Are your characters in need of a psychiatrist? You’re in luck!

Hi all:

I’d been having a chat with Ronovan about the possibility of writing something regular for the blog, apart from the reviews that I do as often as I can, and we’d discussed some ideas. As I’m a psychiatrist and had until recently been working in forensic psychiatry, I thought about the possibility of offering a service to authors who are considering either writing about mental disorders in their books, or would like a psychiatrist’s point of view or opinion on some conundrum they find themselves in (well, they find their writing in).

BAed3HPCYAAEUqa

 

The idea at the moment, if you think that could be of use, would be to create a form where you might have a bit more space than in the comments, to describe the issue (you could also share a short sample of the writing…) and then I would discuss it by way of a post. You can be as specific or as vague as you like, although I might ask for more details if I think it could help.

When discussing what to do to present the idea for the future posts we briefly had a discussion about character profiles. As a psychiatrist, I’m a medical doctor who went on to study psychiatry. Although we do study psychology as part of the degree, that’s not our specialty. I’ve attended courses on Personality Disorders and how to diagnose them (and they are a mine of information, believe me) but it was never part of my job to produce anything like a profile for the police. Although we had to give an opinion as to the mental state of the person, we did not get involved in the trial, other than recommending if they needed to be in hospital to treat their illness or condition.

Thinking about what to write about brought to mind some curiosities, not all psychiatric in origin, but that tend to come to the attention of psychiatrists. I found two superb slideshow that I leave you the links for, illustrating some of these syndromes that seem straight out from a fiction novel. Only, they do happen. Yes, I have met some people suffering some of them, although thanks to the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) there are some new ones, like the Paris Syndrome, that I’d never heard about.

The culture-bound syndromes, that tend to affect people from certain areas exclusively, I have never experienced, but I have noticed in my practice that different cultures deal with mental health difficulties, and manifest mental illnesses in different ways.

Have a look at the links, although I leave you descriptions of some of the classic ones:

-Capgras delusion. The idea that somebody close to the sufferer has been replaced by a double. (Yes, I know you’ve watched the movie…but hey, it happens!). I’ve known patients that presented with this. (It can happen in a variety of conditions although the ones I’ve known were suffering from schizophrenia).

-Fregoli delusion. Here the patient believes that a single individual is disguising himself or herself as a variety of people (Fregoli was an Italian actor who could change clothing and take on many identities in his stage show very quickly, therefore the name). It is rarer than the previous one.

-De Clérambault’s Syndrome. A person (more common in females but not exclusive) believes they are loved by somebody very important, and this can cause all kind of problems (following that person, harassment, scenes…). If you’ve read Ian McEwan’s ‘Enduring Love’, I think it’s a pretty good example. Of course, who’s very important is a bit relative, but important in relation to the subject’s social standing or position.

-Othello Syndrome (‘morbid jealousy’). Here the classifiers borrow from literature. I think you can guess. This is not as uncommon as some of the others and sometimes is seen more in people with a history of alcoholism. It is irrelevant to the diagnosis if the partner might or not have been unfaithful; it is the way the patient reaches such conclusions and their reaction to it that causes the description.

-Ekbom’s Syndrome (delusion of infestation). Pretty self-explanatory too. This can occur in people with a history of substance misuse (cocaine is a big culprit), but also a variety of neurological and psychiatric conditions.

-Cotard’s Syndrome (delire de negation). The person believes that their body has disappeared or they have no entrails, etc.

-Induced delusional disorders. There are different types, but you’ll all have heard about folie à deux. Several people (or two in that case) seem to suffer a contagion of the delusions of somebody else, in many cases people with no diagnosis of mental health difficulties. Not very common unless in special circumstances (people who live in close proximity and very isolated). Yes, I remember a very peculiar case…

As a matter of clarification, these syndromes are descriptions of symptoms, not a diagnosis. The underlying diagnoses can be varied. (The same symptoms might correspond to very different illnesses).

I won’t go on, but do have a look at the links. And remember to let us know if you’d be interested in an ‘ask the psychiatrist’ weekly (or thereabouts) post.

Link to rare psychiatric syndromes slideshow:

http://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/rare-psych

Other 20 psychiatric syndromes you’ll find hard to believe:

http://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/culture-synd

Thanks so much for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, remember to like, share, comment and CLICK (and fill up the form if you have any queries)!

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7 (https://twitter.com/OlgaNM7)

http://OlgaNM.wordpress.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Are your characters in need of a psychiatrist? You’re in luck!”

  1. Reblogged this on Just Olga and commented:

    A new initiative we’re going to be trying at Literary World Interviews. Would you be interested in having a psychiatrist’s opinion on relevant issues of your writing? Come over and have a look!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I got it from Twitter ages ago and I was looking for another image but came across that one and couldn’t resist. I must admit I feel like that some days…:)

      Like

  2. Hi Kerry, Bumba and Melissa. I’ve realised that although I can read the comments you’ve left in the form they don’t appear here and other than contacting each one of you individually I’m not sure there’s another way to thank you, so I thought I’d comment here. Melissa, if I hear about cat whisperers or psychiatrists, I’ll keep it in mind. I agree, Bumba, that in real life many patients do not necessarily fit with ease in any category o nicely labelled diagnosis. And quite a few would probably present features of many. But if anybody has any specific doubts they would like to ask, I’m happy to reply. Of course, as creators our characters are unique and ours. And I’m not working as a psychiatrist at the moment. Looking into other things and not very pleased with how health services are working in general. Kerry, thanks for you interest and I’m checking your site that sounds like a fantastic idea. Anything I can do…
    Thanks all.

    Like

  3. As a retired Registered Nurse, it felt like a natural thing to write with psych diagnoses in mind, so my first novel had three characters with moderate-to-severe disorders, one with a substance abuse issue, and another who was manipulative, but otherwise okay.

    I hope that your “fiction consultant” concept will be a success, and helps others to write more effectively.

    Like

  4. Thanks Tess. Saw your comment although it didn’t come up here. The offer will remain open, as I suspect this might be one of those things that people will mull over…

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s