In order to effectively create works which show mental torment I have centered onto a few mental disabilities, alongside Fibromyalgia, which affect your thoughts, judgement and sometimes emotions. During this research I have also questioned people I know with these conditions therefore hearing a first hand account of the struggles.
ADHD, Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder, occurs in 3% -5% of children around the world and can be hard to diagnose. Common symptoms include:
- Impulsive, aggressive or violent behaviour
- Withdrawal, anxiety and depression
- Low self-esteem
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach or back aches, or pains in the hands or legs.
- Becoming the “class clown” or the “class bully,”
- Avoiding or refusing to become involved in activities where he/she is unsure of success.
In addition to these symptoms my informant also told me of his night terrors, caused by his anxiety and hyperactivity not allowing him to sleep triggering an onset of paranoia and aggressiveness. In addition to this, most ADHD medications don’t help the sleeplessness side of ADHD and not much help can be given.
Bipolar Disorder occurs in 1% – 2% of adults worldwide. It consists of 3 stages;
- a high state, called “mania”, or “hypomania” when part way high
- a low state, called “depression”
- a well state, during which many people feel normal and function well.
Often the first 2 become more prominent with age if not medicated, and more often than not the sufferer will spend most of their life in the low state. Typical symptoms of the mania stage include:
- Extreme happiness
- Extreme irritability
- Rapid, unpredictable emotional changes
- Racing thoughts
- Overreacting, misinterpreting events
- Increased interest in activities
- Feeling invincible or all powerful, inflated self-esteem
- Excessive energy
- Decreased need for sleep
- Increased sexual drive, sexual indiscretions
- Poor judgment
Typical symptoms for the depressive state consists of:
- Sad mood
- Preoccupation with failures or inadequacies and a loss of self-esteem
- Feelings of uselessness, hopelessness, excessive guilt
- Slowed thinking, forgetfulness, difficulty in concentrating and in making decisions
- Loss of interest or pleasure in work, hobbies, people
- Social isolation
- Abnormal drowsiness, or fatigue
- Changes in appetite or weight – eating too little or too much
- Oversleeping or insomnia
- Decreased sexual drive
- Suicidal thoughts
In addition to these symptoms I noted that the insomnia often coincides with the manic state also. Although Bipolar can be medicated, it can be a real struggle to be officially diagnosed, and then medicated. My informant for Bipolar has yet to be medicated and has constant bouts of anxiety attacks, and sometimes hallucinations due to lack of sleep.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Originally called ‘Manic Depression’, Autism affects 1.1% of the population worldwide, but many may be undiagnosed. Sufferers are affected in different ways but most have the same basic symptoms, such as struggling with communication, and inability to be empathetic.
Restrictive /repetitive behaviours may include:
- Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors
- Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects
- Having a lasting, intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts.
Social communication / interaction behaviors may include:
- Getting upset by a slight change in a routine or being placed in a new or overly stimulating setting
- Making little or inconsistent eye contact
- Having a tendency to look at and listen to other people less often
- Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others
- Responding in an unusual way when others show anger, distress, or affection
- Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or other verbal attempts to gain attention
- Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversations
- Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond
- Repeating words or phrases that they hear, a behavior called echolalia
- Using words that seem odd, out of place, or have a special meaning known only to those familiar with that person’s way of communicating
- Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said
- Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like
- Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.
Sufferers with Autism may have other difficulties, such as extreme sensitivity to light, noise, clothing or temperature. They may also experience sleep problems, digestive problems, and irritability. What is often not known about Autistic sufferers is that they tend to have special abilities, such as:
- Having above-average intelligence
- Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time
- Being strong visual and auditory learners
- Excelling in math, science, music, or art.
My Autistic informant is very perceptive, and often remembers things that others wouldn’t. She has an extreme obsession for jigsaw puzzles, impulsively buying them with whatever money she can buy, and constantly taking them apart to sniff them, then place them back together. She struggles with noise, and has night terrors when it’s windy outside. She often feels lonely, but doesn’t understand why. She struggles to be empathetic as she doesn’t understand other’s emotions, and therefore fears social interaction and feels like she is constantly stared at.
Although I have noted it above as a symptom for other conditions, Depression is it’s own form of disorder. It can range from mild to severe. It can affect thoughts, feelings, physical health and behaviours. The people who called named the condition Depression must not have been very wise, as naming a clinical condition with the same name as a normal mood feeling creates confusion.
The two main symptoms of clinical depression include:
- a sad, hopeless mood;
- a loss of interest or pleasure in things they usually are interested in or enjoy that; is present most days and lasts most of the day
- lasts for more than two weeks
- interferes with your ability to perform at work, at school or in social relationships
- Feeling worthless, helpless or hopeless, guilty
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness or grief
Other symptoms of major depression may include:
- Changes in appetite or weight loss or gain
- Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies, people or sex
- Withdrawal from family members and friends
- Loss of energy, feeling very tired
- Trouble concentrating, remembering and making decisions-you might fear you’re developing Alzheimer’s disease
- Crying easily, or feeling like crying but being not able to
- Thoughts of suicide (which should always be taken seriously)
- A loss of touch with reality, hearing voices (hallucinations) or having strange ideas (delusions).(less common but serious, seek help)
I, myself, have been diagnosed with Depression, which is connected to my Fibromyalgia. I don’t have it severe in the sense of suicidal thoughts, but I often suffer from insomnia which can last for weeks at a time, and bouts of sleeping too much, for months at a time, once the insomnia wears off. I have experienced hallucinations before but I now only get them during my insomnia bouts. The main symptom often overlooked is night terrors and nightmares. Before I sleep I end up thinking of all the ways something can go wrong, often resulting in my or my family’s death. This paranoia often makes me unable to sleep until I have checked all the things I’m panicking about. I have only 2 friends left due to the times where I have completely withdrawn from everyone and shut myself away for days at a time. Medication is offered but usually only works when the patient believes it will work, which didn’t work for me. I plan to use my own nightmares and struggles in this work along with the others I have questioned.
Bipolar Disorder – http://mentalhealthminute.com/conditions/bipolar-disorder/
Autism Spectrum Disorder – http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml
Depression – http://mentalhealthminute.com/conditions/depression/