Jan 12

A test checking for traits of the following personality disorders has just been put online:

  • Psychopathy / Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder

Even among professionals, there is confusion about the meanings and differences between psychopathy, sociopathy, antisocial and histrionic personality disorder, and much more so amongst persons who sense problems in their relation to others but need orientation on where these problems might derive from. This test tries to assist in checking for traits of each of these disorders separately and then giving separate results for each of them.

http://www.counseling-office.com/surveys/test_psychopathy.phtml

To achieve as accurate results as possible, this self-assessment combines screening methods based on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (used in contemporary research and clinical practice to assess psychopathy) and clinical markers for narcissistic personalities and histrionic personality disorder according to the diagnostic manuals DSM-IV and ICD-10. The test thus has a relatively high potential to achieve reliable results even when done over the Internet – however, it has to be mentioned that particularly for the personality disorders tested, the quality of the result might be lower if the person doesn’t answer honestly or is delusional, both parameters that are actually potential traits of a psychopathic or antisocial personality.

(Image source: 2.bp.blogspot.com)

Dec 27

Many clients tell me of difficulties finding the right relationship partner. Of course such problems almost always have psychological reasons – in one way or another, these persons sabotaged themselves, they suffer from forms of social anxiety or (in my experience, this is the most common reason) have low self-esteem.

The issues around dating, attraction and sexual attraction have inspired researchers and artists since the beginnings of mankind. Under this – rather ironic – article headline, I will summarize the results of relevant studies and research – and continuously expand and update this collection as soon as there are new findings.

But beware: I’ll not guarantee for the plausibility – or especially success – of any of these hints! 😉

Attractiveness and mate selection

  • “Attractive bodies and faces are symmetrical” – when selecting a partner, we jump on aesthetic impressions indicating a good state of health and fitness, including reproductional capabilities (Source).
  • People with symmetrical physique receive more positive attention when dancing and during mate selection” (source)
  • Women without ideal measurements are stronger, tougher and more resistant to crises” – in Western countries, women with a greater waist-hip ratio than 0.7 are considered to be less attractive than in other world regions, but better prepared for times of crisis (Sources: [1, 2, 3])
  • Estrogen makes women’s faces look more attractive.’ –  during their fertile days, the faces of women obviously look more attractive (Source)
  • Women tend to be selected if they are beautiful, men are more likely to be selected if they act dominantly‘ – this actually refers to political elections, but then, maybe not .. if you consider the other research results mentioned in this blog entry (source)
  • Beauty makes insecure.‘ – this, and that attractive men and women usually find it more difficult to find partners than averagely attractive people, would be a possible conclusion from the so-called ‘sidewalk experiment’ by James Dubbs u. Neil Stokes (‘Beauty is Power: The Use of Space on the Sidewalk’, 1975): on a sidewalk, pedestrians altered their walking direction more often to give space to men rather than for a woman, for 2 people rather than for just 1, and for pretty than for  unattractive women. Their theory was that attractiveness, group size and gender are signals of power which involves territorial claims causing the aforementioned evasive behavior (Source).
  • Other attributes for attractiveness will be judged based on attractiveness of the clothing‘ – attractively dressed subjects were judged as more competent and social than non-attractively-dressed individuals, and, as the researchers suspected, probably as physically more attractive as well (source).
  • Taller men are sexually and socially better off than shorter ones. ‘ – men seem to have their greatest difficulties when dealing with strong, attractive and wealthy competitors, but the taller they are, the less of a role these attributes play in dealing with them. Little men tend to be most jealous. In women, however, the taller and shorter ones are more jealous than the ones of average size. Average-sized women are most shaken by tall and socially dominant rivals just as by other women’s  persuasiveness (link)
  • women prefer older men, older men prefer younger women.’ – a possible explanation for the biological causes of this phenomenon was provided by a study that found that women with a four-year-older partner, and men with a six years younger partner show the greatest reproductive success (source).
  • Man perhaps lost his body hair because it was sexy to the opposite sex.’ – new hope for bald people? (source)
  • Results of an econometric analysis of online dating behavior showed that men who reported that they were in search of a long-term relationship achieved much more success in online dating than those who were merely out on an affair. For men, the appearance of women is of outstanding importance; for women, the man’s income is of utmost importance: the richer the man, the more emails he receives. Income increases the attractiveness of a woman for men as well, but only up to a certain height. [..] Men are attracted by female students, artists, musicians, veterinarians, and celebrities, and they avoid secretaries, retired women and women who work in the military or the police. Women prefer soldiers, policemen and firemen as well as lawyers and financial experts in a management position, but they avoid laborers, actors, students [..]. The data analysis of about 30,000 users also revealed that men have significant drawbacks when they are short. For women, obesity is fatal. That’s probably why many online daters ‘adjust’ these parameters relatively often: male online daters are slightly taller than the average man while the typical female online dater is 10 kg lighter than its real counterpart. In the book Freakonomics in which the results can be read in detail, the authors described their findings, obtained by mathematical methods, as follows: ‘In the world of online dating, a head full of blond hair has about the same worth for a woman as a college degree.’
  • “‘Nasty’ men not only get most women, but also the most beautiful ones.” – in most studies on this subject, these men showed distinctive combinations of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy (Sources: [1], [2], [3])
  • Men should not act as if they were ‘carried away’: uncertainty about the feelings of the opponent increases his/her attractiveness (Source: E. et.al in Whitchurch: “Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction”, Psychological Science, 01/2011).


