Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Components of Eating, Substance Abuse, Sexual and Personality Disorders

Eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual, gender identity, and personality disorders reduce the capacity for normal human functioning. Although their components vary widely, understanding each reduces the stigmatized perception of these disorders and promotes the realistic application of interventions and preventions to support and resume normalcy.

Eating Disorders


Biological components include a genetic basis, hormonal excesses and deficiencies, and abnormal neural activity. Individuals with anorexia and bulimia have unusually low serotonin levels as well as structural brain abnormalities. Brain alterations may be a response to changes to the endocrine and metabolic reactions to starvation (Krieg, Lauer, & Pirke, 1989).


Disordered eating may be a complex reaction to high expectations initially set by parents and promoted by the individual. It may also function as a self-protection from adult sexuality or a response to a sexually abusive experience. Many strive toward high expectations and suffer the effects of not reaching them (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Cognitive explanations of eating disorders focus on eating or starvation experiences that reinforce eating such as distorted thoughts about food and body weight. Individuals may have distorted body images, and persevere in the belief they need to lose weight, or are deathly afraid of gaining weight.


Common to this disorder is binging, then purging by vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting or excessive exercise to prevent weight gain. In anorexia, individuals find comfort in starvation. From a cognitive-behavioral standpoint, eating disorders are a result of inappropriate thoughts and experiences that reinforce chaotic eating behaviors (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Substance Use Disorders


Approximately 50 percent of substance use disorders can originate in individuals self-medicating biological or chemical deficiencies. Contemporary research asserts all drug use affects dopamine neurotransmitters and the release of dopamine into a specific brain areas activates an internal reward system and causes a surge of pleasure (Hansell & Damour, 2008) and results from neuroimaging implicate the frontal cortex (Goldstein & Volkow, 2002).


Current psychodynamic theorists view substance misuse as a maladaptive defense

mechanism for coping with repressed memories and emotions. Many individuals with substance abuse disorders demonstrate low self-esteem and a proclivity toward depression or depressive tendencies (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Substance abuse perpetuates the maladaptive belief that abuse supports the individual in coping with daily stressors and excessive tensions, and reduces the inability to relax. Individuals with abusive patterns often have negative beliefs, schemas, and expectancies. Restructuring maladaptive perceptions supports change to existing beliefs and expectancies.


Classical and operant conditioning and social learning have important roles in explaining behavioral components of substance abuse. According to the operant conditioning paradigm, drugs are powerful reinforcers because they induce pleasure (positive reinforcement) and remove negative experiences such as stress (negative reinforcement) consequently inspiring the continuation of behavior (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Sexual/Gender/Sex Disorders


Biological components include medical illness, poor diet, medications, aging, and cigarette smoking. Temporal lobe epilepsy, brain tumors or injuries, and some degenerative diseases have been implicated in paraphilias. Research has discovered a possible connection in gender identity disorder to predispositions in the endocrine system which affects sexual and gender behaviors (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Often women accused of sexual offenses have sustained some type of childhood abuse. Freud believed deviant sexual behavior is a defense mechanism in response to an internal emotional conflict and such behaviors provide a protective function. The inability to cope with and exert control over past humiliation is a central theme to other paraphilias (Hansell & Damour, 2008). In gender identity disorders, research emphasizes deviant or deficient parental relationships (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Cognitivism associates maladaptive thoughts and schemas with sex and arousal in the development of paraphilias. The individual is sexually aroused to deviant stimuli, which create maladaptive thought processes to accommodate the perceived deviance. The inappropriate behavior perpetuates the maladaptive thoughts required to accommodate the behavior (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Deviant sexual behavior can be learned by observing abnormal sexual behavior or participating in such behavior during childhood. Children rewarded for inappropriate sexual behaviors (such as viewing or participating in pornography) can develop paraphilia. Therapy can focus on re-establishing healthy sexual behavior by reinforcing more appropriate behaviors (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Personality Disorders


Biological components in personality disorders include altered brain structures and reduced gray and white matter volume, various neurotransmitter abnormalities, prenatal substance exposure, and low serotonin levels. Research sustains the belief that some personality disorders are the result of an overlap of genetics and environmental effects.


Personality disorders generally reflect a disruptive childhood from which the child learns to rely on maladaptive defense mechanisms. Parental criticism and ridicule are central themes underlying these disorders. Additional research supports claims of childhood sexual or physical abuse, although this is not always characteristic in these disorders (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Cognitive components of personality disorders include the notion that childhood experiences shape specific thought patterns or schemas, and have a significant effect on patterns of the individual's behavior and perception which subsequently becomes the personality. Maladaptive beliefs and behaviors are characteristic in personality disorders and therapies work toward replacing these beliefs and behaviors with more effective and appropriate ones.


People afflicted with personality disorders dictate unyielding beliefs onto every facet of their lives, yet have difficulty questioning these beliefs. They continue to act out their beliefs although the behavior is self-defeating. Personality disorder are produced by maladaptive behaviors and thought processes created in childhood which persist because individuals are usually attracted to experiences that fit into their schemas whether or not they are maladaptive, therefore, the maladaptive behaviors are maintained (Hansell & Damour, 2008)


Although disordered eating, sexual dysfunctions, substance abuse, and personality disorders seem to have little in common, biological components and internal conflicts involving distressing experiences persist in their explanations. By addressing these components and the cognitive and behavioral factors, psychological science develops a more lucid understanding of these disorders in an effort to engage the individuals in successful therapeutic applications.


Goldstein, R. Z., & Volkow, N. D. (2002). Drug Addiction and Its Underlying Neurobiological Basis: Neuroimaging Evidence for the involvement of the frontal cortex. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 159(10), 1642-1652

Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Krieg, J., Lauer, C., & Pirke, K. (1989). Structural brain abnormalities in patients with bulimia nervosa. Psychiatry Research, 27(1), 39-48. doi: 10.1016/0165-1781(89)90007-3

Analysis: Schizophrenia, Psychosis and Lifespan Development

Schizophrenia, psychoses, and childhood and developmental disorders can severely reduce normal human functioning. The components comprising these disorders vary widely, and defining and understanding each within contexts appropriate for the individual, especially when defining childhood illness. Identifying and understanding these components assists in creating more effective therapeutic applications, intervention, and prevention of these disorders (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Components of Schizophrenia


Contemporary research implicates brain structures and functions in the biology of schizophrenia. This disorder is more accurately understood by its complex neurodevelopmental basis rather than the dopamine hypothesis which claimed excessive dopamine in the neural system explained the development of schizophrenia. Evidence suggests the predisposition is inherited, but the genetic factor must interact with environmental factors such as viruses, toxins, drug use, and injuries sustained prior to birth (PubMed Health, 2010).


