Psychopathology is defined as the study of mental distress, mental illness, and abnormal or maladaptive behaviors. It will be important that the career path of psychopathology is not confused with psychopathy, which is a genetic subcategory of antisocial personality disorder. In defining abnormality, a psychopathologist primarily uses four aspects: distress, dysfunction, deviance, and danger. Distress is the term that is used to refer to the negative feelings that an individual who has a disorder exhibits. Dysfunction consists of maladaptive behaviors that keep an individual from being able to perform necessary daily functions. Deviance is used by psychopathologists to describe the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that are considered deviate because of their inappropriate nature within our society. Lastly, danger is used when referring to the violent or dangerous behaviors that may be directed towards the patient themselves or other individuals in the environment.
Within your capacity as a psychopathologist you should expect to diagnose, assess, and treat behaviors or experiences that are indicative of mental illnesses. You may often find that your patients have not yet received a formal diagnosis, which will require you to conduct necessary tests and use a variety of techniques in order to properly diagnose patients. In addition, you may also work with individuals who have experienced a functional breakdown in the neurocognitive system or the cognitive system; these situations often occur because of disabilities, distress, or a particular impairment. In your occupation as a psychopathologist you will find yourself frequently referring to and using the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This manual is used as a guideline by psychologists, researchers, and clinicians work to accurately diagnose psychological disorders. Furthermore, this manual specifically states the signs and symptoms that correlate to many different mental illness diagnoses.
In your profession as a psychopathologist you will spend the majority of your time studying mental illnesses that have an identifiable cause, such as drug use, disease, or a specific injury. It is common for psychologists to also work as psychopathologists, or to choose psychopathology as a specialty area of the study of psychiatry. Regardless of which of these capacities you decide to become employed in, it will be possible for you to work within a physician’s office, at a publicly owned or privately owned psychiatric hospital, at an outpatient care center, or within the local government. It is important to understand that many different career paths are involved in the study and research of psychopathology. For instance, neuroscientists spend their time focusing on how brain changes may be related to specific mental illnesses.
As you prepare for your new career as a psychopathologist, you should understand that there is not any one identifiable aspect that causes psychopathology. Due to this fact, you should expect for psychopathology to be discussed in relation to multiple factors that are interrelated. These psychopathological factors fall into two main categories: precipitators and predispositions. Predispositions are the characteristics or attributes that an individual has that make him or her at a higher risk of manifesting into pathology. Predispositions are further divided into biological and psychological, which means that just because a person has characteristics that lend themselves to a pathological occurrence does not actually mean that they exhibit this pathology. It is critical to understand that some disorders, such as bipolar disorder, typically consist of biological and psychological factors, but without exhibiting any predispositions. Precipitating factors, which are divided into two subcategories (environmental influences and life events), must be present for most any disorder. In addition, many psychopathologists believe that disorders may be caused from more than one precipitating factor interacting with one another.
Are you interested in pursuing a career in the world of pharmaceutical drugs? Do you not think that becoming a typical pharmacist will fully satisfy your professional goals? If these questions sound like you were just described, then perhaps you should consider pursuing a career path in psychopharmacology. Psychopharmacology is the study of how drug act on human individuals and their effect on behavior, mood, thinking, and sensation. Keep in mind, neuropsychopharmacology is different from psychopharmacology in that it focuses on cellular changes in the nervous system that occur because of drugs that an individual takes. In contrast, psychopharmacology studies how a wide variety of substances that have different psychoactive properties chemically interact with the human brain. In this profession, you will likely spend much time studying drug action, which is the specific interaction that exists between a drug and its receptors, and drug effect, which refers to the wide range of changes that may occur in physiological and psychological functions. It is common for individuals who work in psychopharmacology to work with drugs that are derived from natural sources, such as animals and plants, and those that come from artificial sources, such as laboratory based chemical synthesis.
Psychopharmacology has changed drastically in recent years. For example, in the developmental phase of this industry, primarily barbiturates and opiates were used to manage severe behavioral issues that patients may be experiencing. In addition, in the initial stage, psychopharmacology was mostly used to sedate individuals. However, in the last fifty or sixty years this industry has seen an extreme amount of growth. Currently, there are medications that can be used to help patients deal with mania, psychoses, and depression. Thus, psychopharmacology individuals saw the entrance of drugs such as: monoamine oxidase inhibitors, antipsychotic medications, tricyclic antidepressants, and benzodiazepines. During this same time period, people who studied psychopharmacology created new methods of research, established how to use placebo controlled studies, how to use double blind studies, and how to analyze blood levels within clinical trials. It is important to understand that after the 1960s, psychiatry began to focus on the use of many different medications and the toxicities of them.
In your capacity as a researcher of psychopharmacology, you will spend your time focused on any substance that affects the brain-blood barrier and that causes a change in cognition, behavior, or mood. Your specific research may focus on a drug’s physiochemical properties, psychological side effects, or physical side effects. You may find yourself studying factors such as: psychedelics, nicotine, caffeine, inhalants, anabolic-androgenic steroids, alcohol, or club drugs, among others. In this industry, research and testing have a very strict schedule. For instance, it is common for testing to begin with animals and to be finalized with human based testing. During the human testing phase a group of subjects are used. One subgroup is given a placebo of the drug that is being tested, while the other subgroup is given a therapeutic dose of the drug being tested. Upon completion of testing, the drug in question must be proposed to the United States FDA in order to be approved to be presented to the public. Some tested drugs may be presented for over the counter purchase by the public.
In this industry there are constantly new advancements and new drugs that are being introduced, so in order to be successful in this occupation it will be important that you stay abreast with current practices, drugs, research studies, and all other issues related to this field of study. It is also critical that you fully understand pharmacodynamics (what medications do to our body) and pharmacokinetics (what our body does to medications).