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Biopsychosocial Model Psychology

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Biopsychosocial Model Psychology

Do you like true crime? Are you curious about how to explain the behaviors and thoughts of a serial killer? You might ask yourself: Does it have to do with genetics? Or is it a result of experiencing trauma as a child? Is it about other factors in the environment they grew up in?

What if it's all of these things?

If you think that all of the things mentioned above work together to explain the thoughts and behaviors of a serial killer, you are ascribing to the biopsychosocial model in psychology!

  • What is the biopsychosocial model in psychology?
  • How does this model view different situations?
  • What are examples of the biopsychosocial model?
  • What are strengths and weaknesses of the biopsychosocial model?

Definition of the Biopsychosocial Model in Psychology

The biopsychosocial model or perspective in psychology helps us piece together the different parts of a person's story. This perspective says that a person's behaviors and thoughts can only be explained by taking into account biological, psychological, and social factors. Humans are made up of systems within their bodies, psychology, and social lives. Humans are biopsychosocial beings.

The biopsychosocial model focuses on how biological, psychological, and social factors/influences help to explain human behavior and mental processes.

Biopsychosocial Model Psychology, Biopsychosocial Perspective in Psychology Definition of biopsychosocial psychology, StudySmarterThe biopsychosocial model, StudySmarter Original

AP Exam Tip: You may be asked to think about how the biopsychosocial model would explain a person's behavior in a given scenario in the Free Response Questions section of the exam. Thinking about some of the biological, psychological, and social factors detailed in the next couple of sections may help you to develop your answer.

Let us consider an example to discuss how the biopsychosocial model can be applied in real life.

Elsie was invited to go to her high school prom, but she eventually decided that she didn't want to go, even though she had initially said yes out of initial excitement. When her best friend asked her why she didn't want to go, Elsie said that the thought of going triggered her anxiety and panic attacks. She remembered how, at the last school dance, the "popular" girls started making fun of a girl in their class because of how she looked, to the point that the girl left the dance in tears.

Elsie did not want to go and potentially be the girl that was made fun of. Prom was a big deal for everyone at the school; that is not what she wanted to be remembered for.

Biological Factors of the Biopsychosocial Model

Biological factors within the biopsychosocial model are factors that exist within the human body that directly affect how a person behaves and how they think. Our bodies are made up of many systems that are interconnected, so when we consider how biological factors affect how we behave and think, we must examine these internal processes, even though we are not aware they are happening!

Biological factors can be physical, physiological, neurological, chemical, and/or genetic.

Elsie mentions that the thought of going to prom was triggering her anxiety and panic attacks. One way that this can be explained biologically is that perhaps she has an overactive amygdala, which can lead to a heightened fear response.

Examples of biological factors:

  • Physical health or illness

  • Genetic predispositions

  • Genetic mutations

  • Physiological changes

  • Abnormal levels of specific neurotransmitters

  • Hormonal imbalance

  • Brain injuries

  • Misfiring of neurons

Psychological Factors of the Biopsychosocial Model

Psychological factors within the biopsychosocial model are factors that involve the human mind and its functions. Psychological factors include mental and emotional factors.

Elsie says that she remembers the experience of the girl that was made fun of at the last school dance, and how she did not want to be in her position this year. This can be explained psychologically because Elsie’s feelings are impacted by the memory and past experience of a similar situation that she witnessed.

Examples of psychological factors:

  • Cognitive processes, perceptions, and interpretations

  • Learned expectations

  • Emotional responses

  • Mental disorders

  • Memories

  • Personality

  • Past experiences of similar situations

  • Trauma

Social Factors of the Biopsychosocial Model

Social factors within the biopsychosocial model are factors that affect thoughts and behavior within a social and cultural context. Social factors refer to the factors and conditions within the environments where people are born, live, play, work, and age.

Elsie insists that because prom is a big deal to everyone at her school, she doesn’t want people to remember her negatively if she has a bad experience there. This can be explained socially because Elsie’s thoughts are being influenced by the potential response she may receive from her peers. Culturally, prom is an important event for high schoolers.

Examples of social factors:

  • Peer, parent, and group influences

  • Cultural and societal expectations

  • The presence of others in a situation

  • Personal, family, and religious values

  • Role models

  • Media

  • Access to social services

  • Access to quality health care

  • Education

The Biopsychosocial Model of Psychological Disorders

Just as how biological, psychological, and social factors can influence how a person acts and thinks, these factors interact with one another and contribute to the development of specific psychological disorders and other diseases. Our well-being is impacted by all of these factors: brain function, our genes, our living environment, our inner thoughts and feelings, and our cultural and social environments.

The Medical Model

In the late 1970s, George Engel (an American psychiatrist) published an article on the biopsychosocial model. He thought that this new model could replace the current medical model of diseases. He thought that the medical model focused too much on biology and not enough on other factors. He and many others believed that the medical model led to inadequate patient care. The medical model supports the belief that mental disorders are a product of physiological factors, so it treats them as physical diseases. The use of medication is a typical treatment. It is more common for psychiatrists to adopt this model than psychologists.

