Are psychology majors crazy?

crazypsychThe above image shows some search terms people have used to find this blog.  This tells me two things.

1. People want to know if psychology majors are crazy.

2. There are people who don’t realize a “?” is unnecessary for a search engine.

This post will focus on the first observation, rather than the second. Though I do think the second is also important.

Please note: This post is purely conjecture. I have not met every single psychology major in the world or interviewed a sufficiently sized random sample. I can’t draw real conclusions about an entire group. Everything I am saying is just based on personal experience.

The title of my blog is intended to be a little tongue in cheek. I’m a psychology major and I might half-jokingly refer to myself as “crazy” so it seemed like a good blog title. Humor is a useful defense.

So are psychology majors crazier than the average person?

I think everyone is a little crazy, just in different ways and in varying amounts.

It takes a certain amount of sanity to be able to be in college. I think a better question is “Are psychology majors crazier than the average college student?”

I can’t really answer that. I don’t think anyone can.

I believe that I am probably crazier than the average psychology major as well as the average college student.

I know a lot of “crazy” psychology majors. But I just in general associate myself with fellow crazy people. Some of them just happen to be psychology majors. The majority are not.

Looking at my peers in class they don’t seem particularly crazy. They could perhaps be excellent at hiding it. People have many different motivations for an interest in psychology. Personal experience is just one of them.

A psychology major who happens to also be “crazy” likely has greater insight into their problems. I believe that insight helps a person function better and thus makes them less crazy. It blows me away how little some non-psychology majors know about the problems they are suffering from. Knowledge is very beneficial.

A non-psychology major who I know was recently diagnosed with social anxiety. When I first met her, I assumed she already had been diagnosed with it, because it seemed obvious to me. Last semester she was struggling with her classes. A large part of the problem was her fear of talking in class for oral presentations (she’d skip class when she had one or put off doing the assignment) and she skipped appointments she made to talk to the professor for help because she’d get too anxious. Eventually she went to the school counseling center where she was diagnosed with social anxiety. She hadn’t had a clue there were treatment options for her problem and is now getting help.

A psychology major might not have needed to wait so long to realize there were options available for help.

Hypothetically, if psychology majors are psychologically different from other majors this would pose a problem for some research being conducted at universities. Many psychology classes at colleges offer small amounts of extra credit for participating in one of the school’s research studies. While many psychological studies do have specific inclusion and exclusion criteria, often (at least at my school and others I have heard of) the ones available for extra credit are open to all. If psychology  students are “crazier” this could potentially be hurting the results of the study and making them less able to be generalized to the whole population.

In conclusion, I don’t have evidence to say whether or not psychology majors are crazier than the average college student. I just think those that are, are more aware of their personal crazy. This might cause them to be more vocal about it and maybe seem more crazy, but in the end the additional insight they have is able to help them.

What do you think?

“I don’t know”

I say “I don’t know” in therapy a lot. This isn’t a very good thing. It’s equivalent to someone in improv saying “no”. Everything comes to a halt. It messes up free association pretty badly.

The majority of the time I legitimately don’t know how to answer the question. Sure there are times when I say that to get out of answering something I don’t want to talk about, but most of the time this isn’t the case. Unfortunately people don’t tend to believe me when I say “I don’t know”.

There are certain types of questions I have trouble answering. Broad generalized questions that I hadn’t considered the answer to before.

For example I would have trouble answering “What was your favorite thing about yesterday?

Things from yesterday might pop into my head while I strain to try to figure out the answer and they’d feel just out of reach. My mind goes blank and gives up.

But if the question was rephrased to “What was one thing you found enjoyable about yesterday?”  I could answer that. It’s a similar question, but not the same thing. The first requires accessing all of the memory about yesterday’s events and examining it in a new way to come to a new conclusion. This second question only requires accessing my memory and finding one that is already associated with being enjoyable. There is no manipulation of the old information.

If yesterday you had told me “Tomorrow I will ask you what your favorite thing from today was“. I could go about my day making mental notes as I went of a hierarchy of favoriteness. Then when asked “What was your favorite thing about yesterday?” I’d be able to answer the question. The problem is with accessing the old information and manipulating it into something new.

This is not a problem in my day to day life. Generally when a person responds “I don’t know” to a question the conversation is able to continue. In therapy however it is a problem, because it is a mostly one sided conversation. Just one of the many reasons why I’m a pain in the arse to work with.

One therapist suggested that it was a problem with executive function. Unfortunately executive function is a very vaguely defined term. I do think this is an interesting idea though.

I’ve taken many neuropsych tests and one of them is a test where the person needs to name as many words as they can all beginning with a certain letter within a time limit. This is one test used to assess executive function. I never do well on it.

The context of where I take the test though impacts how I score on it. I would do worse in an empty room than one with more items in it.

Supposed the letter I am trying to find words for is “W”. I would look around the room for visual clues when I get stuck. If I see something that begins with that letter I’ll say it. The more interesting part is how I can use the visuals to get to words that are not in the room. If I saw a computer keyboard I could use that to get to the word “write”. The visual information can act as a launching pad. Clues can help me find information that I had all along but couldn’t access.

This same concept can be applied to answering the generalized questions. Suppose I’m asked series of specific questions that hover around the topic of a question I can’t answer. This can help me gather enough information to answer the original difficult question.

In my first week of college I had a class where the prof decided to start off with a icebreaker game. Ew. The game she chose was for her to pick a color and each person had to come up with as many things that were that color as he/she could. She wasn’t aware that this was similar to a popular psychological test. I got orange. The only thing I came up with was the fruit orange. I had a panic attack when I got stuck. Not really the greatest way to start off college.  Of course after class on the way home I spotted orange traffic cones.