Causes of Psychological Disorders

Homework #1 Case Study

Anika’s conditions result from biological, cognitive, and socio-cultural causes. 

1.Biological Approach Causes and Treatment

 The biological approach emphasizes genetics, exposure to chemicals and brain defects as major causes of psychological disorders (Lenowitz and Ahn, 2014). Anika’s symptoms are caused by a malfunction in the body resulting from prenatal damage, exposure to chemicals, substance abuse, and poor brain development. Anika’s mother was addicted to substance abuse while pregnant, which might have Anika’s brain development, leading to her inability to manage emotions and develop self-destructive behaviors. The chemicals from the illegal drugs used by Anika’s mother affected the brain’s neuron pathways leading to defective behavior regulation processes. Anika’s continued indulgence in substance abuse prompts her to behave aggressively towards other students and personality changes. Anika could also have inherited impulsiveness and emotionality from her mother, given that her mother also experienced problems with her emotions, which made her abuse and neglect Anika. 

Biological causes of Anika’s behavior can be treated through medications and behavioral therapy. Anika can be introduced to antipsychotics to treat any brain defects that made Anika lose contact with reality. Antipsychotics would treat any conditions that affect Anika’s mind, such as the brain defects caused by exposure to substance abuse. Mood stabilizers also should be used to treat Anika’s frequent temper tantrums. Behavioral therapy will help Anika to change learned behaviors such as substance abuse.  Positive reinforcement can promote desired behaviors whereby Anika will be rewarded for every attempt to stop substance abuse. Counseling can also teach Anika about the negative effects of substance abuse on her studies and social interactions. Finding a harassment-free foster home for Anika would help her change her attitudes about life and get rid of the self-destructive behavior. She needs a positive environment to help reconnect with reality and develop a sense of self-worth. 

2. Psychological Approaches Causes and Treatment

The psychological approach that best explains Anika’s behavior is the cognitive approach. The cognitive approach embeds on thought processes to explain behavior. The approach is used in explaining perception, thinking, attention, problem-solving and learning. Anika’s symptoms are caused by childhood experiences and substance abuse, which affected her cognitive development. Anika has maladaptive cognitions, which prompts her to personalize her condition and develop self-destructive behavior. Anika believes that she is “no good” and “defective.” Instead of seeing the roles that others have played to contribute to her present behavior, Anika has a personalized perception, which has led to her loss of self-worth. Anika also has problems with attention, resulting from excessive substance abuse and damaged cognitive function in prenatal stages. Anika’s mother used alcohol and other drugs, which altered neurophysiological processes in the brain.

Additionally, Anika hardly her homework and has problems retaining and remembering content. Prenatal exposure to chemicals affected Anika’s cognitive development by affecting her ability to encode and retain the lessons’ information. Anika’s continued substance abuse leads to cognitive dysfunction, which in turn impair her memory. Anika also acquired antisocial behaviors from her childhood experiences. 

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Treatment methods for Anika’s symptoms include cognitive behavioral therapy and cognitive restructuring. Cognitive-behavioral therapy will focus on exploring Anika’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to discover unhealthy thoughts and feelings, which could be causing self-destructive behaviors and personalized negative beliefs (Linehan, 2018). The therapy will provide Anika with realistic thoughts based on negative thoughts. Cognitive restructuring can be used to replace the personalized thoughts with adaptive views. Exploring the thoughts that lead Anika to have self-destructive thoughts can be beneficial in helping Anika to stop these thoughts and equip her with rational ones. Additionally, engaging Anika in direct instruction is vital to teach her social skills and assertiveness, which will enable her to make the right decisions. 

Another treatment option is to provide Anika with acceptance techniques to help her accept her situation and make the right decision to change her situation.  

3. The Sociocultural Approach Causes and Treatment

Socio-cultural approach emphasizes studying a person’s social and cultural contexts to understand their behavior (Schaufeli, 2017). The socio-cultural causes of Anika’s symptoms largely result from environmental causes. At the outset, Anika’s mother engaged in substance abuse during pregnancy, which led to impulsive disorders and attention problems. Anika learned substance abuse practices from her mother. Continued exposure to aggression and violence from her mother also prompts Anika to behave aggressively towards other students. Anika also had a traumatic childhood characterized by parental abandonment, abuse and hostile foster homes. Anika was separated from her mother at a young age and has been raised in abusive foster homes. Lack of parental upbringing denied Anika parental love and affection, which is vital in childhood development, leading to “no good” and “defective.” Abuse and adversity during childhood also increased Anika’s likelihood of developing psychological problems. Anika’s inability to recall content could result from the complexity of the language used in the classroom. Given that Anika was taken to different foster homes, she might have developed language complexities, making it hard to understand the language used in the classroom. Separating Anika from her first social environment denied her the opportunity to experience scaffolding activities to encourage cognitive development. 

           Treatment for Anika’s socio-cultural causes includes psychodynamic and interpersonal treatment. In psychodynamic treatment, therapy will focus on understanding unconscious factors in Anika’s childhood that affect her emotions (Kring and Johnson, 2018). Such factors include exposure to substance abuse and other environmental factors that influence Anika’s behavior. Additionally, exploring the interpersonal patterns such as smoking with other students is vital in helping Anika recover from substance abuse. It is also important to take Anika to a rehabilitation center to help her overcome addiction to drugs. 



Kring, A. M., & Johnson, S. L. (2018). Abnormal psychology: The science and treatment of psychological disorders. John Wiley & Sons.

Lebowitz, M. S., & Ahn, W. K. (2014). Effects of biological explanations for mental disorders on clinicians’ empathy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences111(50), 17786-17790.

Linehan, M. M. (2018). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. Guilford Publications.

Schaufeli, W. B. (2017). Burnout: A short socio-cultural history. In Burnout, fatigue, exhaustion (pp. 105-127). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.