Outline and evaluate the biological approach to Psychopathology

(12 marks)
Outline the biological approach - 6 marks
Evaluate the biological approach - 6 marks
Begin your essay by summarising this information in
one paragraph
The biological approach treats psychological
disorders in the same way as physical disorders
It proposes 4 main causes of abnormality:
Brain injury, infection, Neurotransmitters and
Then go on to describe two or more of these in more
detail using examples and referring to studies where
appropriate. Choose from the following information:
A degeneration or malformation of brain cells
can cause memory loss often present in
Alzheimer’s disease.
Korsakoff’s syndrome occurs when drink and
drugs damage part of the brain involved in
Syphilis bacterium causes a sexually transmitted
disease known as syphilis.
◦ It causes short-lived sores followed by general paresis forgetfulness, mental deterioration and delusions of
grandeur and persecution.
The influenza virus has been linked to
Brown et al (2004)
◦ found that 14% of schizophrenic cases may be linked to the
foetus being exposed to the ‘flu virus in the womb during
the first trimester.
Too much or too little of a neurotransmitter
can lead to psychopathology.
One of the factors involved in schizophrenia
is an excessive amount of dopamine
High levels of serotonin have been thought
be involved in the manic state of bi-polar
McGuffin - Studied twins where one of the
pair already suffered from depression.
Assessed the co-twin and found…
46% concordance rate for depression (MZ)
20% concordance rate for depression (DZ)
Gottesman - Meta-analysis of about 40 twin
Found concordance rate for schizophrenia of
48% in monozygotic twins and 17% in
dizygotic twins
Try to make 3 points and use the point – example
comment- format
Strengths – this is the most scientific approach,
there is evidence for a biological component in many
psychological disorders e.g. Schizophrenia /
Drugs work on our physiology and they are often
effective treatments for psychological disorders e.g.
50-65% of patients given an SSRI for three months
showed signs of improvement in tests, 70% success
rate for panic disorders, 60% success rate for
symptoms of hallucinations and psychotic episodes
Reductionism – it ignores all other explanations
of psychopathology, i.e. Environmental
influences, childhood trauma, irrational thinking
Drugs don’t work for everyone. e.g. Treatment
success rates are well below 100%
Genetics can’t explain all abnormality as there
are no 100% concordance rates.

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