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CASE ANALYSIS assignments

{based on readings from Sattler, D., Shabatay, V. & Kramer, G. (Eds.) (1998), Abnormal Psychology in Context. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin}

These 4 case readings correspond to some of the disorders we’re covering in class. You’ll enjoy reading them. The readings provide a “first-person account” of selected disorders that we’re covering in the course. My intent in including them in this course is to offer you a more personal perspective on the disorders we’re covering. First-person accounts provide more richness and immediacy than a traditional textbook can. The selections are brief and they read easily. My hope is that you’ll allow them to sink in and affect you.

Due dates are indicated in CANVAS ASSIGNMENTS. Each of these papers is worth up to 15 points.

The segments to write about are as follows:


Featured Diagnosis



Case #1

Panic Disorder



Case #2

Major Depressive Disorder



Case #3

Borderline Personality Disorder



Case #4





In your paper, you’ll respond first by writing a couple of paragraphs on your own personal reactions to the story presented. I want you to write a bit about what impact the reading has had on you – your reaction to it. Demonstrate that you’ve grasped what the author has to say, then reflect on how this has altered your own thinking about the disorder.

Report on what surprised you, or what questions were raised for you by the reading, etc. Are any of those questions answered by your readings? If so, answer your own questions. Engage in critical thinking; are there aspects of what was written that you think should be challenged or questioned? What aspects of the story did you personally find most difficult to relate to? What aspects were you able to relate to?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Over


In the second part of your paper, you’ll engage in a
case analysis
of the story presented. There’s a specific format I’d like you to follow for this portion. You’ll need access to DSM diagnostic criteria for the designated disorder to complete this portion. Those criteria can be found in your main textbook in this week’s chapter; they’re in a sidebar near the discussion of the diagnosis in question.

Your case analysis will be evaluated in this way:

1. Clarity of writing (3 points)

· Deductions are made for problems with grammar or sentence structure, lack of proofreading, ideas that are expressed confusingly, etc.

2. Diagnostic Criteria (2 points)

· What are the DSM symptom criteria for the disorder? Describe those criteria, but don’t use any terminology you don’t understand. For any terms that are unfamiliar to you, look them up and state them in your own words. I realize that asking you to list the criteria yourself might seem like busywork, but the intent is to facilitate storage of that information, as well as give you an opportunity to look up and clarify any terminology that is unfamiliar to you.

3. Symptoms (10 points) – most important component of the paper!

· Using those diagnostic criteria, analyze the case presented to determine
which symptoms are present
and which are
present. That is, determine the presence or absence of
symptom listed in the DSM criteria. Support your conclusions

referring to specific information given in the case report
. (e.g., “He offers evidence of memory impairment when he mentions that he was frequently forgetting where he had put things in his office.”). Make explicit connections between the DSM criteria and the information presented in the case by giving specific examples/illustrations. Be thorough.


Please structure your responses to the diagnosis question using the format illustrated below.

This is made-up example, but it illustrates how to be very specific in (1) identifying what each criterion is, and (2) specifically addressing whether or not there is evidence that the author meets each criterion. If you say that they DO meet a criterion, provide specific supporting evidence from the reading to support that claim.

A diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder requires:

A. Five or more of the following:

1. Depressed mood most of the time – Blanche repeatedly complains about how she feels “just horrible” and “miserable,” such as in the scene where she turns down the date with Franklin, and the scene where she tells her doctor it’s hopeless. Blanche also said that Sally, her co-worker, “was always asking if she could help me, and she said she noticed I’d been crying more often at work” (p. 43).

2. Lack of interest or pleasure in activities – Blanche used to be very involved in her charity work, but after the breakup she stopped going to the Center, complaining that “it’s just all too much to deal with” (p. 38). She also used to very sociable, but she uncharacteristically turned down the invitation to Franklin’s party.

3. Significant weight loss or appetite loss – There’s no specific evidence in the story of these changes.

4. Insomnia or hypersomnia – Blanche frequently describes sleeping late into the day, to the point that it interferes with her ability to get things done. For example, she says “I just could not summon up the energy to get out of bed” (p. 34). This is consistent with the hypersomnia criterion.

… and so on with the remaining criteria


Nisha Jasani


Prof. Christopher Scribner

Date: February 20, 2022

Personal reaction

When reading through the case I was in shock and I learned so much about panic

disorder and panic attacks than I knew. One of the things that shocked me and surprised me is

the type of fears which Harrison has. The fears surprised me but reading through the

underlying cause of the fears I understood Harrison better. When Harrison says that he used

to swim and float in water and stopped after he got into a relationship, I felt that I cam relate

to the experience. When we find a person that gives us a sense of purpose sometimes one can

feel the fear of loosing their life and leaving their loved ones alone. Another interesting fear

which Harrison states is the fear of stairs, I have met people who fear heights because of the

fear of falling down and crushing. I have not met a person that fears stairs before and this was

new to me.