Freud believed biological factors were mostly responsible for schizophrenia and did not believe psychotherapy could help effected individuals. Freud thought all abnormal and deviant behavior had its genesis in repressed internal conflicts, and believed such repression could predispose an individual to schizophrenia (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Current psychodynamic theorists agree on the biological and behavioral components of the disorder and use psychotherapy to help the individual understand their underlying conflicts and adopt more adaptive responses to habituate normal behavior.


Research has focused on a specific type of hyper attentiveness that is common in schizophrenia. Such over-attention, when combined with stressors may exacerbate or create the disorder in individuals with a predisposition (Chopra, Soreff, & Khan, 2009). According to Hansell and Damour (2008), one of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia is the inability to block irrelevant stimuli which may create a predisposition conducive to promoting extraordinary credence to hallucinations and delusions. Further complications arise when affected individuals try to explain such delusional experiences to themselves (Capps, 2003).


Behavioral theorists focus on the role of learning more adaptive behaviors to alleviate some of the problems of social integration and social withdrawal. Behaviorists focus on the biological factors that predispose the individual to maladaptive learning, and by reinforcing new behaviors, help the individual to regain a more accurate cognitive perspective. Excessive attention to self and the environment causes schizophrenics to react to stimuli to which the average individual does not. By identifying stimuli to which attention should be given, the individual is taught how to behave normally (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Components of Psychosis


Research has implicated diseases such as brain tumors or cysts, degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's and Huntington's, epilepsy, stroke, and some prescriptions medications such as steroids and stimulants (PubMed Health, 2010). Psychoses can be a part of bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, depression with psychotic features, and some personality disorders.


Although usually based on biological components, psychotic episodes, whether transient or persistent are frightening and emotionally exhausting. Furthermore, psychosis is a socially marginalizing disorder because of the inability to maintain a connection to reality (PubMed Health, 2010). Some psychodynamic theorists support underlying emotional repression as a cause in some types of psychoses, but usually biological components are emphasized (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


In some cases such as in schizoaffective disorder, associated mood disorders can contribute to the creation of negative schemas which contribute to further depression. Therapies appropriate for other mood disorders can help to regain a more average perspective to alleviate perpetuating negative patterns of thinking. Talk therapy can help the individual minimize social marginalization (PubMed Health, 2010).


Depending on the cause of the psychosis, risky behavior, such as manic, self-harming, or overly sexual behaviors can cause complications for the affected individual. Often behavior modification, usually with the help of medication, can help the individual create new patterns of behavior more acceptable for average functioning.

Components of Lifespan Development and Childhood Disorders


Ordinarily, mental retardation has a biological basis, the most significant of which are genetic abnormalities, metabolic deficiencies, and prenatal complications (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Postnatal complications such as shaken baby syndrome can also cause mental retardation. Similarly, learning disorders have genetic influences and are associated with brain abnormalities (National Institutes of Health, 2011). Autism is caused by biological factors, although research continues to address the biological factors as underlying predispositions which are exacerbated by environmental factors. Childhood anxiety may have a genetic basis as well, although mostly seen in intrinsic personality traits or temperament (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Various psychodynamic theorists suggest some childhood disorders have contributing factors such as the home and academic environment, socioeconomic status, and less than ideal parent-child relationships. Underlying emotional components such as distress are significant contributors to disruptive and attention deficit disorders (National Institutes of Health, 2011). The inability to keep up with other children stigmatizes affected children, which can cause further psychological damage, and associated behaviors can marginalize them and exacerbate emotional distress (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Many children with learning disorders feel anxious and depressed regarding their lack of academic achievement and manifest frustrations by acting out in school. Children and adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders often have a distorted sense of the behavior of others and misattribute hostility. To affect the hostility, they create aggressive solutions to their problems without consideration to their consequences (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Behavioral interventions can help treat individuals with autism by increasing function with learning new skills and rewarding more articulate use of speech. Autism is spectrum of disorders and any behavioral intervention must take into account the individual abilities and capacities of the affected child (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Although schizophrenia, psychoses, and childhood and lifespan developmental disorders may appear to have little in common, each has significant underlying biological components that cause cognitive, emotional and behavioral effects. By assessing each component, psychology gains a more representative perspective of every aspect of the disorders - a prerequisite for more effective and targeted treatments designed to accommodate the dimensional character of mental illness (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

National Institutes of Health. (2011). Learning Disorders: MedlinePlus. National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Retrieved May 23, 2011, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/learningdisorders.html

PubMed Health. (2010). Schizoaffective disorder. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/

Chopra, S., Soreff, S., & Khan, R. (2009). Delusional disorder. Medscape Reference. Retrieved May 24, 2011, from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/292991-overview

Friday, May 27, 2011

Anxiety, Mood/Affective, and Dissociative/Somatoform Disorders

Anxiety, mood, and dissociative and somatoform disorders have at least one thing in common - they take from individuals the capacity for normal social engagement and expected daily functioning. Their biological, emotional, behavioral and cognitive components vary, although each has symptoms and parts that overlap with the next. Abnormal psychology aims to identify all of these components in a continued effort toward better and more accurate therapeutic applications.

Anxiety Disorders Components


The biological component of anxiety disorders addresses the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, the limbic system, neural transmission, autoimmune processes, and inherited factors that predispose an individual to anxiety. Anxiety produces affective physical reactions in people. The biological perspective views the activation or stimulation of the nervous system and its excesses or deficiencies (National Institutes of Health, 2010). There may also be associated genetic predispositions, neuro-chemical and hormonal malfunctions (Schimelpfening, 2009).


The emotional components of anxiety disorders include underlying concerns or experiences that have not been openly addressed. Contemporary psychologists believe there may be unusual levels of pain and sadness as a result from early relations with parents. When anxiety begins later in life, it may be the result of a combination of factors including sadness or disappointment in oneself. Most psychologists consider underlying conditions as a prelude to anxiety disorders (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Cognitive distortions and negative views of oneself and one's environment, and pessimism are typical in these disorders. Anxiety is often the result of maladaptive thought processes and dysfunctional cognitive schemas. Individuals often interpret situations incorrectly and focus on inappropriately perceived dangers that are merely average. They also underestimate their own emotional ability to manage challenges (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


The behavioral components of anxiety include both voluntary and involuntary actions based on the individual's anxiety. For example, if a specific situation provokes anxiety in an individual, typically the individual will avoid similar situations in the future, which has a tendency to perpetuate the anxiety. Unrelenting anxious thoughts lead to a variety of symptoms and may include ritualized, rigid, and patterned behaviors and inappropriate and unwarranted fear in average situations (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Mood/Affective Disorders Components


The biological components of mood/affective disorders include genetic predispositions, neuro-chemical and hormonal excesses, deficiencies, and malfunctions that affect mood regulation (Schimelpfening, 2009). Anomalies in the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and cerebellum as well as genetic factors are involved in bipolar disorder. The endocrine system exerts great influence on mood and its dysfunction can lead to depression (Schimelpfening, 2009).


