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What Is a Case Study?

When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.

Deep Dive into a Topic

At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.

As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.

Study a Pattern

One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.

Gather Evidence

During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.

Present Findings

As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.

Draw Conclusions

Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.


case study assignment abnormal psychology

Abnormal Psychology: Case Studies

These abnormal psychology case study examples cover four different psychological disorders. Check out this sample essay if you’re interested in mental illness and therapy.

Case Study One: Margaret

Case study two: lillian, case study three: jim, case study four: janet, works cited.

In most cases, psychologists draw their diagnostics by conducting an interview with their clients like the one conducted by Louise on Margaret. This is based on the fact that understanding one’s problem from the horse’s mouth is easier. There are various factors that may be deduced from such an assessment. For example, Louise was able to identify many changes that her client has undergone and the difficulty she faces in dealing with them.

There are also social factors that cannot be understood otherwise that impact greatly on many people with psychological disturbances. It was also as a result of this assessment that the client reported her recent memory loss, which shows her awareness of her abnormal conditions. Therefore, this assessment was meant to determine what ails Margaret and thereafter draw some useful therapies to help her go back to normalcy.

In her conclusion, Louise drew some conclusions concerning Margaret’s condition. Margaret reported some changes in her menstrual periods. She noticed a change in her moods which has partly contributed to her moodiness, although this could be a result of hormonal imbalance due to menopause, considering Margaret’s age.

Further, Louise underlined Margaret’s dealing with her son being away and her inaccessible daughter as she is too preoccupied with her child. Margaret is diagnosed to be struggling with this change of life hence her condition.

Louise also drew from Margaret that she has become frequently forgetful, and she is aware of it. She is also aware of her change of mood and reaction towards her daughter, which she does not want her to discover. This could be attributed to her general feeling of anger and loss; thus, she has lost interest in life.

This show of self-awareness is depicted when Louise asks her about her anger towards her daughter. She burst into tears because Louise had discovered her true feelings towards her daughter, which she was concealing. The reactions portrayed by Margaret during the assessment are the best example of another dimension of Margaret’s psychological assessment.

Margaret portrays anger and sadness following her relationship with her daughter. She believes that her daughter rushed into marriage, and she is now less concerned about her. It was also concluded that due to pervasive anxiety, she loses sleep, overeats, overdrinks, and has spasmodic moods and memory distractions. As a result of this, she has gained extra weight that she sees as part of her problem.

In Margaret’s assessment, psychological testing is vital because it would test her take on her condition. For example, whether she appreciates change or to whom does she hold responsible for her condition. Self-proclamation is important as it is out of such discussions that a professional draws conclusions on how to handle the situation.

This is called mental status evaluation in which the coherence in thought is assessed. Due to her history with her family, she could be judged as having depression. Margaret’s father is reported to have died when she was three, and this led to her mother being away from home most of the time. That could be the reason for her unconscious suppressed desire not to separate from her children.

Physical screening for Margaret is necessary in order to diagnose various possible complications that may be evident as a result of the signs and symptoms she narrated. There are several problems that could be confirmed in the course of medical examination. Medical testing could rule out her biological hormonal imbalance following the previous hormonal test done on the patient (Halgin and Whitbourne 21).

Considering her age and the frequent premenstrual moodiness, it is logical to rule out hormonal imbalances related to menopause. Possible complications for Margaret’s case include memory lapse due to memory losses witnessed and neurological malfunction. Physical examination may also be useful in confirming the reason for her being overweight and the increased appetite that has devastated her sex life.

Case two illustrates Lillian’s defense in life, where she draws confidence in herself through her personality disorder. Her defense of splitting is her major preoccupation in dealing with her situation. Right from the onset, she complains and enquires as to why her life is being made difficult by what she refers to as some idiot.

What follows is a description of how other people have blocked her way always. Her description of the event that unfolded in the coffee line proves that she is the problem, but her weaknesses are evident in her mistreatment and blame on others. This way, according to her, she is not the problem; the problem is from without.

Lillian is also very sensitive on matters of gender discrimination as she cites that her former boss treated her badly because she was a woman. She resorts to finding a solution in the workers union. This is a commonsensical issue, but she doesn’t care anyway because she is not the problem. Her problem is proved further by the fact that she currently does a housekeeping job even after her college education.

Before this, she had gone down the stairs and lost six jobs in ten years. Her social life is limited to her drinking friends and unstable lasting sexual relationships with men she meets at the bar. She uses her drugs to soothe her nerves. This is helpful because it would be worse if she reduced herself to depression due to self-blame. This is necessary from her point of view because she feels better about herself when she does so.

