Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal behaviour distance learning course, learn more about mental health issues - the causes, symptoms, and options for treatment. Develop your knowledge of the causes of disorders and the options for support.

Course CodeBPS307
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Study Abnormal Psychology by Distance Learning - understand more about mental health issues and their treatments.

Mental illnesses and disorders affect around 20% of people. Many of us know someone personally, or who we have seen, who has a mental health problem. Although mental health problems were once considered taboo most modern societies accept mental illness as a condition which can affect anyone. Our understanding of mental illnesses has increased drastically over the past 150 years and we now have more ways of helping people to cope with their symptoms or overcome them entirely.

Studying this course will provide students with valuable insights and knowledge in mental health issues.

  • Learn to identify common categories of psychological disorder and their causes, and how they can affect a person's behaviour.
  • Explore the causes of abnormal behaviour from drug abuse and developmental issues to genetic and medical disorders.
  • 100 hour self paced study course
  • Gain a greater understanding of mental health issues in people for career and professional development.

This course will help the student to develop awareness of a range of common psychological disorders - their aetiology, symptoms, prognosis, and possible treatment options. Whilst the course largely mirrors classifications systems used in the DSM and ICD, the student is also encouraged to consider issues such as how do we define normality and abnormality, and when is an individual's behaviour within the bounds of what is regarded as "normal" in society - and when is it "abnormal".

Gaining a greater understanding of mental health issues will be of benefit to anyone who is involved with working with people - counsellors, teachers, social workers, youth workers, support workers, and carers. Understanding more about mental health issues means that students will be better placed to recognise and accommodate the behaviours of the people they work with. They will be able to modify their approach to people and with this and the knowledge of the options to treatment will be able to interact with them in a more understanding and positively beneficial manner.

Lesson Structure

There are 11 lessons in this course:

