Mental Illness is a Political Concept, Not a Medical One

Many people live under the glib assumption that mental illness is a subject that the experts have got a good handle on. These experts, through the wisdom gleaned from decades of studying human behaviour in a myriad of contexts, have made a clear distinction between mentally ill and mentally healthy behaviours and thoughts, and can apply this accurately in a clinical setting. We are told that this distinction is objective and scientific, but the reality is that who is crazy and who isn’t depends more on fashion – and who is in power – than on science.

Take the example of homosexuality. Sexual attraction to people of the same gender was considered a mental illness as recently as the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. By this, it was meant that same-sex attraction was a mental defect that could be diagnosed and, if need be, treated. Some would say that we’ve evolved past such a mentality, and this author would not disagree, but with a caveat: we could easily make homosexuality illegal again.

All it would take would be a strong cultural shift towards a family-oriented kind of folk conservatism, and for it once again to be fashionable to be against homosexuals, and the herd could easily come to take it for granted once again that homosexuality should be illegal. If a popular celebrity made arguments against homosexuality on national television, the masses would soon be turned against it. Some arguments against homosexuality are perennial, and will inevitably become fashionable again, like the appeal to naturalism.

The appeal to naturalism is a common argument against homosexuality. It contends that, because both a male and a female are necessary for an act of sexual intercourse to have any chance of resulting in reproduction, only this arrangement of sexes is natural. Two people of the same sex engaging in sexual intercourse cannot produce a child and is therefore unnatural, and this is therefore immoral, in the same way that having sex with animals or the pre-pubescent cannot produce children and is therefore immoral.

One could fairly argue that there are a number of fallacies in this line of reasoning, but that’s not the point. The point is that, as long as the appeal to naturalism holds some sway among people, there is a chance that it could become fashionable again such that the masses came to accept it as obvious. If one looks at the world, and at the history of it, it’s apparent that homosexuality, like feminism and the use of certain drugs, is a fashion that waxes and wanes according to historical cycles.

The same thing is true of other conditions now considered to be mental illnesses. The case of schizophrenia is another example of where politics trumps medicine. No-one knows what schizophrenia and psychosis really are: psychosis is said to be the loss of touch with reality, but there is no universal, objective way of knowing what reality is. What is commonly accepted as reality is something that varies greatly from place to place and from time to time, even among people who are all committed to the scientific method.

No-one really understands why some people are crazy, but if a person doesn’t work, they need a doctor to declare them mentally unhealthy if they want to go on welfare. Sounds straightforward, but if an incoming conservative government wants to trim the number of people on welfare for psychiatric reasons by 10%, then the psychiatrists will select the 10% of their current patients that they feel have the best chance of making it and declare them to be mentally healthy. That they are the same as before doesn’t matter – the important thing is that the politics have changed.

For political reasons, all responsibility and blame for a person suffering a mental illness has to be shifted back onto either genetics or the person themselves. The environment is seldom to blame, but if it ever is, it is the fault of the parents and the home environment, never the fault of the rulers and the social environment. Depression is never caused by society being depressing. Anxiety is never caused by society being anxiogenic. What causes mental illness is bad genes, doing drugs or some kind of quasi-mystical spiritual failure, but never the misarrangement of society.

Some will say that mental illness demonstrates a failure to adapt to society. Fair enough, but the problem with this is that society is grossly unhealthy. For many tens of millions of people, the pressure of trying to fit into a society as fucked up as this one has pushed them beyond the limits of their psychological endurance. Their major problem is that society does not, and never will, recognise the part that it has played in making people mentally ill, because this would be a political error. This obstinance only serves to drive more people insane.

At the end of the day, it’s politicians that that people take orders from, and not research psychologists, and so doctors who have to deal with mental illness have to use the framework laid down for them by politicians. These politicians have not been able to resist the temptation to play around with the definitions of mental illness for the sake of achieving their political goals. Unfortunately, this meddling has become so severe that the concept of mental illness is now more political than it is medical.

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Bob McCoskrie Is An Absolute Fuckwit

Giving Bob McCoskrie a national platform to rant about “dope” and “Big Marijuana” is like giving your granddad a national platform to rant about Islanders after he’s had a few sherries on Boxing Day. Stuff did it anyway. This column will have a look at McCoskrie’s screed of fuckwittery, with the intent of responding to his shamelessly dishonest rhetoric with some facts.

