As a physician, I have gotten a special glimpse into abnormal psychology. I have treated convicted, but sane, criminals in my office; I have treated not yet convicted criminals; and I have treated unincarcerated people with every flavor of psychological abnormality.
I have received training in the largest inpatient psych facility in the southeast, and Georgia’s largest maximum security hospital for the criminally insane. (You know, where they go when the lawyer gets them ‘off’ on insanity pleas.) In England they sent people to Bedlam. In Georgia, we send them to Milledgeville. We don’t like to look at them in real life, but we LOVE to examine them in fiction, so what makes the crazy people tick? (I will be using examples that have been in movies so as to be recognizable by the widest audience.)
First, we’ll look at the most famous fictional malady. The serial killer/psychopath. These are best represented by Hannibal Lecter. Their defining characteristics are that they are brilliant, cannier than most of the criminologists assigned to them, and absolutely sociopathic. These are fortunately extremely rare in real life. The important thing to remember about them is that they do not care. Sociopath means that a person is completely separated from societal and cultural norms. They do things that you and I would avoid because it is frowned upon, or because we live so far inside the lines that we would never think of it. A sociopath does not even know what these rules are. Or he does, but the concept that these rules might apply to him is completely alien. These types are fun to write about, but there are a few things that are necessary when writing about them. You must first have an idea of what happened to them to make them sociopaths. This disease is a product of nurture, or lack thereof, not nature. Second, you will have to invent a world from the sociopath’s point of view. This can be as complex as inventing a sci-fi or paranormal world. You must delve into his set of rules, and the traumas/motivations leading to these rules. These rules will be as foreign to a normal person as those of Tolkien’s middle-earth would be, yet the organized sociopath is very strict within his rules and is bound by them. To draw a good sociopath, you must learn his rules, and why he has them. He will take you from there.
The next disease we will discuss is schizophrenia. The good depiction of this disease would be Parry in the Fisher King. This is far more common in real life than pure sociopathy. It is a product of nature, not nurture (Fisher King notwithstanding), and it has profound effects on the sufferer. This is the paranoid; the one who hears voices. This disease strikes at all socioeconomic levels, but consistently results in lower socioeconomic levels. Because it is very difficult to medicate, it frequently results in the sufferer being unable to hold a job or function in society. To draw a true schizophrenic, you have to remember that there is a certain pathos to these characters, regardless of what crimes they might commit. They do not pre-meditate, plot or scheme. They do act from the confused jumble of their brain. A schizophrenic has trouble distinguishing the real world from the one inside their head, and will frequently obey the voices they hear, and the people they see in their minds. These are the people for whom the ‘by reason of insanity’ plea exists.
In Part II we’ll discuss bipolar, borderline personality and narcissism.
Author of Treating Murder: Book One of the Veronica Lane, M.D. series
About the Author:
Gabrielle Black is a practicing Family Physician outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She holds a degree in English Literature, due to needing to have something to read in between studying exciting subjects like Organic Chemistry in college. By writing, she combines her passion for reading with her passion for medicine. Treating Murder is her first work of fiction
Gabrielle loves to spend time with her family, friends, and pet goat Gilligan.
Follow her at @1gabrielleblack or visit her webpage www.veronicalanemd.com