Book Review of The Psychology of Dexter: Part 1/3

Frequent followers of this blog know I’m a fan of the television show Dexter– not necessarily for its medical accuracy but for its amazing plot and character development. Honestly, I wish I would have been the author to create a series about a vigilante serial murderer working for the police department.

Sheer genius. You can read some of my medical analysis of Dexter here and here.

So, of course, I was intrigued when I found the non-fiction book The Psychology of Dexter that includes a collection of essays on various topics analyzing the show from different mental aspects and, over the next few posts, I’m going to highlight some interesting tidbits I learned along the way.

The first essay I found interesting was titled Rethinking Dexter by Lisa Firestone, PhD. What follows are quotes from the actual book or are very close paraphrases. This particular essay dealt with childhood PTSD and  whether or not early treatment of psychopathic children could reduce their violent nature in the future.

1. “Research shows that a child’s cruelty toward animals almost always arises out of an abusive family environment. Humane education that focuses on developing empathy toward animals generalizes to empathy for human beings. The National District Attorney Association suggests that targeted therapy at this could save future lives.”

2. “Research suggests that psychopaths almost always are treatable if they receive intensive therapy for a proper duration of time.” which throws out the theory that there is not hope for these types of people.

3. “Studies have shown that almost 100% of children who witness parental homicide develop PTSD because of the severity of the traumatic event. Eighty percent of children that have been imprisoned, rendered immobile in some way (buried alive, tied up, or tortured) will develop PTSD as well.”

4. “Childhood trauma has an impact on actual brain development. It can cause serious structural abnormalities in the frontal lobe, known as ‘the seat of emotion.’ Brain researchers have found that these abnormalities often result in deep-seated personality deficits such as an inability to be empathetic.”

4. “When childhood events are traumatic enough to cause PTSD, children dissociate from themselves as the helpless victim and identify instead with the aggressor. They identify with the very person who is hurting them, who they see as strong and not vulnerable to the type of pain they are experiencing. This is the only survival strategy available to the child.”

5. “An additional common symptom of early childhood PTSD is post-traumatic play, in which children repeat themes or aspects of the trauma they experienced. This does not relieve anxiety.”

Are you surprised by any of this information as it relates to childhood PTSD?

Top Three Medically Inaccurate Shows: IMHO

Let me say first, television shows are not a good resource for medical research. Scratch that– reality shows where they actually film a medical team in action are good for sights, sounds, etc.

However, those fictionalized series written by writers are likely not. Here are my top three offenders as far as medical inaccuracy goes. This is not to say that I don’t love watching these shows– how else would I know they were so horrible for medical inaccuracy?

#3  Dexter: The reason I include Dexter on this list is that it perpetuated one of the leading medical myths. . . that you must keep the head injured patient awake. This is not true and doesn’t prevent a serious medical outcome. You can read here about this medical myth.


#2  FlashPoint: From giving a patient (my favorite character) too much Morphine that would have likely killed him to my favorite sentence, “I can’t detect a heartbeat. His blood pressure is low.” For one, if you are listening to the patient’s chest and can’t hear a heartbeat, then your patient is dead and therefore has no blood pressure and should receive CPR post haste!

#1  Grey’s Anatomy: I’m not even a surgeon and I know that watching Grey’s likely causes surgeons across the country to go into lethal arrhythmias. Two of my favorite instances of medical inaccuracy. One was a patient who needed major neck surgery– twice. After the first neck surgery, he’s placed in a C-collar to prevent movement. But then, it becomes medically necessary to do plastic surgery on his ear (not life saving by any means). In that shot, the patient’s head was turned all the way to the side so they could reach it. Guess his neck was stable after a mere few hours. Then he goes back for a second neck surgery and after that, isn’t even in a C-collar. That is some rapid healing– let me say.

My next favorite Grey’s inaccuracy was the chief resident having control over the nurses’ schedule. People, let me tell, physicians do not have anything to do with staffing nurses. Never. Especially to put them closer to a physician they are pining over.

What medical shows would you add to my list?