One can guess from the title of the article (“Legalised dope is a licence for Big Marijuana to exploit young people”) that it is going to be crudely dismissive of the wishes of the New Zealand cannabis community. To have an article with the word “dope” in the headline is like publishing an anti-immigration opinion piece that had the word “niggers” in the headline. He has blatantly chosen the most inflammatory possible term to describe cannabis, one that associates cannabis use with brain damage.

In this piece, McCoskrie recounts his observations from a recent trip to Colorado, one that he undertook to “see first-hand the effects of legalising marijuana”.

His second paragraph mentions “a money-making industry of lobbyists and special interest groups putting profits over evidence-based policy protecting public health and safety, and ready to flout and challenge any regulations,” with the implication that this describes the industrial cannabis lobby, but this description more aptly fits the alcohol and timber industry lobbyists who agitated to make cannabis illegal in the first place.

McCoskrie gets hysterical about the high THC content of the cannabis products he spies in the Colorado “dope shops”, but the facts are that a high THC product actually makes the product safer. Like the fuckwit he is, McCoskrie is thinking about THC as if it was alcohol, so that a high-THC cannabis edible is somehow functionally equivalent to an absinthe or similar.

No-one has ever died of a THC overdose, so comparing it to high-proof alcohol is nonsense. Unlike alcohol, which kills people in New Zealand every weekend, cannabis doesn’t kill anyone. The most dangerous thing about cannabis is probably the long-term effects of regularly smoking it – and these are completely avoided by the edibles and vaporises that McCoskrie rants about. In other words, what he is railing against are the signs of people using cannabis more safely and responsibly to minimise harm.

Some of the paragraphs in this article are “Old man yells at cloud” level, and the reader can’t help but to wonder if McCoskrie has some kind of senile dementia that has caused him to see things that aren’t there. He decries people in Colorado “popping a handful of Gummi Bears containing 10 times the legal limit of THC per serving,” but there is no legal limit of THC per serving, any more than there is a legal limit of caffeine per serving. The sentence is simply nonsense.

McCoskrie is so hysterical that at some points in his screed he becomes completely detached from reality. The worst example is when he cites the existence of cannabis suppositories as proof that cannabis producers are deliberately targeting their product at the young. In fact, the vast majority of people who use cannabis suppositories are elderly ones who cannot use other route of administration because of the complications of old age. Perhaps McCoskrie should have tried a few while he was over there?

It’s noteworthy that at no point in his travels through Colorado did McCoskrie see anything untoward happen on account of cannabis legalisation. He talks about the terrible panoply of cannabis-related products as if it were Weimar Republic pimps selling children on a Berlin street, but can’t recall seeing any notable level of crime in Colorado or any homelessness in the streets, or any sign of social decay. This is striking, considering that the state legalised cannabis four years ago, which is easily enough time for anything of that nature to have occurred. McCoskrie is just a wowser.

No anti-cannabis rant would be complete without employing the slippery slope fallacy, and McCoskrie duly gives us the line “they will want legalisation not just of this drug but all drugs – cocaine, heroin, P”. By this he somehow draws a connection between people who want access to medicinal cannabis and people who go on methamphetamine benders, when the two people could hardly be more different.

It’s exactly this kind of rhetoric conflating people who need medicinal cannabis with reckless criminals that fuels the War on Drugs, which means that McCoskrie must share some blame for the suffering caused by cannabis prohibition. It’s because of people like him that people like Helen Kelly have to suffer needlessly as they die.

Predictably, McCoskrie gets savaged in the comments below the article. What he is writing might have been considered mainstream conservatism 40 years ago, but now it goes down about as well as other conservative ideas from 40 years ago, like whipping up hysteria about white people and Maoris sleeping with each other. It’s apparent from reading this article that McCoskrie doesn’t have the faintest idea what he’s talking about, and is panicking for no good reason.

The only thing this piece can be compared to is a sermon by a Third World religious fundamentalist, who has travelled to the West and seen dancing and intermingling between unmarried youths and shit their pants. McCoskrie is a religious fundamentalist – his Family First lobby group want to recriminalise prostitution and further restrict alcohol. Essentially, they are theocrats, and McCoskrie wants to prohibit cannabis for the same reason that the rulers of places like Iran and Saudi Arabia do.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

The New Zealand Student Media is Just as Gutless as the Mainstream Media

It’s rare for a Kiwi to look towards the New Zealand media establishment with reverence or even anything approaching respect, on account of that the profession is little more than a bunch of corporate whores cheerleading for neoliberalism. Even so, it is sometimes astonishing to learn quite how gutless the New Zealand media is, as local anarchist Rick Giles found out earlier this week.

