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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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)...
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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: 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...
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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: 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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Freudian Script: 4 Ways to Show Your Characters Need to Grow

For the next installment of Freudian Script, we will examine the unconscious reactions that characters give when they're under greater stress or lack emotional maturity. These are the immature defence mechanisms. As the name suggests, these are normal for teenagers - YA writers, take note - and are fairly common in adults. The following examples represent some of those defences, alongside some explanation and illustration from two of my favourite shows: 1) Regression I have a writing deadline and murders to solve...or I could play laser tag Wasn't life so much easier when you were a child? No responsibility, all that free time, and a part-time job on Saturday to buy more sweets. So, when reality comes knocking and you need to act like a grown-up, why not do something fun and childish instead? State Dinner to organise? Build a fire! Captaining a starship on a five-year-mission? Pretend you're the captain of a Royal Navy vessel (or just sing about it). This is the staple of...
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Freudian Script: 5 Mature Defence Mechanisms of Well-Adjusted Characters

To start my series on psychology for writers, I thought I'd take a meaty topic that will have practical uses for all your characters, irrespective of genre or medium. What are defence mechanisms? You're wandering along in your own little world. Life is good. You're happy, content, satisfied. WHAM! Suddenly, everything gets turned on its head - you have been hit by An Inciting Incident. How do you react? Something has threatened your state of wellbeing, provoking something inside you, and you need to get rid of this ugly feeling. So, our unconscious mind defends you - and not always in healthy ways. Psychoanalysts (the school of psychology founded by Freud) have formed a list of common defence mechanisms and divided them up. The most common divisions are mature, immature, neurotic and pathological. (NOTE: while this topic is based in psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychological principles, I'm going to skip over the theories behind the development of these reactions and concentrate on their possible manifestations and...
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Freudian Script: Psychology for Writers – new blog series!

I have long believed that a working knowledge of psychological theories can really benefit a writer's perspective. However, not all of us can afford a psychology degree or hours spent picking through Google results trying to make sense of half a dozen websites on the subject. With that in mind, I've decided to present a new regular series on this blog called Freudian Script, where I'll try to break down some key psychological concepts that writers might find use for. And why might these things be useful? Well... 1) How will my character react? People do things for a reason. Now, this might not be a conscious reason and it might be a completely spurious reason if it were examined logically, but these reasons exist in their conscious and unconscious minds. By naming and categorising these reactions, writers can manipulate them into producing more conflict, driving the action, or simply showing that a character has matured over the course of a narrative. 2) What issues...
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