Mood/affective disorders promote low self-esteem, a low sense of self-efficacy based on negative experiences and inabilities, and feelings of hopelessness (Schimelpfening, 2009). Anxiety disorders often have underlying concerns that have not been appropriately addressed. Contemporary psychologists believe there may be unusual levels of pain and sadness resulting from early parent-child relationships (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Individuals who suffer from depression often have an irrational negative perspective of themselves and their world, and such negative schemas promote automatic negative thoughts and a distorted awareness (Hansell & Damour, 2008). People with depression often see everything around them and within themselves as negative (Schimelpfening, 2007). Their thought processes are distorted and oppressive.


Lack of social skills, continued exposure to a critical, unresponsive, or an inappropriately responsive environment or one that is overly punishing contributes to and exacerbates depression and its associated behaviors. Often individuals with depressive symptoms have an attenuated capacity to enjoy positive events or an inappropriate sensitivity to negative ones. Behavioral factors contribute to depression and perpetuate a vicious cycle of thoughts provoking behavior and vice versa (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Dissociative/Somatoform Disorders Components


People with dissociative and somatoform disorders often have family members who have had similar conditions which leads researchers to believe there is a genetic link to their development (PsyWeb.com, 2011). People who are hypervigilant to any transient physical or mental sensations are more apt to develop these disorders because. There tends to be a high rate of comorbidity with dissociative and somatoform disorders with anxiety, panic, and bipolar disorders, and depression (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Individuals with these disorders report severe and multifaceted traumatization (Nijenhuis, Spinhoven, Van Dyck, Van der Hart, & Vanderlinden, 1998). The presence of physical and sexual trauma predicted somatoform dissociation, and sexual trauma predicted psychological dissociation as well. According to the memories of the dissociative disorder patients, the abuse took place in an inappropriate social context that was emotionally neglectful and abusive. Early onset of chronic and intense traumatization best predicted pathological dissociation (Nijenhuis et al., 1998), although not everyone has such abuse in their history.


In dissociative/somatoform disorders individuals experience a loss of memory, usually of certain time periods, or events and people. Individuals experience detachment from themselves and have a distorted and unreal perception of their environment. They do not have a lucid sense of their identity.


As medical science better understands the connection between the brain and the body, there is an apparent association between emotional well-being and the affects of physical pain and the behavior that accommodates and adapts to these circumstances. Chronic pain and traumatization affects behavior and lifestyle, and significantly interferes with normal functioning (Hansell & Damour, 2008).


Two of the themes central to these disorders are genetic predispositions and underlying and unaddressed emotional experiences or perspectives, yet all of these disorders have other biological components along with additional emotional, cognitive, and behavioral ones. By addressing each component, psychology gains a more accurate picture of each disorder, enabling the ability to gainfully manage individual suffering, and one day engaging in proactive intervention that limits the genesis of these mentally disfiguring and life-altering conditions.


Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

National Institutes of Health. (2010). Phobias: MedlinePlus. National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/phobias.html

Nijenhuis, E. S., Spinhoven, P., Van Dyck, R., Van der Hart, O., & Vanderlinden, J. (1998). Degree of somatoform and psychological dissociation in dissociative disorder is correlated with reported trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 11(4), 711-730. doi: 10.1023/A:1024493332751

PsyWeb.com. (2011). Somatoform Disorders. PSYweb Complete Mental Health Site. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from http://www.psyweb.com/mdisord/jsp/somatd.jsp

Schimelpfening, N. (2007). Bipolar disorder - definition of bipolar disorder. About Depression - Information and Support for Depression. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from http://depression.about.com/od/bipolar/g/bipolardisorder.htm

Schimelpfening, N. (2009). Major depressive disorder - DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder. About Depression - Information and Support for Depression. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from http://depression.about.com/cs/diagnosis/a/mdd.htm

Personality Analysis: Humanist/Existential and Learning Theories

Learning theory is defined as the process by which humans learn or how they accommodate a relatively permanent behavioral change or its potential (Feist & Feist, 2000). Learning theories within this analysis are Skinner's behaviorism, Bandura's social cognitive theory, Rotter and Mischel's cognitive social theory, and Kelly's psychology of personal constructs. Humanism and existentialism theories of Rogers, May, and Maslow adopt a holistic approach to psychological health and human existence by determining meaning, values, tragedy, personal experience and responsibility, human potential, spirituality, and self-actualization (Colman, ed., 2010). Combining the knowledge of both learning and humanist/existential theories paints a broad picture of human nature and personality as it develops by reaction to the external environment, especially within the social framework while accommodating the powerful affects of one's own internal climate.

Personality as it Affects Situational Behavior

According to learning theory, individuals behave according to the reciprocity of environmental, cognitive, and behavioral conditions. Personal beliefs of whether or not they can accomplish the task influence people's ability to do so. Bandura (1997) calls this expectation self-efficacy. He believed the strength of personal efficacy heavily influences how an individual reacts in a given situation. However, even though a significant influence, it is not the exclusive affect on behavior. In combination with the environment, previous behavior, and other individual variables such as personal expectations, cause behavior (Feist & Feist, 2009).

In the behaviorist learning theory, learning takes place in a trial and error fashion, and individuals try different behaviors until they engage in one that is reinforcing. Learning theory states individuals apply previously learned material as a means to developing specific expectancy and familiar reward values in similar situations (Feist & Feist, 2009). Before producing behavior in a new situation, the individual reviews similar experiences to determine the best action and chooses one that will evoke a similar outcome. In some learning theories, the learner is passive and simply responds to environmental stimuli. Cognitive learning theory believes people are thoughtful rational beings whose behavior is determined by complex thought processes. Rotter believed certain variables were applied in situational behavior: "expectancy, behavior potential, reinforcement, and the psychological situation" (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 544). He thought people's situational behavior is a composite of their expectations of reinforcement and the amount of influence their needs demand in the situation (Feist & Feist, 2009). Mischel's cognitive-affective theory claims situational and other behaviors are produced from somewhat durable personal characteristics and cognitive processes that work together within a particular circumstance. Although he acknowledged this relative stability, he contended the setting has a powerful influence on behavior (Feist & Feist, 2009). Kelly thought people choose behaviors from various options within a personally constructed system, and they make such choices based on their anticipation of events.