Lillian’s constant anger in borderline personality disorder may be natural or inborn. History proves that Lillian, even before her father died, would conflict with her mother when her father sided with her. This proves that she could have a natural tendency to have bouts of anger. Her father could have been that kind, as demonstrated by his support and siding with her in her row with her mother. If her father did not see any cause of hunger in her daughter, both could have something shared.

There is also a possibility that Lillian’s condition could be a result of disappointment and many failures in life. Lillian has had a string of disappointments in her employment. She lost her job and has plummeted to the position of housekeeper. This could turn her to anger.

In her social life, we are also told that she feels guilty often, but her defense is her unconscious transfer of that blame to a second person’s act. This way, she is elated and soothed that she is clean. Therefore, there is a possibility that Lillian’s anger could be both a result of some existential factors and inborn.

Lillian’s borderline personality disorder is dependent on taking very many other factors constant. “It was only drawn from her blame on others and dominance of anger fluctuations from hope to disappointments in relationships, workplace conflicts, drug use and lack of self-appraisal” (Halgin and Whitbourne 21).

It was never considered that this could be an inborn condition. There could also be a possibility that her condition is worsened by her drug use, however mild. The differential analysis could therefore ignore some important parameters influencing some situations.

Her antisocial personality disorder was ruled regardless of her self-blame sometimes. She has failed to relate well with people at work, friends, and even her mother because of this condition. This leads her to blame everyone for some cause. For instance, she feels her mother favors her siblings; she thinks her boss at work hates her because she is a woman and generally feels victimized by other people’s acts. Lillian justified her misbehavior as drug use as a response to the stress caused by other people whom she finds as a problem.

Lillian’s anxiety disorder is born of her desire to expect too much from others. She expected too much laxity from her boss that she had to be sacked. She expects too much from her mum and also from society, especially from the union representative, and thus it is hard to avoid disappointments and disillusionments.

In Case three, we are introduced to Jim and his situation that requires psychotherapy. A very good example of a vegetative sign of depression is his inability to sleep which is consistent. This is accompanied by his extreme feeling of despair and anxiety. Sigmund Freud, an expert in the field of psychoanalysis, would analyze depression as anger turned against the self. This can apply to Jim because he blames himself for ruining his girlfriend’s life when he abandoned her.

There is also the issue of body and mind struggle. Normally the two entities coordinate harmoniously to produce normalcy in life. However, his case is different from all the depression. His mind contemplates suicide in order to punish himself, and as a result, he has shed off much of his weight. Jim’s body and mind, as a result of this struggle and depression, are now enemies.

Another struggle between his mind and body is seen whenever he comes up with a painting. He literally ends up destroying it. There is a contest and infighting of his mind and body, and thus he poses the biggest danger to himself more than to anyone else. It is for this chief reason that the clinical findings prescribe that protective hospitalization is required until medication and psychotherapy work on him.

A mood-congruent delusion is a state where someone is inconsistent in their usual mood that affects the reinterpretation of things in another way. For example, Jim is not consistent in his former behavior when he starts looking at himself as a destroyer. His way of perception changed as a result of his depression and self-blame. He has conceptualized a world of depressed thoughts and patterns confirming his melancholy.

Actually, all that Jim ails from is anger. He is for sure angered at himself for ruining his girlfriend’s life. That is why he has had relentless attacks on himself, resulting in depressed behavior, thought processes, and mood fluctuation. There is some evidence of concealed anger in Jim. One reason he can conceal this is that he may have loved his girlfriend so much that hurting her would devastate him too.

Secondly, he sees himself as selfish when he turns down her request. He might have deep-seated regrets as to why life let him meet a girl who did not understand him when he presented his case.

He may conceal this because, first, he has himself to blame and has made out his decision, though unconsciously, to punish himself. This leads him to spend most time fantasizing about his physical health and contemplating suicide. His dreams at night would reveal his concealed fears and desires, as it is theorized by Sigmund Freud in his interpretation of dreams.

From the onset, Jim was judged for himself, and he declared his guilt and assigned himself punishments. He no longer finds need or pleasure in company. He spends time smoking cigarettes and thinking about his death. As a result of this self-guilt, he has declined to eat and thus lost a good deal of weight. He has also undertaken unconscious self-punishment by neglecting his hygiene and general normal life. He has imprisoned himself in bed, where he buys a lot of time to think about his worthlessness and pain.

Another punishment he has subjected himself to is to destroy his creative products. Whenever he does work, he destroys it at the end of the day. There is also psychological punishment where his consciousness is always tormented by nightmares of some gruesome women attacking him, which reduces him to crying like a child. This can be associated with his suppressed desire to punish himself, and whenever this happens, Jim feels that his selflessness deserves punishment.

