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PYA5 03/02/10 (OLD SPEC) - Sample Essays and Revision Notes watch

    • Thread Starter

    Having finished my A levels I decided to take a year out to work and do some resits. One of these resits is Psychology Unit 5 which I would say is particularly hard to revise for as it is no longer being taught. So with one week to go until the exam I have decided to try and help some of you guys out and hopefully by doing so receive some help in return.

    So please if you find this post useful and have anything you can think to add then please do, we are all ub this together after all.

    The topics i am covering for this exam are Individual Differences - Psychopathology, Issues and Approaches


    Describe and Evaluate Biological Explanations of OCD

    Anxiety disorders are a group of conditions that share extreme or pathological anxiety as the principal mood disturbance. OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is a type of anxiety disorder involving the excessive execution of irrational actions such as hand washing. These actions are cause by obsessions that are perceived as inappropriate or grotesque. Compulsions are repetitive acts (hand washing) that are carried out as a way of reducing the anxiety that accompanies the obsessions.

    One biological explanation for OCD is that genetic factors are the cause of OCD. The basis for this theory is twin studies and family studies. A meta-analysis of 14 twin studies of OCD, including 80 identical and 29 fraternal twin pairs, found that identical twins where on average more than twice as likely to develop OCD if their twin had the disorder than where fraternal twins (Billet et al 1998).

    However this link between twins and the development of OCD could also be explained using the behavioural explanation. The behaviourist explanation states that the behaviours are learnt through the process of classical conditioning (Mowrer 1960). Twins brought up in the same environment and exposed to the same conditions and subject to the same conditioning resulting in OCD.

    This would only explain how specific OCD behaviours are learnt which does not take into account the different repetitive behaviours shown by adults and children. A mother may have cleaning compulsions where as her daughter may have checking rituals that all her dolls are lined up straight. Suggesting that the general nature of OCD is passed on through genes rather than the specific symptoms.

    Brain dysfunction is another biological explanation for the causes of OCD. There is evidence of abnormal brain structure and activity for patients with OCD. The abnormality lies in the pathways linking the basil ganglia to the frontal lobes. The frontal lobes are used for dealing with judgement and the basil ganglia is used in the planning and execution of behaviour.

    However it is hard to determine whether this brain dysfunction is the cause or effect of other factors. Serotonin plays a key role in the operation of the OFC and caudate nuclei so it appears that a low serotonin level causes these areas to function poorly (Corner 1998). On the other hand Hollander et al (1990) proposed that damage to these areas may be the cause of low serotonin levels; making it almost impossible to tell if brain dysfunction in these areas is the proximate or the ultimate.

    In conclusion biological explanations are backed up by evidence of PET scans and research. However it is not obvious which specific explanation is the soul cause of OCD. There are links between genetic factors, biochemical factors and brain dysfunction. Furthermore behavioural explanations may play a role as certain individuals may be more prone to developing OCD but it is the environment and classical conditioning that causes OCD.

    Describe and Evaluate Biological Explanations of Schizophrenia

    Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that is diagnosed under DSM-IVR if there is at least one month duration of two or more positive symptoms. Positive symptoms include delusions bizarre beliefs that seem real to the person with schizophrenia. Auditory hallucinations such as hearing voices (although visual hallucinations do occur). As well as positive symptoms there are negative symptoms which indicate the absences of a behaviour. An example of this is avolition which is the inability to persist in goal directed behaviour.

    One biological explanation of schizophrenia is that genetics play a role in developing schizophrenia. Twin studies have shown that identical twins have a 48% chance of developing schizophrenia if their twin has schizophrenia. This falls to just 17% for fraternal twins. Furthermore adoption studies have shown a link between the risk of developing schizophrenia and genetic factors.

    However the development of schizophrenia can not solely be down to genetics or the concordance rate for identical twins would be 100%. Because the concordance rate is only 48% other factors must play a role in the development of schizophrenia. Family members share the same environment so twins living in the same household will be exposed to the same environmental factors. This suggests that the high concordance rate with twins could also be due to psychological factors.