Humanism is a paradigm approach that believes learning is implemented as a personal act to fulfill personal potential. The actions of individuals in situational behavior are dependent on the level of actuated potential from which an individual is capable of responding. In humanistic theory, learners have affective and cognitive needs by which they will respond to a situation. Within a cooperative supportive environment, an individual will learn and react appropriately in any situation. According to a humanist perspective, responses to a specific situation will be directly related to the current needs and satisfaction of the individual involved in the particular circumstance. The individual will respond in a way ultimately consequential to fulfilling current needs, or those to which the individual is aspiring.

Personality Characteristics within the Perspectives

The learning theories lean toward the belief that personality is an accumulation of learned inclinations that continue throughout the lifespan. Kelly believed present awareness guides the development of personality according to how one anticipates specific events and as such, all human activity is influenced by anticipation (Feist & Feist, 2009). Skinner thought genetics plays a significant role in the development of personality, and genetic variance accounts for unique personalities, but ultimately, environment shapes the personality (Feist & Feist, 2009). Skinner believed climate, geographical environment, and personal physical strength in relation to animals helped shape the general personality of humankind, but the social environment affects and produces unique personality types. Skinner noted personality as "at best a repertoire of behavior imparted by an organized set of contingencies" (Skinner, 1974, as cited by Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 472).

Bandura understood human nature as "self-regulating, proactive, self-reflective, and self-organizing" (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 486). He recognized observational learning enables individuals to learn without performing behavior. Rotter believed people's personal history and experiences shapes their personalities and goals, but emphasized the similarities in people whereas Mischel considered individual differences and variations in behavior more significant. He thought human behavior adapts to the interaction of "stable personality traits and the situation, which includes a number of personal variables" (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 546). Kelly's theory of dichotomy corollary determined personality constructs are double-sided and individuals choose the one they believe will extend their future options. Learning theories are criticized for neither accommodating "individual differences, intelligence, genetic factors, nor the whole realm of personality" (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 472).

Humanistic psychology believes in the natural drive toward personal development, and people freely make decisions regardless of environmental factors. Free will is an important cause in the development of personality, and the drive toward self-actualization is a powerful motivation for the creation of the personality (Boeree, 1997). Humanism contends people make choices and actively participate in the creation of their personalities. Rollo May theorized three relationships form the basis for personality: one's relationship with the environment, with others, and with oneself. The influence of all three relationships produces and contributes to the personality's ongoing evolution (Feist & Feist, 2009). Maslow thought biological components provided the basic parameter for the individual; however, environmental and cultural affects shaped the ego identity or personality (Feist & Feist, 2009). Rogers recognized self-awareness in humans, and this awareness enabled them to make choices and actively participate in the creation of their own personalities (Boeree, 1997).

Explanation of Interpersonal Relations

According to the humanist/existential perspective, people associate with others and engage in productive and healthy relationships, although ultimately, they are alone. Abraham Maslow believed fulfilling love and belongingness was a primal need and must be filled by friendship, creating a family, having a mate and maintaining associations with others. He proposed fulfillment at this level was essential for other levels of human success (Feist & Feist, 2009). Carl Rogers believed having a caregiver who had positive regard for the child fostered positive self-regard that promotes psychological growth. Positive regard from others is essential for healthy development and success toward self-actualization (Boeree, 1997). May's existentialism proposed although people associate with others and form healthy relationships, they ultimately choose what they will become. The general perspective of humanism and existentialism viewed interpersonal relationships as an integral part of human life, without which growth and development may not be psychologically healthy (Hoffman, 2004). Humanism emphasized interpersonal relationships as an essential component to developing personality. Maslow believed people fulfilled in interpersonal relationships have confidence in social affairs and experience loving reciprocity with those important to them (Feist & Feist, 2009).

From a learning perspective, people associate with others because they receive some type of reward or reinforcement for doing so. Humans originally formed familial groups as protection from animals natural forces, or enemy clans or tribes. In the same way, people continue to form associations because they are reinforced for that particular behavior. Even when not reinforced, people will maintain memberships because of personal associations within the group from which they receive reinforcement (Feist & Feist, 2009).

Social constructivism claims knowledge, behavior, and personality are constructed from social engagement, and humans build new ideas and concepts that are based on current and past knowledge or experience (Feist & Feist, 2009). Bandura (1997) believed people learn from experience, although much of human learning is derived from the observation of others, and without social experiences, growth and development would be stunted. Rotter believed human behavior is "best predicted from an understanding of the interaction of people with their meaningful environments" (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 510). Mischel agreed with Bandura in his belief that an essential component of personality development depends on the observations of others within one's environment. Rotter stressed the importance of learning within a social environment and Mischel agreed, but maintained the belief in the importance of genetic factors. Kelly thought social influences were more significant than biological ones. He believed humans are influenced by each other and in constructing their own personality they involve the constructs of personally significant individuals. Kelly did clarify however, "the actions of others do not mold their behavior; rather, it is their interpretation of events that changes their behavior" (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 572).


Learning theories define human learning and its resulting behavior and personality as a response to the environment with some internal considerations, whereas humanistic theory believes in a greater tendency for internal human drive toward an ultimate human state of self that is predetermined or species-specific. The different perspectives regarding the affect of personalities on situational behavior, the distinct characterizations of personality and human nature, and the diverse explanations of interpersonal relations all provide an abundance of thought and a more dimensional understanding of humanity within the matrix of psychological thought and application.


Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

Boeree, C. G. (1997). Carl Rogers. My Webspace Files. Retrieved April 27, 2011, from http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/rogers.html

Colman, A. M. (Ed.). (2010). Humanistic psychology. In Oxford Reference Online. Retrieved May 7, 2011, from http://www.oxfordreference.com/pub/views/home.html

Feist, J. & Feist, G. J. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Hoffman, L. (2004). Existential therapy. Existential Therapy Homepage. Retrieved May 08, 2011, from http://www.existential-therapy.com/Index.htm

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Historical Perspectives of Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology focuses on abnormal behavior, its definition, classifications, explanations, and treatment (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Although its history is merely 100 years old, its story is richly textured. During its evolution, decisions regarding areas of focus evolved into six core concepts that enabled a more accurate definition of the field. To fully understand the scope and significance of contemporary abnormal psychology one must consider psychopathology and its origins, its distinct evolution, and the theoretical models of abnormality, which, in their diversity, attempt to treat those suffering from various disorders.

