Search This Blog

Sunday, September 14, 2014


                                                        + Abnormal-

1.     The unique word called ‘abnormal’[+ and –] owes its life to context and evaluation.

2.     Most words pose a semantic problem only in their connotation and not that much in the denotation. But the word abnormal is an exception as in the denotation itself it is a very problematic word whether used in literal or figurative sense.

3.     I have decided to explore the entire gamut of meanings of this word in all its nakedness, nicety, nastiness and nuances but non-technically [ as I am not qualified to analyze abnormality in terms of /on the basis of any subject  as psychiatry, psychology, abnormal psychology, politics, religions, social contexts etc] . However, I am in all earnestness going to explore its usages in a very general way which by itself throws up a lot of valuable literature to unearth and understand the mysteries of life.

4.     Etymologically it is from Latin. Abnormis meaning "deviating from a rule," wherein ab- means as a prefix “off, away from and also merely from " + norma "rule".

5.     Semantically it throws a wide range of meaning from extreme negative to extreme positive attributes and attitudes striding over two of the most vital and comprehensive human emotions namely Fear and Love [because  many of the other emotions and feelings can be defined as manifestations of varying degrees or intensities of these two emotions].

6.     In simple definitions the word abnormal means primarily deviating and away from the ‘Normal’ and therefore could mean all these following and many more:- “not normal, average, typical, or unusual; deviating from a standard; extremely or excessively large; anomalous, incongruous, aberrant etc deviating from the usual or typical; extraordinary; odd in behaviour or appearance; strange or weird [ it is used in this sense in most psychological studies],unnatural and unexpected fears/phobias/paranoia/ delusions etc and extreme and above normal love of/for certain things /persons/imaginary devotion to or love of something/someone as many manias/cults are. The manifestations of two extremes of the pendulum called abnormality. Certain behaviors that are perceived to breach the rule or custom or morality. So one can imagine the gamut of  things/emotions/psychological conditions that can be brought under this which I reckon would be almost more than 90%  all human feelings that are within the realm of Time /Space and even beyond it. Of course, we are not including the paranormal and extremely subnormal activities and attributes, which will make the topic abnormality  even more expansive.

7.     So Abnormal can mean either below normal or above normal; so, either better or worse than normal.

8.     These things obviously raise certain questions as to what is normal or standard ? Who or what determines it? On what basis such standard or yardstick or measurement is determined?

9.     Whatever they are, mostly abnormalities are the products of and/or influenced by measurements/yardsticks/tools of evaluation. Obviously they must also vary from context to context as well as levels of perception/frames of reference, scales of observation etc besides those subjected to be scanned by socio-religio-cultural and ideological conditionings etc. Thus what to be considered as abnormal and what is not abnormal is not that easy to determine. Very often socio-cultural prejudice inspired biases and taboos are considered as abnormalities. In some societies using a left hand for most of things is abnormal as if it is an organ not to be used at all.[ David Wolman, himself (but of course) a lefty, sets out to investigate in A Left-Hand Turn Around the World: Chasing the Mystery and Meaning of All Things Southpaw, he writes : “In the Western world, left-handedness has long been associated with the worst of the worst: sin, devil worship, Satan himself, and just an all-around bad position with God. Catholic schoolteachers used to tell students that left-handedness was “the mark of the Beast,” the Scots say a person with terrible luck must have been baptized by a left-handed priest, and orthodox Jews wrap their left arms in the leather strap of tefillin as if to say, in the words of Rabbi Lawrence Kushner: “Here I am, standing with my dangerous side bridled, ready to pray ” The Bible is full of references to hands, and usually they are about God doing something benevolent and holy with his right hand. I’ll spare you the run-through and stick to a token example, like this one from Psalms 118: “The right hand of the Lord is exalted. The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.”
Wolman points out that the association has much deeper roots, including the very etymology of the word “left”:
The Anglo-Saxon lyft means weak or broken, and even modern dictionaries include such meanings for left as “defective,” “crippled,” “awkward,” “clumsy,” “inept,” and “maladroit,” the latter one borrowed from French, translated literally as “bad right.” Most definitions of left reduce to an image of doubtful sincerity and clumsiness, and the Latin word for left, sinister, is a well-known beauty. From this version springs my favorite term for left-handedness, “the bend sinister,” which Vladimir Nabokov used for the title of a book that has nothing to do with handedness.

