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...
Read More
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...
Read More
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...
Read More
Freudian Script: Gangs and Drugs

Freudian Script: Gangs and Drugs

Gangs and drugs - in the eyes of the public, inextricably intertwined. But what is the impact of gang lifestyle on mental health? And how do alcohol and drugs fit the picture? What is a gang? My protagonist Jason often protests that he wasn't in a gang. He ran with a group of lads who liked petty theft and doing drugs on the weekend. So, what exactly is a gang? In its 2009 report "Dying to Belong", The Centre for Social Justice identified that part of the problem of researching and tackling the negative effects of gang culture is the lack of universal definition. Therefore, they proposed a definition, which we will use for the purpose of this post: "A relatively durable, predominantly street-based group of young people who (1) see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group (2) engage in a range of criminal activity and violence (3) identify with or lay claim over territory (4) have some form of identifying structural feature (5)...
Read More
Freudian Script: Bipolar Affective Disorder

Freudian Script: Bipolar Affective Disorder

Bipolar Affective Disorder: The Fight For The Middle Ground After the revelation that Robin Williams suffered with bipolar affective disorder, a rush of articles about creatives and mental health problems sprung up all over the shop. Last week - not for the first time - a young man sat in an assessment with me and said he didn't want medication to take away his "creativity". So, now seemed like a good time to talk about what bipolar affective disorder is and what it isn't, and how Hollywood and the media often get it wrong. What is bipolar affective disorder? Also know as manic depression, bipolar affective disorder is a mental health problem consisting of cycles of two opposite moods: manic/high phases and depressive/low phases. In between episodes, people sit somewhere in a mood state that is "normal" for them - which may run slightly high or low, depending on the person. A person with "rapid cycling" disease has four or more episodes per year. Bipolar...
Read More
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...
Read More

Sticks and Stones: Mental Health Stigma and Crime Fiction

Crime fiction is entertainment. Writers' primary goal is to entertain. But what is the impact of the written word on the most vulnerable people in society? Does crime fiction contribute to mental health stigma? What is stigma? The term stigma refers to the negative stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination directed towards a group - in this case, people with mental health problems. For example, the stereotype "schizophrenics are psycho killers" may lead to attitudes like "all mental patients should be locked up" and "I don't want a nutter around my children" and actions like avoiding people with mental health problems, opposing mental health facilities in their neighbourhoods, and beating a man to death. Stigma is not just about public attitudes to mental health. People with mental health problems can direct these negative attitudes towards themselves - self-stigma: "It's my fault I'm depressed - I'm not strong enough to cope." There is also institutional or structural stigma, where organisations discriminate against individuals, such as quietly...
Read More

INTERVIEW: Lucy V Hay on Teen Mental Health and Jasmine’s Story

For this week's Freudian Script, Lucy V Hay (aka the infamous script guru Bang2write) talks frankly about her struggles with her mental health as a teenager and how that contributed to the latest book in her THE DECISION series, JASMINE'S STORY. You drew on your personal experiences in THE DECISION: LIZZIE’S STORY to write about teen pregnancy. How did your experiences shape JASMINE’S STORY? Being popular is a huge part of growing up, especially for girls. I was not popular and I felt it every day, but I was not hugely unpopular either, so I got through school relatively unscathed... I got the usual taunts about being ugly or fat or whatever, but probably no worse than anyone else. I was very much The Outsider at school and felt very “detached” from it all, as if I was watching myself and others there. This was underlined by the fact I attended a school out of catchment where I lived; there was no...
Read More

Freudian Script: Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia: a mental health problem that everyone's heard of and yet receives little attention in media or movies. In this week's Freudian Script, we will explore the definition of agoraphobia, its connection to panic attacks and other mental health problems, notable examples and writing tips on how to portray agoraphobia sensitively and accurately. 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 agoraphobia? From the Greek "fear of the market/gathering place", agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterised by fear, anxiety and panic in public places, mostly open or crowded spaces, resulting in avoidance. The phobia part is similar to any other phobia - spiders, heights, small spaces - because a phobia is an exaggerated anxiety response leading to avoidance. I'm emphasising avoidance here because it's a really key part of agoraphobia. The definition hinges on the anxious person's splitting of the world...
Read More

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...
Read More
12