What exactly is a psychological disorder? How is a psychological disorder diagnosed? Defining exactly what constitutes a mental disorder can be tricky and, definitions have changed over time.
The first problem is that psychologists must first decide exactly how to define disorder. How do you determine if there is something psychologically wrong or unhealthy about a person? How do you decide what’s normal and what’s abnormal?
If you were to define disorder as something that lies outside of the statistical norm, then people who are considered exceptionally talented or gifted in a particular area would be regarded as abnormal. So rather than focus on actions that are considered outside of the normal statistically speaking, psychologists tend to concentrate on the results of those behaviors. Behaviors that are considered maladaptive and cause significant personal distress and interrupt daily functioning are more likely to be labeled as abnormal.
Today many psychologists agree that psychological disorders are characterized by both personal distress and impairment in multiple areas of life.
Learn more about how clinicians define and classify mental disorders and discover how many people are impacted by such disorders every year.