Etain Dobson

Psychology – 12A

‘Freud’s views on the origins of abnormal behaviour and ways of
treating it had a great impact on psychology.’ Outline and
evaluate the psychodynamic approach to abnormality. (12 marks)
The psychodynamic approach to abnormality is one that assumes that
both the unconscious desired and memories from past events or
This theory claims that a person personality is developed during
childhood; Freud named this the 5 stages of ‘psychosexual stages’. This
theory suggests that too little or too much pleasure at one of the stages
can lead to fixation and abnormal behaviour. An example of one of the
stages is the ‘oral stage’ where pleasure is gain from sucking or eating
and occurs from children up to eighteen months old. Weaning is one the
most important achievements during development. If a child was to
remain at this stage and was malnourished it would lead to eating
disorders such as Anorexia or in the opposite case would lead to Bulimia.
Freud’s psychodynamic approach also suggests that the mind is divided
into three separate parts; this is called the ‘Tripartite Personality’. The
three supposed parts of the mind are; Ego, Superego, Instinctive drives.
The Instinctive Drives are split into 2 parts; Eros and Thanatos. The Eros is
the motivating drive where as Thanatos is the death instinct that
motivates the mind towards more aggressive thoughts. Whereas the ego
and superego work together with the superego acts as the sense of right
and wrong and the ego being the part of the mind that balances the
subconscious demands and the Id. Abnormality can be caused by an
imbalance between all of these parts. An example of this would be an
overly strong superego which often leads to anxiety.
This idea links into Freud’s other theory of ‘defence mechanism’. When
the super ego is overly strong the ego needs to defend itself and in order
to do so will use ‘defence mechanisms’ but they can be both healthy and
unhealthy. A good example of this would be denial, if a person refuses to
accept the reality of a situation and the subconscious fears are then
transferred to ‘safer’ objects, explaining phobias.
Freud’s psychodynamic approach towards mental health has had an
enormous influence on modern day health practices. Freud was the first to
establish the model named the “talking therapy” which is an acceptable
form of treatment in mainstream mental health practice. From this we
have now developed treatments such as; counselling, and cognitive
behavioural therapy. This was a huge leap forward in treatment as before
Freud historically the treatments for mental health were extreme such as
trepanning. This shows that Freud’s psychodynamic explanation has

Therefore we know this data is also potentially unreliable causing a knock on effect of the overall theory being unreliable. OCD is likely to develop if a child gets used to a strict environment or after a pregnancy. In his interviews Freud would ask patients to recall childhood memories.Etain Dobson Psychology – 12A influenced aspects of modern day treatment and so had a positive impact on society. we know that memory from childhood is potentially unreliable as not all people are able to remember this far back. However. Freud’s theory coincides with determinism as it talks of early relationships having an influence on later life. Therefore. the psychodynamic approach does offer an appropriate explanation of some mental illnesses. . For example if a parent is too strict with their child during their early development they may be prone to developing OCD or in reverse ADHD. Freud’s psychodynamic theory relies on retrospective data.