Concept of Normal and Abnormal Behaviour

By Pavleen Kaur, Psychologist

Describe normal and abnormalThe phrases “normal” and “abnormal” are used to describe particular behaviours, sets of behaviours, or patterns of behaviours, as well as thoughts feelings and traits that may be biological or psychological. Normality and abnormality are determined by individual perception and societal norms, as well as by factors such as age, gender, situation, and context. Culture also has an impact on how normalcy and abnormality are perceived. Even within a single culture, the meanings of these two phrases change in accordance with shifting societal standards.

What is Normality?

The term “normality” describes actions that are common or expected in a group of people. It is the condition of falling within the range of what is normal or expected. Being adaptable, practical, and socially acceptable are characteristics of normal behaviour. It is behaviour that enables people to successfully interact with their surroundings and meet their daily needs.

What is Abnormality?

On the other hand, abnormality describes behaviour that differs from what is normal or expected within a particular group of people. It is abnormal, dysfunctional, and socially unacceptable behaviour. When a person behaves abnormally, it usually results in distress for them or others inhibits their capacity to operate effectively in their surroundings, and makes it difficult for them to cope with everyday responsibilities. For instance, people aren’t expected to wish for their own death, cry themselves to sleep each night, or listen to voices that no one else can hear.

Abnormal behaviour is dysfunctional, meaning it interferes with regular routines or daily functioning. People with mental illnesses are so agitated, disoriented, or confused that they are unable to take care of themselves, engage in regular social interactions, or perform well at work. For instance, a person might leave their loved ones, their work, and the successful life they once enjoyed. If the individual has no other source of income, this behaviour may be regarded as abnormal.

A Standard

Despite the variations and confusion surrounding the definition of mental illness, most countries have established a set of categories. A combined standard of facts and values underpins the efforts to identify mental disorders made by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases section on mental disorders.

Four basic kinds of abnormal behaviour were identified by Maher & Maher (1985):

  • Acting in a way that is harmful to oneself or others regardless of one’s own best interests.
  • Poor connection to reality.
  • Emotional responses that aren’t appropriate for the person’s situation.
  • Erratic behaviour is defined as abrupt shifts in behaviour.

Causes of Abnormality

In addition to the above facts, there are some causal factors that result in or lead to abnormality, such as:

>> Biological Factors:

According to studies, several mental diseases are linked to an improper balance of neurotransmitters, which are special chemicals in the brain.

Neurotransmitters facilitate communication between brain nerve cells. The brain may not properly transmit messages if these chemicals are out of balance or not functioning properly, which can result in symptoms of mental illness. Some mental problems have also been related to other biological issues, such as flaws in or damage to specific brain regions.

  • Genetics (heredity): Since many mental illnesses run in families, having a family member who has one, increases a person’s risk of getting one themselves. When several genes combine with other variables, such as stress, abuse, or a traumatic experience, a mental disorder can develop or be triggered in a person who has a hereditary vulnerability to it. biological factors of abnormality
  • Infections: A number of infections have been associated with brain damage, the onset of mental illness, or a worsening of the symptoms.
  • Brain defects or injury: There has also been a connection between various mental diseases and defects in or damage to specific parts of the brain.
  • Prenatal damage: According to some research, birth trauma, such as a loss of oxygen to the brain, or disruption of early foetal brain development may have a role in the emergence of some diseases, including autism.

social and psychological factors in abnormal behaviour

>> Psychological Factors:

Significant psychological trauma from childhood, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or an important early loss, such as the death of a parent, neglect, and a lack of interpersonal abilities are among the psychological elements that contribute to the development of mental disorders.

>> Social Factors:

A person who is predisposed to mental disease may become unwell as a result of specific stresses. A dysfunctional family, feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, anger, or loneliness, shifting jobs or schools, societal or cultural expectations, and substance addiction by the individual or the individual’s parents are a few examples of these stressors.

>> Cultural Factors:

Cultural elements like family background, religion, societal norms, and traditions have an impact on mental health. These elements may affect a person’s mental health differently.

      • Family Background According to studies, those who come from families where there has been a history of mental illness are more likely to experience mental health issues themselves. This is partially brought about by genetics, but it also illustrates how families play a significant role in our early development. We learn to interact with our family members for the first time, and they are extremely important in forming our social and emotional abilities. If we don’t learn how to successfully control our emotions or deal with stress, we may inherit mental health problems. As a result, we might be more prone to later-life mental health issues.
      • Religion Religion serves as a significant source of comfort and encouragement for many people. It can offer a sense of belonging and community as well as a framework for understanding the outside world. But religion can also lead to arguments and strain. People who practise a minority religion may feel persecuted or alienated. It may be challenging for those who were reared in religious homes to step away from their early beliefs. And even those who feel comfortable with their belief system may discover that its values are opposed to their mental health. For instance, according to some religious guidelines, mental illness is an indication of moral weakness or possession by the devil. This can make it challenging for those suffering from mental illness to get care.
      • Social Norms- Our mental health may be impacted by how we are expected to behave in our culture. People are frequently encouraged to prioritise the needs of their family or community over their own in collectivist cultures. This could result in a sense of self-sacrifice that’s bad for mental health. People who always put others before themselves may find it challenging to care for themselves, which might result in resentment or burnout. People in individualistic societies are frequently expected to be independent and self-sufficient. For those who believe they cannot live up to these standards, this can be a source of stress.
      • Traditions- Cultural norms can have an effect on mental health. Some customs, like those centred on marriage or gender norms, may be harmful to mental health. Women who are supposed to be submissive to their husbands, for instance, may be vulnerable to domestic abuse. People who are restricted from marrying the person they love may feel extremely depressed and alone. Other customs, like those centred on loss and grieving, can be beneficial to mental health. It is traditional in many cultures to take time off of work or school to grieve the loss of a loved one. As a result, people may have the room they need to mourn in a healthy way.


The earlier discussions can be summarised by saying that abnormal functioning is typically regarded as deviation, distress, dysfunction, and risk. It is crucial to take the context into account while evaluating any behaviour. Additionally, the idea of abnormality is influenced by the norms and values of the society in question.

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