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2a) Outline behaviour treatment to a dysfunctional behaviour (10 marks)
Dysfunctional behaviour is a broad term to describe a list of behaviours. Rosenhan defined it as behaviour that; shows statistical infrequency, is a deviation from social norms, leads to lack of functioning and loss of ideal mental health. Because of its variety of impacts to the individual and society, it is seen as an area of psychology that is very important. In the UK on the NHS a person can receive a number of different treatments to try and treat their dysfunctional behaviour, one of which is behavioural. The behaviourist approach assumes all behaviour is learnt through classical conditioning (where an association is made to a stimulant and through operant conditioning (where a certain stimulus leads to a reward). It therefore assumes all behaviour can be unlearnt.
A study by Mcgarath looked into how a dysfunctional behaviour could be unlearnt through behavioural treatment. The study is a case study of Lucy who has a phobia of very loud noises, this was treated with systematic desensitisation which slowly introduced the phobia in a controlled environment. When Lucy first arrived she could not even hold a balloon and when one was popped she cried.In the weeks that followed she under went systematic desensitisation , as well as learning relaxation techniques such as breathing. By the end of the 8 weeks she was able to put her relaxation into practice a pop a button in her hands. Her score of anxiety for her phobia decreased from 10/10 to 3/10.
This study successfully showed how a dysfunctional behaviour could be treated with behavioural treatment.
2b) Compare approaches to treating a dysfunctional behaviour (15 marks)
Dysfunctional behaviour is any behaviour that is not shown in society (deviation from social norms) and is rare behaviour (statistical inference). Because of this, when dysfunctional behaviour is shown in an individual, it often needs to be treated to give a better quality of life.
The cognitive approach assumes that dysfunctional behaviour is due to faulty thinking patterns in the brain, and that these should be treated with cognitive behaviour therapy. CBT attempts not to find the root causes of the dysfunctional behaviour and instead attempts to break the cycle of negative thought. For example in Becks study patients were given CBT to treat their depression. This involved breaking their negative thoughts and correcting their thinking. CBT is largely successful with an 80% success rate in the UK for treating dysfunctional behaviour, however it is often criticised for not treating the underlying causes, only the symptoms.
Another approach which has this problem is the biological approach. This approach assumes that dysfunctional behaviour is as a result of our biological makeup such as an enzyme or neurotransmitter deficiency. In the UK, because a dysfunctional behaviour is most often diagnosed by a medical practitioner, a biological treatment is often first given. In Leibowtiz study of a biological treatment of anxiety, patients were given either Phenelzine or atenol to treat their anxiety. Again this is argued not to treat the root causes of their problems and only the symptoms. Although it could be regarded as the most successful method of treatment due to its quick impact (a number of weeks) compared to the cognitive and behaviourist approach which often takes months.
Lastly there is the behaviourist perspective to treat dysfunctional behaviour. This approach assumes a dysfunctional behaviour is learnt just like any other through operant and classical conditional. It can therefore be unlearnt through systematic desensitisation. This is where a person is gradually exposed to a phobia, to overcome their fear of it. This was seen in McGarth’s study of treating noise phobia where Lucy was treated by exposing her to noise.
Unlike the other two methods of treatment, the behaviourist approach treats the root cause of the problem.
Overall I believe all methods have their merits in treating dysfunctional behaviour and often a combination of them is the most effective.