It’s your birthday. You’re planning a bash to celebrate your three and twenty years of existence on Mothership Earth. Cue the invite list. Best friends – check. People you fancy – check. Mates from home – check.
We then get round to firm buddies and colleagues. In correct parlance, a person of good taste should exercise the right to invite exactly whom they want to their extra-curricular personal occasions. When it comes to firms, things get political. You see the same set of faces every day for a year. Chances are you don’t like one of your placement partners. Chances are that nobody you know is able to tolerate this particular person on social and anti-social levels, a few snide sympathisers with popularity agendas aside. Fate looks likely that they’ll get bitchy if you don’t invite them. Do you suck it up, invite them anyway and injure your pride? Decision-time!
Imagine if the object of dislike has done no wrong unto you apart from being an arse – inflexible, maladaptive and antisocial at times. Personality is a selection of behavioural traits, which makes up one’s character and individuality. It’s enhanced by genetic predisposition and environmental progress and influences how we perceive the world. Indeed, the individual concerned may not even be aware of the distress caused to others by their narrow range of interests, self-righteous world view and malfunctioning ways.
Such tunnel vision may prove useful in circumstances – as and when you need a job requiring a particular set of skills to accomplish certain goals. This is where a group of individuals harbouring a certain set of traits can be positively selected for – having the necessary inter-personal skills to fraternise with that particular team. Certain professions attract certain personalities, as you may well have noticed with the preponderance of perfectionists in medical school!
Welcome to the wonderful dichotomy of personality disorder!
Defined as a ‘pervasive pattern of experience and behaviour that is abnormal with respect to either thinking/mood/personal relations and the control of experiences’, personality disorders occur in approximately 10% of the UK population. More affectionately known as P.D., the condition is subdivided into three main clusters – A (odd/eccentric), B (dramatic, emotional or erratic behaviour) and C for the especially-anxious and fearful amongst us. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has its own category.
Classifying offensive behaviour is a whole pop-psychology phenomenon of its own. Especially when using crude medical school stereotypes for guidance ;) How many of these do you know?
Schizoid personalities are introverted, withdrawn, solitary and emotionally-distant, continually fearful of closeness and intimacy with others. Your archetypal distinction student, with minimal extra-curricular development could sit prettily among these.
Paranoid personalities abound, with holders interpreting the actions of others as deliberately threatening or demeaning. Untrusting to the end, they’re unforgiving and prone to angry or aggressive outbursts without justification because they perceive others to have put them at a disadvantage. Jealous, guarded, secretive, and scheming, they like to keep both their and your emotions on ice. Think of the insecure rudegirl, hot to trot from a single-sex hothouse.
A pattern of peculiarities best describes those with schizotypal personality disorder. After all, they’ve got odd or eccentric ways of speaking or dressing, in addition to difficulties forming relationships. They experience extreme anxiety in social situations. They may react inappropriately, if at all. Far, far away from other people is the best course of action here – academic medicine beckons, although their numbers are few and far between at medical school, where pack mentality rules, OK!
Cluster B is where things get more interesting; these people don’t make for a dull time – but boy they do get tiresome! Trust, my friend had to endure forty successive weeks of firms with a histrionic and a borderline.
Alas, we’ve all come across one of these antisocial types – impulsive, irresponsible, and callous, with a history of legal difficulties, belligerent and irresponsible behaviour, in addition to aggressive and even violent relationships. They show no respect for other people and feel no remorse about the effects of their behaviour on others. Think of Tony Carroll and his ilk in the playground and be glad they didn’t make it to medical school!
Borderline Personality Disorder is defined by instability in several areas, including interpersonal relationships, behaviour, mood, and self-image. Abrupt and extreme mood changes, stormy interpersonal relationships, an unstable and fluctuating self-image, unpredictable and self-destructive actions characterize a borderline. These individuals have difficulty with self-identity. They experience the world in extremes, viewing others as either “all good” or “all bad.” They’re known to form intense personal attachments to be flippantly dissolved as and when it gets inconvenient. Self-mutilation, eating disorders or recurrent suicidal gestures may be used to get attention or manipulate others. Impulsive actions, chronic feelings of boredom or emptiness, and bouts of intense inappropriate anger are other traits of this disorder, which is more common among females.
Given that medical school is a collection of Britain’s brightest brains, it’ll be rare for us not to have a few narcissists among them! An exaggerated sense of self-importance couples with the need to seek constant attention. They’re oversensitive to failure and are prone to extreme mood swings between self-admiration and insecurity. These people tend to exploit interpersonal relationships. Meet the less admirable members of the rowing team.
Cluster C: the avoidant and the dependent.
Avoidants are unwilling to become involved with others unless they are sure of being liked. Excessive social discomfort, timidity, fear of criticism, avoidance of social or work activities that involve interpersonal contact are characteristic of the avoidant personality. Avoidants have few relationships outside of family circle and are upset at their inability to relate to others. The geeks who choose live at home despite financial stability, whilst refusing to get involved with university life spare thoughts for those hide past papers from? Don’t lie! Their dependent friends are equally wet behind the ears, requiring excessive reassurance to even contemplate emptying their gut.
Medical school would be incomplete without the OCD’s. Compulsive personalities are conscientious and have high levels of aspiration, but they also strive for perfection. Never satisfied with current achievements, people with compulsive personality disorder are prone to taking on further responsibilities, sixty percent of which, they don’t get round to completing thanks to over-commitment syndrome.
Compulsive personalities pay attention to every detail, making it difficult for them to make decisions and complete tasks. Deferring to authority and pleasing their superiors for further personal gain is their forte. Meet the overachieving CV basher, prevalent in every strata of medical school life, with the MDAP form at the forefront of their mind.