Deviance, Dysfunction, Distress, And Danger

It can be challenging to determine whether a patient’s issue or symptom becomes severe enough to warrant a diagnosis of a mental illness, especially for novice practitioners. All clinicians can benefit from using the Four D’s, which stand for deviance, dysfunction, distress, and danger, to evaluate reported characteristics, symptoms, or situations and determine if they might be indicative of an abnormality. However, according to the principle of cultural relativism, there are no common criteria or guidelines for classifying behavior as deviant. Instead, actions may only be abnormal if they deviate from the accepted cultural standards. Therefore, different cultures have different definitions of abnormality, depending on historical context. Four D’s – that will be explored below – allow one to define abnormality to determine abnormality properly and precisely.

Deviations from cultural norms refer to actions that are not typically tolerated in a certain community. The behaviors that defy societal expectations or standards may be deemed abnormal. Then, the distinction from the majority suggests that there is a statistical deviation (PsychCentral, 2018). If behavior is uncommon among the people who make up a civilization or culture, it is considered abnormal.

Dysfunction is the disintegration of thought, emotions, and behavior. It is the incapacity to carry out daily tasks or activities. A behavior is deemed abnormal if it interferes with functionality. For instance, an individual with serious depression retracts from regular activities and ceases talking with his friends and relatives (PsychCentral, 2018). He continuously spends his days gazing aimlessly at the television. This conduct is seen as abnormal or dysfunctional.

When someone exhibits any extremely upset behavior, this is referred to as the notion of distress. Abnormal behaviors, in this vein, are those that cause emotional upheaval, worry, sleeplessness, or other types of physical discomfort (PsychCentral, 2018). The idea that it is frequently quite appropriate to feel distressed, as when a loved one passes away, is crucial. People experience tension and briefly experience depression. Because of this, grief and distress are integral components of human life.

Any person who poses a risk of harm to themselves or to others is seen as abnormal, which is referred to as the concept of danger. It is aberrant to engage in risky or aggressive activities toward oneself or others (PsychCentral, 2018). It is also regarded as abnormal when an aggressive individual uses a knife to try to cut themselves, injure themselves, or assault someone else.


PsychCentral. (2018). Psychological abnormality defined. Web.