10.  Tangible and physical abnormalities, of course, can be defined with certain scientific standards and measures.

11.  But in psychological and social contexts abnormality can be defined as something perceived very often, not always, as a factor subject to relative judgmental evaluations, sometimes very logical and sometimes biased.

12.  After all these we encounter the problem of whether abnormality is the cause or the effect/result of something. Whether it is the result of some impact or it impacts to produce something good, great or ugly.

13.  However we try to analyze the meaning of the word abnormal, with reference to any subject, we cannot fail to observe that it gets its life out of two important factors as indicated earlier, namely, context and standard/measurement /yardstick of evaluation.

14.  Let us not get distracted by judgmental mode of analyzing whether abnormality is right or wrong. It is both; it depends on the context, evaluation and impact. Abnormality is a phenomenon tossed up predominantly between these factors namely Contexts, evaluation[or to be more precise tools of evaluation], Judgments and perceptions.

15.  The paradox or bipolar aspect is what decorates as well as demeans this word abnormality itself. Any evolution/growth in any sphere is the result of ‘moving away from the existing norm/rule’ but social life requires that we necessarily ‘set forth and follow some norms and rules’.

16.  So on the face of it the word ‘abnormal is not only ambiguous [both in terms of denotation and connotation] but it also evokes ambivalent responses and reactions in most contexts.[ Ambivalent means "having mixed feelings about something." A Swiss psychologist named Eugen Bleuler coined the German word Ambivalenz in the early twentieth century, and it was soon imported into English. Bleuler combined the Latin prefix ambi-, meaning "both," with valentia, "strength."]

17.  If we get into an expedition of this word especially through its many synonyms we may realize that this word represents all great strides in creativity, growth and evolution but when we encounter the impacts of some of its manifestations at certain times then we may categorize it as a word referring to the most negative, intolerable and decadent traits possible.

18.  Again let me reiterate that this is not any technical or specialist analysis of any aspect of abnormality but a mere journey into the meanings of the word abnormality but in the course of the journey we shall come across the broad spectrum of abnormality.

19.  Even in pure clinical psychology to what an extent context and standard/measurement /yardstick of evaluation can pose difficulties and influence both reference of abnormality and seeking remedial measures. This has been very nicely brought out by  Jerome Kagan  Ph.D in his article ‘ The  Meaning of  Psychological Abnormality’ written in 2008 link  wherein he rather deplores thus, “As reports of childhood behavioral problems increase, Dr. Jerome Kagan raises concern about the reliability of these diagnoses. The rapid rise may stem from children’s experiences and pressures on parents and physicians, he argues.
Widespread diagnoses of childhood disorders trouble scientists such as Dr. Jerome Kagan, who argues here that social conditions, not biology, are often to blame. Kagan elucidates possible reasons for the increase, citing, among other explanations, pressures on parents to raise flawless children. He concludes by proposing ways to avoid misdiagnoses in the future.
The recent increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism, bipolar illness, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), widely reported in the media, has created worry both among the public and among health officials. It is important, therefore, to ask whether this troubling trend reflects a true rise in mental illness or is the result of changes in the definition of childhood psychiatric disorders. The latter explanation is likely because the concept of psychopathology is ambiguous, and physicians have considerable latitude when they classify a child as mentally ill. Because a diagnosis of ADHD, bipolar disorder, or autism allows parents to obtain special educational and therapeutic resources that would not be forthcoming if the child is called mentally retarded, incorrigible, or uninterested in academic progress, doctors are motivated to please the distraught parents who want to help their child.”

