What is abnormal behavior?

The term "abnormal behavior" can refer to any action or behavior that is unusual, but is more commonly used to describe actions and behaviors associated with psychological conditions. This encompasses a wide range of types of behavior that fall outside normal or acceptable behavior patterns. Behavior modification therapy is often used to resolve abnormal behaviors and turn inappropriate actions and interactions into appropriate ones.

Common types of abnormal behavior include antisocial behaviors, such as breaking laws; not respecting the needs and limits of others; and hurting or abusing others, either verbally or physically. Other common abnormal behaviors include talking to people who are not there, showing inappropriate attachments to strangers, the inability to form attachments with friends and family, and the inability to leave the house due to disabling fears. People who behave abnormally may also engage in repetitive and obsessive actions or may experience delusions, hallucinations, phobias, or paranoid episodes.

Psychologists and behavior therapists often focus on identifying the cause of abnormal behavior. In some cases, these causes are organic, meaning they come from an imbalance of chemicals in the brain or from another similar physical condition. These conditions are often managed with prescription medications, such as antipsychotics and anti-anxiety medications, but many see improvement with long-term therapy and diet and lifestyle changes.

Abnormal behavior can also stem from psychological conditions. There is some evidence that some of these conditions are genetically inherited, but many are caused by environmental factors. These factors may be long-term or may be a single event, and may cause behavioral repercussions in childhood or adulthood.

For example, a child raised by parents who exhibit antisocial behavior may learn to behave antisocially. If this behavior is not corrected, the child may eventually teach their own children to behave abnormally one day. Similarly, a woman who is the victim of an assault may develop a fear of being a victim again, resulting in a fear of the world at large. Such a woman may eventually not be able to leave her house because her fear is so intense.

Once the abnormal behaviors and their causes are identified, the work of modifying the behavior can begin. Therapy may involve group or individual sessions that may occur on a residential or outpatient basis. The work might include facing fears, finding ways to empower yourself, and learning or re-learning how to behave appropriately. Therapies can also be augmented with short-term or long-term medications as deemed necessary by a psychiatrist or physician.

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