Freudian Script: Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Freudian Script: Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Could you recognise a narcissist? This highly topical Freudian Script explores Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and is brought to you by my friend and colleague, forensic psychiatrist Dr Bernard Chin. DISCLAIMER: This blog post is designed for writers of fiction. If you are concerned that you or someone you know has symptoms of mental health problems, please see your doctor. Or your local government representative. There once was a hunter from Thespiae, who was famed for his beauty. As he was so beautiful, many loved him. However, he only had disdain for those that loved him, as none could be as beautiful as he was. He grew proud and one day he was drawn to a pool where he saw a reflection of himself. Not realising it was merely an image of himself, he fell in love with it (or perhaps coming to the realisation that he could only truly love himself) and was unable to leave the beauty of his own reflection. Losing the will...
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The Anti-Stigma Thesaurus: Rewriting the Language of Mental Health

The Anti-Stigma Thesaurus: Rewriting the Language of Mental Health

Despite how the nursery rhyme goes, words can hurt. They can also be used to reinforce mental health stigma, particularly in crime fiction. Words are powerful - and "with great power comes great responsibility". The longevity and influence of words can be epitomised in that one quotation, first used centuries ago and popularised by a comic book adaptation. Words are the building blocks of the writer's craft. They are our weapons and our tools. We can fuss for hours over the right choice of word to fit a sentence, a tone, a character. When it comes to fighting mental health stigma, we need to choose our weapons carefully. The last time I wrote about this, I merely complained that writers should do better. This time, I'm going to do better. The following words and phrases are all in common usage but have the potential to be harmful to people with mental health problems and reinforce stigma about them. I have here presented alternatives that...
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INTERVIEW: Sara Barnard on Mental Health in YA and Beautiful Broken Things

INTERVIEW: Sara Barnard on Mental Health in YA and Beautiful Broken Things

In Freudian Script, we love to hear how authors tackle the accurate and sensitive portrayal of mental health problems in fiction. Sara Barnard, author of Young Adult novel Beautiful Broken Things, tells us her tale. What led you to explore issues of mental health in Beautiful Broken Things? I was interested in the aftermath of trauma and violence, and how these experiences can affect young people as they grow and develop. In a lot of cases, unfortunately, people recovering from past pain go on to struggle with their mental health. It struck me that we don't see much of this in YA fiction - stories tend to focus on the traumatic event itself and not what comes next - and I wanted to change that in a very small way with the book I wrote. I was also aware of how mental health is so often used as The Big Issue in YA, as if it is the defining feature of a...
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Freudian Script: Work-Life Balance

Freudian Script: Work-Life Balance

Another junior doctors' strike, another blog post from me! My theme, however, is one that is relevant to all professionals but particularly writers of all stripes. I am talking about the mythical work-life balance. What is work-life balance? This term is most commonly used when talking about the proportion of life spent on employment compared to family, hobbies and rest. It is most often applied when talking about how jobs can be all-consuming and gradually take over your entire existence, like a life-sucking parasite. Ahem. One of the reasons the junior doctors' contract negotiation is so emotive is the discussion of Saturday working - is Saturday a normal working day or is it special? Retail jobs, for example, mainly consider Saturday a normal working day, as do the police. Professional jobs consider Saturday a non-office day in the main, but people may be working from home. Schools and childminders definitely consider Saturday a non-working day. Writers do not enjoy such demarcation lines. Professional writers can...
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One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest v Modern Psychiatry

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest v Modern Psychiatry

There is no doubt that One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of the seminal films in mental health fiction. Its legacy is still strong forty years later - barely a week passes without one of my patients mentioning the film, usually comparing it to the ward or my proposed treatment plan. But it is exactly that legacy that haunts the fight against mental health stigma. This film has so permeated the public consciousness that when folk think of mental health, they think about One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. So, how accurate is it? Are mental health units full of Nurse Ratcheds? What conditions do the ward's patients suffer from? And is electroconvulsive therapy really that barbaric? But first: It is 2015, not 1975. Why is this point important? Because medicine's approach to mental illness has changed dramatically over the past forty years. A lot of the problems I identified with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next stem from it being a product...
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REVIEW: The Other Side of Silence – Linda Gask

