Online Class: Introduction to Abnormal Psychology

This course will introduce you to the many faces of abnormal psychology. It will discuss old and new ideas surrounding this branch of psychology and will offer general information about how abnormal psychologists and psychiatrists identify and treat these types of mental illnesses.

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Course Description

Abnormal Psychology, as an academic discipline, delves into the intricate and multifaceted world of psychological abnormalities. This field has evolved significantly over time, particularly in the last few decades, leading to advancements in understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of various mental disorders. The course on Abnormal Psychology is designed to provide a comprehensive and detailed exploration of this intriguing field, appealing to a wide range of potential students, including those considering a career in this area or those simply interested in expanding their knowledge.

Innovative and Inclusive Curriculum: Our course encompasses 15 detailed lessons, each crafted to be accessible and engaging. These lessons cover a spectrum of topics, from the basics of abnormal psychology to the complexities of various mental disorders. Each lesson is structured to facilitate ease of understanding, ensuring that students with varying academic backgrounds can comprehend and apply the concepts.

Areas of Study

The course covers various areas of study including:

  • Science and Special Education: Understanding the scientific basis of mental disorders and their impact on learning and development.
  • Self-Help and Social Work: Exploring strategies for personal growth and community-based support.
  • Psychology and Social Science: Delving into the psychological theories and social factors influencing abnormal behavior.
  • Therapy and Treatment: Examining different therapeutic approaches and treatment modalities.
  • Counseling Specializations: Focusing on areas like domestic violence counseling and behavior management.

Detailed Course Lessons

  1. Introduction to Abnormal Psychology: This lesson lays the foundation, clarifying what abnormal psychology entails and how it differs from other psychology branches.
  2. History of Abnormal Psychology: Tracing the evolution of mental illness perceptions and treatments through history.
  3. Overview of Abnormal Psychology Types: Introducing major categories of mental illnesses, with an emphasis on symptoms and causes.
  4. Anxiety Disorders Up Close: Diving into the sub-types of anxiety disorders, exploring their specific characteristics.
  5. Eating Disorders Up Close: Examining the various forms of eating disorders and their underlying dynamics.
  6. Mood Disorders Up Close: Understanding the spectrum of mood disorders, from depression to bipolar disorder.
  7. Personality Disorders Up Close: Analyzing different personality disorders and their impact on individuals' lives.
  8. Schizophrenia Up Close: Focusing on the complexities of schizophrenia, a challenging and often misunderstood disorder.
  9. Sexual Disorders Up Close: Exploring various sexual disorders, their causes, and implications.
  10. Delusional Disorders Up Close: Understanding the nature of delusional disorders and their effects on perception and behavior.
  11. Substance Abuse Disorders Up Close: Delving into the realm of substance abuse and its far-reaching consequences.
  12. Dissociative Disorders Up Close: Examining the nature and impact of dissociative disorders.
  13. The Personal Impact of Living with Mental Illness: A lesson focused on the day-to-day experiences and challenges faced by individuals living with mental illness.
  14. Treatment Options for Abnormal Mental Illnesses: Discussing contemporary and traditional treatment methods, including the growing emphasis on holistic approaches like diet and exercise.
  15. New Discoveries and Hope in Identification and Treatment: Highlighting the latest research findings in brain chemistry and genetics that are revolutionizing the treatment of mental disorders.
  16. In Closing: Emphasizing the importance of recognizing mental health issues and seeking appropriate help, along with a comprehensive bibliography and resource list.

Why Choose This Course?

  • Relevance and Currency: The course content is continuously updated to reflect the latest research and best practices in the field.
  • Diverse Learning Approaches: Catering to different learning styles, the course combines theoretical knowledge with practical applications.
  • Accessible and Engaging: The curriculum is designed to be engaging and accessible to a broad audience, regardless of their academic or professional background.
  • Career and Personal Development: Whether you aim to pursue a career in abnormal psychology or wish to expand your personal knowledge, this course offers valuable insights and skills.

In summary, our course in Abnormal Psychology is not just an academic pursuit; it's an enlightening journey into the human mind, offering invaluable knowledge and skills for personal and professional growth. This course stands as an essential guide for anyone seeking to understand the complexities of mental health and the advancements in treating psychological disorders.

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Course Motivation

Abnormal psychology has a broader range than the average layperson is aware of. It concerns itself with a variety of mental and emotional disorders including, but not limited to, depression, bi-polar disorder, eating disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual addictions, deviations and abuse, obsessive compulsive disorders, and schizophrenia. It differs from other types of psychology, in that it studies disorders as they exist outside normal social constructs; these result in the temporary absence, or complete loss of,  one's ability to live a happy, balanced, and fulfilling life.

What is Abnormal Psychology?

