How do we determine what is normal and what is abnormal behavior? Know the 5 criteria.

at least 2 criteria must be met for a diagnosis of abnormality to be made


Is the behavior unusual?

Behavior does not match (or is inconsistent) within the social context it is in. For example, someone is laughing but suddenly starts to cry without any outside stressor/stimuli to cause it.


Does the behavior go against social norms?

Does this behavior deviate from what is socially acceptable within society. For example someone laughing at a funeral.


 Does the behavior cause the person significant subjective discomfort?

If this behaviour causes stress or worries the individual, that should be noted regardless if other people are distressed by it.


Is the behavior maladaptive?

Maladaptive in terms of preventing the person to be competent and happy within life. For example does the behviour get them into trouble with the law, school or workplace? Does this behaviour cause the person to feel upset? Is it self-sabotaging? Does this beahviour prevent the person from getting what they desire?


Does the behavior cause the person to be dangerous to themself or others?


What is the difference between psychological disorder and insanity?

Psychological Disorder:

  • This is a medical term used in the DSM-5 (and older editions) and it used as a diagnosis criteria for individuals by psychiatrists/psychologists,
  • Any pattern of behavior (but is not limited to) that causes individuals  significant distress, interferes with their day-to-day functioning, causes them to harm others or themselves, or interferes with their interpersonal functions



  • This is a term used in a court of law, therefore it is a legal term.
  • This refers to the ability/inability for one to be personally responsible for their actions.
  • This term can be used as a legal defense when a court of law is judging someone’s actions in accordance with a crime. Someone who suffers from a mental illness is not personally responsible for their actions as illness can take away one’s autonomy of their actions.