Abnormality Defined

Within popular culture, there are behaviors that seem abnormal; a customer going off on the grocery staff, road rage events, ridiculing and shaming others, etc. It is a commonly held belief that behaviors, thoughts, and/or feelings can be viewed as pathological if these actions are attached to a mental disorder diagnosis implying that a disease process, like heart disease or lung disease, is present. This is many times the case.

The 'abnormality reality' is that there is not one biological test for any type of psychological abnormality, at this time (2021). The reason, perhaps, is that mental health experts view mental illness as a collection of disordered activities within thinking, emotional response, and/or mood regulation occurring across a continuum, or a spectrum.

The reality is that cultural norms are often the largest contributor to defining the abnormalities of others, or one's self when a disorder occurs. Cultural norms, cultural relativists argue, that the norms of a society must be used to accurately decipher and atempt to define 'normal versus abnormal' behaviors.

The current consensus of mental health experts and professionals define abnormality as "behaviors that cause a person to suffer distress, prevent daily life functioning, is unusual or deviant, and poses a threat to the person or others along a continuum" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2020).

What is your definition of abnormality? The reality is that your definition is just that, yours. To try and impose your definition on others is not helpful for someone suffering. Additionally, the attempt to force your definition on another is abusive and counteractive to serving someone facing distressing mental health challenges. While one may intend to help, the opposite occurs when one attempts to define another.

For me, abnormality is best defined as presented above by the professionals. Failure to use this evidence-based definition is often the source of suffering for many persons. Our simple task as humans is to be king and love others as they are. But definitely never harm them.



Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2020). Abnormal Psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.