  1. Disorders Usually First Diagnosed in Infancy
    • Criteria for Determining Abnormality.
    • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
    • Childhood Disorders.
    • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
    • Conduct Disorder.
    • Mental Retardation.
    • Asperger’s Disorder.
    • Stereotypic Movement Disorder.
    • Normal Functioning.
    • Depression in Childhood.
    • Anxiety Disorders.
    • Types of Therapy: Adlerian, Behaviour, Existential, Gestalt, Person Centred Therapy, Psychoanalysis, Rational Emotive, Reality Therapy, Transactional.
  2. Delirium, Dementia, Amnesic and Other Cognitive Disorders
    • Types of Cognitive Disorders.
    • Delirium.
    • Dementia.
    • Types of Dementia.
    • Alzheimer’s Disease.
    • Comparing Dementia and Delirium.
    • Amnesia.
    • Cognitive Disorder NOS.
    • Pseudo Dementia.
    • Research Methods in Biopsychology.
  3. Substance-Related Disorders
    • Scope and Nature of Substance Abuse.
    • Reasons for Using Drugs.
    • Substance Dependence.
    • Intoxication and Withdrawal.
    • Alcohol Dependence and DT's.
    • Substance Dependence.
    • Substance Abuse.
    • Drug Misuse.
    • Classes of Drugs.
    • Amphetamines.
    • Cocaine.
    • Crack.
    • Opium and Heroin.
    • LSD.
    • Other Drugs, Steroids, Ritalin, Inhalants, etc.
    • Risks with Specific Drugs.
    • Older Adults Susceptible to Prescription Misuse.
  4. Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders
    • Scope and Nature.
    • Psychosis.
    • Treating Psychosis.
    • Schizo-affective Disorders.
    • Delusional (Paranoid) Disorders.
    • Onset of Schizophrenia.
    • Symptoms of Schizophrenia
    • Treating Schizophrenia.
    • Schizophrenia and Violence.
    • Biology of Schizophrenia.
    • Antipsychotic Medications.
    • Psychosocial Treatments.
    • Role of the Patients Support System.
  5. Mood Disorders
    • Depressive Disorders.
    • Determining Type of Depression.
    • Unipolar Disorders and Bipolar Disorders.
    • Risk Factors for Depression.
    • Men and Depression.
    • Diagnostic Evaluation and Treatment.
    • Types of Treatment.
  6. Anxiety Disorders
    • Scope and Nature.
    • Anxiety Symptoms.
    • Generalised Anxiety Disorders.
    • Phobic Anxiety Disorders.
    • Panic Disorder.
    • Treatments - Intervention, Drugs, etc.
    • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  7. Somatoform, Factitious, and Dissociative Disorders
    • Somatisation Disorder.
    • Conversion Disorder.
    • Pain Disorder.
    • Hypochondriasis.
    • Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
    • Factitious Disorders: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis.
    • Munchausen’s Syndrome.
    • Dissociative Disorders.
    • Psychogenic Amnesia.
    • Psychogenic Fugue.
    • Dissociative Identity Disorder.
    • Depersonalisation Disorder.
  8. Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders
    • Scope and Nature.
    • Hypoactive Sexual Disorder.
    • Sexual Aversion.
    • Female Sexual Arousal Disorder.
    • Male Erectile Disorder.
    • Female and Male Orgasmic Disorders.
    • Premature Ejaculation.
    • Dyspareunia.
    • Vaginismus.
    • Secondary Sexual Dysfunction.
    • Paraphilia.
    • Paedophilia.
    • Gender Identity Disorder (Transsexualism).
  9. Eating and Sleep Disorders
    • Scope and Nature of Eating Disorders.
    • Anorexia Nervosa.
    • Bulimia.
    • Binge Eating Disorder.
    • Treatment Strategies.
    • Research Findings and Directions.
    • Treatments for Sleep Apnoea.
    • Prognosis for Sleep Apnoea.
  10. Impulse-Control Disorders, Adjustment Disorder
    • Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders.
    • Risk Factors for Adjustment Disorders.
    • Impulse Control Disorders.
    • Intermittent Explosive Disorder.
    • Kleptomania.
    • Pyromania.
    • Pathological Gambling.
    • Trichotillomania.
    • Compulsive Skin Picking.
  11. Personality Disorders
    • Scope and Nature of Personality Disorders.
    • Antisocial Personality Disorder .
    • Avoidant Personality Disorder.
    • Dependent Personality Disorder.
    • Histrionic Personality Disorder.
    • Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
    • Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.
    • Paranoid Personality Disorder.
    • Schizoid Personality Disorder.
    • Borderline Personality Disorder: Symptoms, Treatment, Research, etc.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Identify disorders first prevalent under 18 years of age.
  • Describe how you would diagnose a case of suspected Autism in a child of 4 years of age.
  • Compare and contrast delirium and dementia.
  • Do an internet search for images of PET scans and MRI of brains affected by delirium or dementia include the images an essay discussing these disorders.
  • Distinguish between substance abuse disorders and substance dependence disorders.
  • Differentiate between psychotic disorders.
  • Describe briefly the subtypes of Schizophrenia.
  • Distinguish between Unipolar disorders and Bipolar disorders.
  • Outline a cognitive model of depression.
  • Describe different types of Anxiety Disorders.
  • Develop a treatment to overcome a client’s fear of spiders.
  • Distinguish between Somatoform and Dissociative Disorders.
  • Explain the primary criticisms of dissociative identity disorder.
  • Provide a diagnosis of a case study and justify your diagnosis.
  • Discuss Gender Identity Disorder, Paraphilias and Sexual Dysfunction.
  • Explain what distinguishes a preference of sexual act or object as a paraphilia.
  • Identify Eating Disorders and Sleep Disorders.
  • Explain how eating disorders develop.
  • Distinguish between Impulse Control Disorders and Adjustment disorders.
  • Develop a diagnostic table for impulse control disorders.
  • Distinguish between different types of Personality Disorder.
  • Differentiate between Narcissistic and Histrionic personality disorders.


  • DON'T CHOOSE TO LEARN BY ROTE! Education is not just about temporarily absorbing facts then regurgitating them during an exam, only to forget them months later. It is about changing the way you think. ACS is NOT assessment based. Our courses are structured to teach you how to improve your thought processes, which you will apply over a lifetime, not just a semester. We encourage you to think and understand what you are studying, this means that you are well placed to apply what you learn after you have finished the course.
  • With ACS, you are taught by people who are active in industry. If you want to learn Psychology, learn from someone who has sat in the Therapist's chair. If you want to learn writing, learn from a widely published author. This is what we offer you at ACS. Many lecturers and tutors have spent a lifetime within that institution. Our tutors are university educated, but work out there in industry; which means that once you have graduated, we can advise you on where to next!
  • Our courses are flexible enough to incorporate a student's own experience - learning is personalised, remaining with the student long after the award has been received. Agriculture students report on their findings at a farm; Psychology students work through long misunderstood emotional situations in their lives. Theory is combined with self-direction and practical application. The student is actively engaged - EXPERIENCING the learning, rather than simply LEARNING BY ROTE.
  • In a class situation, there can be hundreds of students to one lecturer or tutor. At ACS you have easy access to a tutor – by phone and email. Our tutors get to know each student, and are invested in their learning.