The depths to which the New Zealand yellow press is willing to sink can be observed by the treatment of Giles by Auckland radio station bFm. bFM had Giles on their live show, where he was interviewed by Laura Kvigstad. The segment was called “Anarchy in Aotearoa” and featured Kvigstad and Giles talking about Giles’s interest in anarchy and some of the realisations that had led him to anarchism, and some of the things that anarchism had led him to believe.

This was a part of a wider series called “Wire Worry Week”, which was a week at bFM dedicated to “focusing on the concept of anti government; expanding upon how movements that have worked against governmental systems have influence on the current state of the world.” Giles, as the man behind AnarKiwi, was invited onto the show to speak freely about his political opinions. Readers can listen for themselves to decide whether Giles said anything genuinely worthy of specific repudiation.

In response to – presumably – the shrieking of upper-middle-class Social Justice Warriors all over Auckland, bFM made the following statement:

NB: Following the broadcast of this interview it has come to 95bFM’s attention that the subject of this interview, Rick Giles, espouses political and historical views that the station finds particularly unsavoury. We will not be removing or editing the interview, but wish to make it clear to all listeners that 95bFM does not support or align itself with the personal politics of the interviewee. Our decision to provide Mr. Giles a platform during a week-long discussion on anti-government movements was one that, with hindsight, would not have survived greater scrutiny and vetting process. The station, its volunteers and wider associates do not wish to endorse Mr. Giles’ particular brand of historical revisionism in any way, shape or form and we sincerely apologise for any concern or aggravation caused via our negligence in this case.

It is an incredibly pathetic measure for a radio station to go to these lengths to repudiate a New Zealand intellectual who is guilty only of wrongthink. So gutless are bFM that even when they decide to specifically give a platform to the counterculture they can’t bring themselves to allow alternative points of view to pass without condemnation. Even worse, they are not even decent enough to say exactly which of Giles’s political opinions were so heinous as to be worthy of deplatforming.

What’s hilarious is that you know if Hillary Clinton wanted to appear on bFM to speak to the students of Auckland, they would fall over themselves to provide her a platform, despite that she has killed at least 2,500 more people than Giles, and that’s only counting one of her many crimes. After all, they’re happy to happy to give Peter Dunne a platform, despite the fact that the lies he told about cannabis and about synthetic drugs are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of young Kiwis.

The really terrible part about all of this is that bFM, and by extension the University of Auckland, have failed in their primary purpose of being a university. The primary purpose of a university is to provide a safe space for free-thinkers to discuss ideas that might otherwise be too controversial to discuss in public, on account of that the public would chimp out upon being asked to consider (not accept, just consider) some of the assertions that are necessary to discuss such things.

Apparently the fashionable trend in mainstream media circles right now is to take the exact opposite approach to VJM Publishing; we believe that dialogue is the way to destroy ignorance. The mainstream media don’t care about ignorance; they believe that destroying dialogue and virtue signalling is the way to greater profits. bFM, by making a statement repudiating Giles, are simply learning how to be good, obedient corporate whores. This is, after all, what they will be after graduation.

Part of being a corporate media whore is deplatforming anyone not part of the Establishment (such as Giles) while happily platforming anyone who is part of the Establishment, no matter how many people have died as a result of their negligence or dishonesty (such as Dunne). bFM are willing to give a platform to a Government agent whose ham-fisted cruelty caused New Zealanders to die, but Giles is “particularly unsavoury”.

What bFM did to Rick Giles is a microscopic example of what the mainstream media does to New Zealand all day, every single day. They take uncontroversial ideas, and they sell them as rebellious and controversial so that the desire of some individuals to portray themselves as free-thinkers can be satisfied. In every case, genuinely controversial ideas are ignored as “loony” and their purveyors deplatformed, as happened to Giles. They are a pack of absolute fucking whores, and the alt-media will continue to be a thorn in their side.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Folksjälvmord

On my first visit to Sweden, from 2001 to 2003, I found occasion to coin a word in the Swedish language. They already had a word for genocide (‘folkmord’) and they already had a word for suicide (‘självmord’), but they didn’t have a word for the sociological phenomenon, widespread at the time, that combined both. This essay discusses ‘folksjälvmord’ and the reasons for it.

If you have 1,000 crowns in one bank account at 6% interest, and 100,000 crowns in another bank account at 2% interest, inevitably the first account will become larger than the second (assuming no withdrawals or changes to the rate). This is a matter of mathematical certainty, and can be proven true in every case where a smaller balance has a higher interest rate than a larger balance. No-one disputes this.