A psychiatrist using the medical model that encounters a child diagnosed with ADHD will likely see the symptoms of ADHD (difficulty paying attention and concentrating, controlling compulsive behavior, and sitting still) as signs of an underlying physiological issue. They would likely treat ADHD with medications such as stimulants that are known to reduce the symptoms experienced by someone with the diagnosis.

The New Biopsychosocial Model

Engel thought that the biopsychosocial model would help care providers treat patients more holistically in their diagnoses and treatment plans. He wanted this new model to completely replace the medical model as the dominant way to think about disorders and illnesses.

The holistic approach refers to providing support that considers the whole person, not just their mental health or physical health needs. This approach considers the person's physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing.

Those who support the biopsychosocial model truly see the importance of considering factors from a person's entire life, as there are many things that contribute to a person's physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Psychologists practicing within this framework are considered eclectic.

Even though the biological, psychological, and social spheres are very different, they are thought of as complementary to one another. Therefore, the biopsychosocial model is an integrative approach that allows us to have a more complete picture of human behavior and mental processes. The model itself pushes psychologists to adopt varying levels of analysis.

Levels of analysis refer to the various ways someone can make observations in the field of psychology. The main levels include biological, psychological, and sociocultural.

Examples of the Medical Model and the Biopsychosocial Model

Let's take a look at two different examples and discuss the approach that the medical model and biopsychosocial model would take for each.

Example 1: Schizophrenia

The medical model would look at Schizophrenia strictly through a medical lens. It would consider Schizophrenia a disease, focusing on biological factors that contribute to its development, and the symptoms experienced by the person diagnosed with the condition. The model would highlight that it is best treated with medication. A common type of medication used would be antipsychotics.

The biopsychosocial model would consider how biological, psychological, and social factors interact in the development of Schizophrenia. The diagram below shows some biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors that are risk factors for developing Schizophrenia.

Biopsychosocial Model Psychology, Biopsychosocial Perspective in Psychology Biopsychosocial model of psychological disorders, StudySmarterA biopsychosocial model of Schizophrenia, StudySmarter Original

Example 2: Pain

The medical model would look at the experience of pain as a series of biological processes that occur within the central and peripheral nervous systems. The model might also consider treating pain with medication such as opioids.

The biopsychosocial model would consider how biological, psychological, and social factors interact in how someone experiences pain. The diagram below shows some biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors that can contribute to the way pain is experienced.

Biopsychosocial Model Psychology, Biopsychosocial Perspective in Psychology Biopsychosocial model of medical disorders, StudySmarterA biopsychosocial model of pain, StudySmarter Original

Strengths and Weaknesses of the of the Biopsychosocial Model

Let's explore strengths and weaknesses of this model.

Strengths

  • It combines three different viewpoints/perspectives - biological, psychological, and sociocultural.
  • It allows us to gain a more complete picture and understanding of a person's behavior and mental processes. In fact, if we could only choose one perspective or approach in psychology to use, the biopsychosocial model would likely offer a better understanding by itself than any of the other models alone!
  • The biopsychosocial model takes a more holistic approach.

Weaknesses

  • There are so many factors to consider that it is easy to overlook something important.

  • Certain factors play more of a role than others in the development of a specific disorder.

  • It is virtually impossible to consider every single biological, psychological, and social factor in a person's life.

  • The medical model is still the dominant model in medicine; the new model still needs more work.

  • It places so much emphasis on the factors in a person's life that we might forget to consider the client-provider relationship.

Biopsychosocial Model Psychology - Key Takeaways

  • The biopsychosocial perspective in psychology looks at how biological, psychological, and social factors/influences help to explain human behavior and mental processes.

  • Our well-being is affected by biological, psychological, and social factors. Therefore, by considering the three viewpoints, this perspective can help us understand psychological disorders and other diseases.

  • George Engel, an American psychiatrist, promoted the biopsychosocial model.

  • One of the biggest strengths of the biopsychosocial model is that it allows us to have a more complete picture and understanding of a person's behavior and mental processes, as it incorporates three different viewpoints.

  • One of the biggest weaknesses of the biopsychosocial model is that it is virtually impossible to consider every single biological, psychological, and social factor in a person's life.

Frequently Asked Questions about Biopsychosocial Model Psychology

The biopsychosocial model of psychology looks at how biological, psychological, and social factors/influences help to explain human behavior and mental processes.

Some examples of biopsychosocial factors include genetic predispositions, genetic mutations, cognitive processes, perceptions and interpretations, learned expectations and fear, peer and parent influences, cultural and societal expectations, the presence of others in a situation, and models in daily life like in the media.

The biopsychosocial model is important to psychology because it helps us to have a more complete understanding of people's behaviors and thoughts by looking at biological, psychological, and social factors. Therefore, by considering the three viewpoints, this perspective can help us understand psychological disorders. 

