AAMC MCAT Outline: All About Personality Disorders

Session 171

What do you need to know about personality disorders? Once again, Phil from Next Step Test Prep is joining us as we talk about disorder clusters and how to tell apart confusing sound-alikes.

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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:30] 3 Different Clusters

Cluster A is Odd and Eccentric. Cluster B is Dramatic and Erratic. Cluster C is Anxious. People also refer to this as the Weird, Wild, and Worried.

Until three years ago, the MCAT is testing this material at a high level. So you need to make sure the difference between schizoid and schizotypal. They sound the same.

[02:43] Cluster A: Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal

This is the set characterized by odd behavior. Paranoid personality disorder is built around the idea of being worried about things. You’re a little bit paranoid and you find yourself a little bit neurotic and focused on things.

'There's a difference between paranoid personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.'Click To Tweet

Paranoid Personality Disorder

Paranoid is different from paranoid schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenia is characterized by delusions. For example, you think your neighbor is working for the mole people.

Whereas in paranoid personality disorder, it’s not characterized by delusions. It’s more realistic but still paranoid. For instance, you won’t let other people hold your baby because you’re scared your baby might get a disease. It’s worried about things that are more realistic, but still worries.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

A schizoid personality disorder is somebody who doesn’t see the point in social interactions.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

This is somebody who thinks in a disorganized fashion. The language comes strange and they speak a little bit strange and think a little bit strange.

An example is Yoda. The way he speaks isn’t wrong. It’s just weird. People with this type of disorder have logic that jumps around and it’s a bit harder to follow. The language goes with it as well.

'None of these are bad. They're just odd.'Click To Tweet

There’s nothing bad about this type of personality, it’s just weird. It means there’s something strange with the personality outside the norm.

[Related episode: MCAT CARS: What Shapes the Diagnosis of Mental Disorders?]

[07:04] Cluster B: Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic

'Antisocial doesn't mean 'not social.'Click To Tweet

Antisocial Personality Disorder

The schizoid personality disorder is someone who doesn’t feel the need to socialize. The antisocial can be a quite social person. It somebody who’s sociopathic and missing empathy. They have trouble seeing things from other people’s perspectives.

There’s a higher proportion of antisocial personality disorder in prison. They’re less likely to consider what’s going on with another person. They don’t care about other people’s rights and how this makes them feel. They’re more likely to commit crimes.

Another example is when the CEO of a company pushes their employees to do something illegal because they won’t get in trouble for it, but only the employees will.

Borderline Personality Disorder

This is someone who has extreme viewpoints on people. They are usually extroverted. And they’re inappropriate at times. One person who’s open about having this disorder is Pete Davidson from SNL. In fact, he found the perfect career for being on the SNL. He’s a little inappropriate with some mixed extreme claims at times. He’s extroverted.

'Comedians are probably one of the best fits.' Click To Tweet

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder are commonly confused. Histrionic is somebody who’s always looking for attention, whether positive or negative. An example of this is a guy who wears a sombrero and singing and standing on the table.

'Histrionic is somebody who's attention-seeking.' Click To Tweet

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

This is somebody who is looking for positive attention. There’s usually some sort of insecurity stuff going on here. An example of this is a weightlifter at a gym and feels other people are less than him.

'Recognize how great I am.'Click To Tweet

There’s a lack of empathy and this could be confusing with antisocial. But it tends to be within groups. But with antisocial, the empathy is just gone. There’s something missing and broken where they cannot have empathy for other people.

Whereas a narcissist tends to be “I need you to appreciate how great I am and you are lesser than I am.”

[12:32] Cluster C: Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant is someone who’s constantly worried and anxious about other people who are disapproving. A lot of people struggle with this at times and worried about how other people are going to feel and look at this. So they avoid socializing in order to avoid that anxiety.

Dependent Personality Disorder

Dependent is the opposite of avoidant. They need to be around people. They need people telling them that they did a good job and that they’re a good person. And when they’re not getting that feedback, they feel anxious. They feel like they’re not accomplishing anything. They need external approval.

It’s easy to get histrionic and dependent a little mixed up. Histrionic is attention-seeking and dependent kind of seems to be attention-seeking. But someone with a dependent personality would never get on the table while singing and wearing a sombrero.

A histrionic is looking for both positive or negative attention. They need attention and that’s it. Dependents are more selective and have anxiety if they’re not getting the attention they feel or think they need in order to feel valuable.

'Dependent is looking for positive attention.'Click To Tweet

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive is talked about a lot. But they just usually mean they’re a clean person.

'Obsessive-compulsive is characterized by two things: obsessions and compulsions.'Click To Tweet

Obsession is when your brain gets stuck on something. It causes you to do something to relieve that pressure and this is the compulsion side of things. You can be obsessive without compulsions. An example of this is the character Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.

[17:00] Pulling Things Apart on the MCAT

Think of how the MCAT is going to test you. Which of these are confusing and easy to get mixed up?

For instance, a guy who doesn’t socialize with other people because he doesn’t see the need. What kind of personality disorder would that be?

The correct answer is schizoid. But the wrong answers are going to be things that can get you confused like antisocial, avoidant, or schizotypal. So be able to tell these things apart.

Again, be clear with the difference between schizoid and schizotypal. Antisocial has nothing to do with socializing. It has to do with a lack of empathy and a lack of care about other people’s rights and feelings.

Avoidant and schizoid avoid socializing. The schizoid avoids socializing because they don’t see the reason to socialize. Whereas the avoidant has anxiety. They’re scared that if they socialize, people are going to judge them and look down on them.

What the difference between histrionic and dependent? Histrionic wants positive or negative attention, just attention of any kind. Dependent needs positive attention. They need approval or they would feel anxious.

'Stories are the best way to remember anything.'Click To Tweet

Make use of stories to be able to remember things. 

For instance, paranoid is someone who won’t take his kid to the wedding because he’s scared his child might get sick. Schizoid is the guy who lives in the cabin and doesn’t feel like socializing. Schizotypal is Yoda. Antisocial is the CEO.

Borderline is Pete Davidson. Histrionic is the guy with sombrero. The narcissist is the weightlifter. Dependent is somebody who needs approval from other people. Obsessive-compulsive is Sheldon Cooper.

[20:00] How the MCAT Can Test You

Be able to tell the differences between them. Focus on the difference between histrionic versus dependent. They both need attention. As well, be able to differentiate antisocial and schizoid.

Look at how they cross over with other things. For instance, how paranoid personality disorder is different than paranoid schizophrenia. Be on the look for how these things relate to some other topics.

'The MCAT is infamous for its ability to cross boundaries and test something in a way you probably didn't expect it.'Click To Tweet

For instance, they could talk about operant conditioning. Somebody is punished and yelled at every time they come to a family get together. They start to feel anxious every time a family gathering comes up. They have anxiety and problem dealing with this. What kind of personality disorder is coming from this? So this is an avoidant personality disorder.

The MCAT has been testing this pretty heavily and it’s so easy to miss them if you don’t spend any time on it.

[22:40] Next Step Test Prep

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