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Krapf, E.E. (1961). The Concepts of Normality and Mental Health in Psycho-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 42:439-446.

(1961). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 42:439-446

The Concepts of Normality and Mental Health in Psycho-Analysis

E. E. Krapf

The Concepts of Normality and Health

The term 'normal' is, according to André Lalande (37), 'very ambiguous and misleading'. It has, indeed, two meanings which are frequently confused and which are therefore often the subject of imperceptible transitions from one to the other. As Lalande explains, on the one hand, that 'is normal which occurs in the majority of cases … or that which constitutes either the mean or the mode of a measurable characteristic' (statistical normality), and, on the other hand, 'that which is such as it should be' (normative normality). It is true that, when the physician uses the word, he usually does so in the normative sense; but as he is not always aware of the logical difficulties which beset the term, he is constantly running the risk of arriving at paradoxical conclusions (for instance that it is 'normal' for people inhabiting certain regions to suffer from malaria or to be neurotic).

In these circumstances, it seems preferable to avoid the ambiguous terms 'statistical' and 'normative' normality and to use in their stead more precise ones such as (typical) 'average condition' and (more or less ideal) 'health'. Indeed, this terminology is more and more accepted in medicine. Psychopathologists alone are sometimes a little reluctant to accept it. Since the mental state is a quality of the whole person, the concept of psychological normality is closer to that of health than the concept of physical normality, which, at least generally speaking, only refers to qualities of the organism.

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