Mental Health Monday–Veritaserum Muggle-Style

Author Lynn Rush asks:

Are there any drugs out there that would make someone more susceptible to mind control/brain washing?

The quick answer is no.

HOWEVER, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the Amytal Interview was used mainly in psychotherapy to draw up information from the unconscious (AKA subconscious) mind. Some thought it helped patients recover “forgotten memories.”

Sodium Amytal (amobarbitol) is a barbituate drug that can induce similar effects to alcohol intoxication (drowsiness, slurred speech, distorted sense of time, a feeling of warmth) and those given the drug can enter what’s called the “twilight” state (which is between sleep and wakefulness).

(Those of you who watched Hannibal Rising remember the scene where Hannibal injects himself with a drug to remember the men who murdered his sister, right? Well, that’s the idea.)

Further research found that people can actually fabricate (lie) information while in this twilight state. Therefore, the idea that truth will be told when in a relaxed, drugged state is NOT accurate.

Bummer, right?

Er, I mean, it would make a nice plot device in any novel, but is not reality. 😉

A “fun” fact: Soldiers were given Sodium Amytal to treat “Shell Shock” (now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in World War II. It allowed the soldiers to return to the front lines. Yay for them. O_o

Remember, these posts are for writing purposes only and are NOT to be construed as medical treatment or advice.

Check out Lydia Kang’s Medical Monday post and Sarah Fine’s The Strangest Situation.

Mental Health Monday–Munchausen’s Syndrome

Lydia, Sarah, and I are converging to make the perfect storm trifecta of blog posts regarding Munchausen’s Syndrome.

Named after the great Baron von Munchausen, who purportedly told elaborate and fictional stories about himself, Munchausen’s Disorder is part of a class of disorders called Facticious Disorders.

The DSM-IV criteria for Facticious Disorders include:

  • Intentionally producing or feigning symptoms of a medical or mental illness
  • External motivators (as found in Malingering) (such as wanting three hots and a cot) are absent
  • Motivation for such behavior is to adapt the “sick role”

Munchausen Syndrome Factoids:

  • Individuals suffering from Munchausen Syndrome have a particularly chronic and severe course
  • They tend to have medical knowledge or even training in the medical field
  • They will intentionally infect themselves or overdose on medication such that medical intervention is necessary. Examples include: putting urine, feces, or dirty water in a wound; taking insulin to cause a drop in blood sugar; taking Warfarin (Coumadin), a blood thinner, to cause bruising and bleeding
  • They will often submit to or even demand invasive procedures and surgeries. A telltale sign of someone with Munchausen’s Syndrome is multiple scars over their bodies, particularly the abdomen
  • They will often move from town to town, hospital to hospital, especially when they are “found out”

The risks of having Munchausen’s Syndrome:

  • Feigning illness leads to unnecessary and sometimes risky procedures
  • Infecting a wound or overdosing on medications could be life-threatening
  • A patient often lies about real medical issues or allergies and therefore could be given treatment that will harm or even kill them
  • Because of multiple, unnecessary visits to hospitals, they are more at risk of developing iatrogenic illness
  • They often refuse corroboration with other treatment providers, leaving gaps in history that may be significant for a clinician to know

So, how do we help people with Munchausen’s Syndrome?

It’s VERY difficult. Most do not admit to their behavior and become very angry when confronted. They sign out AMA (Against Medical Advice) and seek another hospital/clinician. They are often not even remotely interested in psychiatric help. They have little insight (internal understanding) of their illness and behavior. In other words, they aren’t able to see what makes it risky or potentially harmful.

The individual in the photo below had over 40 unnecessary surgeries. Turns out, he did end up developing colon cancer. Talk about the case of the boy who cried wolf!

Remember, these posts are for WRITING PURPOSES ONLY and are NOT to be construed as medical or psychiatric treatment or advice.

ALSO, check out Kendall Grey’s blog today–I’m up for her Manual Transmission tour! 🙂

Mental Health Monday–Pleading Insanity

The Oxygen network plays a Snapped marathon every Sunday. I often find myself watching case after case of women “snapping” and killing their parents, husbands, boyfriends, etc and then trying with all their might to get out of any punishment.

Some defense attorneys go for the Insanity Plea as a way to avoid jail time for their clients.

There are two major criteria that someone must meet in order to use insanity as a defense.

  1. You have to suffer from a major mental illness
  2. You have to lack understanding and consequences of the crime you commit (in other words, you don’t know right from wrong at the time you engage in the crime)

Without these two things in place, you can’t successfully plea insanity.

So, when your character is under fire and might stand trial for murder, consider this if you’re gonna try to get them off with the Insanity Plea.

Remember, these posts are for WRITING PURPOSES ONLY and are NOT intended to treat any illness or to be medical (and in this case legal) advice.

Check out Lydia Kang’s Medical Monday and Sarah Fine’s The Strangest Situation for more fantastic writerly information!