By similar reasoning, we can see that if the population of a minority group is increasing faster than their host population, then the minorities will eventually outnumber their hosts. Assuming no withdrawals (i.e. deportations or genocides), then a population that has a fertility rate of 3.0 plus 50,000 immigrants per year will eventually grow to overwhelm a population that starts out a hundreds times larger, but which only has a fertility rate of 2.0 or less (and no immigrants).

This process is known straightforwardly as “conquest” in any other context, but when the host population has an overwhelming military advantage compared to their invaders it isn’t so simple. If the hosts are willingly paying tax money to import these minorities, and then paying again to have those minorities breed while on welfare, then they’re effectively paying for their own ethnic cleansing.

This process can only be likened to a collective suicide, or suicide at the level of the population – folksjälvmord. After all, politics is little more than the expression of power, and the expression of power is mostly a numbers game, particularly in a democracy. If the host population stops being the majority then they give up power, and giving up power within your own country to a foreign entity that you imported can only be analogised as stabbing oneself in the leg or stomach, perhaps harakiri style.

Swedes didn’t think much of my witty neologism. The thought that it might happen to them seemed to be so unpleasant that it simply couldn’t be countenanced. It didn’t seem to matter to them that the same process of inevitable mathematical conquest was precisely what happened in the New World, where I came from. Better to simply blindly believe that all would be well than to ask how the Africans and Muslims would behave when they comprised 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%+ of the population.

This wilful, oblivious ignorance about the state of their situation might be likened to a delusion-based psychiatric illness, in the same way that someone who is obviously dying but who refuses to admit it.

A man addicted to heroin doesn’t want to hear that the drug will soon kill him; a nation addicted to virtue-signalling and self-righteousness doesn’t want to hear that the mass importation of foreigners with incompatible values will soon destroy them. In either case, a well-meaning observer might be well aware that the behaviour in question was effectively suicidal.

Sixteen years after this first visit of mine, it’s possible to observe the results of the practice of folksjälvmord. Although the decay of the country is yet to reach the elites – and therefore, yet to be officially acknowledged – the Swedish people are certainly aware of it. They responded by giving 18% of their votes to the far-right extremist Sweden Democrats in a General Election last month.

In Germany, which has also recently imported a large number of low-IQ immigrants, a similar phenomenon can be observed. Opinion polls for the next German Federal Election show that the far-right extremist Alternativ fuer Deutschland is now polling higher than the Establishment social democrats. This phenomenon is likely to spread to other nations that let in large numbers of “refugees” against the better judgment of the more sober of their citizens.

Folksjälvmord, then, doesn’t simply refer to a declining population, because populations (historically speaking) tend to resist conquest with as much violence as they can muster. It can also refer to the coming to power, within a nation, of groups of people who are patently unfit to rule, and who wreck the place. Folksjälvmord could, in that context, be considered a symptom of a dark age, or Kali Yuga. The destruction is as much internal, and spiritual, as external and physical.

The state of the world has notably changed since first coining the term ‘folksjälvmord’. The national suicides of the European nations are continuing apace – but now the Far East Asian ones have joined them. Indeed, the fertility rate in Far East Asia is now lower than Northern Europe (China 1.6, Japan 1.4, South Korea 1.2, c.f. Sweden 1.9, Netherlands, Denmark and Norway 1.7), and is continuing to fall there.

Perhaps the most frightening realisation is that folksjälvmord is far from a uniquely Swedish, European or even Western problem. It seems to be a natural part of the ebb and flow of empires and the golden ages of various peoples: as before, so after.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Writing Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism has gone from being a little-known condition to being a condition that everyone is accused of having, autistic or not. However, just because everyone is aware of autism doesn’t mean that everything they think they know about the condition is accurate. This article looks at how to write believable and realistic characters with autism.

The most characteristic feature of autism is a pronounced difficulty with social interaction, usually coupled with an obsession with certain repeated actions. This difficulty with social interaction is enough to cause immense difficulty in the lives of some autists and the people around them. This goes beyond mere awkwardness, to a point where fundamental communication becomes difficult.

From the perspective of a person with autism, much of the difficulty about living with the conditions comes from an inability to make the intuitive understandings about other people, and their behaviour, that is usually taken for granted. A person without autism (a “neurotypical”) seems to have an almost psychic understanding of how other people think and behave. Social interaction just seems so effortless for such people.

Your protagonist might have difficulty getting along with someone who has autism, on account of that the autistic character doesn’t seem to understand what the protagonist believes to be the rules of social interaction. The protagonist might make jokes that don’t get laughed at, and come to think that the autistic character doesn’t like them, when the problem is a low level of communication.

