Psychopathology is the study of abnormal cognitions, behaviour and experiences which differs according to social norms and rests upon a number of constructs that are deemed to be the social norm at any particular era. It can be broadly separated into descriptive and explanatory. Descriptive psychopathology involves categorizing, defining and understanding symptoms as reported by people and observed through their behavior which are then assessed according to a social norm. Explanatory psychopathology looks to find explanations for certain kinds of symptoms according to theoretical models such as psychodynamics, cognitive behavioral therapy or through understanding how they have been constructed by drawing upon Constructivist Grounded Theory (Charmaz, 2016) or Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2013). A practitioner in a clinical or academic field is referred to as a psychopathologist.
Biological psychopathology is the study of the biological etiology of abnormal cognitions, behavior and experiences. Child psychopathology is a specialization applied to children and adolescents. Animal psychopathology is a specialization applied to non-human animals. This concept is linked to the philosophical ideas first outlined by Galton (1869) and is linked to the appliance of eugenical ideations around what constitutes the human.