Sometimes we ask ourselves,Am I normal? I usually double-check whether Ive closed and locked the door or not, which seems like I may have the so-called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Im also considered arrogant by Asian standards as I always speak my mind, thus some people consider me narcissistic.

From time to time, I wonder whether Im normal.

Whats normal enough?

The question is: by whose standards are you normal or abnormal ? Depending on the society we live in, a behavior can be considered either normal or abnormal. In Japanese culture, honor is taken seriously, thus any incident that hurts ones pride is worthy of self-killing or suicide. In the United States, however, the first thought that comes to mind whenever someone kills himself is: clinical depression.

Thus, culture determines whether ones behavior or suspected psychological pathology is abnormal or not. Milder and somewhat accepted bizarre behaviors, for instance, may be called eccentric instead of abnormal. An artist who paints with his own saliva, for instance, may be considered eccentric instead of abnormal.

In general, the four common features of an abnormality are: deviance, distress, dysfunction, and danger.

Deviance.Any deviation from accepted norms in a society (or a culture) is considered abnormal. For instance, in western countries, talking to ones self is enough to raise a red flag. However, in eastern countries where mysticism is considered an important part of life, talking to ones self or appearing to have a different personality may be considered the residence of a spirit in the body of a medium. In psychological term, interestingly, the person is experiencing dissociative personality disorder. But in certain cultures, he might be considered a successful shaman.

Distress.Acting unusually doesnt automatically make one abnormal. For instance, a solo world traveler rides his bike to 100 countries worldwide. We may think its abnormal but as long as it doesnt give distress to the individual and others around him, it is simply eccentric instead of abnormal. When interviewed, the solo bike rider may even feel proud of his achievement as the first person who travels the world on a bicycle.

Dysfunction.Another test of abnormality is whether a behavior causes a dysfunction in everyday activities. Grieving may take a while to pass, but a clinical depression doesnt seem to pass and the person is likely to withdraw from everyday activities and to stop communication with family members and friends at some point.

Danger.Whenever an individual poses a risk of danger to herself or others, then its most likely that she is abnormal. However, this variable doesnt occur in every case of abnormality, as many psychological pathologies dont result in suicide or homicide. Though its an exception instead of a rule, any threat to kill or harm ones self or others is definitely a vivid red flag.

By understanding what constitutes an abnormal behavior, we should be able to observe ourselves and others in light of living the Good Life.


Comer, Ronald J.Fundamentals of Abnormal Psychology.New York, NY: Worth Publishers.