A psychological approach is a distinct way of describing, observing, understanding and predicting any given psychological phenomena. Includes assumptions about what drives human behavior, how disorders develop and treatment prescriptions.

Biological perspective

Based on the assumption of materialism (all behavior has a psychological basis):

  1. An understanding of biochemical processes will give an understanding of psychological and social phenomena.
  2. Physical structures and hereditary processes determine behavior or behavior potential.
  3. Physical/physiological interventions can alter mental processes and behavior.
  4. Root cause of abnormalities and disorders lies in biology and requires medical intervention.


diagram 2

Diathesis-stress theory

Predisposition -> diathesis (including genes) and stressful environment combine together to cause abnormal behavior.

Traits are influenced by genes and by environment. Very small amounts of certain chemicals in the body can cause profound changes in behavior.

diagram 3


The synapse of the neuron releases a special chemical called “neurotransmitters“. More than 50 neurotransmitters exist in human body.


Source: Textbook of Physiology, 3E (Chandramouli) (2010),

Neurotransmitters and their role

  • Acetylcholine: learning, memory and muscle control
  • Dopamine: motor activity, coordination, emotion and memory
  • Epinephrine: emotion and stress
  • GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid): anxiety, arousal, learning
  • Serotonin: sensory processing, sleep, arousal
  • Glutamate: anxiety and mood

Endocrine Glands 

The body’s “slow” chemical communication system; a set of ductless glands that secrete hormones (special chemicals) into bloodstream.


Pituitary gland makes hormones that stimulate the adrenal and thyroid gland, ovary and testes. Also make ADH, prolactin, growth hormone and oxytocin.

Thyroid gland makes thyroxine.

Parathyroid glands make parathyroid hormone which helps control calcium levels.

Adrenal glands stimulated by ACTH from  the pituitary gland to make cortisol. Alos makes aldosterone which affects salt levels and blood pressure.

Pancreas makes insulin.

Gut makes various hormones involved with digestion.

Ovaries stimulated by pituitary hormones to make estrogen and progesterone.

Testicles stimulated by pituitary hormones to make testosterone.

diagram 4

Endocrine glands and abnormality

Low secretion of the thyroid produce anxiety like symptoms such as irritability and tension. Low level of pituitary secretions produce depression like symptoms -> fatigue, apathy, etc. Abnormal secretions of hormones may cause major depression.

diagram 5

diagram 6

Pharmacological treatment 

Pharmacology is the science of the study of drugs to treat a wide range of less severe psychological disorders.

Narcosis: the word “narcosis“is derived from the Greek word meaning “be numb“.

  • Prolonged narcosis: the person sleep for 15-24 hours a day and is kept under constant observation. Prolonged narcosis is difficult and dangerous to administer because a number of physiological complications develop under prolonged sleep. Seldom used today.
  • Narcoanalysis: drugs are given in amounts that produce a state of “grogginess”.

Chemotherapy: it is the type of therapy that treats mental and behavioral disorders with drugs and chemicals.

  • Tranquilizers: drugs that produce soothing and calming effects.
  • Energizers: they are used with the depression sufferers who are not helped by sedatives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s