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Criminal Minds Psychology 101
It always helps to have a basic understanding of psychological terms when watching Criminal Minds. This list provides an overview of all things psychological that I could come up with today. Eventually, it would be nice if we could add episode names and numbers after the terms to specifically cite when each term was used on the show.
Abnormal psychology: The scientific study of abnormal behavior in order to describe, predict, explain, and change abnormal patterns of functioning (Comer, 2004, p. 54).
Acute stress disorder: An anxiety disorder in which fear and related symptoms are experienced soon after a traumatic event and lasts less than a month (Comer, 2004, p. 166). Exposure to trauma, which is defined as a stressor that causes intense fear, often involves threats to life or serious injury to oneself or others. Examples are rape, mugging, combat, natural disasters, etc. The symptoms of acute stress disorder include a combining of one or more dissociative and anxiety symptoms with the avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event. Dissociative symptoms include emotional detachment, temporary loss of memory, depersonalization, and derealization (Source: Health A to Z). Episode: 3.05 Seven Seconds
Antisocial personality disorder: A personality disorder marked by a general pattern of disregard for and violation of other people’s rights. Aside from substance-related disorders, this is the disorder most closely linked to adult criminal behavior (Comer, 2004, p. 498). Episode 1.08 Natural Born Killer
Avoidant personality disorder: A personality disorder characterized by consistent discomfort and restraint in social situations, overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, and extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation (Comer, 2004, p. 511).
Borderline personality disorder: A personality disorder characterized by repeated instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and mood and by impulsive behavior (Comer, 2004, p. 503).
Cognitive triad: The three forms of negative thinking that Aaron Beck theorizes lead people to feel depressed. The triad consists of a negative view of one’s experiences, oneself, and the future (Comer, 2004, p. 250).
Critical incident stress debriefing: Training in how to help victims talk about their feelings and reactions to traumatic incidents (Comer, 2004, p. 179).
Delusion: A strange false belief firmly held despite evidence to the contrary (Comer, 2004, p. 439).
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): as defined by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a condition in which a single person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. The diagnosis requires that at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual's behavior with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness; in addition, symptoms cannot be due to substance abuse or medical condition. Earlier versions of the DSM named the condition multiple personality disorder (MPD), and the term is still used by the ICD-10. There is controversy around the existence, the possible causes, the prevalence across cultures, and the epidemiology of the condition. (DSM-IV) Episodes: 2.14 "The Big Game", 2.15 "Revelations", 4.20 "Conflicted"
DSM-IV: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition. The DSM-IV lists approximately 400 mental disorders. Almost half of the people in the United States will qualify for a DSM diagnosis during their lives (Comer, 2004, p. 107).
Eidetic memory: Typically referred to a person's ability to recall images, sounds, or objects in memory with extreme accuracy and in abundant volume, however, there is no scientific consensus regarding the nature, the proper definition, or even the very existence of eidetic imagery (Source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Episodes: 1.01 Extreme Aggressor, 2.01 The Fisher King 2 .
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): A form of biological treatment, used primarily on depressed patients, in which a brain seizure is triggered as an electric current passes through electrodes attached to the patient’s forehead (Comer, 2004, p. 56). Episode: 3.19 Tabula Rasa, 5.12 "The Uncanny Valley"
Enuresis: A childhood disorder marked by repeated bed-wetting or wetting of one’s clothes (Comer, 2004, p. 537). Enuresis, along with fire-starting and animal torture, is one of the three childhood characteristics that complete the “MacDonald triad” (Source: Wikipedia: MacDonald Triad).
FFM: Five-Factor Model (of personality). Consists of five broad domains of personality: (1) neuroticism (or negative affectively); (2) extraversion (or positive affectively); (3) openness to experience (or unconventionality); (4) antagonism versus agreeableness; and (5) conscientiousness (or constraint) (Widiger & Lynam, 1998, p. 171).
Forensic psychology: The branch of psychology concerned with intersections between psychological practice and research and the judicial system (Comer, 2004, p. 585).
Frotteurism: A paraphilia consisting of repeated and intense sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors that involve touching and rubbing against a nonconsenting person (Comer, 2004, p. 425).