Then again, your protagonist might get along with an autistic character just fine. Autists can make a lot of sense, in their own way. Often, a person with autism will be capable of observing human interaction without all the pretense and brainwashing, and can arrive at objective, if odd and unconventional, conclusions. These can sometimes be valuable wisdom (and they can sometimes be juvenile truisms).

Viewed from the outside, an autistic character might appear as excessively orderly, to the point of dysfunction. Autists often like to ritualise certain behaviours (much like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), to the point where not being able to perform the ritual sometimes creates unbearable anxiety. Their speech can be likewise regimented and repetitive. It’s common for them to compulsively stack objects or line them up.

Moreover, autists often feel solidarity with other neurodiverse people, and vice-versa. Autism is entirely different to, say, schizophrenia, but much of the lived experience of autism is similar to other mental conditions. The social rejection and the anxiety about more rejection, the anxiety, the shame, the frustration, the despair: these are all emotions that mentally ill people tend to experience more than others. An autist might relate strongly to someone who also feel them, even if that person is not autistic.

If your protagonist has autism themselves, you will have to be very careful about how you render their internal dialogue, should you write about them in the first person. A lot of fiction is poorly written because the characters in it have an unrealistically high level of understanding the behaviour of other people. An autistic protagonist will frequently be baffled by the behaviour they encounter. Much of their behaviour will be a complete mystery.

One of the most dramatic things about autism is the emotional consequences of the social difficulties that arise from having the condition. The awkwardness of autism is often mistaken by other people for malice, psychopathy, pedophilia, terrorist intent and all manner of other things. This makes life extremely difficult and can make for a harrowing story (unless your protagonist turns out to be a pedophile or terrorist).

It ought to be easy to engender sympathy from your reader here, because most people are sympathetic to the sense of injustice that comes from undeserved social rejection. Despite that, the other characters might feel like they have good reasons to reject the autistic character. After all, it is hard to tell the difference between social clumsiness and malice sometimes.

Because autism is a spectrum, there are many subclinical versions of it. A character with a subclinical level of autism will be relatable for many – after all, there is no person who has perfectly smooth social interactions all day every day. For them, their autism might be something that just makes life more colourful or interesting.

Autism can increase in severity all the way up to the point where a character with it will just about live in their own world, divorced from the concerns of most of the others. Realistically, a character with severe autism will have a hard time being a major character in your story because their degree of communication impairment will be so severe that no-one else will understand them. More moderate forms could involve a degree of social impairment that can be more or less overcome.

There is reason to believe that small amounts of autism can be helpful in certain occupational fields, especially those that pertain to the imposition of order upon chaos. Therefore, an autist need not be presented as conspicuously mentally ill. They might have found a niche that suits them perfectly, in some job that requires order to be imposed upon chaos. Mechanics and computer engineers are favourites.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM-V (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Should A Right to Animal Companionship Be Added to the Bill of Rights Act?

Animal companionship is neither a luxury nor a vice

The next attack by the do-gooders on the freedom of people to live their lives unmolested by government interference seems like it’s going to involve attempts to make companion animals illegal, usually on the grounds of some environmentalist excuse such as protecting wildlife. This essay argues that the control freaks need to be headed off at the pass on this issue, by enshrining the human right to animal companionship in the Bill of Rights Act.

The do-gooders have learned nothing from their failed attempts to ban alcohol, cannabis, psychedelics, and currently nicotine. Wielding the power of the state as if a waterblaster, they have attempted to blast away evil by getting the Police to smash in the heads of anyone dealing in this contraband. As anyone with an IQ over 90 could have predicted, this clumsy and cack-handed administration of punishment has only led to immense resentment and unfortunate unforeseen consequences.

People will naturally disobey unjust laws. So when the control freaks try and ban people from owning cats, as has been suggested by the mad witch Eugenie Sage with regards to Wellington, we decent people need to be ready to take counteraction. In fact, we ought to take pre-emptive action now, and agitate for the right to animal companionship to be added as a amendment to the Bill of Rights Act.

There are three major reasons why this should happen.

The first reason is that cats and dogs, and the presence of cats and dogs, are part of the natural life of humans. As described at length here, humans have lived with cats for so long on account of needing the cats to control the rodents that attacked their grain supplies, that we have essentially formed a symbiotic relationship with them. We have lived with dogs for even longer.

Cats are effectively a technology that has developed for the sake of pest control. Dogs are effectively a technology that has developed for the sake of hunting and security.

There are tens of thousands of rural dwellers who could tell you about the consequences of not owning a cat when you live in the country, as many Kiwis do. The consequences are to have everything in your house destroyed by rodents. The situation is not much better in the cities, because wherever people live they store food and throw away rubbish, and either action attracts rodents.

