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Author Topic: The nature of dementia
ATW
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I'm working on a character for a story who has convinced himself that he's supernaturally lucky. Basically he and a friend are in an "unsurvivable" car wreck but he not only survives but wakes up with a multi-million dollar winning lotto ticket in his pocket.

Using that money and luck in the stock market, he builds a financial empire.

In the story he's going to suck up another character into his dementia and into a cross-country "treasure hunt" with apocalyptic implications while being chased by his enemies. The treasure could be a designer engineered disease, some other superweapon, ancient magicks which might explain why he's so lucky, etc. Still up in the air at this point.

But I'm having trouble figuring out how to handle other people thinking he's lucky beyond that one event. The other main character needs to be skeptical then convinced into being a true believer before discovering the guy is a lunatic. And it'd be nice if bystanders would be able to remark on how lucky the guy is.

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Sancselfieme
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You may want to use greed and jealosy as one of your primary reactions for some characters to show how greed can cloud rational thought.
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aupton15
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You should get a copy of the DSM IV and look up shared psychotic disorder (or something like that). That might give you some elements for dealing with sucking another person in to his dementia. Borderline disorder is another good one for imagining that people are commenting on you when they really aren't. In other words he could see people having conversations and "know" they were talking jealously about his good fortune.
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ATW
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Well, I'm not worried about him convincing himself. Its the non-demented people I'm worried about.
[Smile]

Could he be doing things that he's not consciously aware of like sleight of hand or tricks? Say that he palms a $20 bill then "finds" it on the ground. Or buys a hundred scratch off lottery tickets, tosses the losers, and the "gets a winner" every time someone is watching?

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Vespero
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What you are describing would be more akin to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia (perhaps with co-ocurring bipolar I disorder), or if the charater's delusions are more realistic, delusional disorder. I guess it could also fit the profile of someone with bipolar I disorder with psychotic features, and people with this disoder can be very persuasive while they are in their psychotic manic phases.

I don't think dementia would be a good fit, since it usually involves functional impairent. The character also sounds too coherent for it to be considered a dissociative fugue.

If we want to talk potential personality disorders, he would probably fit either a narcisistic (a word I invaribaly misspell) or borderline personality disorder's criteria. You can look these up on the internet to get an idea of the profiles of these types, or if you would like to ask some more specific questions, I would be glad to provide an idea of how someone with these disorders might respond in a given situation.

[ November 19, 2004, 01:05 PM: Message edited by: Vespero ]

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aupton15
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Wow, that's a great concept. That would probably fall more along the line of a dissociative disorder. Something like multiple personality (dissociative identity disorder, as it is now called). But it sounds like your character wouldn't be as extreme as that. You could look at something like multiple personality or dissociative fugue in the DSM and probably find some symptoms that you can work in. Your description does not remind me of a specific disorder, but I think dissociation is the element that you are going to want to pull out of this. I still think you should read about Borderline too. It might give you other ideas about behaviors you want to write in. Also keep in mind that most people with a clinical diagnosis have at least two disorers, and frequently more. So don't worry too much about symptoms from multiple disorders. I'm really intrigued by this story. Update as you progress please.
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the-womp
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Wow, I really like where this could go?

Is he going to be a likeable guy? Does he really know that his luck is real (using sleight of hand to make it appear that way) or is he truly convinced?

I dont' know if you would want to make him fit a DSM-IV diagnosis too much. It would be more interesting if he is just a little bit off and you always wonder if he really IS right!

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EDanaII
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<Nerd Mode="On>

You're not really talking about dementia , ATW, but, rather, self delusion.

Furthermore, if their are explanations for his luck, such as ancient magic, he can be neither demented or deluded as their is a rational explanation for his fortune.

Finally, ever hear of The Luck of Teela Brown? [Smile]

</Nerd Mode>

Ed.

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stayne
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You mentione dementia, but it's not clear to me if the guy really _is_ super lucky. Is he? If he is, a few games of dice would do.

If not, perhaps something that _appears_ to be luck, like seemingly randomly chosen stock market wins that are actually the result of a superb intuition? He could fool himself and others with something like this.

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ATW
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I'm not sure if the story is ever going anywhere. I'm good at writing articles for various low circulation publications but the art of the novel seems to be escaping me. I'd be better off getting someone with writing experience for a collaboration. But who wants to collaborate with someone who is having trouble writing, no proven track record, and very little time to devote to the writing? [Smile]


I'm not anticipating getting into diagnosing exactly what disorder he has in the book. I think knowing that he's warped will be good enough for the story. But like everything else right now, its subject to change.

I'm wanting a "diagnosis" so I can write him with some kind of accuracy. Or to mine the diagnosis for ideas.

============

"Is he going to be a likeable guy?"

Oh, yes. Charismatic as hell, good looking, rich, generous, etc. And a genuine hero saving little old ladies who are trying to cross the street but almost get run over by a bus. (though he's going to be cut off from his money for most of the story)

I'm considering making his traveling companion a female to get a love interest going. (Or as just occurred to me, a man-to-man love interest could make the book a best seller...in a very small market segment.)

"Does he really know that his luck is real (using sleight of hand to make it appear that way) or is he truly convinced?"

He's 100% convinced. He thinks he's ten feet tall and bulletproof.

I'm figuring he gets away with some of the physical stunts he does just from not being afraid of the consequences. Like most anyone can walk on a 2x4. But make that a bridge between two buildings and most people would flinch.

This guy on the other hand would run full speed across it or even jump off the top of a building knowing he'd be lucky enough to catch the clothesline on the way down.