REVIEW: The Other Side of Silence – Linda Gask

As a psychiatrist, I walk a fine line of understanding. While I can try to empathise with the people I see in my clinics and on my ward, I cannot truly know their experiences. Sometimes that helps to give me the distance of objectivity, and sometimes it leaves me lacking. Linda Gask has a markedly different perspective. She is a psychiatrist and academic who has experienced mental health problems from both sides - that of a clinician and that of a patient. In her book The Other Side of Silence: A Psychiatrist's Memoir of Depression, Linda draws on both her professional knowledge and personal experience to take the reader on a "guided tour" of depression - using her own life and anecdotes about patients to illustrate the complexity of this illness and its manifestations. What I love about The Other Side of Silence is that it sets aside the traditional, medical model of psychiatry and instead embraces a whole-person, holistic approach to the...
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5 Mental Health Truths from Inside Out

5 Mental Health Truths from Inside Out

When I first heard about Disney Pixar's new film Inside Out, I knew it would be a winner. What I wasn't prepared for was how well it handles emotions, personality and their psychological underpinnings. Here's five lessons about mental health you can take away from Inside Out and how they can help both writing complex characters and your personal wellbeing! HERE BE SPOILERS - PROCEED WITH CAUTION Forced Joy is Unhealthy If you are trying to make yourself or others feel happy all the time, you are heading for trouble. When Riley's mom tells her that they both need to stay happy for their father, a whole load of warning klaxons went off in my psychiatry brain. No one can be happy all the time. I am a natural optimist but I don't smile every hour of every day. In Inside Out, the character of Joy wants everything in Riley's life to be happy. It is her desperation to achieve this that leads to Riley's...
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On Strange and Norrell and Madness

On Strange and Norrell and Madness

The BBC has once more proved the worth of the licence fee with the stunning adaptation of Susanna Clarke's novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Now we're all had time to digest the series, I wanted to think on the depictions of "madness" in the adaptation and what writers can learn about depicting mental illness, particularly in the fantasy genre. SPOILERS FOR THE SERIES AND THE NOVEL - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED The relationship between magic and madness "Magic cannot cure madness." - Gilbert Norrell From the beginning, Strange and Norrell was explicit in its discussion of madness and magic, with an alternate early nineteenth century viewpoint. When Sir Walter Pole asks Mr Norrell to cure his wife of madness, Norrell is firm on the point. However, given what we know of Norrell's role in Lady Pole's resurrection and his subsequent distancing from fairy magic, Norrell may well be lying. However, his efforts with Strange on curing the King's madness seem to uphold this assertion. Jonathan...
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INTERVIEW: Ruth F Hunt on Mental Health, Disability and The Single Feather

INTERVIEW: Ruth F Hunt on Mental Health, Disability and The Single Feather

At Freudian Script, we explore the relationship between mental health and fiction. Our guest Ruth F Hunt has written a compelling debut novel in The Single Feather, tackling the topics of disability and mental health without shying away from the realities. What led you to explore issues of mental health and disability in The Single Feather? Since becoming disabled at the age of eighteen, and having Bipolar as well, I’ve been very aware of the missing voices in novels, with a real lack of disabled characters in adult fiction, being a particular problem. As well as having worked with adults with complex needs in a social services department, I’ve also worked in mental health, with my last role being a Trustee with a large mental health charity. So along with this experience in my personal and working life, I was very aware that in the past few years, hate crime towards people with disabilities has risen and cuts to benefits have disproportionately affected...
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Freudian Script: Cannabis and Psychosis

Freudian Script: Cannabis and Psychosis

With the recent study from King's College London linking "skunk" to diagnosis of psychotic disorders, I thought it would be a good time to examine the link between cannabis and psychosis in detail. I have previously written about cannabis and psychosis while talking gangs and drugs, but we didn't look at the evidence base. As I was writing this post, I realised that I've also waded into the fields of statistics and research methodology. Hopefully, this will provide some clarity the next time a newspaper starts talking about odds and risk in healthcare. Background First, let's get some definitions on the table. Psychosis, in essence, is the inability to distinguish what is real and what is not. It is most often talked about it terms of schizophrenia. You can read more detail about it here. Cannabis is a group of flowering plants native to Central and South Asia. To get biological, there are three main species - Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. However, the...
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