1. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Writing Mental Illnesses

    Discussion in 'Research' started by JTheGreat, May 14, 2010.

    In my story, one of the main character's mother suffers from a self-induced mental disorder when her husband dies in battle.

    One problem: I know nothing of mental diseases similar to the one I want in my story. I know complexes, personality disorders, but nothing clinical.

    The only specification is that the mother doesn't recognize her child, and inadvertently attacks her (main character) as a result of this misunderstanding. I could do facial recognition-related amnesia, but amnesia and all of its variations are usually gotten over quickly (with memory stimulants), and in my story her husband's been dead for four years.

    Are there any psychologists in the audience? 'Cause there's not one on the stage! Help!
     
  2. Colby_Shea
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    Colby_Shea New Member

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    While I'm not a psychologist, I might be able to lend a hand.

    It sounds to me like temporary psychosis might be what you're looking for. Psychosis is a loss of reality, and includes hallucination, delusions, etc. While it's often caused by chemical factors, there are cases in which it has been caused by mental stress and exhaustion, and it could last for years.

    I could go on talking about it, but it might be easier to google it and see if it's what you're looking for. ;) Hope I helped.
     
  3. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Ah, beat me to it :p

    From what I know, there are few hard and fast rules or laws in Psychology. People are only barely catagorizable, even in mental health. I'd personally recommend against using big convenient labels to caricaturize people's behavior, not that that's what you're doing.

    From my own understanding, a lot of mental illness arises from patterns of thinking. The more you think in a depressed manner, the easier and more natural a pattern of thought it becomes, cognitively and neurologically. Same with OCD, delusions, and most pathologies. Such patterns are often established in response to an external psychosocial force, such as the stress of losing one's true love and all or being abused or any situation to which we must adapt. I see no reason that a grief-induced psychosis couldn't continue for 4 years, if she was never able to come to terms with the cause of it - her husband's death - break the pattern and move on. It may have to be pretty severe and nearly all-consuming, but why not.
    And like Colby demonstrated, the effects of psychosis are very varied - unlimited almost. It's literal Greek translation is an "Abnormal Mind", so it's a pretty vast category. A very useful and maleable literary device, IMO. But yeah, I don't see why someone in that state couldn't fail to recognize a face (double negative, sorry.. or triple?).

    I'm no expert though. Someone might know of a syndrome that fits that perfectly. Sorry in advance if someone disagrees with my interpretation of Psychology. Wouldn't be the first time.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychosis

    Conversely, "Delirium" is a medical term that has similar implications: attention deficits, disorganized behavior, ect. Seems akin to dementia in some ways. A cleverly contrived medical condition (perhaps related to the stress of her husband dying) may well render someone incapable of face recognition, but I'd think the challenge with that would be finding such a desease that left the person physically able to 'attack' someone. Now that I think of it, I think there was an episode of House or something about a girl who basically had amnesia caused by alcoholism-induced malnutrition, or something like that, it's been a while.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delirium

    Again, I'm no expert, ect. Hope it helps. Good luck.
     
  4. MJ Preston
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    MJ Preston Banned

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  5. themistoclea
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    themistoclea Member

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    I am unsure as to what you mean by 'self-induced', and can categorically say that no one who suffers from a mental disorder does so on purpose/intentionally.

    However, in regards to your question, it could be related to an acute form of Post-traumatic stress. It might not sound as glamorous as other disorders, but the ways it affects individual sufferers is staggering in variety.

    And ditto to the below:
    We read to escape reality, not to analyse the plausibility/credibility of the story (unless it's really, really flawed). Unless you are focusing specifically on the psychoanalytical profession, extreme jargon will only cloud your writing.

    Good Luck :)
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    When doing research for a psychiatric problem, the place to start is the DSM-4.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto rei's advice...

    another ditto for them's comment that mental disorders are not self-induced...

    serious emotional trauma can, however, trigger various types of emotional/mental distress that could cause the behavior you describe... all of which you'll find in the DSM-IV...

    http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html
     
  8. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    I don't really want to give her illness a label, I just need a way to describe the mother's actions in a way that seems plausible. I tried free writing it, but it sounded too much like Angeline from Artemis Fowl.

    Thanks for all the responses, by the by.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just because you don't label it in the book doesn't mean research of that kind wouldn't benefit you. You can learn was real illnesses look like and how to describe them. You should still have something realistic to make it more believable for your audience.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    amen to that!
     
  11. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    I went through a phase where I couldn't write anything that didn't have a character at some point descend into a generic Shakespearean "madness", caused by whatever I felt like causing it.
     
  12. Laos
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    The only thing I can think of possibly relevant, aside from amnesia would be a Dissociative Disorders.

    The problem with mental disorders that involve "Forgetting" is that they are often too vague. Though the DSM-IV (The Psychological Illness Directory) recognizes amnesias and dissociative disorders, their true existence is debated and if its just a bunch of people wanting attention.

    Dissociative disorders involve a loss of identity, such as where you lose your ability to know who you are and change to another. It's recorded but like i said before its debated on existence

    Amnesia is another hit and miss. Though some amnesias are full blown and some are specific. it depends on where the head trauma is.

    Full damage to the hippocampus will make you unable to form any new memories at all. While a concussion to a specific part of the "Grey Matter" will lead to loss of some memory paths,
     

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