=========


More story details:

1) The lotto ticket and the wreck

It was his friend's lotto ticket and it was in some manner the reason for there being a wreck. Its possible they were struggling over possession of the ticket or something like that. This traumatic event triggered whatever mental problem the guy has.

2) How does someone who is delusional come up with real physical enemies who are chasing them?

Several methods.

a) Some of the people following him are employees from his company. They finally clued in that he was off his rocker and they're trying to catch him before he does something spectacularly dangerous or stupid.

This could involve whatever the guy's ultimate goal is. Like if he's going after genetically engineered diseases or some superweapon, they could be afraid he'd use it. Maybe its even something his own company was developing.

I'm wanting to keep at least some of the company people sympathetic. After the guy gets his goal due to the self-sacrifice of his traveling companion, they're going to be separated. Then the traveling companion is going to figure out he screwed up and had been on the wrong side. It'll be easier writing if he has someone to interact with while he desperately is trying to track down his friend. (or a policeman could fill that role rather than a company employee, see below)

b) Its really difficult to tell when driving in traffic if you are being followed. The guy's going to say, "Hey, we're being followed" then start driving crazy and causing twenty car pileups on the freeway.

Same problem being followed on foot in a crowd. He picks someone at random who looks suspicious and convinces himself its one of the bad guys. Quickly pulls him into an alley and knifes him.

Could in reality be anyone from a total innocent to a gang member to an undercover cop.

c) The police are going to be watching for them.

There'll be carjacking, killings, and all sorts of minor crimes committed while "escaping the bad guys".

"Obviously", however, the police have been suborned and are looking for them as part of the bad guy's sinister plot.

=========

I wasn't thinking about multiple personalities and such but it might make some ideas easier.

I was toying with the idea of the guy actually have had training in various skills he's displayed, killing the trainer, then forgetting he ever learned the skill. Sort of a "No, I've never shot a gun before in my life" effect after a spectacular display of a lucky shot.

If a policeman played a role later in the book, he could keep in touch with the people identifying the bodies. All of the freakishly lucky things from the first part of the book are going to look different in hindsight as they find the body of the card sharp, pool hustler, Green Beret, etc.

==========

"Finally, ever hear of The Luck of Teela Brown?"

IMO, she's the Leader of the Pack.

Pak. [Wink]

http://www.elyrics4u.com/l/leader_of_the_pack_the_shangri_las.htm

[ November 19, 2004, 10:23 PM: Message edited by: ATW ]

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towellman
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Definately Mania is the way to go for your man. Manics can be very convincing of their delusions. I think you could easily weave reality and delusion into a manic persons life events. They really are confident and have tons of energy so he may be able to accomplish more than he ever previously thought possible. If you show episodes of his "luck" leaving him, that could account for the depression side of the bipolar disorder.

To be true to mania he should probably make the transition from seeing luck to seeing divine intervention or that he is special or extremely important in some way...a prophet, the 4th coming of Christ--yeah, apparantly we missed #2 & #3...but those should be out on DVD soon : )--or figure thats so important he's persecuted by an imaginary organization that all drive red cars. I've seen all those in bipolar or schizophrenia with delusions.

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Vespero
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I agree. If he is going to be very likeable and very convincing to the point where other people do not need to be suffering from some sort of dellusion to believe him, then a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder with psychotic features would probably be the best choice. One thing to keep in mind is that someone can receive a diagnosis of bipolar I even if they only experience the manic phases and not the depressive ones, and from what you are saying this character is pretty much always very "up" and never depressed.

I can even think of a few of my own patients with bipolar I who sound somewhat like the character you are describing. The nice thing is, there is a lot of good information out there, even on the internet, that you can find to help you learn more about bipolar I disorder.

Please don't take this the wrong way, because I'm not trying to boast about my title or position (I know here at Ornery.org we aren't impressed by anyone's title, I'm just trying to say that I am familiar with the experience of people with the various disorders), but I think from my point of view as a professional who was trained in these things, and using the law of parsimony in diagnosis, bipolar I disorder with psychotic features would be the most accurate diagnosis to explain both the personality traits and the actions of your character.

Of course, you could still call it any number of other disorders with a few twists in explanation, so I'm not saying there is any one "right" thing to apply here (he's a character in a book, he can be whatever you want him to be, and any psychological evaluation of him can only be tentative and superficial). I'm just saying probably the easiest one to apply would be the bipolar I with psychotic features diagnosis.

It sounds like a fun story to read. It makes me want to go watch "A Beautiful Mind" again (by the way, if you haven't read the book upon which that movie was made, you're missing out. It is unbelievably well done).

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LoverOfJoy
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It kinda reminds me of Bourne Identity. Can't wait to see it on the big screen. [Wink]

It could be an interesting twist if he had fictitious disorder.

As for someone else being convinced of his luck, perhaps he could get shot in the chest and jump back up because of a pocketwatch in the way of the bullet.

Initially seeing someone get shot, fall down, and get right back up without bleeding could initially make you wonder if he really IS immortal or something. Finding out about the watch might convince you at least temporarily that he might be super lucky on a perpetual basis but it wouldn't have staying power unless other things happened, too.

You could have some bad things happen and the companion starts to doubt but then sees how those bad things actually kept him from getting on a plane that explodes or something much simpler...he misses a taxi, but then the timing helps him uncover something else he wouldn't have otherwise.

It would be interesting if one part of his delusion IS real. Like he really does inadvertantly witness a mafia scheme. If the companion sees one part of the mafia scheme played out he/she could believe the rest of the story that is just imagined.

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aupton15
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Well, if we're going to mention the big screen, it has to be Memento. ATW, if you haven't seen it, you should. It's more about Amnesia, but some of the logistics of the material would probably be of interest to you. Good luck!
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