1. Lizor
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    Lizor New Member

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    How does one write a "crazy person"?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lizor, Jan 4, 2015.

    I'm writing this story in which the main character gets tortured so long, that she becomes crazy and now I'm sort of stuck, because I really don't know how I can let her be "crazy". I mean, we all know the screaming, the nightmares etc., but what can I do to make her mentally crazy?
     
  2. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    Do your own siggy lines reflect on your question? Is there some resolution there - some answers? How do you want to define 'crazy'? What would you have your character do?

    Is it possible that your character's torture manifests itself in some OCD, like frenetic digging of a pensioner's garden? Could they exhibit the Stockholm Syndrome (as you mentioned torture for 'so long.') Or abhorrence at physical contact? Might they want resolution by inflicting pain on others - to share their experience as a way of mitigating the pain (problem shared, problem halved), or by self-harming?

    My old school pal's uncle was tortured by the Japanese. I never heard the tales in detail, but the upshot was perennial nightmares and withdrawal from society. There'll be plenty of reference works on the effects of torture from time immemorial to the present day. Much will depend on how you want to define 'crazy.'

    Just a few thoughts.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do some research on PTSD, which is probably what you're looking for. And, just because it's offensive to those with actual mental illnesses, resist using words like "crazy" to describe such a person. :)
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that PTSD seems like the most likely mental illness to consider, but it's not the only one:

    Other than post-traumatic stress symptoms, torture survivors have elevated rates of anxiety, depression, and adjustment problems,15 including outbreaks of anger and violence directed towards family members.10 Symptoms should always be understood in the context above. No diagnostic terminology encapsulates the deep distrust of others which many torture survivors have developed, nor the destruction of all that gave their lives meaning. Guilt and shame about humiliation during torture, and about the survivor’s inability to withstand it, as well as guilt at surviving, are common problems which discourage disclosure. On top of this, uncertainty about the future, including the possibility of being sent back to the country in which the survivor was tortured, and the lack of any close confidant or even of any social support, compound the stress. Some current conditions are identifiable as additional risk factors: social isolation, poverty, unemployment, institutional accommodation, and pain can all predict higher levels of emotional distress in torture survivors.
    http://bjp.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/04/08/2049463713483596.full


     
  5. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    From what I understand, much of the 'crazy' (though as said above' crazy' should be used carefully) would be internal torment. My great grandfather survived WW1 and was injured in the Somme (not exactly torture I know but it's not far off) and according to family he never, ever spoke about it and refused to answer questions even many years later. I can't imagine what he was possibly thinking or feeling but on the outside for the rest of his life he was stone. Survivors guilt must have played a part as other close family didn't make it back. This would have been many years before PTSD was recognised so again, maybe that played a part in his behaviour and he effectively shut down in order to cope and carry on. Something to consider, perhaps.

    But in general things like anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks, feelings of isolation, seemingly irrational anger, lack of concentration, distress, trembling, easily startled could be features of their behaviour and could be perceived as 'crazy'.
     
  6. !ndigo
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    !ndigo Member

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    I agree with the other posters on having some sort of PTSD or withdrawal.

    I'd also emphasize paranoia because its a very visible symptom. She could imagine people coming to get her around every corner, become convinced that a close friend is actually a spy, think that spies are watching everything she does...

    If you wanted her to go even more crazy you could come up with some great conspiracy theories and have her end up in almost a fantasy world because of it. Like she's convinced that the people who tortured are in league with the trees and all the trees are reporting on her whereabouts and can read her thoughts so she goes to live out in the middle of the desert or in a cave or somewhere.
     
  7. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    She could also have bouts of lucidness where she can see herself doing these things and then turns on herself, almost as if she's trying to excise her own demons. Onlookers would certainly see this as questionable behaviour.
     
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  8. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Crazy is a blanket term.
    You said torture broke her but you didn't say how she broke. Fact is, in life and in fiction, not everyone breaks the same way.
    If you want to know how to write a broken character you first have to answer the question. How did she break?
    I am guessing you have an idea on how she broke. So how did she?
     
  9. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Crazy" is imprecise. Pick an actual mental disorder and research it. If you'retalking about torture than you're looking at some form of post-traumatic stress. Look up what mental issues people who've been tortured deal with - there should be lots of information available. Also you can look at examples of this happening in fiction - the one that leaps to mind immediately is Theon Greyjoy/Reek from Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire. Although in his case he was tortured to the point of being made subservient to his torturer.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2015
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  10. Laeta
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    Laeta New Member

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    Like the people before me stated, research is the key. Mental illnesses are complicated illnesses, that depend not only on the trauma, but also on genetic factors, personality, history of other mental illnesses, intelligence and how much "reserve" a person had before the trauma. This is why different people react differently to the same trauma's.

    Trauma can trigger different mental illnesses. Mood disorders (depression, dysthymia, psychotic depression), psychotic disorders, anxiety disorders (general or specific), sleep disorders, substance abuse and of course PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). In the past decade we learned a lot about the disruption on brain function in mental illness. This means PTSD is not just nightmares, the brain is literally unbalanced. With PTSD there seem to be problems with the hippocampus (memory, reaction to stimulation) and amygdala (fear response).

    Symptoms of PTSD are:
    - difficulty falling or staying asleep
    - irritability or outbursts of anger
    - Difficulty with concentration, memory deficits
    - Hypervigilance
    - easy to startle
    - Reliving the stressors in intrusive flashbacks/memories/dreams, sometimes triggered by similar situations as the trauma
    - avoidance of these triggers
    - Inability to recall parts of the trauma
    - blunting of emotions/affect
    - feeling of detachment from others, sometimes even depersonalisation (the feeling of not being real)

    There can be overlap with other mental disorders. Some have more depressive symptoms, others react with a strong general anxiety, others get (sub)psychotic symptoms.

