How are psychological disorders related to perception and learning? What type of psychologist helps treat these disorders? From imaginary voices to an intense fear of birds, this video will introduce you to the nature of disorders.
Much of psychology is concerned with studying and understanding the way healthy minds naturally think and behave. For example, psychologists might look at how you perceive things with your senses and how you learn new information and behaviors. You can’t go a single day without learning (though there are some teachers who might make you feel like you do!) and certainly not without perceiving. These are normal functions of the brain that allow you to experience and interact with the world around you.
But imagine someone whose perception is out of whack. Where most of us would hear silence, this person–let’s call him Tom–hears a few distinct voices talking amongst themselves. These voices aren’t actually in the real world; they’re created in Tom’s head, but to Tom they seem just like a conversation you might overhear on a bus or in a restaurant.
He perceives voices that aren’t real. This is called a hallucination, and it’s typically a symptom of a disorder called schizophrenia. Tom’s psychological disorder is the result of something going wrong with his brain’s normal functioning.Tom’s disorder interferes with his ability to perceive. Jenny has a different problem.
Jenny is deathly afraid of birds. She can blame her unusual fear or phobia to disordered learning. When she was growing up, Jenny’s mailbox was right underneath a mean blackbird’s nest, and when her parents sent her out to get the mail, the blackbird would attack her to protect its babies.
This happened enough times that Jenny became conditioned to fear all birds. A natural and necessary process like ‘learning’ can lead to unusual or disordered patterns of thinking.Psychologists who specialize in treating and diagnosing disorders like Tom’s and Jenny’s are known as clinical psychologists. Unlike research psychologists, who study how the average, healthy mind processes information, clinical psychologists help patients who are hurting or are in trouble due to psychological disorders. In the same way most doctors deal with problems of the body, psychological therapists deal with problems of the mind.
Clinical psychologists, along with psychiatrists–medical doctors trained to specialize in mental illness–social workers and counselors are collectively known as therapists.Psychological disorders are defined as normal brain functioning gone wrong. There are many ways that our perception and learning can be off, but luckily, there are many treatments that can help. Tom took antipsychotic drugs to quiet the voices in his head, and behavioral therapy helped Jenny get over her extreme fear of birds.