Grooming: The deliberate actions taken by an adult to form a trusting relationship with a child, with the intent of later having sexual contact (Source: Wikipedia: Child Grooming). Episode: 3.05 Seven Seconds
Hero Homicide: Murders committed by a person looking for recognition without intent to kill. Often committed by heath care providers, these murders are the result of an unsuccessful attempt to hurt somebody and later come to the rescue and save that person (Bryant, 2003, p. 260). Episodes: 1.06 L.D.S.K., 3.09 Penelope
Hystrionic personality disorder: A personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking. Once called hysterical personality disorder (Comer, 2004, p. 507).
Hybristophilia: A paraphilia involving sexual arousal by or attraction to someone who has committed a violent crime (Source: Wikipedia: Hybristophilia). Episode: 4.02 The Angel Maker
Major depressive disorder: A severe pattern of depression that is disabling and is not caused by such factors as drugs or a general medical condition (Comer, 2004, p. 242).
Narcissistic personality disorder: A personality disorder marked by a broad pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy (Comer, 2004, p. 509). Episode: 1.06 "L.D.S.K."
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): A disorder in which a person has recurrent and unwanted thoughts, a need to perform repetitive and rigid actions, or both (Comer, 2004, p. 148). Episode: 4.22 "The Big Wheel"
Oppositional defiant disorder: A childhood disorder in which children argue repeatedly with adults, lose their temper, and swear, feeling intense anger and resentment (Comer, 2004, p. 530).
Panic attack: A short bout of panic that occurs suddenly, reaches a peak within ten minutes, and gradually passes (Comer, 2004, p. 143). Episode: 3.05 Seven Seconds.
Paraphilias: Disorders characterized by recurrent and intense sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors involving nonhuman objects, children, nonconsenting adults, or experiences of suffering or humiliation (Comer, 2004, p. 421).
PCL-R: Psychopathy Checklist – Revised. Includes 20 items, developed by Robert D. Hare to assess psychopathy (Widiger & Lynam, 1998, pp. 173-178).
Robert D. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)Piquerism: A paraphilia in which one finds pleasure in stabbing or cutting bodies with sharp objects (Source: Wikipedia: Piquerism). Episode: 1.01 Extreme Aggressor.1. Glib and Superficial Charm
2. Grandiose Sense of Self-Worth
3. Need for Stimulation or Proneness to Boredom
4. Pathological Lying
5. Conning and Manipulativeness
6. Lack of Remorse or Guilt
7. Shallow Affect
8. Callousness and Lack of Empathy
9. Parasitic Lifestyle
10. Poor Behavioral Controls
11. Promiscuous Sexual Behaviors
12. Early Behavioral Problems
13. Lack of Realistic, Long-Term Goals
16. Failure to Accept Responsibility for Own Actions
17. Many Short-Term Marital Relationships
18. Juvenile Delinquency
19. Revocation of Conditional Release
20. Criminal Versatility
Personality inventory: A test designed to measure broad personality characteristics, consisting of statements about behaviors, beliefs, and feelings that people evaluate as either characteristic or uncharacteristic of them. The MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) is the most widely used test and includes 10 clinical scales: Hypochondriasis (HS), Depression (D), Conversion hysteria (Hy) Psychopathic deviate (PD), Masculinity-femininity (Mf), Paranoia (Pa), Psychasthenia (Pt), Schizophrenia (Sc), Hypomania (Ma) and Social introversion (Si) (Comer, 2004, pp. 96-97).
Phobia: A persistent and unreasonable fear of a particular object, activity, or situation (Comer, 2004, p. 134).
Photographic memory: see "eidetic memory"
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): An anxiety disorder in which fear and related symptoms continue to be experienced long after a traumatic event (Comer, 2004, p. 166). Episode: 2.17 Distress.
Preferential Offender: One of the two types of child molesters, the other being the situational offender. Preferential offenders:
- Have a particular sexual preference for children of a particular age, gender or a child with specific physical characteristics.
- Are extremely dangerous because of their predatory nature.
- Are proactive in seeking their victim and aggressively engage in bold and repeated attempts to molest a child
- Invest significant amounts of time, energy, money and other resources to fulfill their sexual desires.
- Have excessive interest in children, seek access to children, and frequently move to avoid capture.
- May maintain pornographic collections and photograph children and/or their victims (Source:Child Protection Training).
Episode: 3.05 Seven Seconds
Psychopathy: See "Anti-social personality disorder."
