“Abnormal Psychology and Life: A Dimensional Approach”: Summary

Abnormal Psychology and Life: A Dimensional Approach, written by Kearney and Trull (2018), is dedicated to abnormal psychology and its practical application in everyday settings. The authors define abnormal psychology as “the scientific study of problematic feelings, thoughts, and behaviors associated with mental disorders” (Kearney & Trull, 2018, p. 2). In practice, it helps professionals understand, evaluate, and predict mental health issues to prevent them and provide treatment to those who face them. That is why in their book, the authors describe the most common mental health problems, their symptoms, and the processes of development for readers to know how to detect these conditions, identify them, address them, and prevent if possible.

Targeting problematic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, abnormal psychology accepts their difference from the norm typical; for the majority of people. In general, abnormality has three important characteristics, including deviation from the norm, a maladaptive behavior characterized by difficulties in the adaptation to life demands, and personal experience of distress (Kearney & Trull, 2018). In order to define an abnormal behavior or thinking, at least one of these criteria should be applied, as the existence of a single parameter is impossible. For instance, the perception of the norm differs across cultures. In addition, a deviance-from-the-norm criterion used to detect differences from an average score records both positive and negative deviations (Kearney & Trull, 2018). However, positive deviations, such as higher intelligence, cannot be regarded as abnormal. Thus, other characteristics are also applied to define abnormality as the violation of social norms, interference with functioning, and the causation of great personal distress.

The history of abnormal psychology witnessed various approaches to mental disorders – from demon possession as their source to modern scientific theories. In the present day, the perspectives on abnormal psychology that define mental disorders’ causes, assessment, prevention, and treatment include biological, psychodynamic, humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, and sociocultural models (Kearney & Trull, 2018). According to the biological model, emotions, behaviors, and mental states derive from physical processes. The psychodynamic model defines intrapsychic conflicts and unconscious motives as the sources of mental disorders. The humanistic model determines behavior by a person’s self-perception through different stages of life. For the cognitive-behavioral model that states that behavior may be learned, problematic symptoms are closely connected with a person’s perception of past and present experiences. Finally, the sociocultural model refers to the impact of outside influences on a person’s behavior, thoughts, and emotions.

In relation to mental disorders and their explanation, all these models are integrated through the diathesis-stress model. According to it, a combination of diathesis as vulnerability or psychological or biological predisposition and stress leads to mental disorders (Kearney & Trull, 2018). Mental disorders traditionally appear in adolescence and are more common among young adults; however, this tendency may be caused by a lack of reporting at the oldest ages. Race, ethnicity, culture, low socioeconomic status, poor education, negative life events, and individual features are regarded as risk factors that contribute to the occurrence of mental disorders. In turn, resilience helps withstand extreme adversity and protect from mental health issues.

The prevention of mental disorders is highly essential and includes primary, secondary, and tertiary phases. Primary prevention is applied when no signs of a disorder are noticeable; secondary prevention helps address obvious but manageable problems to prevent complications, and tertiary prevention reduces the problem’s negative effects and duration (Kearney & Trull, 2018). All mental disorders are classified with the use of the DSM-5 system for their assessment and efficient treatment on the basis of common features. Meanwhile, the assessment of mental disorders should be valid, reliable, and standardized. The methods of clinical assessment include interviews, intelligence tests, personality assessments, behavioral assessments, biological assessments, neuropsychological assessments, and psychophysiological assessments. In addition, researchers frequently examine mental disorders through observations or experimental studies.

Finally, the major part of the book is dedicated to various mental health disorders, their symptoms, causes, assessment, prevention, and treatment. They include the following:

  • Anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and trauma-related disorders. They include panic attacks, social phobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety-related disorder, and separation anxiety disorder.
  • Somatic symptoms and dissociative disorders. Somatic symptom disorder refers to excessive worries related to one’s health. Dissociative disorders include identity disorder, dissociative amnesia, and depersonalization or derealization.
  • Depressive and bipolar disorders and suicide. They refer to the states of extreme sadness and euphoria, manic disorders, and cyclothymic disorders that frequently lead to suicide ideation.
  • Eating disorders. Common among females, they include bulimia and anorexia nervosa based on body dissatisfaction.
  • Substance-related disorders. They are related to the repeated and excessive use of substances.
  • Personality disorders. They include paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.
  • Sexual dysfunctions, paraphilic disorders, and gender dysphoria. Sexual dysfunctions relate to multiple issues that may occur during regular sexual activity (Kearney & Trull, 2018). Paraphilic disorders are connected with fantasies that involve unusual sexual activities. Gender dysphoria is a person’s desire to be of the opposite gender.
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. They refer to hallucinations, delusions, catatonia, alogia, avolition, anhedonia, flat affect, and disorganized speech.

After reading this book, I understood the significance of competency in abnormal psychology as it is determined by the fact that all people have thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. These feelings and behaviors may occasionally transform into mental disorders that have multiple forms and expressions. Thus, it is highly essential to know how to identify, predict, and prevent them. In addition, even non-professionals should learn how people with these conditions may be helped.


Kearney, C. A., & Trull, T. J. (2018). Abnormal psychology and life: A dimensional approach (3rd ed.). Cengage Learning.

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PsychologyWriting. 2023. ""Abnormal Psychology and Life: A Dimensional Approach": Summary." April 3, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/abnormal-psychology-and-life-a-dimensional-approach-summary/.

1. PsychologyWriting. ""Abnormal Psychology and Life: A Dimensional Approach": Summary." April 3, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/abnormal-psychology-and-life-a-dimensional-approach-summary/.


PsychologyWriting. ""Abnormal Psychology and Life: A Dimensional Approach": Summary." April 3, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/abnormal-psychology-and-life-a-dimensional-approach-summary/.