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8) Biological Therapies to treat Abnormality

There are two main biological therapies which are used to treat abnormality, Chemotherapy and ECT.

Drug therapy (Chemotherapy)

Within chemotherapy many types of drugs can be used to treat abnormality; antipsychotic, antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs are a few. They work on the assumption that abnormality is caused by a chemical imbalance within the body.

Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat psychotic illnesses, such as schizophrenia. They block the transmission of dopamine, meaning that the patient’s chemical imbalance is corrected.

Antidepressant drugs, for example SSRIs, block the transportation of serotonin away from the nerve endings, this means that the serotonin is more effective and this can help relieve depression.

Anti-Anxiety drugs are used to treat anxiety. One example is Benzodiazepines which slow down the nervous system. Another is Beta Blockers which reduce the activity of adrenaline and noradrenaline, lowering stress and therefore anxiety.



+ Effectiveness – Research shows that drug therapies do work, even when compared to placebo tests. However, drugs combined with psychological therapies are even more effective

+ Easy to use – Unlike other therapies which take months, high patient motivation and qualified professionals, drugs are quick and can be easily taken by patients.


– Tackles symptoms rather than the cause – Drug therapy doesn’t tackle why the patient is abnormal it just help the symptoms. So as soon as the patient comes of the drugs, the problem will still be there.

 – Side effects – All of the drug therapies have side effects, in fact in some cases the side effects are worse than the original problem. For example SSRIs can cause suicidal thoughts.


ECT is normally used for very depressed patients who have tried drug therapy, but it didn’t help.

It sends a small electric current, half a second long, through electrodes into the brain. This causes a seizure affecting the whole brain. This then causes a physical change in the brain, however psychologists disagree as too what this change is. It is thought that depression is cured because ECT affects neurotransmitters, so there is improved communication between different parts of the brain.



+ It can save lives – ECT is especially effective for treating patients with severe depression. These patients are highly likely to have suicidal tendencies, so correct ECT could save their lives.

+ Effectiveness – Comer’s research found that 60-70% of patients improve after ECT treatment.


Side effects – Possible side effects include memory loss, cardiovascular problems and headaches (Datto, 2000). The DOH report (1999) found 30% of ECT patients reported fear and anxiety after ECT.

– Effectiveness – Sackheim et al sound that 84% of patients relapsed back to abnormality within six months of ECT treatment.


About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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