1. Alanabunny
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    Alanabunny New Member

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    Depth of Insanity?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Alanabunny, Jun 22, 2010.

    One of my novels involves a young boy who has a mental illness, which one I haven't yet decided.. I'm kind of stuck between some form of schizophrenia and a split personality disorder.. I want it to be recognizable to others that he's 'off', which leads me to another problem.. I'm not sure when these types of mental illness were discovered, and when it became generally recognized/understood by society. I would like to place the story in a time when people wouldn't understand the illness, and therefore be inclined to avoid him whilst remaining as 'modern' as possible. [If it helps the story is set in a small farm town.]

    So two questions: Any preference as far as the insanity I bestow upon him, and what period of time would be best?
     
  2. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Any kind that you understand and can write clearly about.

    I think that description fits present day fairly well.

    If we go back half a century, society still recognised mental illnesses, they just had different names and explanations for them. If we go back several hundred years, they were sometimes thought to be demonic possessions, but people still recognised them and attempted to explain them.
     
  3. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Well you say you want to do schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. I say research both and see which suits your story best. Also write whatever you can understand best. I suggest starting with google to find articles about mental illness.

    If people haven't ever encountered someone mentally ill chances are they won't understand it. People tend to be afraid of things they can't understand. So the time in which it happens is irrelevant as far as that goes. Because some things never really change. It seems to be an instinctual thing for people to fear what they don't understand.

    Best of luck. :)
     
  4. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Less is more comes to writing to psychological illness. Something that affect everything somewhat, twist it just a little is more disturbing than using big gestures.

    I would recommend you to read a few biography's, not just textbooks, on people with schizophrenia. Just making cool things up is an insult to those that struggle with the disease.
     
  5. Addison
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    Addison Member

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    Well, precisely. The less sensational, the more believable. What's more to the point, the less potentially offensive.

    Does the OP have any familiarity with someone who suffers from mental illness? If so, I'd suggest drawing inspiration directly from that experience.
     
  6. themistoclea
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    themistoclea Member

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    Exactly. It just reiterates the prejudiced notions that most people have, I mean even using terms such as 'insanity', or 'madness', although it makes it easier to get your point across in a forum, separates mental issues into black and white dichotomies. And I'm not trying to aim for political correctness or whatever by saying that. I, and I believe many others on this site, have been affected by these issues, and it can be deeply upsetting to revert to that sort of language.

    It depends on the book you're writing as well. You could just make stuff up and call it insanity if you want to write something cheap and tacky. OR you could explore the subtle and not so subtle nuances of the human brain (and it's problems) as shaped by contemporary social norms :D (Guess which one I'd prefer to read?)

    Biographies, and good films as well, I believe, could help you- especially in seeing the difference in avoiding a slasher "oh my god he cut all those people up and he didn't know it was him" story. Unless that's what you're going for.
     
  7. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I got a acquittance with schizophrenia. He hears a voice. He well aware that just a hallucination and he just should ignore it.

    The only thing the voice does is criticize him all the time, and try to convince her that his girlfriend is cheating. Yet would you even if you knew the voice wasn't real be unaffected by having this commentator in your head making mean remarks.

    "Don't you hear how stupid you sound saying that?"
    "You are a fat ugly and useless. No on wants to touch you."
    "Look. She checking him out. She want to **** him. She want to leave you. You know that."

    On the literary madness scale that kind of subtle. Yet done right I would be a fantastic ingredient in a book.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You need to do a lot of research. I'd stay away from multiple personality (dissociative identity disorder. aka DID), though. It isn't insanity, although it has been badly portrayed as such. It's an extreme coping mechanism gone amok.

    I have to emphasize that to portray insanity plausibly, you'll need more research than a few hours on the Internet. You might need to work with a trained mental health worker in a consulting role after you do some extensive reading in abnormal psychology.
     
  9. talknerdytome
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    talknerdytome Member

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    I would have a look at Richard Bentall's book 'Madness Explained' as this is very good for explaining schizotypical disorders, and it goes through how they were perceived throughout the ages.

    Good luck!
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    cogito just beat me to it again, saying what i was preparing to type... you need to do the research...

    and read steinbeck's classic 'of mice and men' for a rich and timeless view of how small town folks viewe a damaged mind in a healthy body...
     
  11. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    This is exactly why I shouldn't try to help people when I'm exhausted. I completely forgot that. It's true though. From my understanding, what happens is that a person goes through something extremely traumatic. To the point of where they honestly can't handle it. So they basically split into other people who can deal with it. Keep in mind this is my understanding of it and I'm not a trained psychiatrist. It is definitely not a mental illness though.