Here is an excerpt from some of our course notes:

Unipolar Disorder (also known as recurrent major depression)

Clinical depression is a health condition of depression with mental and physical components reaching criteria generally accepted by clinicians. Although nearly any mood with some element of sadness may colloquially be termed a depression, clinical depression is more than just a temporary state of sadness. Symptoms lasting two weeks or longer in duration, and of a severity that they begin to interfere with daily living, can generally be said to constitute clinical depression. Using DSM-IV-TR terminology, someone with a major depressive disorder can, by definition, be said to be suffering from clinical depression.

Bipolar Disorder (also known as manic depression)

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But there is good news: bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

Bipolar Disorder has also been given the medical name Manic Depression; at various times, it has also been known as Bipolar Affective Disorder and Manic-Depressive Illness. It is a mood disorder that affects approximately 1% of the adult population of most countries. It is in the same family of illnesses (called "affective disorders") as clinical depression. However, unlike clinical depression, which seems to affect far more women than men, Bipolar Disorder seems to affect men and women in approximately equal numbers.

It is characterized by mood swings. Though there is no known cure, most forms of bipolar disorder are eminently treatable with medication and supportive psychotherapy. This lesson is concerned with depressive disorders, known as unipolar depression, and the main features are:

  • depressed mood
  • negative thoughts
  • loss of energy
  • lack of motivation and drive

They may also suffer from:

  • Poor appetite/weight loss or increased appetite/weight gain.
  • Difficulties sleeping (insomnia/sleeping a lot/waking early)
  • Shift in activity level (lethargic or agitated)
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Negative self-concept, self-blame
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

They may also have problems with personal hygiene and appearance and numerous hyperchondriacal complaints of pains and aches.

A person with depression will generally not have all of these symptoms. Depressed mood is usually the most dominant symptom. Depression affects about one in every five persons in the population at some point in their life.

Explore the effect of drugs - legal or illegal

In 1999, nearly 15 million people in America admitted using illicit drugs in the prior month. Drug use is widespread, from the person who uses coffee and tea to get up in morning, to cigarettes and soft drinks to stay alert during the day, to using alcohol as a way to relax. The opportunity for drug abuse is there. People who abuse drugs risk their close personal relationships and their work performance. The pathological use of substances falls into two categories – substance dependence and substance abuse.

Substance use disorders are conditions that arise from misuse of alcohol, psychoactive drugs and other chemicals. This if also people who report symptoms attributed to the effects of drug abuse, the side effects of medications, or exposure to toxic materials

Substance use disorders are usually classified further as follows:

  • Abuse (harmful use)
  • Dependence
  • Intoxication
  • Withdrawal states
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Amnestic syndromes

Still Not Sure?

Use our Careers and Course Counselling Service - Contact one of our experts who can tell you more about the industry and help you determine the best course to suit your career goals. 

How This Course Can Help You

Abnormal psychology is the study of mental disorders. Graduates of this course will have developed a thorough understanding of the different broad groups of mental health disorder and be able to identify the signs and symptoms of most of the disorders which fall into those broad categories. They will also have some insight into possible causes and treatment options. This type of knowledge is invaluable to anyone who works in mental health settings or other job roles where there is a strong likelihood of encountering people facing these mental health issues.  The course may be studied by itself or as part of a higher level qualification in psychology or counselling.

This course is suitable for people working in, or aspiring to work in:

  • Psychology
  • Counselling
  • Psychiatric nursing
  • Caring roles
  • Health professions
  • Health administration
  • Youth Work
  • Social Work
  • Teaching
  • Coaching

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Jacinda Cole

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psycholo
Tracey Jones

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE. Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc. 25 years industry experience in writing,
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