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Tom Alderman

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What's in Your DSM?

Posted: 04/04/2013 9:22 am

People who toil in the fields of mental health are looking forward to next month when the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -- or DSM -- emerges. This is the official reference bible for mental health professionals. If you know the jargon, you will find words describing personality types like excessive compulsive, schizotypal or avoidant.

We non-shrinks have developed more common labels when dissing about people around us who we love or loathe. In the interests of non-science, here are a few of the more common terms in use:

THE GROUCH: Nothing is ever right, nothing works like it should. The world is going to hell and so are you. These folks watch TV a lot because it's better than the real world and the remote clicker gives them a sense of control.

THE TAKER: These folks are all take and no give -- practically or emotionally. Your life and how you're doing is not their concern unless it affects them. They expect your support and self-entitlement is basic. A taker will rarely ask how you're doing and then only as a springboard back to them.

THE ALL-OR-NOTHINGS: These folks are borderline, meaning they occupy the tollbooth between neurotic and psychotic. Intimate relationships are hard to sustain because their world is devoid of emotional nuance. They're up, they're down, they love you, they hate you, depending on the moon cycle or whether they've taken their meds that day.

IMPULSO: Snap, rash and impulsive choices are these ADHDers' signature characteristics. Add impatient to the mix and impulsos tend to irritate more than ingratiate. They're quite often ex-smokers -- raised in a big city.

THE ME-ME, as in narcissistic: Often energetic and generous because it's their way of recruiting you as a much-needed audience. They're compulsive managers, who work very hard at being in control of you -- and them. They require a steady stream of validation because their inner core is so hard for them to find.

THE PLEASER: You need something done, need to vent, someone to walk your dog? The Pleaser will be there. Pleasers are so busy doing for others, they have little spare time for themselves. At some point, you do get a due-bill from the pleaser, and heaven forbid if you don't pay up.

THE BABY: Usually the youngest and most indulged in a family. They counter older, more serious types by being playful and fun to hang out with. Responsibility and self-reliance are not on their game boards so you really can't count on them if needed.

THE COGNIS, as in cognitive: Very responsible and organized, cognis expect everyone around them to be logical and reasonable. If you're not, they're surprised and hurt but will never let you know it because cognis keep their emotions well in check. Intestinal problems often result.

THE HEALER: In order to survive, the healer comes from a chaotic family background with a healthy drive to understand complex human behavior. They are empathetic and re-enforcing. You want to latch on to one of these.

THE HAMMER: And you're the nail. Warmth and compassion are not generally found on their emotional tool belts. Intimidation is. There's often a military component here along with an expectation that you WILL follow orders. "Shape up" is their motto. If you're unlucky, they're your boss.

And finally, THE MANAGER: This personality type is not easy to identify in the social ring and so is often put in the herding group. Like collies, managers are good to have along on group outings. They cajole, nudge and sometimes bark to keep everyone in line and moving along. They're quite smart, often cute but they do require treats and attention every now and then or they get ornery.

This is by no means a definitive list of commonly found personality types. To dig deeper into these and other behaviors, take a listen to Duke University psychology professor Mark Leary's fascinating 24-lectures series on, "Understanding the Mysteries of Human behavior." They're part of the Great Courses from The Teaching Company. Stimulating stuff.

Meanwhile, please feel free to add to the above list. The first place to start would the mirror.

For more by Tom Alderman, click here.

For more on mental health, click here.

 
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