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View Full Version : Concerning Believability [Namely of Personality Disorders Given Situation]



Travis J. Smith
08-03-2008, 09:13 PM
I have the second draft of a novel going the rounds with my beta readers, I'm currently working on another novel and I got the idea for yet another that I'm putting on the back burner until I'm done with the current project. Here's the synopsis I came up with for the project on the backburner.
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A man thought he found his one true love, settled down with her and had a child. That childís mother dies after heís grown up to become a young adult in high school. His father doesnít think heíll ever find someone thatís as perfect for him as his late wife but feels itís his duty because his son needs a mother.
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The man is pleasantly surprised by the woman he finds and, like with his former wife, marries and has a kid. It was too good to be true, however, because the relationship falls apart only a couple years after they have their kid together. Throughout their relationship he neglected her child. He was too busy spoiling his first born because he couldnít shake the feeling that he had to keep making up for the death of his mother.
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Following the divorce, the mother begins to shake her ex-husband down in regards to child support. He was too focused on his first born to notice the signs of abuse that presented themselves during their relationship. She hides her sonís cuts and bruises with her make-up when she sends him off to be with his father when itís his time of the month. The rambunctious youthís activity takes the cheap make-up off during his stay with his father and when he comes home the cuts and bruises are there clear as day. She calls in Child Protective Services to severely limit his visitation rights and to up the ante further for child support to pay for her sonís medical bills; she has no insurance. The courts even go so far as to garnish his wages to pay for the son he neglected.
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He looks at how financially dependent she is on him in raising their child and, against court orders, tries to play a bigger role in his kidís life even if that means skating around the law as best he can to do so. He knows he didnít do anything wrong and he feels he deserves a free pass to ignore court mandate. If he is going to be considered things ranging from an unfit father to a convict, he thinks he might as well live up to at least one of those monikers. Things really canít get any worse, he thinks.
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In playing a bigger part in his other sonís life he begins to neglect his first born; no matter what the situation is, he just doesnít have enough love to go around, it seems. Additionally, the motherís crooked schemes are to support herself. Her kid lives nearly as bad as the dogs you see rescued on those shows on Animal Planet. In laymanís terms, sheís a gold digger. But sheís oh so much more.
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What happens when the spoiled favorite stops getting his way and the son that was neglected, still quite young, grows up with very conflicting messages? What will happen when he has a voice in matters and what will the repercussions be?
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Yesterday, I was just bouncing from Wikipedia page to Wikipedia page on subjects regarding things from kleptomania to catatonia and had an idea for the backburner project. Here it is.
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The son neglected by the mother ends up with borderline personality disorder. This seems a distinct possibility with the childhood trauma he experiences due to his mother's abusive, neglectful nature. The other son, previously spoiled, now neglected, ends up with schizoid personality disorder. This results from how his close personal relationships have gone before, with both his mother, dying when he was growing up, and his father, going from treating him like the center of his world to neglecting him. The nature of schizoid personality disorder, abstaining from close personal relationships, makes sense, given this, because by distancing himself in that manner he prevents himself from becoming hurt again.
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I feel that, based on my knowledge of these matters, this is believable, but I'm no expert so I was hoping I could get a second - and possibly third, fourth, et cetera - opinion on the matter. Also, because the synopsis was just a rough thing I wrote up when inspiration hit, if you see anything unbelievable or anything that might need reworking, tell me. Thank you.

Keyan
08-04-2008, 02:05 PM
I don't know the labels, but I'd expect the younger child to have emotional problems - not sure if he'd end up with personality disorders, though he might. It sounds as though he's been abused and neglected from birth, more or less. He would possibly show attachment disorders - the inability to form close trusting relationships. (Is the mother a drug-user?) A lot would depend on the kid's personality. Some children weather this kind of situation by attracting and accepting outside emotional support - from other relatives, teachers, mentors. Others are hard hit.

I can't think of why the elder boy would have any personality disorder at all. First, he was already quite grown up when his mother died. (He might always miss her, of course.) And afterward, his father was as supportive as he could be. By the time he became distant, the boy would - assuming he was normal - be making friends and other connections in the world. After all, he's near adult. He wouldn't be dependent emotionally on his father the way a small child would. He'd be moving more with his peers. Perhaps the boy feels some guilt about how his brother is treated, but again, that's not a disorder. He might have a rougher passage through his teenage years than he would have done had his mother not died.

There's likely to be considerable jealousy between the two brothers.

Travis J. Smith
08-04-2008, 05:23 PM
I don't know the labels, but I'd expect the younger child to have emotional problems - not sure if he'd end up with personality disorders, though he might. It sounds as though he's been abused and neglected from birth, more or less. He would possibly show attachment disorders - the inability to form close trusting relationships. (Is the other a drug-user?) A lot would depend on the kid's personality. Some children weather this kind of situation by attracting and accepting outside emotional support - from other relatives, teachers, mentors. Others are hard hit.