Mental Health Monday–Loner Style

Amanda (writer and blogger–A Fortnight of Mustard) asks:

My character is a loner. He’s afraid to get close to people. He wasn’t neglected as a kid, but he’s lost most people close to him in [an epic tragedy]. Is this attachment disorder?

GREAT question, Amanda!

Attachment Disorder means there is a failure to form normal attachments to others. It is often associated with early experiences of neglect and abuse by primary care givers (ex. parents), or abrupt separation from caregivers between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, or frequent change in caregivers, or lack of a caregivers response to the child’s efforts to communicate.

An example of an attachment disorder is Reactive Attachment Disorder. This is evidenced by a toddler who fails to stay near familiar adults in a new environment or failure to be comforted by a familiar person OR by a six year old who displays excessive friendliness and inappropriate approaches to strangers.

Attachment theory posits that infants will attach to a caregiver as a means to protect itself from danger or as a means of survival. (This is an evolutionary theory.) This is not the same as love and affection, although those behaviors are needed to create a strong bond. 😉

Each person has his or her own Attachment style (or pattern of relating to others) based on early childhood caregiving experiences. The styles include: secure, anxious-ambivalent, anxious-avoidant, and disorganized. These styles are not in and of themselves disorders, but can lead to problems with relating to others, based on how prevalent the style is and which type.

I’m sure my dear friend Sarah Fine, who is a child psychologist, writer, and blogger (The Strangest Situation), can give a much better explanation of all the jargon I just threw at you.

I included the above discussion to state that it doesn’t appear your character has an Attachment Disorder because he wasn’t abused and he was normal before this traumatic incident.

However, there are several other things that could be going on, which I’ll touch on now.

Someone who goes through a severe trauma is susceptible to developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. To be diagnosed with PTSD, the person has to be exposed to something that is PERCEIVED as life-threatening. They can develop flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance (ex. looking for any potential foe wherever they are, sitting in a corner to watch the exits, planning an exit strategy wherever they are, checking over their shoulder every few seconds), hyperarousal (ex. startle response–jumping when the phone rings), numbing of emotions, and avoidance (of talking about the situation, avoidance of others, avoidance of any stimulating situations).

Amanda, your character displays avoidance and perhaps numbing of emotions. He lost several people close to him and so it would seem that he’s at risk of having PTSD. I don’t know if he has intrusive, recurrent memories (flashbacks) or nightmares of the incident or if he has hyperarousal, so it’s difficult to do a formal diagnosis.

Additionally, you mentioned he is (or can be) reckless and go headlong into dangerous situations. So, it could be that though he is traumatized by what happened, he is also desensitized to horrific experiences. Interestingly, soldiers who are exposed to combat become more effective in that environment than in a civilian environment. They have in a way become adapted to staying in the hyperaroused state (for survival) and then can’t handle things when the danger is gone.

Finally, loss is one of the most difficult things a person can experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if your character also experiences significant bereavement, grief, or even depression secondary to loss. This can last years. AND it would be advantageous, in a way, to avoid getting close to others because then he wouldn’t have to face the agony or terror of losing someone else.

I hope this was helpful!

Keep your questions coming, folks! And check out Lydia Kang’s Medical Monday while you’re at it. Remember these posts are for writing purposes ONLY and are NOT intended to be medical diagnosis, treatment, or advice.


Flake-out Friday: Dear God, I’ve Become The Cat Lady…Also, CONTEST WINNERS!!!!

All the stereotypes are true. If you’re a single woman in a big house, you’re going to have cats. Lots of them.

*shakes head*

I never thought it would happen to me. Guess that’s how denial works.

But they’re just SO CUUUUTE! How could I NOT keep them?


Gracie (The Diva Princess)

Callie (upper right) and Lily (lower left) (The Twins)

Mahli (The Boy)


And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

*drum roll please*

The winners of last week’s blog tour contestants are:

Lydia K wins Wasteland by Lynn Rush!


Amie Borst wins Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Post your email and I’ll forward it on to Lynn and Michelle respectively.


Mental Health Monday–Support Matters

So, part of good mental health includes having a strong support network. Lemme tell you, writers KNOW how to support one another.

Elizabeth Mueller proposed that we writers spread our support of Bethany Wiggins and her debut novel SHIFTING by posting this post on our blogs. SHIFTING goes on sale tomorrow and it’s DEFINITELY on my list of books to read!

Give some applause to Elizabeth and her fabulous idea and give a woot-woot! to Bethany!!!!

*claps and woots*


Book blurb:

After bouncing from foster home to foster home, Magdalene Mae is transferred  to what should be her last foster home in the tiny town of Silver City, New Mexico. Now that she’s eighteen and has only a year left in high school, she’s determined to stay out of trouble and just be normal. Agreeing to go to the prom with Bridger O’Connell is a good first step. Fitting in has never been her strong suit, but it’s not for the reasons most people would expect-it all has to do with the deep secret that she is a shape shifter. But even in her new home danger lurks, waiting in the shadows to pounce. They are the Skinwalkers of Navajo legend, who have traded their souls to become the animal whose skin they wear-and Maggie is their next target.