20.  Limitation  associated with attempts to define abnormality as explained here, which are mostly influenced by social, cultural, ideological and religious biases, “Statistical infrequency: most people suffer psychological problems at some time in their lives hence psychological problems are statistically normal. Many psychological attributes are assumed to be normally distributed, e.g. IQ scores. However, very high IQs, which are statistically rare, are not likely to be considered abnormal whereas very low scores are.
Deviation from social norms: Szasz (1972) suggested that psychopathology is manufactured in order to label people who do not conform to social norms or rules of morality. The American Psychiatric Society, for example, classified homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1973. Social norms are specific to cultures, for example, British psychiatrists (being mainly male, white and middle class) may not be well prepared to understand the behaviour, emotions and motivations of individuals from different cultural and social backgrounds. This could account for why Afro-Caribbean immigrants havebeen up to seven times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia (Cochrane 1977)” from [ you may go through this link for many further interesting insights] 

“Oftentimes in a society when people of a certain type, whether individual or a group, are subconsciously portrayed by the media as       abnormal, they also slowly, subconsciously become enemies of that society due to feelings of cultural guilt. Ultimately by this the inflated media is an enemy of its very own cause.” 
 Cross Jami

21.  For further clear definition of abnormal psychology and other explanations read and further explanations of psychological abnormalities you may find here

22.  For very broad clinically defined Psychiatric Disorders see this site :-

23.  For very precise classifications of abnormality refer to this link : -

24.  Predominantly the field of psychology studies only the abnormalities that are perceived as negative. Even in a very scholarly research works like the one by Isaac M. Marks the very title itself suggest that explicitly, ‘Fears, phobias, and rituals: Panic, anxiety, and their disorders’.

25.  But I for one would like to include the entire spectrum including what is considered as positive in terms of desired outcomes/results etc because very often that is also part of obsessive-compulsive disorders but admired and adulated by the society.  Psychologically the fact is ‘Einstein had an abnormal IQ while an ignorant person also has an abnormal IQ.’

26.  Both mad people and geniuses are abnormal manifesting extraordinary attributes and qualities as great abilities or grave disabilities. In fact there are volumes and volumes of  great writings available on this subject.

27.  In addition to these we may also include the paranormal, subnormal, mysterious, mythological etc too under the broad classification of abnormal states/depicting things beyond the normal.

28.    A look at the synonyms of the word abnormality will throw more subjects under this label like imaginary, illusionary, eccentric attributes and attitudes and tangential behaviors etc.

29.    Most great geniuses, artists, writers, exceptional scholars, scientists, philosophers etc were found to be eccentric. Eccentricity is contrasted with "normal" behavior. Here are some links

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

30.    ‘Normality,’ says Howe, ‘is the paradise of escapologists, for it is a fixation concept, pure and simple.’ ‘It is better, if we can,’ he asserts, ‘to stand alone and to feel quite normal about our abnormality, doing nothing whatever about it, except what needs to be done in order to be oneself.’

It is just this ability to stand alone, and not feel guilty or harassed about it, of which the average person is incapable. The desire for a lasting external security is uppermost, revealing itself in the endless pursuit of health, happiness, possessions and so on, defense of what has been acquired being the obsessive idea, and yet no real defense being possible, because one cannot defend what is undefendable. All that can be defended are imaginary, illusory, protective devices.
31.    Among the myriads of connotations that the word ‘abnormal’ has acquired or the many meanings that this words alludes to or the  extremely complicated polysemy  that  has budded off this word  we can ,if at all we can, simplify  some very glaring general  deductions they are that the word ‘abnormal ‘  predominantly refers to one things, persons, attributes ,dimensions that  are not ‘normal’ or a s per the expected or accepted standards  of measurement  or  deemed to be deviating from the expected standards or being  tangential or moving away from the beaten track which includes lateral thinking and all forms of creativity and two depending on the extent of deviation/aberration from  the standards  it reflects  extremities , in fact , it  very often  refers  to extremes .
32.    Similarly the consequences of abnormality also can be broadly outlined as manifesting destruction of the status quo /preferred status or development and/or enhanced beyond the expected status. It  includes all the things, sentiments, perceptions, feelings ,attributes etc between the two most predominant  emotions which appear  as different emotions/feelings/attributes with varying degrees of intensity of  their  manifestation at the positive end of the pendulum  fueling the fire of  passion leading to  various  kinds  of   Love or liking and at the negative end of the spectrum  manifesting  Fear  of  different types /Feeling of deprivation or lack of something leading to  destruction of  all hopes and dealing in dread and deliriums.
33.    So abnormality refers to and includes all manias and phobias, extreme pains and excessive pleasures etc. Extreme or excessive Fear or feeling of lacking something is expressed with the suffix ‘ phobia’ from the Greek "phobos" which means fear. [for an exhaustive list refer to the following sites,,,]
34.     Extreme or excessive or obsessive liking or love is expressed with the suffixes ‘mania’ from Greek ‘mainesthai ‘be mad’ or literally ‘madness’ or ‘philia’ from Greek philia ‘fondness’ or ‘abnormal attraction towards’ { though among the four distinct words the Ancient Greek had for loveagápeérosphilía, and storgē. Philía referred to actually ‘affectionate regard or loyalty} [for an exhaustive list refer to the following sites,,,,].
Funnily there is even a word  ‘extremophiles’ which refers to creatures or organisms that inhabit extreme environmental conditions like excessive heat, depths, pressures etc-]