Origins of Abnormal Psychology

The relatively young science of abnormal psychology has existed for approximately one hundred years although many forms of mental illness have been recorded throughout history. Stories from biblical times describe suffering similar to contemporary illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia (Bark, 1988; Kahn, 1975, as cited by Hansell & Damour, 2008). One of the earliest known explanations for mental illness in primitive cultures was animism, predicated on belief in the power of the spirit world (Hansell & Damour, 2008). According to this view, mental affliction was associated with possession by an evil or hateful spirit. Archeologists have documented evidence of a treatment called trephination as early as 3000 BCE. This medical procedure consisted of boring holes into the skull to release the offending spirit (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Although this treatment seems archaic and primitive, in a world in which the spirit permeated life, it seemed a logical way to release the entrapped spirit. According to historic relativism, this was a normal reaction to a debilitating problem.

Challenges to Defining and Classifying Normal and Abnormal Behavior

Behavior vacillates on a wide spectrum between expected and accepted behavior and its abnormal counterpart, and identifying the point at which behavior deviates from normal and becomes abnormal is challenging. According to Hansell and Damour (2008), abnormal behavior is often an exaggerated normal state with many shades of gray between it and its normal complement. Adding further challenge to differentiating between the two is the changing palette and cultural texture of humankind as it moves through time. Relativism, is the notion that normalcy and abnormality is defined within the relative parameter of the culture and period in which the behavior transpires. As such, the perception of behavior is always changing and relative to the social, cultural, and historical context surrounding and immediately preceding the behavior (Alarcon, Foulks, & Vakkur, 1998; Cohen, 1998; Comunian & Gielen, 2000; Kagitcibasi, 2000; Kim, 2000, as cited by Hansell & Damour, 2008). Behavior and thinking considered pathological in one place and time is neither abnormal nor unexpected in another culture and period. The line of demarcation is somewhat arbitrary (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

To facilitate a more accurate definition of the field, six core concepts were created. These concepts include the importance of context, the continuum between normal and abnormal behavior, attention to cultural and historical relativism, understanding the benefits and impediments of diagnosis, understanding multiple causality, and the significance of the mind/body connection.

The Evolution of Abnormal Psychology into a Scientific Discipline

During the course of scientific evolution, in 460 BCE Hippocrates attributed mental illness to the imbalanced biological state of four fluids within the human body. Although flawed, his explanations were a significant step toward contemporary medical thinking (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Early biological theory influenced other Greek physicians to diagnose according to medical observations rather than folklore, anecdote, or spiritual belief. In the forward movement of the medical field, associations made between psychological symptoms directly resulting from biological causes inspired new thinking (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Early in the twentieth century, two psychological perspectives emerged: somatogenic and psychogenic. The former claimed abnormal behavior had physiological origins, the latter maintained its causes were psychological ("Abnormal psychology - new world encyclopedia," n.d.). The study of hypnotism became a treatment of hysteria, and eventually attracted Sigmund Freud, who introduced his theory on conflicting unconscious directives and their powerful influence on behavior and thought processes (Feist & Feist, 2009). He eventually associated hysteria to such unconscious processes ("Abnormal psychology - new world encyclopedia," n.d.). Although his ideas had no scientific basis, his claim was the first comprehensive theory in abnormal psychology (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

Theoretical Models Related to the Development of Abnormal Psychology

Various theoretical models emphasize the importance of therapeutic relationships within the treatment process. Although these models converge and intersect, each addresses causality from a different perspective (Hansell & Damour, 2008). The psychosocial model addresses how individuals accommodate internal conflicting conscious and unconscious processes while interacting with their environment. It addresses the affects of such influences on behavior and often focuses on social relationships, immediate environments, and internal conflicts, concerns, and memories (Hansell & Damour, 2008).

The biological/medical model identifies a biological or physical association to mental disease and dysfunction. This model assesses the contribution of physical and biochemical functions in the human body, especially within the brain, as a means to understand how these functions relate to abnormal overt behavior and unobservable deviant mental processes (Hansell & Damour, 2008). The sociocultural model addresses the affects of social, cultural, and familial environments on individuals and their contribution to mental dysfunction and illness. This model accounts for the environment as a stressor and pressure, which exacerbates potential dysfunctions and provokes abnormal behavior. Sociocultural models focus on the influence of social norms and rules, communication, cultural influences, and religious beliefs (Comer, 2007).


From early animistic treatment to the high technology of medical science, psychology has continued to discover and apply new information and treatment as a means to affect the discomfort and dysfunction of abnormal behavior, and in its evolution, progressed to a scientific exploration. The six core concepts serve as a reminder that abnormal psychology is a science that aims to influence and assist people, even though studying the disorders and clarifying diagnoses is an equally essential ingredient (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Various theoretical models emphasize the importance of a broad therapeutic perspective that promotes a more reasonable and accurate understanding of the mysteries of abnormal behavior.


Abnormal psychology - new world encyclopedia. (n.d.). New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 05, 2011, from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Abnormal_psychology

Comer, R. J. (2007). Abnormal psychology. New York: Worth.

Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology (2nd ed.) [PDF]. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Personality Overview

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung remain two of the most influential psychologists in the psychodynamic perspective. After a significant investment in both a personal and professional relationship, the two found irreconcilable differences in their ideas and both permanently withdrew from the relationship. Although many of the differences in their theories seem subtle, their directions maintained wide differences that remained at odds, yet supplied the psychological community with a rich bounty of theory which, although highly criticized, remains some of the most applied theory and therapy in contemporary psychology.

Underlying Assumptions

Sigmund Freud

Long before Sigmund Freud focused on unconscious processes, philosophers and poets made it the topic of discussion. However, he was the first early psychologist to create psychological theory based on this proposition (Westen, 1998). Freud's theory distinguished psychoanalysis from other perspectives during his time because of its focus on unconscious mental processes. Feist and Feist (2009) claims sex and aggression are its main basis. Based on the analysis of his own dreams and case studies of his patients, Freud separated the religious and philosophical underpinnings of his time from unconscious human thought processes, and created a theory based on their dynamic motivational influence on behavior (Feist & Feist, 2009).

Central to Freud's theory are three fundamental elements of the human psyche: the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. The conscious mind is that of which humans are aware at any given time, and consists of memories, thoughts, fantasies, sensations, and present perceptions (Boeree, 1997). The preconscious is associated with the modern concept of available memory that can be readily brought to mind. Freud considered the unconscious the dominant influence of human thought processes and behavior (Boeree, 1997). It contains human drives and instincts that originate within the unconscious, and censors memories and emotions too difficult to maintain in conscious awareness (Boeree, 1997). Freud considered the unconscious the source of all human motivation or drives. These three levels of consciousness are used as representations or hypothetical constructs of processes and locations within the mind.

