Theory and news about general psychology, psychopharmacology, DSM-5, and the high sensation seeking personality.

What happened to polysubstance in DSM5?

Hello Dr. Carter,

I attended your workshop on the DSM-5.  First of all, thank you for an excellent, informative and engaging workshop.  I had asked about coding for a patient who would have been diagnosed with Polysubstance dependence in the DSM-IV-TR.  It wasn't clear to me if I was expected to catalog all of the substances that were abused or if I should use the "Other" category and specify multiple substances.

Thank you for inviting me to follow up with you on this matter.


Yes. That's my understanding of how to diagnose it. In DSM-IV you could indicate polysubstance when a client had no preference for a particular thing. Apparently, that's not how most people used it. They saw "poly" and thought that it meant more than one.

In DSM-5 you are encouraged to investigate and document each individual substance of abuse. 

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Dr. Carter

Why we need people with #highsensationseeking personalities

While #highsensationseeking can seem like a huge problem, it's not all about people neglecting their kids and jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. We need people high sensation seeking personalities (especially the low sensation seeking people like myself) in our society. 

 Crew repairing the Graf Zeppelin

Crew repairing the Graf Zeppelin



What is the wildest post you would make to a social networking site?

“NekNomination” has become a rapidly spreading online craze within only a couple months, and it may clearly reflect HSS personalities among its participants. The game goes by a variety of names, but the rules are roughly consistent: chug a drink, post the video online, and nominate a friend to follow suit. Doesn’t sound much like HSS? Perhaps that’s where the adaptations come in. 

While the original instructions were simply to “neck” and nominate, an additional concept was quickly mixed in: praise be to the most outrageous. For many participants, NekNomination has transformed into less of a typical drinking trend and more of an outlet for the most outlandish (if not entirely reckless) stunts. 

One emphasis has been on the drink. Many individuals have ditched the beer for more surprising concoctions, draining mixtures of hard liquor, energy drinks, Tabasco sauce, spit, urine, raw eggs, vomit, medicine, household cleaners, and worse. 

The flagrant ‘creativity’ doesn’t stop here, for the accompanying performances just might be equally shocking, if not more. Following their drinks of choice, many participants showcase some sort of hazardous or vulgar stunt: stripping down in public, backflipping off a bridge, flying a dirt bike off a ramp, skateboarding down a hill of oncoming traffic, swallowing a pet fish, getting beaten up, lighting oneself on fire, and so on. Despite being introduced only two months ago, NekNominations have already led to the deaths of five participants.

All four major components of HSS personality may be reflected in NekNomination support. 

1. Thrill and Adventure Seeking (dare devilish pursuits)

2. Experience Seeking (spontaneity)

3. Disinhibition (social drinking)

4. Boredom Susceptibility (aversion to dullness or lack of creativity)

While some critics gape at this behavior in shock and disgust, its popularity admits that a significant number of individuals have enthusiastically embraced the bizarre game as an amusing and satisfying opportunity rather than danger.

Take a look for yourself and google NEKNOMINATION


Does driving faster get you there think so

 Driving styles vary along with the plentiful personality types, some styles more dangerous than others, presumably because some driving styles involve generally faster driving than other driving styles.  Dr. Eyal Peer and Dr. Tove Rosenbloom have done research of “the Effects of time-saving bias and sensation-seeking on driving speed choices” and have some rather interesting findings.  They have found that drivers overwhelmingly often go beyond the speed limit because they overestimate the time it will save them in getting to their destination.  Dr. Peer and Dr. Rosenbloom call this “time-saving bias”.  Time saving bias entails that the drivers believes driving at a faster speed reduces the time it takes to arrive at their destination by a longer amount of time than it actually does.  According to Peer and Rosenbloom, “research has shown that drivers typically overestimate the time gained when increasing from an already relatively high speed while underestimating the time gained when increasing for a relatively low speed”, which further explains time-saving bias.

 Can time-saving bias be the only reason drivers speed whilst driving?  According to Dr. Peer and Dr. Rosenbloom, the answer to that question is no.  Possessing the general trait of high sensation seeking entails that the possessor “needs more stimulation to maintain an optimal level of arousal while low sensation seekers manage themselves better in relatively less stimulating settings”.  High sensation seekers have a chemical make-up which in a sense predisposes them to disinhibited behaviors such as driving at high speeds.  The combination of time-saving bias and a high sensation seeker’s potential to drive at high speeds regardless makes for a rather dangerous experience, but for some high sensation seekers, a necessary one.

Einstein was a Big T+

            High-Sensation seekers, those characterized as creative, disinhibited, and witty boundary-pushers are everywhere.  Your mother, father, best friend, or even your grandmother could be a high sensation-seeker and you wouldn’t even know it.  Perhaps you’d gather that they were a bit more exciting than the average person, but never considered any of them to be high sensation-seekers.  In Christopher Munsey’s APA (American Psychological Association) article titled “Frisky, but more risky”, Munsey discusses Temple University psychologist Dr. Frank Farley’s studies in high sensation-seekers.  Dr. Farley points out that high sensation-seekers are real, prevalent, and could even be considered their own personality type. 

            Dr. Farley describes the high sensation-seeking personality trait as “the Big T personality” with the “T” standing for “thrill seeking”.  The Big T personality can be either a positive Big T personality or a negative Big T personality.  Big T negative personalities may be involved in crimes or violence simply for thrill, which starkly contrast Big T positive personalities, which are those who find thrills in physical or mental activities, examples being Mt. Everest mountain climber and Albert Einstein respectively.  The mountain climber finds thrill in the reaching the top of mountain despite the sheer possibility of plummeting to his demise, and Albert Einstein found his research and discoveries to be thrilling