    Another biological explanation of schizophrenia is biochemical factors, more specifically the dopamine hypothesis. Schizophrenics are thought to have an abnormally high number of D2 receptors on their receiving neurons, resulting in more dopamine binding and therefore more neurons firing.

    This is supported by the effects the drug L-dopa has on sufferers of Parkinson’s disease. Sufferers of Parkinson’s disease have low levels of dopamine activity. People who where taking L-dopa to raise their dopamine levels displayed schizophrenic symptoms.

    However dopamine levels can not be responsible for all the clinical characteristics of schizophrenia. This is because anti-psychotic drugs that are designed to affect dopamine levels are only effective in treating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Newer drugs that affect both dopamine levels and other neurotransmitters such as serotonin have proven to be more effective in treating schizophrenia (Kasper et al 1999). Therefore excessive dopamine levels can at best explain only some types of schizophrenia.

    In conclusion biological explanations of schizophrenia can not account for or explain all aspects of the mental illness. Biological factors may make someone more susceptible to developing schizophrenia but are not the sole cause of schizophrenia. Biological treatments have been proven to be effective in managing at least some of the symptoms suggesting biological factors and psychological factors can be used to explain schizophrenia.

    Describe and Evaluate Psychological Explanations of Depression

    Depression is classified under DSM-IVR as a mood disorder. In order for depression to be diagnosed it requires 5 of the possible symptoms listed under DSM-IVR to be present. These symptoms include a sad depressed mood, sleeping difficulties (either insomnia or the feeling of the need to sleep 24/7) and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

    One psychological explanation of depression is the cognitive explanation. This explanation suggests that sufferers of depression have developed a negative schema during childhood. This negative schema could be caused by various factors such a rejection and criticism. These negative schemas are activated whenever they encounter a new situation resembling the original conditions. Beck devised the negative triad to explain how a suffer of depression develops a negative view of themselves, the world and their future.

    Cognitive explanations have proven to be very effective in the treatment of depression. Butler and Beck (2000) reviewed 14 meta-analyses investigating the effectiveness of Beck’s cognitive therapy and found that about 80% of adults benefited from the therapy. However the concordance rate is not 100% and drug therapy has proven to be more effective for some individuals. This suggests that biological factors play a role in the onset of depression.

    Other psychological explanations such as sociocultural explanations do take biological factors into consideration. More specifically the link between life events and depression. (Kendler et al 1995) suggested that life events may act as a trigger for the onset of depression for individuals who are more genetically prone to developing the disorder.

    Studies have found an elevated level of the stress hormone cortisol in depressed individuals. Cortisol is one of the hormones released by the adrenal glands during stress, and stressful life events have been shown to trigger depression (Comer 2003). This suggests that the high levels of cortisol in depressed individuals are the result of environmental factors. Furthermore that certain individuals may be more prone to producing elevated levels of cortisol during stressful events.

    Although research has shown a link between early bereavement and depression the sample comprised only of British Women. The effects of life events may vary across genders and cultures. There is evidence that woman rely more on social support (Frydenberg and Lewis 1993) and are therefore more likely to be adversely affected by it’s absence. Where as individuals from other cultures may not rely on social support when dealing with life events.

    Ultimately psychological explanations can be used to explain the causes of depression. However biological factors can not be ruled out and some explanations such as sociocultural factors take biological explanations into consideration. Where as other explanations such as the cognitive explanation may be seen as flawed due to the lack of biological evidence.

    I know these essays aren't perfect but i have been told that they are at a B grade


    Do any of you know what questions are most likely to come up?

    heyaa i saw you post your thread on mine. im doing therapies issues and approaches :P
    • Thread Starter

    Ah damn so none of this is useful lol

    Essays look good, but not sure about them being B grade, they seem a bit too short.

    (Original post by Blinx56)
    Ah damn so none of this is useful lol
    will be to others :P
    im got taught therapies haha cant find anyone else whos done them though

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