Psychology, Mental Health and Distress

First edition

by John Cromby, David Harper & Paula Reavey

Learning outcomes

Part one: Concepts

Chapter 1: From disorder to experience

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Explain why terminology is especially important in relation to mental health
  2. Explain what is meant in this book by ‘distress’
  3. Describe some of the problems associated with everyday definitions of normality
  4. Explain the problem of thresholds in relation to psychiatric diagnosis
  5. Define key terms, including: service user, distress, madness psychosis, neurosis, hallucination and delusion

Chapter 2: History

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Understand how distress came to be seen in the present era as an issue of health, within the domain of medicine
  2. Understand how many modern debates (e.g. about the causes of distress) are rooted in historical debates about models of distress
  3. Understand the social context of the development of our ideas about distress and treatments

Chapter 3: Culture

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Explain a working definition of culture
  2. Understand the difference between emic and etic approaches to mental health and distress
  3. Identify the different prevalent rates for diagnosed mental disorders across cultures
  4. Understand how various societies view mental health and distress and the differences between some of them

Chapter 4: Biology

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Describe some challenges to the idea that biology is the primary cause of distress
  2. Explain why ignoring biology in relation to distress is inadequate
  3. Describe Rose’s ‘lifelines’ model of genes and environment
  4. Describe Schore’s account of brain development in infants
  5. Explain the importance of plasticity and specificity in relation to distress

Chapter 5: Diagnosis and formulation

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Identify some of the core assumptions underlying psychiatric diagnosis
  2. Explain how psychiatric diagnosis differs from most medical diagnosis
  3. Describe how issues of reliability and validity are relevant to psychiatric diagnosis
  4. Explain what a formulation of distress is
  5. Evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of formulation and psychiatric diagnosis

Chapter 6: Causal influences

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Explain why causal influences upon distress are difficult to identify and research
  2. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the various research methods typically used to identify causal influences upon distress
  3. Describe the kinds of causal influences upon distress that researchers have explored
  4. Describe how these influences get translated into practice by mental health professionals

Chapter 7: Service users and survivors

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Understand what the service user/ survivor movement is
  2. Understand what its key concerns are
  3. Explain how this movement has developed alternative forms of support like the Hearing Voices Network
  4. Understand about what it is like to hear voices and what helps people to cope with distressing voices

Chapter 8: Interventions

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Describe what medication, psychotherapy and community psychology interventions are
  2. Understand the theories of change on which they are based
  3. Identify some of the debates concerning these interventions
  4. Understand how the efficacy of interventions is investigated
  5. Understand the limitations of efficacy studies

Part two: Forms of distress

Chapter 9: Sadness and worry

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Describe how experiences of sadness and worry have varied across time and between cultures
  2. Identify the psychiatric diagnoses commonly given to people experiencing clinical sadness and worry
  3. Describe the primary causal influences upon sadness and worry
  4. Explain which interventions are commonly given to people experiencing clinical sadness and worry

Chapter 10: Sexuality and gender

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Understand what is included in the section ‘Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders’ in the DSM IV-TR and the use of the terms sexual dysfunction, sexual disorder and gender identity disorder
  2. Understand why there is so much debate about these categories
  3. Understand the identified causal processes associated with sexual problems generally and specific diagnoses of sexual dysfunction
  4. Examine some of the social contexts that define particular sexual behaviours and gender identities
  5. Identify what kind of interventions are available and whether they are considered to be effective

Chapter 11: Madness

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Understand traditional biomedical approaches to understanding madness through psychiatric classifications like ‘schizophrenia’ and ‘psychosis’
  2. Appreciate some of the problems with this approach
  3. Understand of an alternative approach focused on specific problematic experiences or ‘complaints’
  4. Identify some of the social factors and psychological processes involved in the development of these psychotic experiences, and be able to evaluate the evidence for and against them
  5. Understand the main approaches to helping people who have these experiences and be able to evaluate the evidence for and against them

Chapter 12: Distressing bodies and eating

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Understand how eating problems and weight-related concerns have been defined in the mental health literature
  2. Understand why weight and body image concerns are at the centre of eating-related problems
  3. Understand what kinds of causal processes are associated with the problematic experiences
  4. Identify what are considered to be symptoms of eating disorders
  5. Examine the kinds of interventions that are available and whether they are effective

Chapter 13: Disordered personalities?

After you have read this chapter, you will be able to:

  1. Explain what is meant by the term ‘personality disorder’
  2. Understand why there is so much debate about this category
  3. Understand what kinds of causal processes are associated with the problematic experiences seen as symptoms of personality disorder
  4. Examine the kinds of interventions that are available and whether they are effective