Marc McCutcheon’s book Building Believable Characters has a section called PSYCHOLOGICAL/PSYCHIATRIC PROBLEMS. My last post on this topic generated a bit of disagreement, so let’s see what I can come up with today from the alphabetical listing of psychological problems. (Note: the list is in alphabetical order, so you can see I’m just beginning. I’m also skipping many of the well-known ones, like bulimia, compulsive disorders, delusions, etc.)
CARDIONEUROSIS: “A neurotic fear of having a heart attack. Symptoms include perceived chest pains, palpitations, and shortness of breath.” This one can be used seriously, but I’ve also seen it done for comedic effect. Victoria Laurie has a series with a young man who’s always terrified of getting sick. Not like a head cold, but strokes, heart attacks, exotic fevers, and off-the-wall sicknesses that make him extremely funny.
CATAPHASIA: “Repetition of the same word or phrase over and over.” You could use this one without ever labeling the problem, and I could see this working extremely well. Many well-loved characters have catch-phrases (“Elementary, my dear Watson” comes to mind), but you could magnify this one enough to truly make your character stand out. Too much repetition and the reader will tire of it, but used in moderation, this could be a fantastic tool for creating a memorable character. This disorder closely resembles ECHOLALIA, which is “a brain disorder in which the victim repeats the words of others.” Both of these could also be used for comedic effect, too.
HEBEPHRENIA: “A form of schizophrenia characterized by regressive behavior and a perpetual silly grin.” If you want to use this one, do a ton of research before diving in. I bring it up, though, because I’ve never heard of it before and the “silly grin” stood out to me as unique and interesting (in a morbid sort of way). As I know nothing about this problem, I hesitate to comment as I may get it all wrong, so I’ll leave you with the description and your own imagination.
KORSAKOFF’S PSYCHOSIS: “Distorted thinking and memory loss caused by alcohol.” Again, I know nothing about this, but the memory loss part sparked several ideas. Do your research if you want to use this one. If any of you have heard of this one (or the previous), please share in the comments section.
The next part of the list has a bunch of manias, and I’ll discuss those in my next post. Questions? Comments? Rants? Share them all.