Freudian Script: How Common Are Mental Health Problems?

Freudian Script: How Common Are Mental Health Problems?

If you've visited this blog before, you'll know I like to bang on about the accurate and sensitive portrayal of common mental health problems. You may have noticed that I don't find many good portrayals - in fact, I sometimes find it hard to find any examples at all. Mental health has a visibility problem. Is that because it's not all that common to have a mental illness? Or is it because we like to hide from things that scare us and that we find hard to understand? Of course, some mental health problems are overrepresented. If you watch enough crime drama, you might be forgiven for thinking that one-quarter of the population of New York City is a psychopath - and the other three-quarters victims. To clear things up, here are a list of mental health statistics, comparing common mental health problems that you might see in fiction to reality in the UK. I've included nods to other health problems, to give...
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Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Every year, I write a post about my writing and personal progress over the past twelve months and look forward to next year's goals and challenges. For this New Year's Day, I'm going to look at some awesome things that happened in 2014 and pair them up with where I'm taking them in 2015. In 2014, I became a published author I can't shout about this enough, because it fills me with a giddy joy that I've longed for since I was a child. It's been a very steep learning curve, but the process of taking a raw manuscript and making it into a novel with the help of my fantastic editor Deb Nemeth and the rest of the Carina Press team has had such a profound influence on my writing. And then seeing my books out in the world, receiving praise and reviews - even the gut-wrenching negative ones - has been amazing. People have read my words! They paid money to...
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Freudian Script: Emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)

Freudian Script: Emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)

Emotionally unstable personality disorder: balance, understanding and acceptance This week's Freudian Script concentrates on a mental health problem that is not often in the public eye. As opposed to correcting stereotypes about this condition, I will instead look at what emotionally unstable personality is, common stigma problems, portrayals in fiction, and how writers can consider the condition in their work. WARNING: This post contains discussion of self-harm, suicide and abuse. DISCLAIMER: Freudian Script discusses mental health problems for writers of fiction, to encourage accurate and sensitive portrayals. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health problems, please seek help from a doctor. What is emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)? Perhaps a better starting question is: what is a personality disorder?. A personality disorder is when an adult has a set of personality traits that cause problems for them in their lives. These have likely developed from difficult early life experiences and were at one time useful to help survive those situations. However, as the...
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5 Biggest Mistakes When Writing Mental Illness

5 Biggest Mistakes When Writing Mental Illness

Madness in fiction, like most things in fiction, reflects and informs the popular view. If we write about terrifying, violent mad folk running about with machetes in our films, books and TV shows, the general public nod at how much that confirms their view of madness and cross the street when they see someone out of the ordinary. Or worse. Much worse. At the bare minimum, we should get the facts right. Here are my Top 5 mental health myths in fiction that need to be kicked to the kerb. 1) Straitjackets and padded cells are not standard issue Let's start with straitjackets. We do not use straitjackets in mental health in the UK. They are cruel and dangerous. Short-term physical restraint is used during a psychiatric emergency and it is tightly-regulated, with training and a mountain of paperwork. If your character is spending time in a mental health unit, they will not see a straitjacket. A bedroom in a modern mental health unit...
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Freudian Script: Psychiatrist v Therapist

Freudian Script: Psychiatrist v Therapist

"I'm going to see a shrink for therapy" - what does that actually mean? Who are you going to see and for what? What is the difference between a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a therapist? Who would win in a Psychiatrist v Therapist fight? Freudian Script is going to demystify the difference between a psychiatrist v therapist and what exactly folks mean by "therapy". What is a psychiatrist? A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specialises in mental health. In the UK, this means going to medical school, doing at least a couple of years in different medical and surgical jobs, then specialising in psychiatry. Psychiatrists are members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. You would visit a psychiatrist particularly for diagnosis, medication and monitoring. You may also visit them for therapy, but I will get into that later. What is a psychologist? A clinical psychologist is someone who has trained in psychology, usually to the PhD level (which means they are also called doctor!), and...
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Freudian Script: Inside a Psychiatric Ward

The madhouse. Loony bin. Asylum. Psychiatric wards are called many things, but what is it really like inside one? Freudian Script continues to give writers an up-close-and-personal view of mental health services in the UK and this week's post concentrates on the inside of mental health unit. History of the psychiatric ward The first "psychiatric wards" were the asylums of the 18th century. These were private houses where your relatives could send you because...well, because they felt like it, really. There was no regulation and the owners didn't ask many questions, provided you could pay. The first mental health legislation in the UK - The Madhouses Act 1774, for the legal nerds - was to regulate these houses, license and inspect them. In many ways, mental health services have moved on from this point - and in some ways they haven't. Who is admitted to a psychiatric ward? So, why do people come to a psychiatric ward? In the old days of asylums and institutionalisation,...
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Freudian Script: The Mental Health Act

So, you want to write about mental health. By checking out the previous series of Freudian Script, which concentrated on specific conditions - like depression, psychopathy and autistic spectrum disorders - the writer can get to grips with a sensitive and accurate portrayal of a mental health problem. But what about the experience of living with a mental health problem in the UK? How do mental health services function? What happens when you have an urgent problem one morning? How about at midnight? What goes on inside a mental health hospital? Who comes to see you if you can't leave the house? And what about the professionals who work in mental health? Who are they and what do they do? How do they interact with other areas of medicine, social workers, and emergency services? The next series of Freudian Script concentrates on these aspects of mental health. Because I live and work in the UK, this will focus on the British experience of mental...
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Freudian Script: Stalking, Erotomania and Othello Syndrome

Stalking, Erotomania and Othello Syndrome - When Love Goes Wrong. Trigger Warning: This post contains discussion of stalking and sexual violence This week on Freudian Script, I am going to talk about two disorders beloved of crime fiction writers and close to every stalker's heart. We're going on a little tour of stalking because that's the most common manifestation of these disorders in fiction. I will talk through the definitions of stalking, erotomania and Othello Syndrome, infamous examples in fiction, and how you can write better love-sick stalkers. 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. If you think you are being stalked, please contact the police. What is stalking? Stalking has no specific mental health or legal definition in the UK, but it's generally considered to be unwanted and/or obsessive attention towards an individual. It can take many forms, including physical...
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Freudian Script: Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Today we have a special Guest Post from Katherine Fowler, my good friend and go-to girl for Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) - take it away, Katherine! It is a great honour to be asked to do a guest post here, on ASD (aka my favourite topic in all the world). So, without further ado... 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. What is ASD? ASD, or autism spectrum disorders, cover a wide range of developmental disorders, ranging from full-blown classic autism, to the catchily named PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified). As the word "spectrum" suggests, there is a huge difference between those at the far ends of the scale. And, with such a diverse range of symptoms, even those placed in the same spot along the scale may come across very differently. For simplicity’s sake, let’s divide the spectrum into...
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Freudian Script: The Psychopath

The Psychopath - favourite of Hollywood and tabloid journalism alike. This week's Freudian Script attempts to clarify the definition of psychopathy, identify people wrongly called psychopaths, and uncover how you can write better psychopaths. 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 instead of doing a test on the internet. What is a psychopath? Unlike other conditions I have detailed in this series, psychopathy is a murky concept at best and is often the subject of controversy. I will therefore digress into the details of classification to shed some light on the problem. Psychopathy is considered a personality disorder, often sub-typed under either anti-social or dissocial personality disorder - depending on your classification system. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), baby of the World Health Organisation and preferred by UK psychiatrists, bundles the term in under dissocial personality disorder. The Diagnostic and...
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