I can't think of why the elder boy would have any personality disorder at all. First, he was already quite grown up when his mother died. (He might always miss her, of course.) And afterward, his father was as supportive as he could be. By the time he became distant, the boy would - assuming he was normal - be making friends and other connections in the world. After all, he's near adult. He wouldn't be dependent emotionally on his father the way a small child would. He'd be moving more with his peers. Perhaps the boy feels some guilt about how his brother is treated, but again, that's not a disorder. He might have a rougher passage through his teenage years than he would have done had his mother not died.

There's likely to be considerable jealousy between the two brothers.

The way I'm looking at the situation with the older boy is this: he's in a state of arrested development because of how dependent he was on his father due to the ridiculous manner in which is father spoiled him. He saw no reason to make friends and other connections in the world because he had the one connection that mattered, his "fix", his father. Imagine a grown version of the kid going to their first day of pre-school and not being able to let go. That's what he's like before his dad cuts him off in favor of the younger son.

And I have thought about the younger son being the one with attachment issues and, possibly, schizoid personality disorder. At first I was just working with him having real problems and the older son suffering from nothing worse than a bad case of jealousy. I could go with that, but I'm still not entirely sure.

Kryianna
08-05-2008, 05:29 AM
How old is the boy when his mom dies? You say he's in high school, so you'd be looking at 14 at least. Now I don't have kids yet, much less teenage boys, but I remember when my brother was that age. He would have been quite happy for my parents to spend less time with him.

I'd also have problems with CPS blaming the father for the injuries. I know that they love to find in favor of the mom, but doctors can tell how old injuries are. If mom is cutting him on Friday and the boy is taken to the hospital on Sunday when custody is handed back to Mom, it'll be evident that the injuries are several days old.

I also see some age problems here. If you want the younger boy old enough to be responsible for hiding from dad what mom is doing, and responsible for taking off the makeup, he's going to be older -- I'd say six or seven at least. Any younger, and wouldn't the kid be helped by dad in the bathtub? So if the young kid is 6, and the older boy was 14 when mom died, you're looking at the older boy being 20 when the custody dispute over abuse is going on. A 20 year old is not going to be jealous of a 6 year old.

Travis J. Smith
08-05-2008, 06:07 AM
Like I said, this was a rough synopsis I threw together when inspiration hit. I was trying to think of what point in the kid's life his mother died and during high school is the time period that came to mind when I was typing it up. At that point in time, I wasn't thinking past that and to the other son.
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This abuse is ongoing and the mother isn't entirely stupid. Imagine the father being nearer a babysitter. He's a mainstay in his kid's life at first while the separation becomes official and the gap between them widens. So the time between the initial abuse and her bringing it to the light of CPS is short.
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The child doesn't knowingly help his mother. The make-up is cheap and comes off as the kid plays and sweats. And the father will figure out what's going on at some point. Giving the kid a bath, as you pointed out, would make it quite clear to him and that's an option.

Keyan
08-05-2008, 03:16 PM
The way I'm looking at the situation with the older boy is this: he's in a state of arrested development because of how dependent he was on his father due to the ridiculous manner in which is father spoiled him. He saw no reason to make friends and other connections in the world because he had the one connection that mattered, his "fix", his father. Imagine a grown version of the kid going to their first day of pre-school and not being able to let go. That's what he's like before his dad cuts him off in favor of the younger son.

I think you'd have to have some mental disability in a case like that. Unless the father is pathological. This kid is, I presume, going to school, meeting other people, and functioning normally. If he's not normal and already has a disability, then overprotection might stop him from becoming independent at all, and then suddenly being disregarded might leave him helpless.

It's pretty tough to make a real mess of raising a normal kid to the point of bringing on mental disorder. And it's more usually a lack of affection/ attention that would do it, which is why it seems more likely with the abused second child.



And I have thought about the younger son being the one with attachment issues and, possibly, schizoid personality disorder. At first I was just working with him having real problems and the older son suffering from nothing worse than a bad case of jealousy. I could go with that, but I'm still not entirely sure.

To me, anyway, it would be more realistic. Overprotective parents might compromise their children's independence and effectiveness, but they're not likely to cause mental/ emotional problems.

staceypants86
08-13-2008, 12:09 PM
Hi! Some things to think about are that if the young person is under 18, they are reasonably unlikely to have been diagnosed with a major mental illness (it's considered an ethical grey area to do so) & that borderline personality disorder is quite rare among males (but still possible!)

willfulone
08-15-2008, 04:12 AM
Hi! Some things to think about are that if the young person is under 18, they are reasonably unlikely to have been diagnosed with a major mental illness (it's considered an ethical grey area to do so) & that borderline personality disorder is quite rare among males (but still possible!)

