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Differences between Pop Psychology and Actual Psychology

Gaslighting is a term that has gained popularity in recent times through popular media and casual conversation. However, there are important differences between how gaslighting is understood from a pop psychology perspective versus an actual clinical psychological perspective. According to pop psychology, gaslighting simply refers to lying to someone or trying to convince them that they are wrong. However, actual psychologists view gaslighting as a much more elaborate form of manipulation where the victim is deliberately made to question their own reality, memory, or sanity. It is not merely a disagreement over facts but a systematic attempt to undermine the victim's sense of objectivity.

Another commonly misunderstood term is "being triggered." Pop psychology portrays being triggered as something that makes a person uncomfortable or annoyed. However, in clinical psychology, a trigger refers to something that causes a sudden onset or worsening of symptoms related to a psychological condition. For example, triggers for PTSD may involve flashbacks, while triggers for OCD can involve compulsions. The key aspect is that triggers provoke acute symptomatology rather than just mild discomfort. 

Narcissism is another concept that pop psychology frequently gets wrong. In everyday parlance, narcissists are seen as people who are simply rude, mean, or excessively self-centered. However, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a formal psychiatric diagnosis that does not apply to everyone with some narcissistic traits or even those who behave abusively at times. Having clinical NPD involves a more pervasive pattern of grandiosity, lack of empathy, and need for admiration that causes problems in relationships and other areas of life. Not all those with narcissistic traits meet full criteria for NPD.

The threshold for what constitutes trauma is also misunderstood by pop psychology versus clinical psychology. From a pop psychology view, anything that causes hurt or pain could be considered trauma. However, actual psychologists see trauma as resulting from events or experiences that overwhelm a person's ability to cope. For trauma to have occurred, the impact needs to be severe enough to interfere with normal functioning and cause lasting psychological distress beyond what would be expected from ordinary difficulties or misfortune. General hurtfulness alone does not necessarily equate to trauma.

In summary, pop psychology tends to oversimplify or misconstrue important psychological concepts and diagnoses due to limited understanding of clinical criteria and factors. It is important to distinguish between informal usage and formal psychological definition to avoid misunderstanding conditions and problematic implications. The expertise of clinical psychologists helps establish appropriate thresholds and contexts for psychological constructs.

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