In the fourth case, the precipitating stressor event that might have kicked off Janet’s schizophrenic episode can be noted from the history his parent gave. There was a time when she was reported to have scratched her wrist with a razor in an act that is termed self-destructing. Then there was her being separated from her family members who used to care for and support her. There are other factors that are noted in her history to have been repressed causes.

She reported that from the time she was young, the girl had been shy, socially awkward, and sensitive. This historical evidence shows that she has had that condition, but under the cause and understanding of her family members, it had been contained. Moreover, when she was seven years, she had gone slow school. The family undertook a therapy that was corrective to the situation.

In her adolescence, she frequently argued with her mother. Although this can be attributed to hormonal changes that are experienced by many adolescents, the argument reportedly resulted in self-harm. She was more provocative and worrisome, although this behavior just popped in and disappeared later. Another behavior was that Jane would behave eccentrically, engaging in complex rituals to trigger her sleep. Sometimes she would not want to be seen eating, a clear indication of her psychosocial malfunctioning

Another factor that may have triggered her condition may be her roommates and new environment. She was, on joining college, introduced to an environment that she was probably not used to. She was then left to be controlled by her long-encased schizophrenia. Janet’s primary delusion is her attempt to rescue herself from some inner dangers and fears.

Her delusion interprets her parents and nurses as threats geared towards sabotaging her idealized salvation, which is to be actualized through Dr. M. It started earlier when she would quarrel with her mother. At this age, it did not come out clearly, as at those formative stages, her condition would retreat.

Her confidence and overexcitement in justifying her condition are rife with evidence that she is no longer self-sensitive. She fantasizes about Dr. M, whom she has assumed as a sole hope in bringing about salvation in the world. Her delusion has reduced the world to herself. To her, the world is under attack by the same threatening unknown and can be saved only when her desire to unite with Dr. M comes to reality. This is her ultimate optimism and desire to be saved or reserved.

Her delusion and hallucination fit together so that she misinterprets real life as an attack. This can be traced back to when she was young. She could not understand her mother, and they would pick quarrels that sometimes resorted to self-destruction. Therefore, the world she has been living in is not the real world. Her hallucinations are evident in the way she interprets Dr. M. She has conceived a Dr. M who is being blocked from reaching her, even after she was instructed by a voice to merge with him and save the world.

The mistaken sensory perceptions and how she interprets reality as a threat make the two fit together to produce the kind of Janet we see.

Her hospitalization saves her and others because she is a danger to others and herself. She has terrifying intrinsic experiences described as command hallucinations. These hallucinations instruct her to do anything to herself and others. When she perceives everyone as a danger, there is a possibility that she can attack anyone under the influence of her delusions. This can also be because her reality is faulty, and her judging reality is misleading.

Halgin, Richard, and Susan Whitbourne. Abnormal Psychology: Clinical Perspectives on Psychological Disorders . 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print.

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5. Self Analysis (or pseudo self-analysis)

Instructions for your clinical case study assignment.

The purpose of this assignment is for you to demonstrate your understanding of the concepts and issues presented in this course.  Your case study should be based upon yourself, and may be factual, fictional, or some mix of the two. You are NOT required to disclose any personal or sensitive information.

A large collection of fictional case studies are available for your review as you prepare to write your personal clinical case study.

A case analysis consists of several components:

  • demographics
  • psycho-social factors
  • medical factors
  • instruments
  • using the multi-axial DSM-IV classification system
  • predisposing factors
  • precipitating factors
  • presenting symptoms

(Here is a link to a sample case history: )

Your assignment:

Part 1: Write your self analysis

  • minimum length: 2000 original words
  • submit to the SafeAssign  drop box on or before the final day of the Module 4 discussion forums
  • This assignment is graded via the rubric below.

Part 2: Discuss the analyses

  • Submit to the Self-analysis discussion forum on or before the start of Module 5
  • Facilitate the discussion of your self-analysis
  • Be an active participant in the discussion of at least 2 other students’ self-analyses
  • Self-analysis dIscussions continue until the Module 5 discussion forums end.
  • This forum is graded via the same discussion forum rubric used for the issue/topic discussions.

((Note: This assignment required a drop box and a “symposium” discussion forum.)

  • (Pseudo) Self-Assessment Assignment. Authored by : William Pelz. Provided by : Herkimer College / SUNY. Located at : . Project : Abmormal Psychology course for Achieving the Dream. License : CC BY: Attribution


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