    Conclusion, do your research. Just taking the main symptom is a gross oversimplification. And try to weave in your characters personality (e.g. for PTSD: neurotic personality make someone more vulnerable, psychopathic traits protect).
     
  11. BlackRaven
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    BlackRaven Banned

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    I like how the only mental illness mentioned is PTSD. As someone who served in the military & overseas, I got to say it's clichéd. Crazy ex-soldier gone nuts. Survivor of some trauma. 35 year police veteran.

    This PTSD - or similar - idea has been beaten to death a thousand times over.


    There's over 230 mental disorders known to man. At least half of them can lead to "crazy" behaviour. I mean, booze even - read the daily mail about the OCD drunk that bust open her "best friend's" eye because of the fact the silly cows were pie eyed and mental?


    You want crazy, research Schizophrenia. Sure it's been done beforehand but it is a very interesting mental disorder. I can say that without doubt having severed in a mental hospital for the criminally insane as a staff member for 32 months.
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is schizophrenia a likely after-effect of being tortured?
     
  13. BlackRaven
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    BlackRaven Banned

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    PSTD / torture = schizophrenia.

    Possibly - let's get off the PTSD :dry: . No one has a clue what starts schizophrenia and that's half the fun.

    World doesn't revolve around PTSD - talk about a catch word if there ever was one. It's like using dog and meaning the 340 breeds all at one time.


    Most of the schizophrenics I dealt with - and these were individuals who could literally have killed you and they'd never spend a night in jail because they are deemed criminally insane by judge & jury - was genetic [family had mental disabilities, not just schizophrenia] or due to drug use. We had two cannibals. One was due to a tortured childhood - father was a bastard if there ever was one. The other, you'd have never known his "problem" - was a guy that could run circles around most people. Brilliant, genius really - and scary as fu*king hell cause you didn't have a clue [even with the drugs] when he'd suddenly decide enough was enough and start going.
     
  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    PTSD divided by torture = schizophrenia? What? I don't understand your first line.
     
  15. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem is that torture won't bring out schizophrenia unless it was already present and just hadn't manifested itself. Like it or not, PTSD is real and is caused by trauma - and if torture ain't trauma, I don't know what is. And it doesn't have to be cliched - it manifests itself in a wide variety of ways.
     
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  16. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you've got a little off-topic here, Raven. The OP was "how would mental illness manifest after torture". While I'd agree that there are plenty of other interesting mental conditions to write about, PTSD does seem a good and plausible answer, and could affect pretty much anybody who underwent enough torture. Schizophrenia, from my understanding, would require a latent condition to manifest, and is thus - statistically - less likely. There's no reason NOT to use schizophrenia if you want to, but it's not compulsory.
     
  17. Laeta
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    Laeta New Member

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    If you do want to put psychotic symptoms in your story caused by trauma, schizophrenia is definitely not the most obvious choice.

    PTSD can have psychotic symptoms (PTSD-SP, PTSD with secondary psychotic symptoms). With severe PTSD it's actually quite common. Vivid flashbacks can transcend into hallucinations, trying to explain these hallucinations can cause delusional believes (someone is following me, I can talk to dead people etc). There is also overlap in other symptoms, such as absence of emotional expressiveness and depersonalisation (feeling of not being real, acting instead of living).

    If you don't want to go for PTSD and still want psychotic symptoms, psychotic depression is an option. In severe depression people can get delusions were they have excessive guilt, think they are broke or in severe cases, believe they are dead (even if they are sitting in front of you and talk).
     
  18. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    You served in a "mental hospital for the criminally insane"? Was it Arkham Asylum? Because that's the only institution that would have such a strange title. Most of the time they're just referred to as "institutions."

    Did you do it while you were in the military, overseas?
     
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  19. Willsonjhon
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    Willsonjhon Banned

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    You can fine your character near you, look near about you your family members, Cousins, school mate, college friend..
     
  20. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi John,

    If you look back at the OP, the question is about a character who's been extensively tortured. I hope you're not suggesting that most of us live in proximity to somebody who has undergone such an ordeal.

    In particular, somebody who has a debilitating mental illness as a result. I mention this because both my father and father-in-law suffered during WWII to the extent that they were a little "crazy" upon return. Neither suffered long-term effects, and lived normal lives for the most part.

     
  21. Willsonjhon
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    Willsonjhon Banned

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    Dear Shadowfax,

    Writing is one of the easiest and the most difficult task in the world !!!!!! It is all about your though i will just provides a option for you to look around and just assume the character. Not want to hurt any one. Sorry !!!!!
     
  22. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not a problem, John. Sorry if my post came across as being at all offensive.

    I have a daughter who works in a high security institution for the mentally ill, working with murderers, rapists, etc. There's the crazy woman who lives on the corner, and then there's REAL craziness!
     
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  23. Willsonjhon
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    Willsonjhon Banned

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    Your daughter is doing great job. God bless her.
     
  24. notquitesteinbeck
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    notquitesteinbeck Member

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    Neither Drug use nor torture cause schizophrenia...though im sure both could trigger a breakdown in someone who already suffers from the disorder.

    I would look in psychology symptoms of trama and abuse victims and shape your character's traits around what you find. There is a wide range of mental illness symptoms that apply sounless ber diagnosis is an element of the story the actual disease name isnt necessary.
     

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