Many people struggle with the question that whether they or someone close to them are displaying abnormal patterns of behavior? This question arouses extreme fear and panic. Why? Try and recall an image of a person displaying abnormal behavior. There is a great probability that the image you saw was of someone who looks crazy, yells and displays violence, laughs uncontrollably and cannot understand a word you say. This is the common-sense view of mental illness or abnormal behavior and that is why the very thought of having any trace of abnormal behavior is so scary.
This is precisely the reason that there is a widespread social stigma about being mental ill or abnormal. The society attaches a derogatory meaning to terms ‘abnormal’ and ‘mental illness.’ But is this true? NO.
The word ‘abnormal’ simply means anything that is away from the ‘norm.’ The movement away from the norm can be both in either a negative or a positive direction. Definitions of what constitutes normality and abnormality of human behavior have changed across times, cultures and perspectives.
Few criteria that can help us in determining whether a behavior is abnormal are:
- The behavior impedes the person to realize his or her potential?
- The behavior displayed by the person rare (in a negative sense) in terms of age, cultural norms and social expectations?
- It has a negative effect on the life of the individual concerned?
- It has a negative effect on the life of others?
- The behavior makes the individual suffer and disabled?
Abnormal behavior and mental illness are as old as human race although different civilizations and societies had different definitions of abnormality and diverse methods to deal with it.
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