Behaviourism is a reaction against psychoanalysis, it believes that if you get rid of the symptoms you get rid of the neurosis.

Models of Mental Disorders

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning accounts for mental illnesses as a maladaptive learned response; e.g.

  • Phobia of dogs - learned fear of dogs after being bitten as a child
  • Social anxiety disorder - learned to associate social events with embarrassment after being laughed at
  • PTSD - Soldier in Vietnam learns to pair helicopters with bombs, they induce flashbacks.

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning accounts for mental illnesses as reinforcement of maladaptive behaviours; e.g.

  • Substance Use Disorders: Positive Reinforcement to feel good, or Negative Reinforcement to avoid feeling bad
  • Anxiety Disorders: Negative Reinforcement to stop the awfulness

Modelling/Vicarious Learning

Modelling is learning through the experience of others; we don't have to experience an event to learn it, we can do that situationally through watching others.

Modelling accounts for mental illnesses as modelling maladaptive behaviours (having bad role models); e.g.

  • Substance abuse: observation of substance abusers as a child
  • Conduct disorder: witnessed domestic violence as a child
  • Phobia: see dog attack another person

Treatment of Mental Disorders

Behavioural Therapy focusses on changing behaviour so as to change thought. This is done through:

  1. Extinguishing maladaptive learned associations
  2. Preventing reinforcement of maladaptive behaviours
  3. Reinforcing adaptive behaviours

Example: Exposure Techniques

Exposure techniques area common (and effective) treatment for anxiety disorders, through systematic habituation, or flooding of the experience (taking someone afraid of heights up somewhere high).

Example: Cocaine Conditioning

Silverman et al, 1999, rewarded cocaine abusers for clean urine tests with monetary vouchers. They found those with high monetary rewards stayed clean significantly more than those with low or zero ("good job!") rewards.

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Example: Encouraging Adaptive Behaviours

Encouraging inherently rewarding activities is often the easiest route to assist depressed patients with low energy and motivation.

E.g. going for a bike ride is inherently rewarding (endorphins)
E.g. finishing a sudoku puzzle is rewarding (skill acquired).