Does Michael Scott have a Mental Disorder?

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In this blog, we will be answering the question, “Does Michael Scott have a Mental Disorder?”, and also cover who is Michael Scott, what is a mental disorder, exploring Scott’s personality and his issues, and also answer frequently asked questions. 

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Does Michael Scott have a Mental Disorder?

Yes, Michael Scott seems to be suffering from a personality disorder. If you have watched ‘The Office’, you must be familiar with the weird character of Michael on the show and we will be exploring his personality and understanding his character in depth in the further sections. 

Who is Michael Scott?

Michael Gary Scott, played by Steve Carell is a fictional character and the protagonist of the NBC show, The Office. The show is a mockumentary sitcom series depicting a typical American office and the everyday lives of its employees. 

It portrays dynamic personalities co-existing in a small office dealing with ego clashes, monotony, and impropriety. Michael, here, serves as a Regional Manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Pennsylvania. 

His character is an interesting mix of being an extrovert, a proud leader, a supportive friend, an impetuous professional, and an individual seeking constant validation.  The absurd collection of offbeat comedy makes the audience stick to the show and embrace the character of Michael.

What even is a mental disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines a mental disorder as :

● A behavioral or psychological syndrome in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, and behavior

● It is characterized by underlying psychological, biological, or developmental dysfunction

● It is defined to cause significant clinical distress in one’s everyday functioning (e.g. social interaction, occupation).

● It is different from a culturally expected response to a loss, stressor, or major events in one’s life.

● It is also not merely a result of societal conflict or socially deviant behavior unless it is backed by an individual’s dysfunction as forementioned.   

Why do we think Michael could have a mental disorder?

Let us first understand this clearly that most fictional characters depict all sorts of shortcomings and not necessarily have a mental disorder, but, psychologically speaking, it is fascinating to try and find why Michael Scott is the way he is. 

Exploring the reasons behind his thought process, his actions, his overly theatrical behaviour, his self endorsed personality seems like a gripping read.

Exploring if Michael might have a Personality Disorder

Although it is not clear to us that Michael has a psychological disorder or a mental disorder, it is prominent throughout the show that he has rigid, nonnormative, and unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving. This is what is called a personality disorder which is a type of  mental disorder. Personality disorders can be marked as altering two or more areas of

● The ways one thinks about themself and others, 

● The way one responds to their environment,

● One’s relationships with others and

● One’s way of controlling their behavior.

Clusters of Personality Disorders 

There exist three types of clusters of personality disorders:

● Cluster A

It is described as an eccentric cluster of personalities with common features of social withdrawal and awkwardness ( Includes Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder)

● Cluster B

It is described as an  erratic, emotional, and dramatic cluster of personalities characterized by impulsive, theatrical, licentious behaviours (includes Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder)

● Cluster C

It is described as a fearful and anxious cluster with features that overlap symptoms of anxiety and depression. (includes Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder)

Michael’s personality 

It can be observed that Michael’s extravagant persona is mainly inclined towards seeking attention and validation from others around, which in itself is not a terrible thing but a basic requirement as a mere human which makes one feel belonged and accepted. 

Despite that fact, Michael’s need for attention was seen going overboard, not being in the limelight made him feel uncomfortable, he would resent other people being in the spotlight and would want to bring it back onto himself.

His personality also consists of an elevated sense of self, he does feel high about himself and often acts in order to prove so at the cost of others. This egoistic behaviour may arise from his need to counterbalance the feeling of how less or badly he really feels about himself. He remains in constant need of being liked and appreciated. 

Such an individual often cannot bear threats to his ego. He could also be spotted overestimating his likelihood of pleasant events and underestimating his likelihood of facing unpleasant situations, this precisely is known as optimism bias (Weinstein 1980).

Most of these qualities of Michael seem to align with how the DSM-5 defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder to a certain extent, within which

● an individual has a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, especially about self,

● Fantasizes unlimited power, love, success

● Lacks empathy,

● Has a constant need for admiration,

● Believes that they are unique, have a sense of entitlement,

● usually demonstrate arrogant behavior,

● Are envious of others

● often administer interpersonally exploitative behavior.

It can also be noted that Michael presents overtly inappropriate behavior with colleagues and other professionals which are usually related to physical appearances and are sexual, like the infamous, “That’s what she said!”.

In link, are his misled beliefs that his relationships with women around him are far more intimate than they actually are. He is also a highly suggestible person who dramatizes situations to profligacy. These characteristics may cite the manifestation of Histrionic Personality Disorder rather than Narcissistic personality disorder. 