Because rodents and disease are constant companions, owning a cat is an essential part of home hygiene. People who are aware of the hygiene benefits of cats would no sooner not own one than they would stop washing their own hair.

The second major reason why a right to animal companionship ought to be enshrined in the Human Rights Act is because of the mental health benefits of animal companionship. These benefits are so great that any attempt to take them away from people ought to be construed as cruelty, the same way that it is illegal to withhold a medicine from people.

Loneliness is one of the biggest killers in our modern societies, and is a main driver of suicide. The natural tribal model has collapsed under the pressures of industrial capitalism and the population explosion brought about by the Green Revolution, and there is ample evidence that a lack of healthy social relationships is what is responsible for the increasing rates of youth suicide.

Science has shown that for people with compromised social support networks, such as the elderly or the unwell, animal companionship has a massive positive effect on their mental health. For people in these situations, quality time with a cat or a dog might be the only quality time they spend with any sentient being, and can easily be the difference between psychological good health and mental illness.

The third major reason to write something about animal companionship into the Bill of Rights Act is to pre-empt Government overreach. We already know that the kind of person who runs for Parliament, and who succeeds in becoming a lawmaker, is usually a power-crazed control freak with little to no respect for the free will of the voting public.

The thought that these overpaid bureaucrat-psychopaths in Wellington are sitting around thinking up new excuses to take rights away from people is enough to stoke outrage. Where does it end? Do we get told how many calories of food we’re allowed to consume per week, or how many hours we’re allowed to spend on the Internet?

The control freaks need to be pre-empted with a clearly defined and explained law that makes it illegal to ban either cats or dogs from a given neighbourhood, or to discriminate against a potential property tenant on the grounds that they own a pet. The Bill of Rights Act should be amended to state that New Zealanders have the right to animal companionship.

New Zealand has, sadly, destroyed our hard-won reputation as a human rights leader with our complete failure to deal with cannabis law reform. We could win that reputation back by taking intelligent and progressive measures to combat mental illness. One of these measures could be the entrenchment of the right of New Zealanders to have animal companionship in their place of dwelling.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Writing Dissociative Identity Disorder

Once known as Multiple Personality Disorder, and known casually by some as “split personality”, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a condition characterised by more than one distinct personality in the same physical body. The disorder is one of the most misunderstood and mischararacterised of all psychiatric conditions. This article looks at how to write believable and non-cliched characters who have Dissociative Identity Disorder.

People who have DID don’t change personalities whimsically. It usually only happens in response to intense stress or emotional pressure. When it does, however, it can be frightening and confusing for the people who see it. A person who has “switched” personalities might indeed seem to be an entirely different person, with different facial expressions, a different gait, different body language and an entirely different way of talking. Their vibe might feel entirely different, and not just in the sense of a change of mood.

Like many of the conditions in this book, DID is believed to have origins in early childhood abuse. The currently prevailing theory is that particularly intense early childhood trauma can cause the mind to dissociate. If this is severe enough, this dissociation can lead to one part of the mind becoming almost quarantined from the others, as if to protect the whole.

For example, a child might receive such intense physical abuse that their personality splits into a regular child’s personality (or primary identity) and a second, much harder and meaner one, who comes about as an adaptation to the abuse. What this can lead to is a situation where the second personality comes out in stressful situations as if trying to “defend” the primary personality from further trauma and abuse. That second personality might be willing to make decisions and take measures that the first cannot countenance.

Characteristic of this condition is the inability for one persona to remember things that have been said to another persona. Because the various personas are complete personalities with their own set of memories, things that are understood by one persona are not necessarily understood by others. People with DID can also lose track of time very easily, on account of that time that passes for one personality doesn’t necessarily also pass for another.

If the protagonist of your story encounters a character with DID, their first clue might be observing signs of depression in that other character. People with DID commonly also have depression, partially on account of the difficulty of living with the condition, and partially as a result of early childhood trauma and abuse. Other conditions are commonly comorbid with DID, especially the other conditions that are believed to have origins in heavy childhood trauma, such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, anorexia and bulimia.

Your protagonist might find it baffling how that the character with DID sometimes doesn’t remember what’s said to them. Even more baffling is that the character with DID will often react with anger if it is put to them that a certain subject had already been talked about. Your protagonist might conclude that the character with DID is on drugs of some kind, and they might feel like they have good reason to draw such a conclusion.

