“That’s Not OCD” Revisited

Small version of the text

Yesterday’s posting, That’s Not OCD, You’re Just a Slacker, garnered quite a few comments on my tech blog, Global Nerdy. You should check them out if you haven’t already read them.

The most informative and extensive response comes from a commenter named “Another psychologist”, who sums up the problem with the multiple-choice question in the textbook quite well. It covers a number of issues with the question, including:

  • The DSM. Look hard enough, and you’ll find something that you’ve got.
  • Introverts vs. extroverts. North American society favours and rewards extroverts (and yes, a good chunk of my career as a tech evangelist is based on cashing in on this trait, a relative rarity in high tech).
  • “Normal” vs. “abnormal” behaviour. A tricky thing, and I remember a lecture on cognition where a psych prof told our class that being slightly manic is probably a good trait for living in 21st-century North America.
  • The importance of “It depends,” the most important phrase in consulting. Without knowing a little bit more about the back story of the medical student in the question, it’s hard to make a good diagnosis. Sometimes there’s little to distinguish someone having a bad day and someone who’s bipolar (it’s also hard to distinguish between “bipolar” and “asshole” at first glance).

Here’s the comment:

I’d be wary of labelling this chap as possessing “obsessive-compulsive traits” without more information than the vignette provides. His lack of delight in partying may simply be because he is relatively introverted, rather than extroverted. Another normal trait.

The problem with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (The DSM) is that there is no entry for “Normal Personality”.

If the mythical medical student did happen to have OC traits then he was using them constructively. Perhaps this was the point the examiner wished the students to understand, but there is insufficient context to know whether this is true.

As a health professional I would certainly not want to “treat” this apparently well-functioning individual unless his “traits” caused some problem that was not included in the brief description.

One of the things I tried to teach my interns was a healthy skepticism about what was “abnormal” behavior, given the environment and the circumstances of the situation in which it was expressed, and a health skepticism about interpreting elevations on standard personality scales without knowing the patient’s history and background.

If a patient throws a tantrum in a waiting room when told that this Xray has been cancelled again (for the fourth time) this does not necessary mean that the patient is suffering from a personality disorder or impairment of the parts of the brain that regulate behavioural expression. A sick person who is struggling with pain and indignity is entitled to this type of behaviour in the circumstances.

When a group of intern psychologists, but not the intern medicos, get blips on the personality disorder scale of a well-known test it does not mean that the psych group are all deviants who should not be practising psycyology. It probably means that they are got researchers who have been trained to question authority.

I hope the professor who set the test made this kind of thing clear.

Thanks for the comment, Another psychologist! And to all of you, please feel free to keep the discussion going.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

It Happened to Me Life

My Results on OKCupid’s Politics Test

I gave my father-in-law a good laugh recently when I told him I was a radical centrist. I thought I’d check that assertion by taking OKCupid’s political test. I remember taking it two years (and four jobs!) ago and remember being tagged as a social liberal and economic moderate.

Here are the results I got yesterday:


I rated as:

  • 65% socially permissive – a social liberal
  • 55% economically permissive – an economic moderate

The summary said:

You are best described as a centrist. You exhibit a very well-developed sense of right and wrong and believe in economic fairness.

Switching the result chart to the “political ideologies” view, my result point puts me on the outer edge of the centrist circle, just tangential to both the libertarian and democrat zones:


The more amusing chart is the “famous people” chart, in which I’m located smack-dab between Donald Trump and Adam Sandler. I have no idea how they derived Sandler’s social and political views:


There’s one face on the “famous people” chart that I can’t place: who’s that in the lower right quadrant behind Hillary Clinton? The one with the nearly completely obscured face?

I think Barack Obama’s placement all the way down in the lower-right corner in deep socialist-land is wrong and based on too much listening to Rush Limbaugh (although I think any listening to him is a bad idea). I think he should be in the same zone as Hillary Clinton.

A Couple of People I Know

I know a couple of people behind WordPress: Matt Mullenweg, whom I’ve met through Rannie and tests positive for “Democrat”:


and Mark Jaquith, with whom I worked at b5media. The test says that Mark is a libertarian bordering on anarchist. He did answer “strongly agree” to the statement that two consenting adults should be allowed to duel to the death. I wonder if he carries a “slappin’ glove” for those moments when someone has insulted his honour:


Where Do YOU Stand?

Gentle Readers! I’m curious to see where you end up on the chart – go take the political test and feel free to post your results in the comments!

It Happened to Me

Russian Army Psych Test

English Russia reports that the test below has been making the rounds in Russian blogs. It is purported to be a test issued by the Russian army “to identify any hidden psychological diseases” in new recruits. They look like standard colour-blindness tests; if you can’t see the number inscribed in any of one them, you might have a problem:


Here’s the key to the tests:

If you can’t see the number in this circle: Here’s what might be wrong with you, according to Russian Army psychologists:
1 “High aggression, proneness to conflict, the recommendation is to add more physical exercise and cold showers.”
2 “Possible low than average intellectual abilities, can’t serve with sophisticated equipment.”
3 “Possible debauchery, soldier should get increased daily ration, should get more physical activity tasks, should not be connected to food supplies, etc.”
4 “Possible inclination to violence, can be assigend as a leader to his unit, as he can preserve discipline.”
5 “Possible latent homosexuality. Can be light uncontrolled accesses of attraction to the same sex.”
6 “Possible schizophrenic tendency. Required additional inspection.”


I can see the numbers in all the circles, save circle 5. I swear, I wore those assless chaps only once!