Definitions of Abnormality Revisited
In my last post I posted the first round of thoughts about definitions of abnormality. We had been asked to do this at the beginning of the term and then again at the end of term. What follows is my end of term thoughts.
Reflecting upon my original definitions of abnormality I realized that very little has changed. In fact, if anything, the disorders we have considered and the discussions that have evolved from those disorders have served to solidify my belief that abnormality is a dichotomous system in which normality is considered the central point from which all that lies outside is deemed abnormal, and often, deviant. Deviations or alternative forms of expression can prove problematic for anyone concerned with being alienated. The DSM-IV-TR is just one systematic demonstration of how normality is defined by a dominant majority. Disorder categories, such as the various personality disorders or gender identity disorder, illustrate that very little space for expressions of eccentricity or diversity is made within normality. This also speaks to my original assertion that abnormality can often be little more than a pathologization of individuals who create discomfort for those within dominant culture, therefore perpetuating the marginalization of minority and alternative communities.
I am, however, encouraged by discussion of a possible shift from a categorical to a spectrum based diagnostic system for the DSM-V as this would potentially allow for greater diversity and individuality. With such a shift, abnormality has the potential to become less stigmatizing and, as such, likely to encourage more people to seek treatment when there are behaviors, attitudes, and patterns of thought are disrupting to their ability to function day-to-day. A clear understanding of our own biases remains a critical component to determining whether a client’s abnormality is truly demonstrating such a disturbance in functioning or is simply a expression of individuality.