In other ways, your protagonist might have to tread carefully. The heavy childhood abuse that usually precedes the development of DID can make a character with the condition hard to deal with for reasons not directly related to it. For example, they might be paranoid, suspicious, vicious etc. before the effects of DID are accounted for. This might mean that your protagonist mistakes the separate personalities of a person with DID as them being dishonest. Your protagonist might feel that the character with DID is only pretending not to remember things.

If the protagonist of your story has DID themselves, then telling a story about them automatically becomes a challenge because it isn’t clear who is speaking in the first person and who is speaking in the third. Assuming that there’s a primary personality and a secondary one, the primary one might be the one that is written about in the first person. It’s possible to do both, but care has to be taken not to sound like you are retelling the story of Jekyll and Hyde.

Your protagonist’s encounters with other characters could become extremely difficult if the protagonist has this condition. They might find themselves confronted with repeated accusations of being two different people – an accusation which is, understandably, not simple to deal with. Neither are accusations of being on drugs, or being a bastard, or lying, or just being fucked-up – all things that a protagonist with DID might have to deal with from other characters.

DID is not schizophrenia, but it shares many things in common with schizophrenia. DID is believed to be the single most strongly correlated psychiatric condition with severe early childhood abuse and neglect, with schizophrenia closely behind. So a person with DID might have deep understanding of how schizophrenics think and operate, and may have gone through some parts of the schizophrenia spectrum themselves.

It’s worth noting here that attempting to get off a criminal charge by claiming that one has DID and that one’s alternate personality did the crime has virtually zero chance of success, and that even if it did succeed the consequences would probably entail involuntary psychiatric care every bit as unpleasant as going to prison. Juries and judges are wise to such simple tricks and it won’t succeed outside of an extraordinary setting.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM-V (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Writing Dependent Personality Disorder

Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) is a condition characterised by an extreme emotional dependence on other people. It’s usually a long=term condition that makes it much harder to live an ordinary life, and is slightly more common among women and young adults. This article looks at how to accurately write about characters with Dependent Personality Disorder.

People who have DPD have extreme difficulty making decisions on their own on account of their dependence on other people. They tend to lack the self-confidence to back their own instincts and their own decision making. They are rarely certain that they have made a good decision, unless someone else gives it their approval. This approval they constantly seek, and they constantly act to avoid disapproval.

DPD is a Cluster C Personality Disorder, which means that fear and anxiety are ever-present features of it. In this case, the fear and anxiety primarily relates to making wrong decisions. For whatever reason, people with DPD don’t learn that no-one on this planet really knows what they’re doing and that their decisions are usually as good as anyone else’s. Dependent personalities have a strong desire to have someone else give the “stamp of approval” to their behaviours and actions.

If the protagonist of your story encounters a character with DPD, they might perceive that second character as childish, even infantile. Many of their mannerisms will be the same as young children who are yet to learn the boundaries of social behaviour. A common example is when they make a joke but become afraid that it was a social error until someone else laughs, at which point they do too.

This can be frustrating if the protagonist has to get the character with DPD to take adult responsibilities and to be independent. The condition is especially challenging since the harder someone pressures a person with DPD to take responsibility, the more anxious they will become, and consequently the more dependent. The protagonist will have to know patience to succeed, and if they don’t know if they have to learn.

Your protagonist might be resented by a DPD character if that character feels the protagonist is not approving enough. It’s common for people to think disparagingly of someone with DPD because they see dependency as weak and craven. This timidity can breed resentment, so that a character with DPD might easily feel themselves slighted and wish to take revenge. Passive-aggressive behaviour is a common feature.

A protagonist who has DPD themselves probably lives a life of extreme anxiety. Because so many decisions are made in everyday life, a protagonist with DPD will almost certainly have a lot of difficulty living one. They will have great difficulty getting projects or activities started, because they are too dependent on what other people think to take the initiative themselves.

This is especially the case when a person with DPD has to be examined by an authority figure. If a protagonist with DPD has to, for example, sit a driver’s licence test, it’s common for them to work themselves into a state of panic beforehand, thinking about the possibility of making a mistake and earning the instructor’s disapproval. Passing through international customs is also a great trial. Both of these situations induce far more anxiety in someone with DPD than in a person without the condition.

If your protagonist has this condition, they might find it extremely difficult to ask for their rights if they are being taken advantage of. A character with DPD might be so afraid of disapproval from their boss that they don’t seek to enforce their rights, and standing up to one’s parents is out of the question (unless one is really pushed too far). They might also take measures to ensure that they are never alone, because this requires that one think for oneself.