Abnormal Psychology can be defined as:   

a)    Any mental or emotional disorder that causes the patient (or others affected by the patient), to lose, or never obtain, a fulfilling, productive life.

b)    Any behavior that occurs infrequently and, therefore, deviates, from statistical norms of appropriate social behavior.

c)    Any subjectively described feelings of mental discomfort, anxiety, or depression by an individual -- rather than any behavior he or she may display. 

While many people associate abnormal psychology with severe mental illness, that is not the case. While serial killers, pedophiles and those with multiple personalities certainly do exist, they are at the extreme of the spectrum of abnormal disorders of the mind and emotions. In reality, most human beings will suffer from some type of mental illness in their lifetime. Whether it is a bout of serious depression from the loss of a loved one, a difficult divorce, the loss of a job or threatened financial security, or simply intense anxiety that diminishes one's ability to function healthfully, most people will encounter a mental and/or emotional disorder. Reoccurring anxiety can be brought about by something as seemingly minor as being the victim of a theft, to something more catastrophic, such as the September 11th terrorist attacks. Extremely difficult life experiences, and traumatic events, often trigger both major and minor abnormal mental and emotional disorders. To complicate things further, some people are simply born with, or inherit, a predisposition towards mental illness. To complicate the matter further still, physical problems can trigger mental illness symptoms: blows to the head, tumors, brain nerve damage, or infection are all possible physiological triggers. The extremes of mental illness offer a much greater challenge to those who diagnose and treat them, as well as those who suffer from them. However, much of the stigma attached to disorders of the mind and emotions should be alleviated by the knowledge that anyone can be struck with mental illness at any time. 

What are the differences, and similarities, between Abnormal Psychology and other branches of psychology? 

There are nearly as many specializations concerning the human mind, as there are specializations of the human body. 

First, let's take a look at some of the most prevalent areas of study in psychology: 

Developmental Psychology: This is concerned with studying how the human mind changes and develops throughout the various stages of life. Originally concerned only with child psychology, this branch has evolved to include studies into adolescence, maturity, middle age, and elderly psychology.  

Forensic PsychologyAlso known as "legal psychology," its focus is working with the judicial system. Some areas of involvement include: parole readiness, competency of criminals on trial, jury selection, inmate counseling, development of rehabilitation programs, police and parole officer training. 

Industrial Psychology: This is also called Organizational Psychology or I/O Psychology. The focus of this branch is to help various commercial and non-profit businesses evaluate employees and potential employees, and to help executives achieve better employee management skills. They may also administer tests and create training programs to help a company reach its goals. 

Sports Psychology: This branch deals with the emotional and mental nuances of athletes. Its original focus was researching inherent traits that appear in athletes, as opposed to non-athletes. This branch has expanded into helping athletes achieve goals, and break through roadblocks in their performance, by using imagery training, hypnosis, relaxation techniques, talk therapy, and conflict resolution training. 

The above areas concern themselves mostly with understanding how the human mind acts, and reacts, in specific areas of life and work. It then seeks to assist the person, patient, or organization in achieving the highest potential, thus increasing the individual's quality of life and work. For instance, developmental psychology studies how the mind develops and changes throughout a human's lifetime; therefore, it can be used to better understand why most 3-year-olds use the word "no" repeatedly. They do so because they are seeking autonomy and becoming separate from their parents, not because they are being defiant or intentionally disobedient. This is a healthy and normal aspect of emotional and mental maturity. Parents can use this information to encourage the quality of independence in their children, rather than over-reliance, by not punishing them for asserting their individuality. Likewise, sports psychologists have come to understand that athletes have more driven personalities than non-athletes, thus it is difficult for them to relax when necessary; this, in turn, diminishes their ability to achieve life balance, and may cause injury from over-training. The very thing that makes an athlete a great competitor, may also serve to ruin their chances of success. This information has been used to assist the athlete in learning relaxation techniques so that he or she may achieve their personal and career goals. 

Abnormal psychology is similar to other branches, in that it seeks to understand how the human mind works, and why it reacts to certain circumstances, and causes specific behaviors. It is also similar in that this research is primarily done so that the individual suffering from mental illness may achieve a better quality of life. However, it differs from all other branches in several ways. The starting point for the patient is below the level of healthy mental and emotional function, so the individual first needs to be bought to a level of good health before they can consider seeking higher goals of life balance and success in all areas. Further differences include the use of medication, and even surgery, to treat abnormal psychological conditions; the need for institutionalization in some cases (to safeguard the patient or others); and the need, in some cases, for intense, long-term talk psychotherapy to alleviate distress. 

Do you need a graduate degree to work in the field of Abnormal Psychology?

While jobs exist that require only an undergraduate degree, most require an advanced degree. It is possible to find entry level positions that seek individuals at the undergrad level; however, if you want to be a psychologist or psychiatrist, then you must continue your studies. Abnormal psychologists earn a PhD or PhyD in the field. This requires a four- to six-year degree, followed by a dissertation for a PhD (no dissertation for a PhyD), and an internship for either degree. If you want to be a psychiatrist, then after your BA studies are complete, you must then earn a four-year medical degree, followed by one-year internship and three years of residency.  