Sexuality

  • ‘The mere presence of a woman increases the testosterone levels’ – regardless of her appearance, the testosterone levels in men sitting in the same room as a woman increased by 8% within 300 seconds (Sources: [1],[2])
  • The frequency of female orgasms increases with the income of their partner ‘ – sex with wealthy or powerful men probably feels more exciting by women because it may help to obtain access to wealth and power, or to keep this access up (Sources: [1], [2], [3])
    Addendum 04/2010: a counter study was published that shows different results.
  • The more attractive women consider themselves to be, the greater demands they make on their sexual partners – in men, this correlation doesn’t exist, which could mean that they are less picky or less inclined to enter into permanent relations aiming at reproduction (Sources: [1], [2])
  • (indirect) relationship between voice and sexual activity’ – volunteers with a voice perceived as attractive had about equally long fingers on both hands (reference to the context of attractiveness by symmetry, see above), their first sex at a younger age, more sexual partners and more affairs (Sources: [1], [2])
  • Women respond differently to male body odor.’ – their brains can differ normal male perspiration from perspiration resulting from sexual arousal (Source)
  • Women’s tears put off men and reduce their testosterone level. (Source: Shani Gelstein et.al, “Human tears contain a chemosignal” in: Science 01/2011, DOI: 10.1126/science.1198331)

Family / Children / Fertility

  • ‘Correlation between wealth and reproductive success‘: a British study found higher reproductive success for wealthy men; in women, the number of children declines with increasing education and income (Source)

(First published in German language (‘Wissenschaftliche Aufriss-Tipps’) in 01/2008; continuously updated. Last update: 12/2011)

Oct 31

There is a weakness that is particularly frequent among people in service professions, causing burnout and depression rates in the service industry to be some of the highest.

The ‘Helper Syndrome‘ describes a strong drive to make other people feel better. In some cases it is done to ease or divert the helpers from their own pain. But by no means you have to be a ‘professional’ helper to behave this way, it can be a friend, neighbor, associate or yourself who is vulnerable to getting pulled into responsibilities and tasks that others wouldn’t even think about taking at the first place.

The Helper Syndrome can contribute to outright abusive forms of relationships: the ‘helper’ might increasingly experience signs of burnout or feel exploited, and their highest efforts might increasingly be taken as a matter of course with little gratitude for their support – no matter how much energy the helper invests, he might never get to a point where everyone is satisfied.

Another unhealthy aspect of the helper syndrome can be a lack of self-awareness and abuse of the responsibility a helper has towards the helped. This is because a helping relationship is typically unbalanced; people are not on equal footing. A good helper will be sensitive to the imbalance, while an abusive helper will ignore or even seek it. Instead of supporting the other in becoming stronger or looking for additional (often: professional) means of support, the helper tries to keep them dependent, and focuses on reaching their very own goals. To achieve their goals they might even abuse their power, or the trust of the recipient.

So whether the motives for such behavior are altruistic (‘I want to give something back‘, ‘I don’t want them to do the same mistakes I did‘, ‘I want to share‘, ‘I can do it!’) or driven by dubbing their own psychological issues, it is always a sign of emotional imbalance and exploitation, of oneself or others, if someone ignores their own limits and tries to ‘fix’ everything only by themselves.

Typical forms of ‘helper’ relationships are: long-term relationships of non-addicts with addicted, aggressive, selfish or controlling personalities or relationships defined by a strong imbalance (with one partner being the ‘teacher’, ‘the sugar-daddy’ or ‘the boss’). They are functional for both, but quite resistant (and vulnerable) to change, which prevents at least one of the partners from achieving greater self-esteem and realizing his or her full potentials. While professional helpers can use supervision to reflect their work, in our private lives we can just try to take care for ourselves to avoid getting entangled in dysfunctional helping ambitions.

(Picture credit: http://westallen.typepad.com; This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2011)

Aug 05

Beauty surgeons and the cosmetic industry love it (critics claim that they are even doing their best to support? it): the ‘Dorian Gray Syndrome‘ describes a phenomenon where people turn into heavy users of cosmetic products and medical procedures in an attempt to preserve their youth. Oscar Wilde’s famous novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ first introduced the psychological dilemma of affected persons to the wide public: conseqently the syndrome was named after the novel’s protagonist.

While this syndrome as a whole is not scientifically acknowledged, many patients suffering from it actually show diagnosable traits of body dysmorphic disorder (having excessive concerns about perceived defects in their physical features), narcissistic character elements (like a sense of superiority or being more occupied with themselves than with others), and signs of delayed maturation in certain aspects of their psychic development. In their preoccupation with their outer appearance and difficulty to accept their aging process, DGS patients are often users or abusers of hair growth and weight-loss products, mood enhancers, medication against erectile dysfunction, they are often owners of gym membership cards and very often patients for cosmetic surgery (laser resurfacing, botox injections, aesthetic surgery etc.).

In case you happen to know someone who you think might show signs of the Dorian Gray Syndrome: this person might also have depressive tendencies which, if untreated, might trigger autodestructive symptoms if he or she tries to suppress the negative self image by using drugs or repeatedly undergoing surgeries. But who would want to define when it would be ‘justified’ to look out for help? Some might not want to live a life burdened by compulsionary thoughts of this kind, but be able to fully enjoy their lives and take life as it is – like so many others do.

But then, what can be done about it? For some of the affected persons, a personality disorder turns out as the root cause for their body dysmorphic disorder, for others it is a lack of self-esteem. While in order to improve one’s psychological balance, a personality disorder can only be managed by various means (like by medication and counseling aiming at better self management), self-esteem can be improved quite well utilizing methods of psychotherapy. This doesn’t have to be a process that requires years of ‘talking cure’ – distinctive and long-lasting improvements can usually be achieved already after a few months of regular sessions. The goal of these sessions is to work out a more confident and accepting take on what our body involves.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2011)

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06.01.16