People with this condition tend to be highly motivated to seek out and maintain relationships with people they consider protectors or caregivers. A protagonist who is acting along these lines might find that pledging their allegiance to a leader of some kind alleviates much of their anxiety about not making correct decisions, for good or for ill.

DPD patients usually have a perception of themselves as powerless or incapable of anything, which might betray a life story of having been treated in that manner by authority figures. Mirroring this is a perception of other people as all-powerful and infinitely capable. This is not simply the same as low self-esteem, because DPD doesn’t tend to come with the bitterness and resentment that characterises a poor self-image.

As with many of the conditions in this book, there is believed to be a considerable link between early childhood abuse or neglect and later development of DPD. In particular, it is thought that parenting styles with too much overprotectiveness or authoritarianism correlate with having the condition. Overprotective parents might prevent a child from exposing themselves to danger and therefore from learning that they are capable of overcoming it, whereas authoritarians might create a sense of learned helplessness.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM-V (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Writing Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Frequently confused with schizophrenia, Schizotypal Personality Disorder (STPD) is a schizophrenia spectrum disorder that manifests as an extremely odd or eccentric personality type, with strong social anxiety and unpopular beliefs. The characteristic feature of it is an unwillingness or inability to engage in close social bonds such as friendships. This article looks at how to write engaging and believable characters with STPD.

The concept of a “schizophrenia spectrum” is relatively new and the precise boundaries between the various stages on this spectrum are not yet perfectly clear. One way of thinking of STPD is as a less debilitating and destructive form of schizophrenia. STPD is a Cluster A personality disorder, which means that people with the condition broadly come across as odd or eccentric, but not particularly dangerous or anxious.

Despite affecting around 3% of the population (and a higher percentage in males), so that almost everyone will have met someone with it, STPD is not a well-known condition. A character with STPD might be conspicuous on account of odd habits when it comes to speech or dress. They might mumble and speak vaguely and imprecisely, and they might wear highly unfashionable clothing or styles of clothing without thinking it amiss.

Some theories consider that there are two different forms of schizotypal personality disorder, one which is passive and one which is active. These are called insipid and timorous schizotypy.

If the protagonist of your story encounters an insipid schizotypal person, they might have difficulty with that person’s strange and absent way of being. Sometimes this sort of schizotypy can come across as vacant, as if the person inside was without emotion. If your protagonist is not a worldly type they might mistake a character with STPD for being on heavy drugs.

The protagonist of your story might want to make friends with a character who has a condition like this, only to be constantly frustrated. The other character might have decided as a general rule that other people don’t like them and so it’s not really worth trying to be friends with them, and so they are not interested in a friendship with your protagonist. Your protagonist might try several ways to overcome this social reticence, and may or may not succeed.

People who are timorous schizotypal are likely to create a different set of problems. This version of schizotypy is more active, which means that it is more likely to present as hostility and paranoia. Although a character with this condition is not likely to become aggressive, they are still likely to exhibit much of the suspicion, wariness and hostility that other people often mistake for aggression.

If the protagonist of your story has schizotypal personality disorder, they might find that other people can’t tell the difference between them and a schizophrenic. It is possible that a person with schizotypal personality disorder is not much different from the characters around them, but that this difference is still enough to cause their ostracisation.

As might be guessed from the above descriptions, people who have STPD often have related conditions, such as Paranoid Personality Disorder, Depression or Avoidant Personality Disorder. People with STPD are often genuinely afraid of other people and what those other people might think of them, and this can lead to them becoming paranoid about what other people are saying about them.

A person with STPD might then choose to just stay away from other people so as to not give them a reason to dislike them. A character developing this condition might find themselves discovering more and more reasons for avoiding social contact until they end up becoming a shut in.

Also very common are what are called delusions of reference. This is when a person encounters an event that they interpret as having special meaning just for them. For instance, a character with STPD might hear some advertisement on television and think it’s referring to them specifically, or they might meet a person twice on the same day by total coincidence, and mistake this for being stalked or similar.

Like many of the conditions in this book, schizotypal personality disorder is heavily correlated with early childhood abuse and neglect. There are some theories that suggest that the schizophrenia spectrum, rather than being simply a form of damage, is an adaptation, in which the person afflicted falls into chaos in the hope of reforming in a healthy way, instead of staying hard and risking becoming vicious.

For this reason, the schizotypal personality, like the schizophrenic, often feels hard done by and misunderstood. They might be aware that the usual course of action for a person who has been damaged as badly as them is to become cruel, perhaps vicious, and that their condition has in some sense prevented this. A profound sense of injustice can arise from the reality that their condition will afford a low social status.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM-V (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.