I am curious why you state such about diagnosis in children being an ethical gray area and that children are reasonably unlikely to be diagnosed with a major mental health issue under the age of 18? It may be harder to diagnose a young child due to ranges of affect and the child’s ability to articulate problems, feelings and symptoms they may have. Of course, this would make a clinician’s job difficult, but not impossible. Biologically based mental health disorders are diagnosed in children, some very, very young.

Autism is considered a mental illness, as is OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Both are considered major mental health issues by the government (SSI, SSD and Medicaid) and by the health insurance industry where they are considered biologically based mental health issues. These two are frequently diagnosed in children that are very young. In addition, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are biologically based mental issues that are diagnosed in children younger than 15. It is the symptoms that create the diagnosis, not the age. As I stated above, it may be more difficult to diagnose symptoms in children who are not aware how to (or cannot) articulate what they are thinking and/or feeling. Children exhibit behaviors differently than adults do and that may support difficulty obtaining an accurate diagnosis for some time. However, children are diagnosed and frequently. It would be unethical to NOT diagnose a child with a mental health issue or a major mental illness because of age.

OP:

What you are asking is very broad when based on upbringing. People with great lives may decline into mental disease and people with horrible childhoods may overcome and not ever exhibit mental illness. If you can give specific examples of behaviors or character traits your characters exhibit (or you want them to), it may help us give you more assistance in your quest for knowledge.

Possible for older son:

Your older son could just be a narcissistic personality who is compromised in adulthood by the showering of attention and affection by his father while he was a child. Narcissistic lends itself to wanting the universe to revolve around oneself. Selfish behavior and lack of empathy are traits of this personality type. Perhaps your character could suffer from a personality disorder like this, rather than degenerate into a mental illness?

Travis J. Smith
08-16-2008, 06:16 AM
General narcissism was another distinct possibility I have entertained quite a bit. It's one of the top options for the older son.

And this story is on the backburner. My WIP is taking on a life of its own and another novel idea hit me just recently. All I have is the synopsis I wrote up in chicken scratch in my notebook, then transferred to the computer, improving it as I switched it from paper to computer, and the possibilities for the personalities of the two sons, whether they be determined by a personality disorder or by something more simple. The way I write, the characters won't have any particular idiosyncrasies until I begin to write the story. That won't be until my WIP is finished and edited to the point that I feel it's good enough to send out to get an idea of where it's at and how good people think it has the chance to be, given quality time and effort put into fine tuning it.

kuwisdelu
08-16-2008, 06:35 AM
I am curious why you state such about diagnosis in children being an ethical gray area and that children are reasonably unlikely to be diagnosed with a major mental health issue under the age of 18? It may be harder to diagnose a young child due to ranges of affect and the childís ability to articulate problems, feelings and symptoms they may have. Of course, this would make a clinicianís job difficult, but not impossible. Biologically based mental health disorders are diagnosed in children, some very, very young.

Certainly there are mental disorders and illnesses that can be detected and diagnosed at a very young age. But there are also some that should not be diagnosed in children. You mention the child's inability to articulate problems, but many with mental illnesses and disorders can't do this either, because most will rarely see their symptoms as symptoms. Children go through all kinds of phases that could be construed as personality disorders during their development. Due to a child's personality not being fully matured, it can be dangerous labeling them with a personality disorder. Of course, it's different with disorders with more known causes (chemical or biological, etc.), but it's more difficult with ones we're not sure about yet. Some (like antisocial personality disorder) cannot be a legal diagnosis for someone under 18.

willfulone
08-16-2008, 07:20 AM
I agree with you (kiwisdelu) about the difficulty in diagnosis and possible issues surrounding labelling anyone - even an adult. Many mental health issues are difficult to diagnose due to the range of symptoms that can be found in many diagnosii across the spectrum. The symptoms "cross-pollinate" and show in many diagnosii. That is why a diagnosis may change over the course of treatment with the patient as development of symptoms occurs or as symptoms show themselves to the clinician.

I was referring to the post that said that it was unlikely children under 18 would be diagnosed (specifically) with a major mental illness. That is not true. It does happen and frequently. I review claims for a nationwide health insurance carrier and the psychiartric claims for children under the age of 18 with a major mental health diagnosis is huge.

I was not referring to small specific personality diagnosii as the original post I quoted was not referring to that at all. Or, if they were, they did not state it that way. They said major mental health diagnosis. Thus, my reply to that statement. It is not quite accurate to say a major mental illness is not likely diagnosed in children/adolescents under 18. You could be quite right on the personality disorder label part. Again, that is not what I was addressing though.

In any case, the OP has decided to hold this idea for a later date and I did not intend to stray off-topic. I just replied to that one point that seemed to be in error on some level as it did not contain factual information regarding children under 18 and diagnosis of major mental illness in said population.

Christine

staceypants86
09-07-2008, 07:26 AM
My response came from personal experience, as I work in the field of mental health and this seems to be the response from most other mental health professionals I am in contact with, including psychiatrists. I am also speaking about the situation in Australia, where I am located - America certainly has a different view of this type of thing.