Full of romance, mysticism, and intrigue, this dark take on Navajo legend will haunt readers to the final page.

About the Author:
Bethany Wiggins has always been an avid reader, but not an avid writer. Seriously!!! She failed ninth grade English because she read novels instead of doing her homework. In high school, she sat alone at lunch and read massive hardback fantasy novels (Tad Williams and Robert Jordan anyone?). It wasn’t until the end of her senior year that the other students realized she was reading fiction–not the Bible


Several years ago Bethany’s sister dared her to start writing an hour a day until she completed a novel.  Bethany wrote a seven-hundred page fantasy novel that she wisely let no one read–but it taught her how to write.  The fifth novel she write, SHIFTING, is being published by Walker Books September 27, 2011.



web page:




Be sure to check out Lydia’s Medical Monday post and Sarah Fine’s blog.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog–What a Character!

Welcome to September! Geez, where has the year gone?!?!?!?!

Anywho, a new month means a new sisterhood topic. This month, Sarah Fine at The Strangest Situation has come up with an awesome question!

She asks:

How do you develop your characters? Do you flesh out the details before (like writing as that character, writing backstory, or filling out a questionnaire about their preferences and history) or invent as you go?

I have a pretty consistent pattern when it comes to decision making and idea development.

I let my subconscious (or, as Freud would say, unconscious) mind do all the work. Sounds easy, right?

Problem is, my subconscious mind often goes on its own schedule so it’s not like I can say, “Hey, Subconscious, I need a story idea and a cast of characters by next Thursday.” Cuz my subconscious mind will say, “Pfft. Sure, no problem, but you’ll have to wait.”

So that’s what I do.

It may take a couple days or it may takes weeks and months for my brain to come up with something, but once it does, then I know I’m ready to pursue the idea.

Okay, okay. I’m hearing some of you say, “But why don’t you just free write or write character sketches or something, to get the ideas flowing?”

Those are GREAT ideas, but they don’t work for me. If I actively make a character up, it feels forced, fake, and *gasp!* cliche.

Additionally, if I get going along in a project and an idea strikes me, I may include it in as part of my character’s development. In that regard, it is an evolving process too.

I often find my dreams to be a wealth of information as well. But, really, that’s my subconscious mind at work too, you know?

How about you? How do you develop your characters?

Lydia will be taking the reins next week to describe how she develops her characters. I can’t wait to read it!

Every Wednesday

Mental Health Monday–Under the Weather

I had to work unexpectedly this past weekend because the weekend doc wasn’t able to get here from NYC secondary to the trains not running.

As a result, I had limited time (what with working, preparing for the hurricane, and playing host for my grandma who stayed with us to ride out the storm) to put together blog posts for this week. I will still post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but my posts will be more lighthearted.

I hope you enjoy.

And I hope all of you in the path of Irene survived unscathed!

Be sure to check out Lydia’s Medical Monday and Sarah Fine’s The Strangest Situation.

Mental Health Monday–Practicing Good Mental Health

So, I’ve worked 24 out of the past 26 days and let me tell you, I’m bushed!

Not only am I juggling multiple roles within my job, I’m also trying to juggle writing, querying, blogging, reading, and renovating my house. I can manage this burst of activity for a few weeks, sure, but after almost 2 months of this breakneck pace, I’m getting stressed out.

I’m not saying this to garner sympathy. I’m pointing out that it’s important to identify your limits and learn how to pace yourself so you don’t burn the candle at both ends and end up burned out.

In fact, I’ve had several lengthy discussions about this with my team (a psychologist, social worker, resident physician, and admin assistant–all people who I consider dear friends) this past week. We all came to the same conclusion:

Yeah, our job gets ridiculous at times, but thank goodness we have each other to get through it!


Man, we need to figure out how to strike a balance so we don’t “lose it.” 

I’m sure we’re not the only ones experiencing this problem. So, what do we do about it? Well, for starters, we need to think of things to do to take care of ourselves.

Here’s some ideas:

  • Read
  • Write
  • Sleep
  • Take a walk
  • Play with the kitties
  • Exercise
  • Get therapy
  • Go shopping
  • Take a day off
  • Get a massage
  • Watch a movie
  • Laugh

What do you do to take care of yourself?

Check out Lydia’s Medical Monday post and Sarah Fine’s The Strangest Situation. As always, these posts are for writing purposes only and are NOT to be construed as medical advice or treatment.

Be sure to drop a note (comment) if you have a mental health question you’d like answered!



“R” is for Rorschach

A blog buddy and fellow Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog contributor, Sarah Fine, is hosting a blog contest over at The Strangest Situation.

All you have to do is look at a Rorschach blot and comment on what it looks like. Then, she will analyze your mind and describe you darkest and deepest desires.


Okay, really, if you comment, follow Sarah’s blog, and spread the word, you will be entered to win a $30 Amazon gift card, a 3-chapter crit by Sarah herself, or a psychology reading pack (a couple books to help writers deal with psych stuff in their characters).

Super cool!

So head on over there and enter!!! Go on, what’re you waiting for???