    Definitely make sense to me. There was emotional abuse in my family to where I got where I was telling myself all these horrid things about myself. Because I'd begun to believe what others said about me or that they treated me that way because something was wrong with me.

    It's true that even if you can have the self awareness to know it's not true that it will still affect you. I know emotional abuse is a totally different thing. I'm just saying it's the same principle as far as believing something bad about yourself if you hear it enough. Basically I'm trying to say that what w176 says makes complete sense.
     
  12. Islander
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    There are also those who believe multiple personality disorder is often created by therapists who encourage their patients to act out "hidden" personalities.
     
  13. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    I feel I should weigh in.

    The DSM IV for Schizophrenia has changed a gigantic amount, they prefer not to use that term anymore. Now, it's all variations of schizo-affective disorder, or another popular label for people who show some signs of the disorder without meeting the criteria to be called a schizophrenic is Bi-Polar disorder.

    You should definitely read any part of the DSM IV you can find. Or, err me on that one. I forgot that they've completed DSM 5. You'll find clarification of the diseases under both. A Google search of "DSM 4 schizophrenia" will give you a pretty good list of the conditions that must manifest for it to be considered a disorder.

    Now, realism aside, main characters with mental problems usually have something others don't, whether it be special insight, a fools wit, or something that fits into another literary archetype. I think it would be folly to only write about his disease, or even to use that as the focus for your story. Other things need to happen. One of the beautiful things about being insane is having to get through difficult situations whether or not the voices in the next room sounds like your friends laughing about you.

    And finally, the mind is powerful, sometimes more powerful than the conscious human. It does really amazing things sometimes, "A Beautiful Mind" is a great example, though personally I would liked to have seen the government conspiracy never proven untrue. Because, you know, he was a high value target, and you can't trust the government.

    I'd draw inspiration from the character Prince Myshkin in "The Idiot" (as well as suicide boy and mr. murder pants) and the MC from "Crime and Punishment", but that's just because I read those sorts of books.

    The Manchurian Candidate is another excellent story.

    Also, since this is an internet forum and Nonnie already knows I'd like to say that, as a schizophrenic myself, I could offer special insight into this character. I also used to go to Medical School (before it manifested) and I work at a doctor's office. PM me or post in this thread with any questions you may have. I could give some pretty intense answers.
     
  14. Nonnie
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    Nonnie Contributing Member

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    Ha. So, I live and have grown up in just that-- a small farm town. I mean, it's called Farmville, literally. And of course it's your story and all, but I think it should be said that the general population of small town folk do not believe in insanity. I mean, sure, their may be that one crazy old guy, but he's not really crazy, he's just angry, or maybe it's that crazy cat lady, but she's not crazy, shes just lonely; real insanity isn't viewed as such in small towns. Truly insane people in small towns are considered demon possesed; I'm serious. If someone has a serious mental disorder, people are always trying to drag them into a church somwhere, they don't see it as a medical thing. At the very least, that's how the small (SMALL) towns around here are like.

    Also, you have to think of the time period seriously, because the farther back you go, the less understood the whole concept is and the more isolated your person will probably end up.

    That's just the way it all seems to me, but like I said, it's your story, have fun with it. I just thought I could give you a pretty good idea about small farm towns and their crazy-issues.
     
  15. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Nonnie is right. It's definitely worse the farther back you go. People were extremely superstitious and afraid of anything out of the ordinary. Like they would kill cats that were black because they thought they were witches. This is the sort of thing you're dealing with way back. Everyday life was filled with fear and superstition. If something couldn't be seen with the naked eye or fully understood it was feared and some wild explanation was tacked to it.
     
  16. Tyler
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    Tyler Member

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    yes, this whole thing is a bit of a touchy subject isn't it? but anyway, there are scores of different psychological problems out there, and choosing the right one can really make your story. is it physiological? caused by some kind of chemical imbalance? or is it some kind of personality disorder, developed by the person at a young age when they were constantly needing to pick the correct personality for the correct time and place? also, maybe you should put the story around in the 60's or whenever it was when these sort of things were just being looked into...would make it interesting, i hope that helps a bit...
     
  17. Katherina
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    Katherina Member

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    Any level will be just fine, you can write whatever you like but like everyone said, remember to do a lot of research and ask people about the subject just like you are doing so you might have different perspectives.

    And about the place in time, it can be anytime. Tell you how. There are some tribes in the amazonian forest that attack airplanes that fly low because they think its a "giant monster bird". There´s also a little town in Mexico where they think that people that suffer from epilepsy are "possessed". It can be anywhere you like as long as you isolate the people and of course take their internet access away and other ways of communication or learning they could use in order to try and investigate what the disease is. Also, when people ignore what they are dealing with, they tend to panic and treat it as paranormal.

    Just my opinion, hehehe. Good luck ;)
     

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