Carl Gustav Jung

Jung was originally a colleague of Freud, but because of differences in their perspective of psychoanalytic theory, he established a separate theory of personality called analytical psychology. Jung's theory is based on the idea that the human psyche resides in the world and significantly influences human thought processes and behavior (Feist & Feist, 2009).

Alternative to Freud's psychoanalysis, which determines human motivation as the exclusive rendering of the personal unconscious, Jung believed human motivation is provoked by the collective unconscious as well as our repressed experiences. The collective unconscious is a composite that we inherit from our ancestors as well as our repressed experiences. Jung referred to the highly developed features of the collective unconscious as archetypes, the most inclusive of which is the idea of self-realization (Feist & Feist, 2009). He believed self-realization could be accomplished only by balancing opposing personality forces within the self and consequently his theory is based on the action of this internalized opposition. Jung understood people are both conscious and unconscious, rational and irrational, introverted and extroverted, all of which are influenced by experience, expectations, and goals. The integration of these opposing forces would create wholeness (Feist & Feist, 2010).

Jung perceived the unconscious as a source of healing and development in individuals while acknowledging the collective conscious, and the mysterious nature of the soul, and developed a distinctive approach that incorporated dreams, archetypes, mythology, and folklore (Feist & Feist, 2009). He was compelled to explore the mysterious depths of the human unconscious and its beauty (Jung, Hull, & De Laszlo, 1990). Whereas Jung placed immediate importance on the collective unconscious as an integral part of human motivation, Freud considered inherited constitutions and inclinations only when other explanations failed.

Determinism versus Free Will


Freud's psychoanalysis was decidedly deterministic. He believed a large percentage of
human behavior had its roots in past events and early childhood experiences, most of which were unidentifiable by conscious awareness (Feist & Feist, 2009). Freud thought if humans were unaware of the directives that motivated them, they were destined to live a life controlled by unconscious strivings. He also thought people have an illusory belief that they are, in fact, in control of their destinies, but stated, "the ego is not master in its own house" (Freud, 1933, p. 143 as cited by Feist & Feist, 2009). Most people tend to believe they have access to free will, the ability to make conscious decisions, and the capacity to be motivated by both internal and external goals, but Freud believed humans are destined to follow internal unknown directives created in the past, and destined to influence the most significant behaviors throughout the life span.

Carl Jung

The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is "man" in a higher sense - he is 'collective man,' a vehicle and moulder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind (Jung, 1933).

Jung perceived the complexity of humans in their opposing poles. He did not believe that the will of humans was necessarily free and unencumbered, nor did he have Freud's oppressive deterministic view. He viewed human motivation as a composition of conscious thoughts, the personal unconscious, and traces of evolutionary memory derived from ancestral past. However, Jung did not believe, as did Freud, humans are destined to behave and think according to early childhood experiences. Jung thought people were influenced by the collective consciousness of humankind, unlike the exclusively personal directives of Freud's theory, and per se, he believed humans could participate with their collective selves toward the goal of self-realization.

Analysis of Self Awareness


Freud theorized unconscious directives, of which they have neither awareness nor control, motivate humans (Feist & Feist, 2009). He insisted human behavior was motivated primarily by the unconscious, which embodies drives, urges, and instincts, and encourages nearly all human words, feelings, actions, and religious and spiritual experiences mostly beyond the control of the mind. According to Feist and Feist (2009), although individuals may be aware of observable behavior, they are often not aware of the mental processes contributing to such behavior. He thought all of human motivation was deeply embedded in the unconscious, and these unobservable directives were the primary influence of behavior. Freud's deterministic view held individuals to a destiny produced early in childhood with little room for personal goals, and the influence of the external environment (Feist & Feist, 2009).


Jung believed the purpose of life was self-actualization, and the self was a composite of the conscious and the unconscious mind, which manifested in opposing forces seeking balance within the human psyche. Jung thought the ideal of self-realization existed within the collective unconscious of all people, although its actualization was seldom realized (Feist & Feist, 2009). To reach self-realization, people must face the duality that manifested as the darker side of human nature, and ultimately confront the anima or animus. Because Jung believed in the singular purpose of self-actualization, he concerned himself with both conscious and unconscious motives for behavior. Human motivation was a composition of the collective conscious, personal unconscious, and traces of evolutionary memory and as such, Jung understood people made choices, worked toward goals along with motivation from forces generated in childhood. Jung defined influences other than those motivated from exclusively intrinsic directives (Feist & Feist, 2009).


On some of the central assumptions of psychodynamic theory, such as levels of consciousness and the influence of mental life, both Freud and Jung have influenced significantly modern psychology, contemporary secular thought, and self-understanding. Psychology continues to integrate the ideas of these two psychodynamic theorists into the scientific community, even though some of their theories fall short of addressing the contemporary understanding of human thought and its processes. Although both men were originally rooted in Freud's psychoanalysis, differences in perspectives separated them and their two distinct psychodynamic theories. Although these differences were many, perhaps the most disparate was their distinct view of the human psyche: Freud's internal unconscious directives versus Jung's universal collective unconscious. Both men and their theories continue to influence psychology and secular thought with their ideas of energy as it influences and becomes human thought and behavior.


Boeree, C. G. (1997). Sigmund Freud. My Webspace Files. Retrieved April 27, 2011, from http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/freud.html

Feist, J. & Feist, G. J. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Freud, S. (1953). Symptoms, inhibitions, and anxiety. (In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), The standardedition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth Press.

Jung, C. G. (1933). Modern man in search of a soul. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World.

Jung, C. G., Hull, R. F., & De Laszlo, L. V. (1990). Psyche and symbol. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Westen, D. (1998). The scientific legacy of Sigmund Freud: toward a psychodynamically informed psychological science. Psychological Bulletin, 124(3), 333-371. doi: 10.1037//0033-2909.124.3.333

Introduction to Personality

Introduction to Personality

Without definitive definition, the notion of personality continues to fill psychological literature with extensive research and theory. Personality is the continuous presentation of attributes and distinctions that contribute to variety in human thought and behavior (Feist & Feist, 2009). To enable more accurate understanding of such differences and distinctions, theorists develop explanations and parameters from varied contexts. Psychoanalytic, humanistic/existential, dispositional, and learning theories help psychologists account for how and why people develop such individual and specific characteristics and the significant affect these characteristics have on human development, and the whole of human nature.