What exactly is Histrionic Personality Disorder?

Histrionic Personality Disorder is amongst the Cluster B of Personality disorders, also called dramatic personality disorders. Individuals with these are unstably emotional and erratic. 

Histrionic Personality Disorder or HPD according to the DSM-5 is a diagnosis that requires a person to display ubiquitous and pervasive patterns of consistent attention-seeking behavior along with emotional dysregulation. Criteria of this diagnosis include :

● exaggerated emotions

● Shallow and shifting emotions

● Provocative or seductive behavior

● Feelings of discomfort on not being the center of attention

● Vague and impressionistic speech

● Being easily influenced by others

● Using appearance to draw attention

● Considering relations more intimate than reality

It is important to keep in mind that individuals with HPD are like “the life of the party’ kind of people who feel unappreciated if they aren’t in the spotlight. They are overly seductive to most people they meet, even if they are not sexually attracted to them. 

Their speech might not be detailed but vague, they might wear bright-colored clothing to attract attention, they are gullible by the people they look up to, and are so emotionally expressive that might embarrass family and friends in public settings.

Michael Scott and Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)

When it comes to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Michael does not seem to fulfil the criteria of checking five out of the nine areas of the diagnosis of NPD. Whereas, he does seem to fulfill the five or more than five checks on the criteria list for the diagnosis of HPD. 

He also seems to use repression and dissociation in forms of defense mechanisms which is proved by a research of a characteristic of a person with HPD. 

It becomes extremely important to acknowledge the fact that such a diagnosis should be psychoanalyzed by a trained and certified professional by evaluating the client’s complete medical history, major events, life satisfaction level, etc. They usually observe and check in with the client for a considerable amount of time, perform testing, evaluations, etc., and then come to a conclusion.  

Treatment for HPD

Psychodynamic psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy, also known as insight-oriented therapy, has also proven to be highly successful for clients with HPD (Morrison,1989). 

Here, the objective becomes for the client to understand their unconscious conflicts, to adopt less dramatic speech and actions, to promote effective communication with others, to realise and recognize one’s attention seeking and hyper-sexual behaviours, and to do away with maladaptive ways to develop self-esteem and replace them with healthier ones.

Gradually, when the client feels ready, they could also be introduced to Group Therapy and family therapy as for the fact that they do like being around other people. This should not be opted for initial treatment as it might become distracting for the client. 

Some things for the mental health professional involved in providing help to the client would be to put down clear boundaries as the client might exhibit overly sexual and dramatic behavior.

Medications 

Many patients with HPD may manifest profound symptoms and may require medication which again should be prescribed by their psychiatrist. Medications such as antidepressants and mood stabilisers have proven to have therapeutic benefits, typically to regulate extreme mood swings and disorders. 

Even antipsychotics have been found useful in treating emotional dysregulation (Nestadt, 1990). Numerous medications are still amidst their clinical trials for aiding specific symptoms of HPD.

Patient education is a critical element when it comes to the regulation of HPD symptoms. It would be highly beneficial for the patient to gain insights into their own ways of being. 

It is also very important to let the client know of the specificities of the disorder and that there is a way around dealing with it through supportive psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, medications, and by beginning to have empathy for themself. The patient can also be given resources to read about what might be happening with them to give them insights.

References

A Therapist Psychoanalyzed Michael Scott From ‘The Office’ (menshealth.com)

What are the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)? (medscape.com)

What is a Personality Disorder? | The Three Clusters Explained (therapeutic-partners.com)

Histrionic Personality Disorder | Abnormal Psychology (lumenlearning.com)

What Mental Disorder Does Michael Scott Have? – DKODING

Wakefield, J. C. (1992). Disorder as harmful dysfunction: a conceptual critique of DSM-III-R’s definition of mental disorder. Psychological Review, 99(2), 232.

Jesse D. Bourke, Camille Plant, and Sophia WooldridgeJournal: Clinical Case Studies, 2018, Page 153465011879634

DOI: 10.1177/1534650118796340

French JH, Shrestha S. Histrionic Personality Disorder. [Updated 2021 Oct 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542325/

Shedler, J., Beck, A., Fonagy, P., Gabbard, G. O., Gunderson, J., Kernberg, O., … & Westen, D. (2010). Personality disorders in DSM-5. American Journal of Psychiatry, 167(9), 1026-1028.

Horowitz, M. J. (1997). Psychotherapy of histrionic personality disorder. Journal of Psychotherapy Practice & Research.

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