Psychology 315 Course Offerings

Course Information

  • Department: Psychology
  • Prepared By: Psychology Department
  • Prepared Date: Fall 2017
  • Course Title: Abnormal Psychology
  • Course Code: PSY 315
  • Credits: 3
  • Credit Hours: 45

Catalog Description

In this course the student will learn about concepts, theories, and issues in psychopathology (the study of mental illness and behavioral disorders). Topics may include historical background, mental health professionals, legal issues, normality/abnormality, etiology/assessment/ diagnosis/therapy, anxiety/stress/depression, personality disorders, sexual deviance, schizophrenia, neurological dysfunction, substance abuse, and psychophysiological disorders. The applications of psychology to personal problem solving will also be explored. Prerequisite(s): PSY 101 Credits: 3 (3,0)

  • Prerequisites: PSY 101, PSY 130, or PSY 131 or permission from Department Chairperson.
  • Required For: CJ
  • Elective For: All curricula with a social science elective
  • Texts Currently in Use: Abnormal Psychology 7th Edition, Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan (2017), Mc- Graw Hill Higher Education Essential of Abnormal Psychology Durand and Barlow (2016)7th Edition: Cengage Learning



PSY 315 fulfills the intent of the Social and Behavioral Science competency area by applying a scientific and research perspective to intra and interpersonal variations in the human experience.

Abnormal Psychology concerns itself especially with those variations in human behavior that deviate from cultural or societal expectations. It traces the evolution of historical changes in attitudes toward and treatment of those individuals whose interpersonal responses and behavioral patterns have been problematic for themselves and for society. This course explores the reciprocal impact of the mentally disordered individual on society and the influence of society on abnormal behavior. Culture-bound syndromes are discussed as a way of demonstrating the significant role played by sociocultural factors in labeling behavior as normal or abnormal.

Contemporary psychopharmacological treatment of the mentally ill is shown to be the result of significant research findings regarding the biological basis of psychopathology. The clinical picture of abnormal psychology has changed considerably due to the influence of scientific and technological developments in assessment and diagnosis.

Public policy and legal rulings have had profound effects on issues such as commitment, deinstitutionalization, the mentally ill in the community, the rights of confined individuals, and the protection of society. Statistical data are presented to show the increasing prevalence of mental illness and psychological disorder in the population and the significant problem this has created for individuals, families and the community.

Students in Abnormal Psychology are encouraged to share their experiences and engage in personal problem solving. With increased awareness and insight into these issues, they will be able to generate constructive solutions to the serious societal problems discussed in this course. Learning the dynamics of the normality-abnormality continuum will contribute to student’s understanding of the diverse human motivations and behaviors that they encounter on a daily basis. By studying the reasons for the many variations, both normal and abnormal, in human behavior, PSY 235 provides the student with the skills to function more adaptively in typical societal settings-school, home, workplace-as well as in their interpersonal relationships.



Learning Objectives: Upon successful completion of Abnormal Psychology PSY315, the student will be able to:

  1. Define psychopathology and psychotherapy. Summarize the major theoretical perspectives on psychopathology: psychodynamic, behavioral, humanistic, and cognitive. Describe how culture affects assessment of abnormality.
  2. Describe the biological basis of mental illness in terms of brain structure and neurochemical transmission.
  3. Describe how research methods aid in clinical assessment. Define statistical terms such as prevalence and incidence data, reliability, validity. Define assessment and explain the process of psychological diagnosis. Explain the diagnostic system of DSM V and the use of other tools for clinical assessment.
  4. Describe the symptoms of and treatment for anxiety disorders including: panic disorders, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and GAD.
  5. Describe the symptoms of and treatment for mood disorders including: bipolar I, bipolar II, and major depression.
  6. Describe the symptoms of and treatments for somatic and dissociative disorders including: conversion disorder, illness anxiety disorder and dissociative identity disorder
  7. Describe the symptoms of and treatments for eating disorders: including anorexia and bulimia
  8. Describe the symptoms of and treatments for schizophrenia.
  9. Describe the symptoms that distinguish the various personality disorders
  10. Describe the symptoms of and differentiate between substance use/abuse, tolerance and withdrawal.

Course Outline

Course Description

This course will focus on an exploration of psychopathology, i.e., those behaviors considered by society to be maladaptive. Current issues in mental health will be discussed in relation to historical, legal and ethical contexts. Theoretical perspectives on psychological disorders and the biochemical basis of mental illness will form the foundation for course material on etiology, assessment, diagnosis and treatment. The description of mental disorders will conform to the current DSM IV classification system.


The Study of Abnormal Behavior: definition, statistical criteria, incidence, epidemiology, stereotypes of the mentally ill; historical chronology--superstition to science: attitudes toward and treatment of the mentally ill

Mental health professionals: psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists

Models of Psychopathology: biogenic, psychodynamic, behavioral, humanistic, existential, cognitive, systemic

Assessment and Classification: psychological tests, DSM IV

The Scientific Method in Abnormal Psychology: clinical research, case studies, ethical issues in research


Anxiety and Stress: Panic and phobic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder

Dissociative disorders: amnesia, multiple-personality

Somatoform disorders: somatization, conversion, hypochondria, body dysmorphic disorder

Psychological factors affecting medical conditions: stress and the immune system, coronary heart disease, hypertension, ulcers, migraine headaches; relaxation training, biofeedback


Personality disorders: paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive

Impulse control disorders: intermittent explosive, kleptomania, pathological gambling, pyromania, trichotillomania

Substance-related disorders: alcoholism, substance abuse, the addiction process, self-help groups

Sexual and gender identity disorders: paraphilias, pedophilia, fetishism, transvestism, transsexualism, rape, incest; issues related to homosexuality

Sexual dysfunction: sexual response cycle, male and female disorders of desire, arousal and orgasm


Mood disorders: depression, mania, bipolar disorder, suicide

Schizophrenia: delusions, hallucinations; speech, thought, and behavioral disturbance; paranoid, disorganized and catatonic types; genetic and high-risk studies; the dopamine hypothesis; antipsychotic medication


Organic disorders: assessment of brain damage, dementia, delirium, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, disorders associated with aging

Developmental problems: autism, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, separation anxiety, childhood depression; eating disorders

Mental retardation: etiology, diagnosis, IQ levels, Down Syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, intervention programs


Treatment techniques: Electroconvulsive therapy, psychosurgery, psychopharmacology

Therapy: psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, behavior modification, cognitive restructuring, marital/family therapy, group therapy

Community psychology: mental health centers, prevention programs, paraprofessionals, self- help/support groups

Legal and ethical issues in abnormal psychology: insanity defense, commitment, deinstitutionalization; the therapist/client relationship and confidentiality

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