Personality Defined

Although no consensus exists on the meaning of personality, there is agreement that its etymology derived from the Latin word persona, which refers to masks worn by Roman actors as they performed Greek dramas. The theatrical masks were worn as part of the role actors sought to project to their audience, or as Feist and Feist (2009) describes, a "false appearance" (p. 3). Psychologists do not consider personalities as superficial masks, but more accurately refer to them as relatively permanent attributes and exclusive distinctions that contribute to the regularity and individuality of human behavior (Feist & Feist, 2009). To accommodate the assorted perspectives of personality, psychologists create theories by which to explain personality from a variety of contexts.

Generally accepted by personality theorists are the notions that traits produce differences in individual's behavior, consistent behavior that remains typical over time and cohesive behavioral responses across a variety of situations (Feist & Feist, 2009). Although some traits are common to groups, or shared by cultures, or even species, patterns of these traits are individual-specific and such variation produces unique and exclusive personalities. Additionally, individuals demonstrate specific characteristics including temperament, physical qualities, perceptual abilities, and intellect (Feist & Feist, 2009).

Theoretical Approaches in the Study of Personality

Psychoanalytic Theory

Psychoanalysis, developed by Sigmund Freud, identified three aspects of psychological functioning: the unconscious, preconscious, and conscious (Feist & Feist, 2009). Freud believed unconscious forces created by early childhood experiences influence behavior, emotions, and attitudes, and he designed psychoanalysis to investigate these repressed and unconscious processes he thought nearly inaccessible to other forms of psychological therapy (Feist & Feist, 2009). By analyzing conflicts through confrontation and clarification Freud sought to bring conscious awareness to the unconscious and repressed effects of early experiences.

Although highly criticized, Freud and psychoanalysis remain one of the most influential psychological perspectives in contemporary psychology (Feist & Feist, 2009). Many psychologists argue psychoanalysis is not a true science as its theories and claims are not falsifiable according to the scientific method of investigation. Additionally, it has been criticized as "phallogocentric" as almost exclusively defines the human psyche from a male point of view (Irigaray, 1990). Regardless of these perspectives, recent science has uncovered significant intersection between Freud's theories and neuroscience, which makes a fascinating and compelling case for the synthesis of the two (Feist & Feist, 2009).

Humanistic/Existential Theory

Humanistic theory is predicated on the belief in the fundamental goodness and inherent worth of humankind. Implied in its roots is the notion that by understanding, accepting, and taking responsibility for one's personal existence, self-actualization is possible. Maslow, Rogers, and May designed their theories as a new approach to understanding personality to improve individual satisfaction (Feist & Feist, 2009). Humanism is reality based, and both its theory and therapy focus on the present, and encourage people to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. Humanism implies inherent worth in all individuals, merely by being human, claims personal evolution is the primary goal in life, and is accomplished through self-improvement and self-understanding (Heffner, 1999).

Unlike other personality theories, humanism is often adopted by therapists of other perspectives because its core components are of fundamental human value in helping people to evolve and thrive (Heffner, 1999). Central to criticism of this theory is the lack of definitive approaches to specific issues. As humanism incorporates the theory of free will, studying its effectiveness is difficult (Heffner, 1999). Additionally, humanism seems unable to provide therapy for severe personality disorders and mental health pathologies (Heffner, 1999).

Dispositional Theory

Gordon Allport defines personality as the "dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine a person's behavior and thought" (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 398). Dispositional theory holds an optimistic view of human nature and believes healthy people are consciously motivated, maintain healthy relationships, and relate realistically to their environment (Heffner, 1999). This theory describes personality traits called dispositions and Allport theorized central traits form the fundamental structure of individual personalities and secondary traits contribute to less important characteristics. Allport considers insight and humor inherent in human nature, although dysfunctional mental processes can destroy or alter these intrinsic characteristics. He rejects psychoanalytic theory and behavioral views, as he believes destiny and personality traits are determined by more overt motives and the choices we continue to make.

Dispositional theory has been criticized for being descriptive but not explanatory as there is no discussion of the underlying causes of personality. In Allport's defense, he claimed neither his theory was comprehensive nor did he claim its basis on scientific investigation (Feist & Feist, 2009). Dispositional theory is not considered falsifiable by the scientific community, but it does provide a "stimulating and enlightening approach" to personality (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 396).

Learning Theory

Learning theories address how people learn. Personality from this perspective is an accumulation of learned inclinations during the lifespan (Feist & Feist, 2009). The basic assumption of the learning perspective is that behavior is learned by experiences of interaction with the environment. Learning theories claim personality differences arise from various experiences, and it addresses environmental influences and events that can be measured and scientifically studied (Feist & Feist, 2009). For its ability to be evaluated by scientific methods, learning theories were embraced by the scientific and psychological community.

Learning theorists accounted for a variety of different perspectives on personality. Skinner noted personality as "at best a repertoire of behavior imparted by an organized set of contingencies" (Skinner, 1974, as cited by Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 472). Bandura recognized observational learning enables individuals to learn without performing behavior. His thoughtfully evolved social cognitive theory continues to influence research, and his notion of self-efficacy endures with its far-reaching implications in learning. Rotter and Mischel attempted to blend the forces of reinforcement theory with cognitive learning theory, but some aspects are hypothetical and cannot be tested. Learning theories are criticized for neither accommodating "individual differences, intelligence, genetic factors, nor the whole realm of personality" (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 472).

Factors that may Influence an Individual's Personality Development

Influences on individual personality development include biological, cultural, familial, social, and situational factors that can be conscious or unconscious (Zuckerman, 2004). Biological factors are heritable features such as physical stature, attractiveness, sex, and temperament. Many personality theorists believe personality can be explained by the genetic chromosomal constitution of individuals (Bouchard, 1994). Each individual has a unique neural system whose affect is significant on personality and behavior (Bouchard, 1994).

Cultural factors, although mostly below the threshold of conscious awareness, maintain expected and accepted behaviors and define the range of available experiences, and values. Cultural norms often reinforce specific personality characteristics. Birth order and the personalities of the other family members will influence the development of the child's personality as well as the values exampled by the parents (Zuckerman, 2004). Social interactions and personal and social conflicts create specific environments by which certain characteristics are expressed and provoked and promote change and evolution (Mischel & Shoda, 1995). Additionally, acute stress and chronic situational difficulties such as personal or family illness can permanently alter personality traits (Zuckerman, 2004).


