Personality Disorders in the Media

This post will appeal to you if:1) you want to learn about what personality disorders are 2) you want to sound smart in front of your friends when watching TV 3) you want a “cheat sheet” to study for your upcoming abnormal psychology midterm 4) you like reading fun blog posts

Psychologists use what is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – or the DSM – to determine which diagnosis to give an individual. One section of the DSM is on personality disorders which are long-term, persistent disorders that are “associated with ways of thinking and feeling about oneself and others that significantly and adversely affect how an individual functions in many aspects of life.” In consultation with my peers, I have compiled the list below which outlines popular characters that we might diagnose with the different personality disorders. The italicized lines are the official characteristics used to determine if someone meets the criteria for a disorder. Following the italicized lines there are examples of how the character  fits this criteria, although not every criteria is matched. This is appropriate though, since individuals do not need to meet all criteria in order to be given the diagnosis.

Schizoid Personality Disorder – Batman (Must meet 4 criteria)

1. Neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family: His only relationship is with his butler. He has no friends or family. Not even parents. (Okay, the latter is not his fault)

2. Almost always chooses solitary activities: Living in a bat cave will do that to you

3. Has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person: His resistance of Catwoman is beyond comprehension

4. Takes pleasure in few, if any, activities: His known activities are fighting crime and killing. It is unclear if this qualifies as a career or activities though. Regardless, it’s unclear if he could be enjoying these activities…

5. Lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives:To be fair, they all get killed by his nemeses

6. Appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others: The police criticize him all the time and he couldn’t care less. Batman only cares about what Batman thinks

7. Shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affectivity: His voice literally has no inflection in it. I guess if growly was an emotion, he would have that. But otherwise, his demeanor definitely comes off as unemotional

Schizotypal Personality Disorder – Willy Wonka

(Must meet 5 criteria)

1. Ideas of reference (excluding delusions of reference)

2. Odd beliefs or magical thinking that influences behavior and is inconsistent with subcultural norms: “I am the maker of music, the dreamer of dreams!” He believes that all dreams can be followed, even dreams that are impossible.

3. Unusual perceptual experiences, including bodily illusions

4. Odd thinking and speech (e.g., vague, circumstantial, metaphorical, overelaborate, or stereotyped): Half the words he uses are made-up and he uses phrases like ““Oh, my sainted aunt!”

5. Suspiciousness or paranoid ideation

6. Inappropriate or constricted affect: Children are turning into candy bits in his factory, and he has absolutely no problem with this. No concern, no fear, no awareness.

7. Behavior or appearance that is odd, eccentric, or peculiar: This goes without saying. The purple suit and hat are just the tip of the iceberg. He lives in a chocolate factory…

8. Lack of close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives: His social life is limited to Oompa Loompas

9. Excessive social anxiety: He avoids social interactions with people his own age at all costs. He has an easier time interacting with children

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Antisocial Personality Disorder - Grinch (pre-heart-growth) (Must meet 3 criteria)

1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest: How about a hundred accounts of burglary?

2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure: He pretends to be Santa Claus in order to steal Christmas presents from a tot

3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead: He has hated Christmas for years, but rather than plotting extensively his destruction of Christmas happiness, the idea suddenly came to him while he was emotionally wound up

4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults: The whipping of his dog-turned-reindeer Max is heartbreaking

5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others: Considering the extreme incline of the mountain he lived on, using a sleigh as a mode of transportation is a blatant disregard for safety

6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations: I think we all can assume he’s not paying rent

7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another: Not only was he indifferent about stealing, he was thrilled

NOTE: Antisocial Personality Disorder has proved very resistant to treatment, so the fact that those Whos down in Whoville were able to help grinchy Grinch turn good may throw a wrench into this diagnosis. Either that, or we should start considering enlarging people’s hearts as a new treatment method.

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. Borderline Personality Disorder – Anakin Skywalker (Must meet 5 Criteria)

1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment: He was separated from his mother while still young, and he doesn’t even have a father. As he matured, this turned into a fear of losing Padme

2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation: Poor Obi-Wan. Shouting “if you’re not with me, then you’re me enemy” seems pretty extreme considering how much Obi-Wan did for him as a master. Anakin had the same vacillating relationships with all the Jedi masters

3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self: Light-side versus dark-side internal struggle – the extreme of identity crisis

4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating): Pod-racing = crazy

5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior: This one not so much, since his mutilated body was not self-inflicted

6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days): He has a much harder time than any other Jedi at calming himself

7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.

8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights): The murder of the sand-people colony would definitely qualify as anger control problems

9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

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. Histrionic Personality – Derek Zoolander (Must meet 5 criteria)

1. Is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention: Zoolander is never not the center of attention when he walks in a room

2. Interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior: He automatically assumes others are interested in him sexually, and they often are not

3. Displays rapidly shifting and shallow expression of emotions

4. Consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self: It’s the only way he knows how. “Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?”

5. Has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail: Just imagine him talking right now

6. Shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion: He is extremely dramatic. And even though his facial expression of emotion is limited (blue steel!), he expresses himself plenty verbally

7. Is suggestible, i.e., easily influenced by others or circumstances: Yes. yes. This is essentially the premise of this whole movie. Mugato could have convinced him of anything

8. Considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are: The depth in the relationships between him and his model friends is extremely shallow, and yet he believes that “Rufus, Brint, and Meekus were like brothers to [him]”

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. Narcissistic Personality Disorder – Walter White / Heisenberg

(Must meet 5 criteria)

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love: It was never enough. He only wanted to continue getting bigger and bigger

3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions): He only ever really considered Gus Fring to be on his level

4. Requires excessive admiration

5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations: When he’s making a deal on the street, he never settles for average offers. He always thinks he deserves a better deal

6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends: He shamelessly uses Jesse and Skyler over and over again. As he says in the end, “I did it for me.”

7. Lacks empathy: He’s only out for himself and never cares about how much emotional distress he is putting his family and Jesse through

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her: He would never admit this, but it’s so obvious that he never got over the successful of his former company, Gray Matter

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes: He believes that he is above the law and will never get caught

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. Dependent Personality Disorder - Buster Bluth (Must meet 5 criteria)

1. Has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others: If Michael were to ask Buster to do something, Buster would make the decision based on what would be okay with mother

2. Needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life: Although he is well into his 30s, he continues to live with his mother, letting himself be coddled. He lives on family money and has no interest in a job

3. Has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval

4. Has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on his or her own (because of a lack of self-confidence in judgment or abilities rather than a lack of motivation or energy)

5. Does to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant: He has no shame in dressing-up in whatever Lucille wants him to wear for the Mother-Boy pageants.

6. Feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care for himself or herself: Uncomfortable is an understatement; he would most likely have a panic attack

7. Urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends: Who needs a mother when they can have a lover? Buster disturbingly replaces mother Lucille 1 with girlfriend Lucille 2

8. Is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of himself or herself

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder and Paranoid Personality Disorder we turn to Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. An argument for a mixture of these has already been made here.

Avoidant Personality Disorder For this one, no one could think of a good example of this in the media. We think this is because this type of character – being extremely timid and socially inhibited – is difficult to incorporate into the types of stories that get told in TVs, movies, and books.

FINAL NOTE: These diagnoses are intentionally comical and stretched. Personality disorders are very serious and distressing for those individuals dealing with them. The purpose of this article was more to help explain and contrast the disorders in a light manner that is more quickly understood by non-psychologists.