I have known about panic disorder and panic attacks for quite some time but from the

case I got a new insight of panic disorder. Harrison talks about how he spends part of his life

in bed and ends up breaking, telling lies and feting friendships. I have had similar experiences

where I get nervous for a friends’ hangout and end up giving some excuses just not to go. I

have always thought I was either introverted or had anxiety of being in social settings.

Reading the case has helped me have an understanding of the cause of palpitations and

elevated breathing in individuals during panic attacks. The case says that during the attacks

Christopher Scribner


there is a slight decrease in the level of carbon dioxide which results in a false suffocation

alarm and hence the body responds through the elevated levels of breathing.

I learned that phobias are linked to panic disorder and realized that one can have so

many phobias at one time. I was surprised that there is a phobia known as agoraphobia.

Learning about this made me feel sympathy for the people have panic attacks as I realized it

can control so much of someone’s life. Agoraphobia is a fear that one will have a panic attack

in public. The fear can take over someone’s life such that they end up locking themselves

inside their houses for the fear that they will have attacks when they go outside. Imagine

getting panic attacks because of underlying fears and then developing another fear in the

process. That must be quite a lot to handle and process if one does not have people that

understand them. My reaction to the entire case is that panic attacks are very serious, have

serious effects and should not be taken lightly.

Case analysis

A diagnosis of panic disorder requires Four or more of the following:

1. Palpitations or accelerated heart rate – when the patient describes his experience of

how his panic attacks are, he says that, “I cannot breathe……as the harbinger of a

heart attack.” This statement shows that the heart rate is accelerated at that point and

the patient experiences an episode similar to a heart attack.

Christopher Scribner
This quote doesn’t quite “show” it, but rather has lead you to infer/presume it. While it might seem reasonable to assume that palpitations/pounding heart were present when she “feels she’s having a heart attack,” she doesn’t specifically mention them, and diagnoses should be made based on symptoms that ARE present/reported
Christopher Scribner
this one is usually considered the most debilitating anxiety disorder of all


2. Chest pain or discomfort- Harrison says that, “the pain in my chest presents itself to

me as a harbinger of a heart attack” He describes this as a feeling that comes when he

has panic attacks and hence meets the criteria of having chest pains.

3. Fear of chocking- Harrison always feels like he is out of control. He explains that his

father tried to kill him through strangulation and that is a cause of the fear of chocking

(Perrotta, 2019).

4. Fear of dying – Harrison has so many fears and most of them are due to their fear of

loosing his life. He says that initially he used to swim but he got a fear of swimming

when he started dating. This shows that he feared losing his life and leaving his loved

one alone. Harrison has a very intense fear when he first started experiencing the

panic attacks (Perrotta, 2019). Harrison had only experienced anxiety and the first two

times he had to go to the hospital even when he is told not to worry about it.

5. Feeling of unreality or being detached from oneself – Harrison describes about an

incident where he is with friends in a retreat where he was having a dinner with

friends. During the dinner he suddenly had a panic attack, he says, “I feel detached

from them. And indeed, from an outward reality.” This shows that the patient during

the attacks would feel like he was not part of what was going on around him.

6. Numbness or tingling sensations (paresthesias) – the patient says, “my legs are not

servants of my will.” This shows that he feels numb and hence does not have the

control over his legs (Robinaugh et al., 2019).

7. Fear of loosing control or going crazy – this is very evident throughout the case.

Harrison after the panic attack says that, “something terrible will happen if I walk into

Christopher Scribner
this criterion refers to “FEELINGS of choking” that occur as part of a panic attack episode; does she ever say something like “when I have an episode I feel like I am choking”?
Christopher Scribner
here she DOES say she has pain in her chest
Christopher Scribner
good catch
Christopher Scribner
here too, this criterion refers to “Fear of dying while in the midst of a panic attack” …. and Harrison does mention that when she has an attack, “It is hard to believe that you are not going to die,” which would meet this criterion
Christopher Scribner
Christopher Scribner
I don’t know who this author is, nor how they are acquainted with Barbara Harrison’s case. The criteria for each diagnosis in these Case Analysis papers appear in your textbook.
Christopher Scribner
Christopher Scribner


my room. And something terrible will happen- is happening If I continue to stand

here” (pg. 4). At this point Harrison was standing up and he felt like he had lost

control over himself and his legs. He had a fear of losing control even more (Uhde et

al., 2019). He further says that he cannot escape the feeling which makes him feel

more out of control. Harrison says, “I am not safe. Even in the bedroom arranged

entirely panic may intrude.” (pg. 5)

Christopher Scribner
what about Criteria B, C, and D?



Perrotta, G. (2019). Panic disorder: definitions, contexts, neural correlates and clinical

strategies. Current Trends in Clinical & Medical Sciences, 1.

Robinaugh, D., Haslbeck, J., Waldorp, L., Kossakowski, J., Fried, E. I., Millner, A., … &

Borsboom, D. (2019). Advancing the network theory of mental disorders: A

computational model of panic disorder.

Uhde, T. W., Roy-Byrne, P. P., Vittone, B. J., Boulenger, J. P., & Post, R. M. (2019).

Phenomenology and neurobiology of panic disorder. In Anxiety and the anxiety

disorders (pp. 557-576). Routledge.