When debating about the definition of abnormal behavior, the
definition of normal behavior is often discussed together. Can the opposite
side of normal behavior also be considered as abnormal behavior? To address the
ambiguity, the definition of abnormal behavior can be examined from two
perspectives: perspective of the individual and that of an outsider.
From the perspective of an individual, personal feeling and
experience of the individual is emphasized and also the main determinant of the
definition of abnormal behavior in terms of the combined aspects of deviance,
distressing, and disabling. Instead of many types or categories of abnormal
behavior, a continuum of abnormal behaviors should be taken into account.
Behaviors that cause personal distress on the individual would be regarded as
abnormal. Distress can be in the form of negative emotions and feeling
including stress, fear, depressed mood and to the extent of having suicidal
ideation and attempt. The feeling of personal distress is personal and subjective
and is often thought to be exaggerated, thus the aspects of disabling and
deviant should be taken into account. Individual who shows behaviors that are
disabling his/her ability for daily activities, social interaction and personal
development would be one of the factors defining abnormal behavior. Talking
about deviance from this perspective, it is not a strong indicator of
individual’s feeling towards the behavior which is too subjective.
Distressing and disabling of personal feeling and experience
cannot be the sole determinant, instead, another perspective should be
considered from an outsider. Others identify the factor of disabling and
distress based on observation and sharing of the individual and that of
deviance based on the social norm that they are following. As social norm
changes from temporal, geographical and cultural aspect, it cannot be
generalized in defining abnormal behavior. Others judge the behaviors in
accordance to their own social norm, again implying there is a continuum of
abnormal behavior. Based on the population who follow the similar social norm,
deviant behavior can be determined. Hence, even the individual experiences no
personal distress and avoids the problem well to the extent of not disabling
his/her daily life, if the behavior is deviant from social norm, it will be
considered as abnormal behavior.
In conclusion, abnormal behavior
should be defined as behavior that is causing distress and disabling on
personal feeling and experience, deviant behavior that is judged by an outsider
who follows the similar social norm.