Although the notion of personality has not yet been defined by singular definition, there is consensus that personality has a powerful affect on development and the individuality of humankind's varied character. Theories of personality build their foundations on the somewhat malleable characteristics and traits contrived by biology, situational and social interactions, and individual responses to environmental factors (Mischel & Shoda, 1995). Often theories are based on assumptions and limited perspectives rather than scientifically proven facts, and psychologists are compelled to continually redefine, refute, and discover new parameters by which to understand the distinct masks of individuality by which human nature's character is defined.


Bouchard, T. (1994). Genes, environment, and personality. Science, 264(5166), 1700-1701. doi: 10.1126/science.8209250

Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

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Irigaray, L. (1990). Speculum de l'autre femme. Paris: Éditions de Minuit.

Mischel, W., & Shoda, Y. (1995). A cognitive-affective system theory of personality: reconceptualizing situations, dispositions, dynamics, and invariance in personality structure. Psychological Review, 102(2), 246-268. doi: 10.1037//0033-295X.102.2.246

Zuckerman, M. (2004). The shaping of personality: genes, environments, and chance encounters. Journal of Personality Assessment, 82(1), 11-22. doi: 10.1207/s15327752jpa8201_3

Analysis of Psychodynamic Perspectives

Although the various psychodynamic theories contain many similar assumptions and explanations, each has slight variations in the discussion of personality characteristics and interpersonal relationships. The following proposes some of those variations and similarities.


According to Feist and Feist (2009), Freud fervently believed that humans are destined to follow unconscious directives produced by experiences in early childhood, whereas Jung believed in a worldly collective conscience that affected and determined human personality. Jung sought to nourish humanity and integrated his theories with occult phenomena such as folklore and the mystical. Adler's individual psychology focused on societal and environmental factors that forced confrontations that determine the nature of personality (Feist & Feist, 2009). Adler leaned toward a humanist approach and based his theories on development prior to adulthood, and stressed the affect of abuse and neglect in childhood, physical deformities, and birth order. He claimed individuals must determine their own needs, goals, interests, and growth. Melanie Klein's object relations theory has its basis in observations of young children with emphasis on the first four to six months of life. Klein viewed the human psyche as "unstable, fluid, constantly fending off psychotic anxieties" (Mitchell & Black, 1995, as cited in Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 159). Horney's theory assumed personality was structured and developed according to the quality of the early relationship between children and their parents (Feist & Feist, 2009).

Personality Characteristics According to Various Theories

Freud theorized personalities were created mostly by the influences of the unobservable human unconscious over which people have little to no control. Adler's individual psychology proposed personalities were formed by social and environmental conflicts and confrontations. Jung believed the human psyche was a worldly phenomenon that exerted powerful influence on individual personalities, but understood people are also drawn by internal motivations (Feist & Feist, 2009). According to Adler's theory, an individual's personality develops from the mostly external factors of compensation, defeat, and over-compensation. He believed in a unified personality without the internal conflicting internal factors of Freud's unconscious directives within the person. Klein's object relations theory proposed the human personality is a result of the early relationship between mother and child, and this relationship serves as a prototype for future associations and relationships (Feist & Feist, 2009). Horney's psychoanalytic social theory claimed social and cultural conditions shape the personality during childhood. She believed if children do not have satisfying love and affection they develop hostility and suffer anxiety (Feist & Feist, 2009).

Explanation of Interpersonal Relationships Using Various Theories

Whereas psychoanalytic theory proposed relationships are based on needs and desires created in the past and continue to direct most of human behavior, Adler's individual psychology encouraged psychological health in individuals, couples, and within families as a means to fulfill the ideals of society and inspire social responsibility (Feist & Feist, 2009). Jung believed interpersonal relationships were based on the needs of each person as reflected in each other, even though the needed attributes lay deep within each person. Klein's object relations theory claims the early relationship between mother and child is a prototype for other relationships during the lifetime, and this relationship serves as a basis for future associations and relationships (Feist & Feist, 2009). Horney's psychoanalytic social theory claimed interpersonal relations were based on the love and affection between children and their parents, and the hostility and anxiety created during this time affected future relationships. Sullivan believed individual personalities grow from interactions with others, and such contact helps to establish a healthy personality, which is a way to ease the tensions and anxiety of the human condition (Feist & Feist, 2009).

Reliability, Validity, Strengths, and Limitations

The continued integration of neuroscience and psychoanalysis has enabled the validation of Freud's representation of consciousness as the tip of the iceberg of the human psyche and has produced scientific evidence of Freud's previously unfalsifiable theories (Feist & Feist, 2009). Jung's theories continue to evade falsifiability, although they continue to nourish many individuals in lifestyle and therapeutic applications. Sullivan's theory is neither verifiable nor falsifiable because intimacy and social connections are difficult to measure (Feist & Feist, 2009).

Although most are useful constructs, Adler's theories do not easily lend themselves to verification or falsification (Feist & Feist, 2009). Adler was the first thinker in psychology to posit that health and dysfunction are inextricably related to one’s relationship to the community. Klein's object relations theory does not lend itself to falsification, although attachment theory has generated testable hypotheses and an abundance of research. Horney's theories are based on her experiences with neurotic patients, and are not applicable to healthy populations, but parts of her theories deny verification and falsification. As with most psychodynamic theories, Sullivan's were neither falsifiable nor verifiable. His theory is generally consistent, but lacks organization (Feist & Feist, 2009).


Psychoanalytic theory remains widely used in psychoanalytic applications, although usually with modifications to Freud's original theories. Freud's work is the basis of continued psychological study (Feist & Feist, 2009). Adler's holistic, almost humanistic approach to personality continued to influence psychologists during 20th century counseling and psychiatric applications and continues to remain popular. Jungian theory is still widely applied in family and other counseling therapies, and is the basis for many psychologically therapeutic paradigms that incorporate mysticism, folklore, and mythology. Jung's theory is the basis for the Briggs-Myers Personality Test that is used in both professional and secular applications. Sullivan's approach, which emphasizes the present, focuses on interpersonal relationships as a means to alter maladaptive and inappropriate behavior. Some of his theories are used in contemporary psychological applications. According to Feist and Feist (2009), the most useful feature of Klein's object relations theory is its organization of infant behavior. Object relations theorists have speculated on the gradual acquisition of knowledge and sense of identity more than other personality theorists (Feist & Feist, 2009). Horney's theory remains useful to teachers, therapists, and parents who aim to provide an environment for thriving students, patients, and children.


The central themes to the psychodynamic approach are the internal processes that contribute to and are an inherent quality of human nature. The variety of other aspects within each theorist's ideas creates a broad portrait of this perspective.


Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.