SciTech Central COVID-19
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Accepted Abstracts

Is Abnormal the New Normal? How COVID-19 Challenges Categorical Conceptions of Psychopathology

Alexander J Calder*, Lukas F Novak, Alexandra Lane
University of Miami, USA

Citation: Calder AJ, Novak LF, Lane A (2020) Is Abnormal the New Normal? How COVID-19 Challenges Categorical Conceptions of Psychopathology. SciTech Central COVID-19

Received: August 10, 2020         Accepted: August 11, 2020         Published: August 11, 2020


It is perhaps unarguable that the COVID-19 pandemic will have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences in almost all domains of life. This is especially true for mental health care. Psychology has long relied on categorical conceptions of mental disorders, effectively separating the population into segments of normal and abnormal. In addition to other disorder- specific norms, the DMS-5 criteria for abnormality depend on whether an individual’s behavior is understood as deviant, dysfunctional, distressing, or dangerous. It is well established that normal functioning is partially culturally defined and understood with reference to culturally expected responses to daily life. However, when a radical and unprecedented situation occurs, as in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, these expectations become less clearly defined, and any categorical account of mental disorder becomes obscured. This raises the question: Which behaviors can reasonably be understood as deviant, dysfunctional, distressing, or dangerous in light of the unprecedented coronavirus moment? We argue that, in the midst of this pandemic, traditional hierarchies between the clinician as expert diagnostician and their client are challenged, because categorical interpretations of mental disorder are less applicable. We use this observation to argue that incidents like the COVID-19 pandemic reveal the ambiguity and permeability of the divide between normal and abnormal functioning, while recommending more humanistic perspectives on individual distress.