35.    Many words that have the Greek prefixes
a] ‘dys ‘meaning ‘difficulty or disorderliness that causes abnormality indicating either lack of something or excess of something ’ and this has contributed a huge list of words. Here are some interesting ones
Dystrophy=malnutrition;dystocia=difficult child birth;dyspnoea=difficult breathing;dysphoria=feeling of  being ill or depressed; dysphonia=inability to  pronounce sounds du eto physical  abnormality;dysphasia=impairement of understanding of words  due to brain abnormality;dysphagia=difficulty of swallowing;dyspepsia=difficult digestion;dysidrosis=abnormal perspiration  and
b] ‘para’ with the precise meaning of ‘departure from normal’ though it has mostly other meanings like ‘beside, alongside, beyond, protection against ‘.This prefix also has given some interesting words like
paragoge=abnormal addition of sound at the end of a word;paragraphia= writing more than normal or unintended words or letters;paralalia=abnormality of  speech sounds; paramour=socio morally abnormal or unapproved lover; paraphrase =restate in different or unexpected words etc.
36.    In medical terminology words with ‘osis ‘  indicating ‘abnormal increase of something causing a disease’ for example :abnormal functioning of the thyroid gland =thyrosis
37.  Then there is a word which is omitted often by linguists when they talk about ‘abnormal’ and that word is ‘preternatural’ and I found some interesting write ups in this blog about that word

a] Preternatural is a wonderful word, one that's been saved from being overused only by the fact that no one seems to know what it means.
It means "apparently inexplicable by natural means". You might say, "Yo Yo Ma is apraeternaturally skillful cellist" (bonus points for the olde-timey spelling), meaning only that he is really, really ridiculously good. You aren't claiming that he's actually, non-metaphorically magical or ghostly. Yo Yo Ma does exist. (I know for sure: I saw him once, at a CostCo of all places. I was going to talk to him, but all I could think of to say was "Hey, is it true you once left a Stradivarius on the plane? FAIL!")
Supernatural is pretty much of a dumb word. People use it for ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night -- i.e., things that, unlike Yo Yo Ma, do not exist. Why people feel the need to divide non-existent entities into subcategories I don't know.
To use one of James Randi's old examples: if in fact Uri Geller's claim ability to bend spoons with his mind actually existed, that would be supernatural; in reality, his ability to bullshit people is preternatural.”

b] “Websters (1959) has preternatural as 'beyond or surpassing nature', and lists Preternatural as a synonym of Supernatural, with almost the exact distinction
c] I have seen preternatural used in religious contexts - for example, to describe miracles.    The words supernatural or paranormal can sound more spooky than holy, making the reader think of vampires and ESP.

