1. Studio_Ghost

    Studio_Ghost New Member

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    "Descending into madness"

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Studio_Ghost, Oct 12, 2021.

    I'm currently working on a story in which the main character is suffering a psychotic break, how do I write that in a realistic manner? Any tips?
     
  2. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Maybe google for experience reports by people suffering from schizophrenia? Or those suffering a psychosis?
     
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  3. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Smooth like butter Contributor

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    there are various kinds of "psychotic breaks"..... some people just cry, some get angry. some get destructive (to themselves or others).
    it also various on the situation, too. Does the person have a certain mental illness (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.)? Do they have an emotional disorder?

    basically, the kind of "psychotic break" depends on the person and the situation.

    If you want to just go the American Psycho, Fight Club, or even Joker route (destructive psychological break) and do the "was it all in their head all along?" trope.... you still need triggers. and its hard to provide a realistic psychological break without knowing your character's triggers and the context of the break.
     
  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I don't know how similar mania is to psychosis, but I've known several people with manic depression (now known as bipolar disorder) and I've seen a friend slip into mania several times. In some ways it was like the early transformation of the Jeff Goldblum character in The Fly, where he was filled with intense energy and felt amazing. He found he could do all kinds of incredible stunts and feats of strength, and was talking too fast and became heedless of people around him. But the main point I want to make is that at first it seems like a very positive thing. But it keeps going, pushes over the top, and becomes very negative.

    Rather than being able to do gymnastic stunts and punch chunks out of doorframes or break someone's arm by arm-wrestling them though, my friend would get incredibly creative. He was a musician and his ability to play the keyboard or whatever instrument he picked up would suddenly increase exponentially. It's like his mental filters dropped away and he was able to access creativity unfettered. For a day or two this allowed him to spontaneously create incredible compositions that sounded amazing. Or draw wild stuff. His mind seemed to become unshackled, and he seemed to love it and revel in it. This early part was actually exciting to witness. It was like he was becoming superhuman or something, breaking the boundaries.

    But he'd get a strange frightening expression on his face a day or two in. His eyes would glaze over and his expression would get tense and turn into some kind of a grimace, maybe starting from a grin. And the things he said would get intense and weird. At first that started pretty normally too, and seemed positive. His thoughts would spin out in all directions and he seemed to be having insights into reality and human nature that were profound. But the profundity soon turns into over-intensity and the positivity into intense negativity, and what seemed exciting at first became rapidly frightening and then terrifying.

    He'd start talking all the time, as if he had a stream of too-intense thoughts that he couldn't shut off, and he had to verbalize it to try to get it out of his head. And what seemed like insights at first (I believe they actually were, his mind unshackled itself from the filters we're normally subjected to) became insane ravings showing definite tendencies toward paranoia and lunacy. He'd also start getting more aggressive and soon it seemed like if it continues he might get physically violent. In fact at one point he picked up a machete in my bedroom and started chopping up a bookshelf of fantasy/science fiction books, saying "This isn't REAL!! It's insane! You need to stop reading this stuff and get your head into reality!"

    This shortly after his doctor had asked him to draw a house and he did, and then the doctor asked him where the people were. Rather than just say "You didn't ask me to draw any people" or something he freaked out and started saying things like they were hiding inside, maybe one was killing the others and they don't want anybody to see them.

    Hopefully something in this can give you an idea of how to approach the transition.
     
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  5. Studio_Ghost

    Studio_Ghost New Member

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    update on this, he's suffering from Psychosis due to severe stress and ptsd
     
  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    And something to keep in mind whenever writing about mental issues like this. Insanity is really just states of consciousness we've all experienced many times, but the intensity gets turned up to a thousand and they're unable to escape from it. I've definitely experienced upswings of energy that make me feel excellent and have profound thoughts. I've also experienced the opposite to some extent, many times. We all do. Just think about those times and imagine it getting way worse and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

    In fact if you've ever done any kind of psychotropic drugs and experienced some level of trip, you know what at least part of it feels like. The unshackling of the mind from the usual limitations and filters is the first stage, and it keeps escalating from there.
     
  7. The Bishop

    The Bishop Senior Member

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    Cascading failures, no one has a breakdown after one thing. So you need to make sure you have enough going on in the story to continuously put this character in moments that test them. That way when they reach their peak it will be earned and understood.
     
  8. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    Look up the game "Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice" and watch their dev diaries. They made the blue print for depicting mental illness in fiction. It's a combination of good understanding of story telling and well rounded research, mixed in with a lot of sincerity and honesty.
     
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  9. AntPoems

    AntPoems Active Member

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    If you want some good background info, I'd suggest reading The Body Keeps the Score, by Dr. Bessel van Der Kolk. He was one of the psychiatrists who created the PTSD diagnosis, and the book does a great job of explaining how different kinds of trauma shape the mind and body. It's an excellent read.
     
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  10. Madman

    Madman Life is Sacred Contributor

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    I suffered a psychotic break a few years ago. Been living with psychosis sickness ever since.

    It began slowly as I was studying at university, I got excited about my studies and in combination with some post traumatic stress, lack of sleep, love, and possibly genes, things went haywire.

    It kind of sneaks up on you. From what I remember I even read about psychosis and how it could trick you prior to suffering from it, I still couldn't understand what was happening. It's like reality changes, as though you enter an alternate dimension or universe. People began acting strange around me, saying strange things. I walked by people who would look at me directly in the eyes (did not happen as often before) and they would act upset. I saw the same set of people in different cities around the country, as though they were following me.

    At moments I thought that people I loved were going to have me killed or kill me directly.

    I remember talking with my brother while at his place and someone started playing a clarinet in an adjacent apartment, I spoke to my brother about the music they were playing. Some days later we spoke again about this and my brother said he doesn't have a neighbour who plays clarinet, nor did he remember our conversation.

    Thoughts can be harsh, they invade your mind and you can't do anything about them. Normally, you can just dismiss stray thoughts, that is not the case when psychotic. I could stay up entire nights because bombarding thoughts wouldn't cease.

    In the end you don't know if you can trust your own senses again, or if you can truly trust the people around you. It becomes a choice, I guess.

    Medication helped me out. But as soon as I stop taking the medecine, the thoughts return and my suspiciousness likewise.

    For me, it isn't letting go, small things remain despite medication. Right now for example, I am asking myself a lot of questions about you OP and this thread. All I can do is try and ignore those thoughts and not even reason with them.

    If you need more, you can ask me anything.
     

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