Introduction - Psychological Disorders

MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review - Kaplan Test Prep 2021–2022

Psychological Disorders

Chapter Profile


The content in this chapter should be relevant to about 4% of all questions about the behavioral sciences on the MCAT.

This chapter covers material from the following AAMC content category:

7A: Individual influences on behavior

MCAT Expertise

If you’ve taken a glance at the rest of this book, you might have noticed that this chapter has a low percentage of relevant content as compared to the rest of the chapters within MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review. While Chapter 7 materials will be tested less often than the other materials in this book, there are so many psychology questions on the MCAT that even lower-yield topics within the behavioral sciences will get you points!

The progress in our understanding of hysteria has come largely through the elaboration of the so-called mechanisms by which the symptoms arise. These mechanisms have been declared to reside or to have their origin in the subconsciousness or coconsciousness. The mechanisms range all the way from the conception of Janet that the personality is disintegrated owing to lowering of the psychical tension to that of Freud, who conceives all hysterical symptoms as a result of dissociation arising through conflicts between repressed sexual desires and experiences and the various censors organized by the social life. . . . [T]he origin of the symptoms can be traced to a more simple and fairly familiar mechanism, one which, in its essence, is merely an intensification of a normal reaction of many women to marital difficulties. In other words, women frequently resort to measures which bring about an acute discomfort upon the part of their mate, through his pity, compassion and self-accusation. They resort to tears as their proverbial weapon for gaining their point.

The above is an excerpt from the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 1915. Merely 100 years ago, our understanding of psychological disorders was in its infancy. Hysteria—the antiquated name for conversion disorder—was thought to result from marital discord and repressed sexual desires. We are now beginning to understand the underlying psychological and biological factors at play in a number of mental illnesses. In this chapter, we will focus on several different types of psychological disorders, their classification, causes, and frequencies.