The biggest strength of the biopsychosocial model is that it combines three different viewpoints/perspectives. This allows us to have a more complete picture and understanding of a person's behavior and mental processes.

Final Biopsychosocial Model Psychology Quiz

Question

What are NOT biological influences in development?

Show answer

Answer

Sex-related genes

Show question

Question

What are some examples of psychological factors/influences in development?

Show answer

Answer

Behavioral and mental responses as a result of our own temperament

Show question

Question

The interactions of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors/influences on our behavior and mental processes is known as:

Show answer

Answer

the cognitive perspective in psychology

Show question

Question

How does the biopsychosocial approach help us to understand psychological disorders?

Show answer

Answer

Biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors can all contribute to the development of psychological disorders. Therefore, using this approach can help us to understand the reasons for developing a given disorder. 

Show question

Question

What American doctor developed and promoted the biopsychosocial model?

Show answer

Answer

Sigmund Freud

Show question

Question

What medical model was George Engel suggesting should be replaced by the biopsychosocial model?

Show answer

Answer

The biomedical model

Show question

Question

What is one of the biggest strengths of the biopsychosocial perspective in psychology?

Show answer

Answer

It allows us to have a more complete picture and understanding of a person's behavior and mental processes because it incorporated three different viewpoints. 

Show question

Question

Why did George Engel disapprove of the biomedical model?

Show answer

Answer

The biomedical model was too heavily focused on the biology of the disease and not the other patient factors that could be contributing to the disease. 

Show question

Question

True or False: The biopsychosocial model first came about in the 1760s and was established before the biomedical model.

Show answer

Answer

False: The biomedical model was the main model before the biopsychosocial model was proposed in the 1960s. 

Show question

Question

What is the medical model?

Show answer

Answer

The medical model refers to a set of procedures that clinicians are trained in. This model supports the belief that mental disorders are a product of physiological factors, so it treats them as physical diseases. The use of medication is typically used for the treatment of mental disorders. It is more common for psychiatrists to adopt this model than psychologists (Fritscher, 2020).

Show question

Question

What is the holistic approach?

Show answer

Answer

The holistic approach refers to providing support that considers the whole person and not just their mental health needs. Therefore, it would consider the person's physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing (NSW Health). 

 

Show question

Question

Levels of analysis refers to the various ways someone can make observations in the field of psychology. What are the 3 main levels?

Show answer

Answer

Biological

Show question

Question

True or False: One of the weaknesses of the biopsychosocial model is that it is virtually impossible to consider every single biological, psychological, and social factor in a person's life.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Eclectic is an adjective to describe someone who values ____________:

Show answer

Answer

the benefits of adopting ideas from various approaches

Show question

Question

What are risk factors?

Show answer

Answer

Risk factors are factors that may increase the risk or susceptibility of developing a disorder or disease

Show question

Question

True or False: Humans are biopsychosocial beings. 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

Select ALL the examples of biological factors. (Three answers in total!) 

Show answer

Answer

Physical health or illness

Show question

Question

Select ALL the examples of psychological factors. (Three answers in total!) 

Show answer

Answer

Memories 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank: __________ factors refer to the factors and conditions within the environments where people are born, live, play, work, and age.

Show answer

Answer

Social 

Show question

Question

Which of the following is NOT an example of a social factor?  

Show answer

Answer

Personality 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:

The ________ model supports the belief that mental disorders are a product of physiological factors, so it treats them as physical diseases. 

Show answer

Answer

medical 

Show question

Question

Between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, who is more likely to adopt the medical model? 

Show answer

Answer

The psychiatrist 

Show question

Question

Which approach considers the person's physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing? 

Show answer

Answer

The holistic approach

Show question

Question

True or False: Levels of analysis refer to the various ways someone can make observations in the field of psychology. 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

In reference to the "levels of analysis" please select the three main levels mentioned in the explanation. 

Show answer

Answer

Biological 

Show question

Question

True or False: The biopsychosocial model would look at Schizophrenia strictly through a medical lens. 

Show answer

Answer

False 

Show question

Question

True or False: The biopsychosocial model would consider how biological, psychological, and social factors interact in how someone experiences pain. 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

True or False: The medical model is still the dominant model in medicine. 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

True or False: It is virtually impossible to consider every single biological, psychological, and social factor in a person's life.

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

Elsie insists that because prom is a big deal to everyone at her school, she doesn’t want people to remember her negatively if she has a bad experience there.

The above scenario is an example of which factor from the biopsychosocial model? 

Show answer

Answer

Social Factors

Show question

Question

Elsie mentions that the thought of going to prom was triggering her anxiety and panic attacks.

The above scenario is an example of which factor from the biopsychosocial model? 

Show answer

Answer

Biological Factors 

Show question

Question

Elsie says that she remembers the experience of the girl that was made fun of at the last school dance, and how she did not want to be in her position this year.

The above scenario is an example of which factor from the biopsychosocial model?  

Show answer

Answer

Psychological Factors

Show question

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