Psychosis: A state in which a person loses contact with reality in key ways (Comer, 2004, p. 435).
Psychotropic medications: Drugs that mainly affect the brain and reduce many symptoms of mental dysfunctioning (Comer, 2004, p. 19). Psychotropic medications include drugs such amphetamines, barbiturates, and psychedelics. Psychotropics are broken down into various classes or “schedules” of controlled substances. Schedule I includes the most restricted drugs such as hallucinogens (psychedelics) and Cannabis, Schedule II includes amphetamines, Schedule III includes barbiturates, and Schedule IV includes tranquilizers, hypnotics, and most analgesics (Source: Wikipedia: Convention on Psychotropic Substances).
Schizoid personality disorder: A personality disorder characterized by persistent avoidance of social relationships and little expression of emotion. Like people with paranoid personality disorder, these individuals do not have close ties with others but the reason for this is not paranoia—these individuals genuinely prefer to be alone (Comer, 2004, p. 495).
Schizophrenia: A psychotic disorder in which personal, social, and occupational functioning deteriorate as a result of strange perceptions, disturbed thought processes, unusual emotions, and motor abnormalities (Comer, 2004, p. 435). Episodes: 1.09 Derailed, 2.01 "The Fisher King (Part 2)", 2.15 "Revelations", 4.06 "The Instincts", 4.07 "Memoriam", 5.07 "The Performer", 6.19 "With Friends Like These..."
Situational Offender: One of the two types of child molesters, the other being the preferential offender. Far more situational offenders exist in society than preferential sex offenders but they have fewer victims. Situational Offenders:
- Are opportunists engaging in misconduct when the opportunity presents itself.
- Are indiscriminate concerning whom they molest and act completely on impulse (Source: Child Protection Training).
Stressor: An event that creates a sense of threat by confronting a person with a demand or opportunity for change (Comer, 2004, p. 161).
Stress response: A person’s particular reaction to stress (Comer, 2004, p. 161).
Tardive dyskinesia: Extrapyramidal effects that appear in some patients after they have taken conventional antipsychotic drugs for some time. This syndrome may include involuntary writhing or ticlike movements (Comer, 2004, p. 472). Episode: 1.09 Derailed.
Type A personality style: A personality pattern characterized by hostility, cynicism, drivenness, impatience, competitiveness, and ambition (Comer, 2004, p. 184).
Type B personality style: A personality pattern in which persons are more relaxed, less aggressive, and less concerned about time (Comer, 2004, p. 184).
Victimology: An important aspect of investigating a violent crime is an understanding of the victim and the relation that their lifestyle or personality characteristics may have contributed to the offender choosing them as a victim. Victims are classified during an investigation in three general categories that describe the level of risk their lifestyle represents in relation to the violent crime that has been committed:
- High Risk Victims: Victims in this group have a lifestyle that makes them a higher risk for being a victim of a violent crime. The most obvious high risk victim is the prostitute. Prostitutes are high risk because they will get into a stranger's car, go to secluded areas with strangers, and for the most part attempt to conceal their actions for legal reasons.Offenders often rely on all these factors and specifically target prostitutes because it lowers their chances of becoming a suspect in the crime.
- Moderate Risk Victims: Victims that fall into this category are lower risk victims, but for some reason were in a situation that placed them in a greater level of risk. A person that is stranded on a dark, secluded highway due to a flat tire that accepts a ride from a stranger and is then victimized would be a good example of this type of victim level risk.
- Low Risk Victims: The lifestyle of these individuals would normally not place them in any degree of risk for becoming a victim of a violent crime. These individuals stay out of trouble, do not have peers that are criminals, are aware of their surroundings and attempt to take precautions to not become a victim. They lock the doors, do not use drugs, and do not go into areas that are dark and secluded etc. (Source: Victimology). Episodes: 2.01 The Fisher King 2,3.05 Seven Seconds, 3.09 Penelope .
Bryant, C. D. (2003). Handbook of Death & Dying. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Comer, R. J. (2004). Abnormal Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
Child Protection Training
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Widiger, T. A., & Lynam, D. R. (1998). Psychopathy and the five-factor model of personality. In T. Millon, E. Simonsen, M. Birket-Smith, & R. D. Davis (Eds.), Psychopathy: Antisocial, criminal, and violent behavior (pp. 171-187). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
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