definition of Mental Illness

Numerous definitions of mental illness have been put forward by various scholars (Ramsden, 2013). This paper adopts the definition by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013), which defined mental illness as all diagnosable mental disorders or health disorders characterized by variations on psychological functions such as thinking, mood, or behavior.

The definition is quite comprehensive and more accurate, especially since it emphasizes the need for psychiatric diagnosis. I personally believe that a person becomes mentally ill when their abnormal behavior is diagnosable and is harmful to self and others as suggested by Ramsden (2013).

Famous People with ‘Unusual’ Behavior

Oftentimes, people with unusual behavior are isolated and put away from the public. However, some famous people are known to exhibit the said unusual behavior. As such, people in fields such as politics and entertainment industry have been reported (or have made personal proclamations) to have unusual behavior (Peek, Lightner, & Murrell, 2010; Graaf, 2016).

In the entertainment industry, some celebrities have been linked to controversial/unusual behaviors. For instance, actors and artists such as Princess Diana, Johnny Depp, Courtney Love, Angelina Jolie, among others were reported to have involved themselves in self-mutilating behaviors (Peek et al., 2010).

In leadership and politics, several leaders, including Winston Churchill, J. F. Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther Jr are reported to have exhibited unusual behavior such as being suicidal, alcoholism, and depression (Graaf, 2016).

A Current Movie Depicting a Person with a Mental Disorder

Numerous movies are based on lives of people living with mental disorders. Among them are those that honestly, and poignantly depict the mental health topic (Greenstein, 2015). One of the honest movies is titled “The Skeleton Twins”, which depicts twins living with depression. The movie begins with the characters, Milo and Maggie being overwhelmed by depression to the pint of becoming suicidal. Depression is expressed in amusing ways, resulting in self-acceptance by the victims. The movie is available on purchase from the link https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OJMC760/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00OJMC760&linkCode=as2&tag=namiorg-20&linkId=ISIBNVOAIFX55VMM (Greenstein, 2015).

Deinstitutionalization Movement


Deinstitutionalization movement was a global crusade aimed at the realization of a change in the practice of taking care of the mentally handicapped from institutions to the community (Niles, 2013; Shen & Snowden, 2014; Sue et al., 2012).

The rationale for the occurrence of the deinstitutionalization movement

Various reasons could be linked to the occurrence of the deinstitutionalization movement. First, the deinstitutionalization movement was intended to counter the devastating effects of the institutionalization, which was a policy put in place to put the mentally ill in institutions. As such, the movement was intended to reduce overcrowding in the institutions, prevent patients from maltreatment and isolation (Niles, 2013; Sue et al., 2012).

Effects of the deinstitutionalization movement

The campaign to move patients from mental institutions to the societies had noticeable positive and negative effects in the pertinent countries and the societies (Sue et al., 2012). It is worth noting that the levels of preparedness among communities differed. While some communities were ready to receive patients, others were not.

In communities where the levels of preparedness were high, positive outcomes were realized. Patients were treated in more humane manners relative to the services provided by the institutions. Moreover, patients were initiated into friendlier environments where they restructure their lives and create productive social networks.

However, the release of patients into the society had negative effects, especially in the societies with low levels of preparedness. Some patients did not get quality care in the community, increased the financial burden of families, confusion/homelessness due to the closure of institutions, and neglectful treatments (Niles, 2013; Sue et al., 2012).

Multicultural Psychology

Sue et al. (2012) defined multicultural psychology as a method that put considerable emphasis on culture, race, ethnicity, gender, age, and socioeconomic class among other related factors in the comprehension and treatment of abnormal behavior.

Social-conditioning and/or cultural values and their Influence on how an Individual is viewed

Human beings have different cultural values and are under different social conditionings. The cultural values and social conditionings determine people’s behavior in that those who comply with the norms are viewed as normal while those who are defiant are considered abnormal.

For instance, the West and the Middle East have divergent social conditionings and cultural values, which influences how an individual is considered. A woman swimming with all her body (except her face and hands) covered is viewed as normal in the Middle East social conditioning whose cultural values emphasize on covering of the body as a form of dignity. However, the same person in the same attire but in a western public swimming pool may be viewed as abnormal.

The influence of culture on the definition of abnormal

Ramsden (2013) propose that culture is key in determining human behavior and, therefore, it highly influences the contextual definition of normal or abnormal behavior. It is imperative to note that cultural relativism stresses the influence of culture on expression and determination of abnormal behavior.

As such, a behavior may be considered normal and acceptable under a certain culture but regarded as abnormal under a different cultural setting. For instance, binge drinking among 16-30-year-olds in the UK is considered normal in that specific context but outside the cultural context the behavior can be termed as abnormal or even a mental disorder (Ramsden, 2013).

The influence of culture on diagnosing an individual

Different approaches (including observation, interview, or scientific tests) can be adopted in diagnosing abnormal behavior. Culture has relative levels of influence on each of the methods of diagnosing individuals for abnormal behavior. Methods such as observations and making conclusions are likely to be highly influenced by what a culture determines to be abnormal. Scientific approaches, especially those that do not rely on the sociocultural method of judging abnormal, are likely to be influenced in lesser degrees since they emphasize absoluteness in diagnosis (Sue et al., 2012; Ramsden, 2013).


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Mental health basics. Web.

Graaf, M. D. (2016). From Mahatma Gandhi to Abraham Lincoln: great leaders who had mental illness – and triumphed as a result. Web.

Greenstein, L. (2015). 7 of the best movies about mental health. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Web.

Niles, C. (2013). Examining the deinstitutionalization movement in North America. Health Tomorrow 1(2013), 54-83.

Peek, L. E., Lightner, K. O., & Murrell, A. R. (2010). Media and other social influences on adolescent repetitive self-mutilation. Journal of Media Psychology, 15(3), 1-25.

Ramsden, P. (2013). Defining abnormal behaviour. London: Sage Publication.

Shen, G. C., & Snowden, L. R. (2014). Institutionalization of deinstitutionalization: a cross-national analysis of mental health system reform. International Journal of Mental Health System, 8(47), 1-23. Web.

Sue, D., Sue, D. W., Sue, D. M., & Sue, S. (2012). Understanding abnormal behavior (10th ed.). Mason, OH, United States: Cengage Learning, Inc.