Psychology of Abnormal Behavior

I.     Course Prefix/Number: PSY 203

       Course Name: Psychology of Abnormal Behavior

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite

PSY 101

III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course explores how biological, psychosocial, and sociocultural influences on an individual produce and maintain various psychological disorders. Content includes preventive measures and therapeutic strategies; dysfunction assessment, categorization of abnormal behavior, and research methodology.

IV.   Learning Objectives

  1. To provide the student with the principles, concepts and methods for understanding maladaptive behavior.
  2. To review how behavioral and social research is done and how research data are used in the definition, assessment, categorization and treatment of abnormal behavior.
  3. To understand and explain the biological, psychosocial, and sociocultural origins of abnormal behavior.
  4. To examine strategies to prevent and to treat psychological disorders.
  5. To appreciate the etiology, individual vulnerabilities, appropriate research techniques, and challenges inherent in future studies of abnormal behavior.
  6. To become familiar with current recognized categorizations of psychological disorder.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  1. Research Methodology (general introduction and elaboration throughout balance of topics F through P below)
  2. Examples and Definitions of Abnormal Behavior
  3. Causes of Abnormal Behavior: From Paradigms to Systems and Research Techniques
  4. Research, Treatment and Prevention of Psychological Disorders
  5. Classification and Assessment
  6. Mood Disorders
  7. Anxiety Disorders
  8. Acute and Posttraumatic Stress Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, and Somatoform Disorders
  9. Stress and Physical Health
  10. Personality Disorders
  11. Eating Disorders
  12. Substance Use Disorders
  13. Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders
  14. Schizophrenic Disorders
  15. Dementia, Delirium, and Amnesic Disorders
  16. Mental Retardation and Pervasive Developmental Disorders
  17. Psychological Disorders of Childhood
  18. Adjustment Disorders and Difficult Life Events: Life Cycle Transitions
  19. Mental Health and the Law

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Readings, lecture, discussion, media, guest speakers
Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

This course relies on the student's ability to read and understand college-level text material.  Students will be required to write for the class the equivalent of 12-15 typed pages of material that will be graded.  This writing may take the form of a research or term paper, summaries of journal articles, and/or a series of shorter, analytical papers.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Representative texts include:

Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan (2011). Abnormal Psychology Media and Research Update with MindMap CD. (5th ed.). Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill.

Parker, Martin M., Charles A. Lyons, and Barclay Martin (2012).  Custom Understanding Abnormal Psychology.  Redding, CA: BVT Publishing.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

Quizzes, midterm and final exams, possibly a research paper or in-class presentation.

XI.   Other Course Information

  1. Attendance
  2. Policy on make-up exams, late assignments, etc.
  3. Important dates

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.