If you are not sure what specialty you desire, or would like to learn more about the field while getting "hands-on" experience before making the huge commitment to graduate studies, there are some options. It is possible to "scope out" the field by taking a position closely related to it, and in this manner discover if abnormal psychology is something you would like to pursue further. There are also many companies that will provide tuition reimbursement to those seeking to advance their studies. These are fantastic opportunities, as they allow you to work within the area of interest while earning your degree. After your degree is earned, it is likely that you will be offered a position within the company you have been working for. Some possibilities for those with BA degrees in psychology include: drug and alcohol counseling, work in community mental health centers, psychiatric hospital intake, family and child services case worker, and academic psychology department research assistant. Generally speaking, a PhD degree will provide more abnormal psychology opportunities upon graduation than will a bachelor's degree.  

Best Undergrad Degree for Abnormal Psychology

The best bachelor's degree to have before pursuing a degree in psychiatry, or a PhD degree in abnormal psychology, would be in psychology -- of course! However, Psych is not the only game in town. Those with undergraduate degrees in English, Communication, Business, Computer Science, and even Education, are all possibilities. It will be slightly more difficult for those who did not earn their undergrad degree in psychology to move to an advanced level of study in psychology, and it may require the taking of undergraduate-level basic psychology courses as prerequisites to enrolling in graduate-level classes. However, with a strong inclination, and a little hard work, those with BA or BS degrees outside of psychology can do just as well at a higher level as their Psych-degreed counterparts. If you are now, or will soon be, a student earning your undergrad degree, it is highly suggested that you either switch your major to psychology, or at the very least, take several elective courses in that major if you have decided that abnormal psychology is the field you want to enter.  

Preparing for graduate studies

Many students find that the leap from high school to college is a bit harder than expected; similarly, so is the shift from undergraduate to graduate student. While in some aspects, things may be easier, as you are focusing on your particular field of interest, the work load is much heavier, and much more difficult. The expectations of what you are able to produce, in the form of papers and research, on your own are much higher. You can expect a master's degree in Psychology to take two to three full years if attending school full-time; three to five, if you are attending part-time. If you have not learned how to organize yourself efficiently, and have found this to be a problem during your BA or BS studies, you should take a course on proper organizational techniques before beginning your studies. By all means, speak with those who are already enrolled in graduate studies for psychology at your college of choice, and get a good understanding from the department staff of what will be expected of you during the process. Just as you did for your bachelor's degree, you will want to research various universities and colleges to find the curriculum that best suits your current needs and future goals. As most spots in excellent programs are limited, you must be sure to keep your GPA as high as possible, and prepare well for your Graduate Record Exam. To get into the best programs, a GPA of 3.5 or higher for your junior and senior years is required. Graduate schools do not take freshman and sophomore GPA scores into consideration, so if you slacked in your first two years, there is still hope for you to reach your goals of attending a good to excellent program! There are many fine courses available for GRE test preparation, and you should begin looking into them by your junior year of college. Consult your student advisor to get the best information in regard to the best universities for your needs. 

Below is a checklist for Psychology Grad School Preparation and Application:

  • Great to excellent junior and senior GPA; 3.5 and above is ideal
  • GRE score of 1030 or better
  • Very good to excellent math skills and grades
  • Proficiency with computer technology
  • Letters of recommendation from at least three professors at your current school
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills


Abnormal psychology is mostly concerned with disorders of the mind and emotions. It differs from other branches of psychology in that it uses medications, institutionalization and intense, long-term talk therapy to treat it. It is similar in that it seeks to increase the individual's quality of life. A PhD is not required to work around the field of abnormal psych, but must be obtained to be a psychologist. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have continued on to obtain three additional years of psychiatric education and training. 

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  • 6 Months to Complete
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Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

Course Lessons

Average Lesson Rating:
4.4 / 5 Stars (Average Rating)
"Extraordinarily Helpful"
(3,290 votes)

Lesson 1: Introduction to Abnormal Psychology

This lesson will provide information about these topics, so that you have a clear idea of what abnormal psychology is, and how it differs from other branches in the field. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Abnormal Psychology; Reasons for Taking this Course
  • Complete Assignment: An Introduction
  • Assessment: Lesson 1 Exam

Lesson 2: History of Abnormal Psychology

Views, treatment, and understanding of mental illness has changed drastically throughout the ages. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 2 Exam

Lesson 3: Overview of Abnormal Psychology Types

This lesson will introduce you to the major categories of mental and emotional illnesses. You will be briefly introduced to definitions, symptoms, and some causes of the most common mental and emotional illnesses. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 3 Exam

Lesson 4: Anxiety Disorders Up Close

In this lesson, you will be given definitions of the many sub-categories, or sub-types, of anxiety disorder. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 4 Exam

Lesson 5: Eating Disorders Up Close

In this lesson, you will be given definitions of the sub-categories of eating disorder. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 5 Exam

Lesson 6: Mood Disorders Up Close

In this lesson, you will be given definitions of the sub-categories of mood disorder. 8 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 6 Exam

Lesson 7: Personality Disorders Up Close

In this lesson, you will be given definitions of the many sub-categories of personality disorder. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 7 Exam

Lesson 8: Schizophrenia Up Close

Since schizophrenia does not have any sub-types, in this lesson you will learn more about schizophrenia. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 8 Exam

Lesson 9: Sexual Disorders Up Close

In this lesson, you will be given definitions of the many sub-categories of sexual disorder. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 9 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 9 Exam

Lesson 10: Delusional Disorders Up Close

In this lesson, you will be given definitions of the many sub-categories of delusional disorder. 9 Total Points
  • Lesson 10 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 10 Exam

Lesson 11: Substance Abuse Disorders Up Close

In this lesson, you will be given definitions of the sub-categories of substance abuse disorder. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 11 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 11 Exam

Lesson 12: Dissociative Disorders Up Close

In this lesson, you will be given definitions of the sub-categories of dissociative disorder. 9 Total Points
  • Lesson 12 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 12 Exam

Lesson 13: The Personal Impact of Living with Mental Illness

Living with a mental illness is, indeed, a very difficult and stressful prospect. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 13 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Mental Illness Stigma
  • Assessment: Lesson 13 Exam

Lesson 14: Treatment Options for Abnormal Mental Illnesses

The use of diet, exercise, and supplements has gained in popularity in recent years. It has been shown to help with mental illness, and the only side effects are a healthier mind and body. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 14 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Mental Health
  • Assessment: Lesson 14 Exam

Lesson 15: New Discoveries and Hope in Identification and Treatment

New research shows that those with mental illness have different brain chemistry and genes than those who do not. These findings are helping scientists discover new ways to treat, and cure, a large variety of disorders. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 15 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 15 Exam

Lesson 16: In Closing

The first step to getting help is admitting there is a problem, and then seeking assistance in treating the problem. Bibliography and websites. 97 Total Points
  • Lesson discussions: Let us know what you think of this course; Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course); Course Comments
  • Assessment: The Final Exam
Total Course Points

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Describe what abnormal psychology is.
  • Summarize the history of abnormal psychology.
  • Recognize abnormal psychology types.
  • Identify anxiety disorders up close.
  • Identify eating disorders up close.
  • Identify mood disorders up close.
  • Identify personality disorders up close.
  • Identify schizophrenia up close.
  • Identify sexual disorders up close.
  • Identify delusional disorders up close.
  • Describe substance abuse disorders up close.
  • Describe dissociative disorders up close.
  • Summarize the personal impact of living with mental illness.
  • Identify treatment options for abnormal mental illnesses.
  • Recognize new discoveries and hope in identification and treatment.
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Additional Course Information

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Course Title: Introduction to Abnormal Psychology
Course Number: 7550522
Lessons Rating: 4.4 / 5 Stars (3,290 votes)
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Availability: This course is online and available in all 50 states including: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and Washington.
Last Updated: September 2023
Course Type: Self-Paced, Online Class
CEU Value: 0.6 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: UniversalClass Instructional Team
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Course Fee: $120.00 U.S. dollars

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Student Testimonials

  • "The course was very insightful on the breakdowns of mental illness and the progression it has came in the years!" -- Tasheana H.
  • "I really appreciated how quickly he got back to me. This was something I had wanted to do but was a little scared trying but the positivity coming back on assignments was definitely helpful to want to keep going." -- Dani J.
  • "This was a wonderful course and very helpful. Very well written and a good explanation about everything." -- Katelyn P.
  • "I got a lot of valuable information from this course that will help me in life and in my classroom." -- Amy V.
  • "I found the explanations so clearly presented and easy to understand; very simply stated." -- Laura G.
  • "This was a great refresher course." -- Laverne A.
  • "Thank you for this insightful course." -- Suzanne D.
  • "I found the explanation and breakdown of the disorders to be very helpful. Although I had previously taken a Psychology class, I enjoyed learning further information about the abnormalities of the mind, how they work and ways to treat them. The most helpful part, however, was learning of these disorders, information about them and treatment. I have encountered people in my life with bipolar disorder, as well as clinical depression. I have never quite understood the disorders or what their treatment options. Now I can finally understand and carry a conversation with them regarding their condition." -- Marianna P.
  • "A great instructor and would definitely like to do another course with him in the near future." -- Sarah P.
  • "I enjoyed the whole course very much. I have no faults." -- Sarah P.
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