Psychopathology refers to psychological dysfunctions that either create distress for the person or interfere with day-to-day functioning in relationships or at the workplace. "Psychological disorders," "abnormal behavior," "mental illness," and "behavior and emotional disorders" are terms often used in place of psychopathology.
As a topic of interest, psychopathology does not have an identifiable, historical beginning. From the writings of ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, and Greeks it is clear, however, that ancient societies believed that abnormal behavior had its roots in supernatural phenomena, such as the vengeance of God and evil spirits. Although modern scientists have opposed that view, in the twenty-first century many people who hold fundamentalist religious beliefs or live in isolated societies still maintain that abnormal behavior can be caused by demoniac possession.
The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 b.c.e.) rejected demoniac possession and believed that psychological disorders had many natural causes, including heredity, head trauma, brain disease, and even family stress. Hippocrates was wrong when it came to specific details, but it is remarkable how accurate he was in identifying broad categories of factors that do influence the development of psychopathology. The Roman physician Galen (c. 129-198 c.e.) adopted the ideas of Hippocrates and expanded upon them. His school of thought held that diseases, including psychological disorders, were due to an imbalance among four bodily fluids, which he called humors: blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. For example, too much black bile, called melancholer, was believed to cause depression. Galen's beliefs have been discredited, but many of the terms he used have lived on. For instance, a specific subtype of depression is named after Galen's melancholer: Major Depression with Melancholic Features.
A major figure in the history of psychopathology is the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926). He claimed that mental illnesses, like physical illnesses, could be classified into distinct disorders, each having its own biological causes. Each disorder could be recognized by a cluster of symptoms, called a syndrome. The way in which he classified mental disorders continues to exert a strong influence on approaches to categorizing mental illnesses. The official classification system in the United States is published by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR (rev. 4th ed., 2000). Many features of this manual can be traced directly to the writings of Kraepelin in the early years of the twentieth century.
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