1. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    Obvious signs of mental illness

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by stormcat, Oct 15, 2014.

    Most of the characters in my story are in some way mentally ill. This ranges from irrational phobias, depression, drug addiction, and even full-blown schizophrenia. Problem is with my (paranoid) schizophrenic character, I don't know what to make him do or say to show the audience that he is deeply disturbed.

    1. I can't have him claim the government is watching him because technically, he IS the government. He's the king of the realm and he has total control over every political action in the land.

    2. He is obsessed with cleanliness and the color white. He believes that anything pure white in color is automatically in it's purest form. He doesn't seem to have much of an eye for telling the shades of white apart though. How do I work in more OCD-cleaning behavior?
     
  2. Lemon flavoured
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    Lemon flavoured Active Member

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    The obvious answer there would be to have him assume almost everyone is plotting to overthrow him based on the flimsiest evidence. His bath water is slightly too hot? Means the servant is trying to kill him by scalding him to death! that kind of thing.
     
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  3. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    1. Have him hallucinate weird beings that follow him. Very simple, and not uncommon for schizophrenia.
    2. Put very high emphasis on which cleaning products he's using, what order he is using them in, and what they each do. Watch Patrick Bateman's makeup scene in American Psycho for reference. OCD is an anxiety disorder. Make him seem uncomfortable/borderline anxious around unclean things.
     
  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    OCD is driven by a belief that something terrible will happen if the right process is not followed, e.g. your mother will die horribly if you do not wipe down the door-handle with a clean tissue five times before you use it to open the door to leave the house...and if the process is interrupted, you must start again from scratch. It's this "start again from scratch" aspect that is how a sufferer can seem to get stuck in an endless loop.
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hitler is assumed to have suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, amongst other psychiatric ailments and personality disorders. So you can look into that, his mannerisms, obsessions, speech, relationships with others, etc. All deeply paranoid and deluded.

    Most schizophrenics exhibit speech problems and so called 'formal thought disorder' and unless you are a mental health worker or otherwise understand the types of impairments and how they relate to severity and type of psychosis, or know someone well who struggled through relapses of this disease, it is very difficult to accurately represent psychotic speech.

    However, paranoid schizophrenia subtype is often not accompanied by any obvious speech issues, it's the internal turmoil in response to paranoia, delusions and hallucinations, that conveys the illness best. This is why a many paranoid schizophrenics don't get diagnosed for a long time, and some even get police protection from their perceived persecutors, until at some point the central delusion is revealed, and it becomes clear what the issue is.
     
  6. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Most (99%) of schizophrenics, but especially paranoid schizophrenics, create an elaborate framework in which their hallucinations make sense. This is why you see a lot of them obsessing over the government, or aliens or the apocalypse.

    It's very important to remember that the vast majority of hallucinations they experience are less then 30 seconds. In fact the majority are "flash hallucinations" that distort the appearance of a person or thing for less then a second. These are tailored both to the person or thing that the hallucination appears on, and the paranoid fantasy, and help reinforce that fantasy.

    An easy example: Lizard men are very popular among paranoid schizophrenics. For them a persons face (or eyes, especially the eyes) might flash into lizard skin or lizard eyes. The best explanation is that the person is actually a lizard alien, whose holographic disguise has failed momentarily. This might be reinforced by tactile hallucinations of scaly skin, or auditory hallucinations of hissed speech.

    For my wife, it's zombies, and while she isn't technically a paranoid schizophrenic (she's actually schizoaffective) she still has flashes of peoples dead faces or black eyes.

    Your first job is to figure out what the paranoid fantasy is. It doesn't matter if this man is the government, there's always shadow people, mole men, Illuminati, free masons, and fairies. If it's a wold without the concept of aliens, there's no reason for lizard men not to exist. Their holographic disguises can be magical glamors and whatnot.

    The fact that this character is in a position of authority doesn't lessen his potential for paranoia at all. In fact it would increase it. There are constantly forces trying to usurp his throne, whispering and scheming where he couldn't see them and then shouting unintelligibly from empty doorways.

    And of course there are always zombies.
     
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  7. Stephen Paden
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    Stephen Paden Member

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    You could have him touch the doorknob 6 times after he locks it. You could also make him hate the letter 'G' and hyperventilate when he gets near trees.
     
  8. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    You just have them clean a lot, or wash their hands a lot ESPECIALLY when under a great deal of stress. But it can't be pleasurable, every single person I've met with OCD both personally and professionally has found engaging in their compulsions to be highly unpleasant.

    OCD obsessions are by nature irrational. The vast majority of OCD suffers recognize that their given obsessions are irrational (in fiction, people with OCD are often depicted in very unrealistic ways - for instance, OCD sufferers who believe their compulsions make sense).
     
  9. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    Was gunna also say that cleaning rituals are really over-used in fiction that depicts individuals with OCD.
    There's actually 4 common "symptom dimensions":


    ●Cleaning — Fears of contamination and cleaning rituals
    ----> Often times this specifically is bodily cleaning. I.e. they take 2-hour long showers, take multiple showers per day, wash their hands 40x per day, etc.
    It is usually specific to self-cleaning, not general house cleaning (although it definitely can be).

    ●Symmetry — Symmetry obsessions and repeating, ordering, and counting compulsions

    ●Forbidden or taboo thoughts — Examples include aggressive, sexual, and religious obsessions, and related compulsions

    ●Harm (eg, thoughts or images about harm befalling oneself or others and checking compulsions)


    I have PLENTY of real life examples of obsession-compulsions pairs. The most interesting:

    A young man who checked his pulse 80 or more times per day. Was actually a medical student, believe it or not. He believe he "might" have something wrong with his heart despite seeing 3 cardiologists and a full negative work-up (costing tens of thousands of dollars). One year, he was in the emergency room 30 times because he was worried his panic attack was actually a heart attack.

    This is was an individual who has a master's degree in human physiology and is an allopathic (MD) medical student at a fairly good school. Just to give you an idea of how irrational their OCD manifestations can be. If you asked this guy, he would freely admit his concerns were unrealistic.

    I always cringe when fictional people with OCD revel in their rituals or think they are totally reasonable. I have never met a patient with severe OCD who was like this.
     

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