38.  For  the present generation here is an easy example to note more people would  like to watch movies like the ones made  by James Cameron or Steven Spielberg who think big, think differently ,  shoot mega budget movies but that rock the world  rather than  mediocre  movies. Oscar Wilde said this long ago , “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” Or as François de la Rochefoucauld  said, “Every great action is extreme.” Or as Arthur C.Clarke said, “The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.”
39.   Why extremes carry sway over the normal and appeal is because in every field the story of human evolution is nothing but the history of impacts either positive or negative made by people who refused to take the beaten track and no wonder that George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. All progress depends upon the unreasonable man”.
                                So can we sum up ABNORMALITY as
            Any activity above
Below, beyond and besides the
Regular, routine, rules that are
Allowed, and approved
 Legally and socially.

40.   Very few relevant quotes on extremes given here :-

“I would rather a romantic relationship turn into contempt than turn into apathy. The passion in the extremities make it appear as though it once meant something. We grow from hot or cold, but lukewarm is the biggest insult.” ― Criss Jami
Extremes, though contrary, have the like effects. Extreme heat kills, and so extreme cold: extreme love breeds satiety, and so extreme hatred; and too violent rigor tempts chastity, as does too much license.-George Chapman
I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me also remind you that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.-Barry M. Goldwater
The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace, and the brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm-.Charles Caleb Colton
Our age knows nothing but reaction, and leaps from one extreme to another.-Reinhold Niebuhr
Only by pursuing the extremes in one's nature, with all its contradictions, appetites, aversions, rages, can one hope to understand a little ... oh, I admit only a very little ... of what life is about. (Quote by - Francoise Sagan)

41.  abnormal calm in a patient when he should be showing emotion= belle indifference

               abnormal closing or absence of a tube in the body=atresia, clausura, imperforation
   echopraxia =abnormal repetition of actions of another person
   ec·to·pi·a =An abnormal location or position of an organ or a body part, occurring
    congenentally or due to some defect.
   parageusia /dysgeusia= abnormal sense of taste especially a bad taste in the mouth.

 paraesthesia or (US) paresthesia= (pathology) an abnormal or  inappropriate sensation in an organ, part, or area of the skin, as of burning, prickling, tingling, etc

abnormal crackling sound of the lungs detected by auscultation with a stethoscope= rale, crepitation, crepitus, crackle

abnormal constriction of the bronchial tubes= bronchostenosis
abnormal connection between two body surfaces= adhesion, clinging
abnormal condition causing imbalance of the constituents of the blood=blood dyscrasia, cacochymia, dyscrasia, bad temper
abnormal development and growth of cells or body organs=dysplasia, defect
abnormal duct that discharges bile from the liver or bladder onto the surface of the skin=
            abnormal forward inclination of the uterus=anteversion, anteflexion
abnormal frequent urination urge=frequent urination urge, pollakiuria, thamuria
abnormally short finger or toes =brachydactylia
abnormal conduction of  nerve impulses in a direction opposite to normal=antidromia
abnormally stop or interrupt something = abort
abnormal liar= mythomaniac
 abnormal heartbeat, something that causes abnormal heart beat = arrhythmogenic

abnormal inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable=
anhedonia=[from Greek an-, "without" and  hēdonē, "pleasure"]

42.  There is a vast literature involving volumes and volumes of very scientific and scholarly studies on abnormality. But what an ordinary person can infer from these is the defining of abnormalities based on what factors cause them? What are the consequences /effects of the abnormalities? What parameters are adopted to classify something as abnormal?
43.  Ankylosis or anchylosis (from Greek, bent, crooked) is a stiffness of a joint due to abnormal adhesion and rigidity of the bones of the joint
44.  Hyperostosis=abnormal bone thickening

45.  Scotoma, blind spot= abnormal blind spot on the retina

46.  Judder, trepidation, tremor, wobbling= abnormal vibration

47.  Hydrocephalus-pictures=abnormal accumulation of fluids in the brain

48.  Acites=abdominal dropsy  fluid acculumulation in the abdominal cavity or peritoneal cavity

49.  Hemagglutination=abnormal agglutination or clustering of red blood cells caused by certain viruses 

50.  Carotenemia =abnormal amount of carotene in blood

51. Gonicampsis=abnormal curvature of the knee

No comments: