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On Writing OCs with Mental Disorders v3


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On Writing Characters with Mental Disorders v3
A tutorial/guide/resource of sorts


  1. New v2 Preface
  2. Intro
  3. Importance of Research
  4. Basics of Research
  5. Types of Disorders
  6. Brief Descriptions
  7. Misc. Info
  8. Note on Psychopathy
  9. Links
  10. Useful Quotes from v1
  11. Conclusion

New v3 Preface

Hi hello, it's your favorite mod, ghost.

So, back in May 2015 I posted a tutorial on writing mentally ill characters.
It received very good feedback and almost 4,000 views. Probably the most useful thing I've made on this site.

With the site update from xF to IPS, sadly it's formatting got fucked, some of the content was outdated, and it needed an overhaul, hence version 2. Now with the switch from IPS to xF again, the format has once again been messed up, and I figure that if I'm editing the whole damn thing anyways I might as well skim for any outdated info as well, spelling errors, better ways to phrase things, and etc.

All the comments from the v2 thread are probably lost considering this isn't another new thread, but rather an edit of the v2 one. However, I have particularly helpful comments from the v1 thread that were previously added.

So, I hope this is still useful to the members of RpN who are interested in writing mentally ill characters but don't have much background info on the whole field! And to those who already have an interest in abnormal psychology- I hope it can serve as a handy reference.

As always if you think something is wrong, should be changed, or have something to add, PM me about it!
If the formatting gets fucked somehow or if you have any suggestions on how to improve the current formatting- please PM me about that too.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion on the last two threads! \( ^ - ^

All your feedback was really appreciated <3


So, in the thread Types of Role Plays and Things Role Players do that Annoy You, many people expressed their frustration surrounding people rping mental disorders inaccurately and romanticizing them.

To "romanticize" is described as "[to] deal with or describe in an idealized or unrealistic fashion; make (something) seem better or more appealing than it really is" by the Oxford dictionary. While trying to de-stigmatize mental illness is great, it's not the same as romanticizing.

Idolizing mental illness can encourage self-harm, self-medication, ending it all to become something like a romantic tragic soul, and discourage people from getting help. It promotes the attitude that the long, hard, unexciting work of therapy isn't worth it. That embracing mental illness as a glorified tragedy and not seeking any kind of help is okay. [x]

Portraying mental disorders inaccurately also spreads misinformation. This can fuel inaccurate stereotypes and myths, help stigma, cause confusion, and just be plain... incorrect. Which even if it wasn't harmful to the mentally ill, it'd just be bad writing. Common stereotypes in the media are that mentally ill people are violent, unpredictable monsters, that there's no chance of getting better, that to get better all you need is to fall in love, that certain illnesses are only caused by chemical imbalances and pills are a magic cure, that young people with illnesses are "just going through a phase," that all mental health professionals are the same (either evil, foolish, or wonderful), or disorders are romantic. [x]

Obviously the portrayal of people with mental disorders is important, and it's too often inaccurate in media. From the amount of posts in Types of Roleplays talking about it, it's easy to see that this is a large problem in roleplaying communities too.

I myself struggle with my own share of problems, which kick-started my interest in psychology and investment in this topic. I am a very private person, and I don't like revealing too much, so this guide won't be focused on me or my personal experiences- that's not the point. This thread was put together to help give an easy starting place to writing characters with illnesses, as to date no other thread like this exists on RpN.

This resource was made with healthy people in mind, because it seems they're the most likely to not realize the importance of correct portrayal or even that some misconceptions caused by the media even are misconceptions (e.g, popular shows mixing up DID and schizophrenia).

However, I am also not a professional, so this thread should not be taken as any kind of medical advice, a guide to diagnosing yourself, your friends, or any other living people. And like I've said once or maybe twice already, any incorrect or outdated info you see, please shoot me a PM about it!​

Importance of Research

In the thread Types of Roleplays, I made this post suggesting that people simply don't do enough research, and that most of the inaccurate portrayals and misconceptions could be corrected through doing some sincere research.

For writing a mentally ill character, research is one of the most important things. If you don't do any research and don't have the specific disorder, how are you supposed to have a good grasp on anything?

Even if you know someone with a certain disorder you may not know a lot about it, or even as much as you think you know. You still don't know what it's like to personally go through something, what it's like to live with it every day, or maybe even the diagnostic criteria.

If you're going to be writing for a mentally ill character, research isn't optional- you have to do it. Or at least, if you hope to do it with any accuracy or care about writing decently. It's how it is. Of course you don't need to get your PhD or become a certifiable expert, but you still need to learn about something before you can understand it.

You can make someone interesting, edgy, cool, unique, or what have you in an almost infinite amount of other ways. Otherwise if you go straight into writing your ~crazy OC~ you'll look bad, and actually mentally ill people or others who have done a bit of research will most certainly realize your inaccuracies and either think you're an ass, or laugh at you. Your character sheet and posts will look ridiculous. There's really no nice way to put it, and it's the truth- people who know nothing about what illness they're writing are really easy to spot.

It's not that hard either. A few hours on the internet reading should be a fine start in most cases, especially if you know how to research.​

Basics of Internet Research

This section is going to focus on researching things using the internet, because I'm assuming that's how most people will go about it. I don't usually use books anyways, because I simply don't get to the library often enough. I wouldn't have much advice on using libraries anyways beyond checking the publication dates.

It's important to remember what you learned in school about reliable resources. Try to use professional-looking websites with urls that end in .org, .edu, or .gov. Fact-check by looking to see if the same information is on more than one website- if you can only find it on one article or on one website, it might not be true. One of the best options is to find scholarly articles, although those aren't always free or are full of technical language.

Wikipedia is great but it shouldn't be your only resource. You shouldn't have only one resource, period. Even though Wikipedia can technically be edited by anyone, it's checked for fact and editor quality and is usually reliable... but you'll still need more than just Wikipedia. Remember the fact-checking thing? Yeah. The sites and articles Wikipedia lists as references at the bottom of the page can potentially be helpful too.

A great idea and one that I'd highly recommend is to look for information, stories, or experiences written by people with the illness your OC will have. Forums and threads where people with the same disorders come to talk, blogs, personal biographies, and etc, are all really good resources.

If you're not sure what to even type into your search bar, try typing "(name of disorder) symptoms" or "(name of disorder) description". Even searching just the name of the disorder can bring up lots of results. For first-hand accounts/details, try searching phrases like "first hand (name of disorder)" or "living with (name of disorder.)"

When looking for firsthand accounts, make sure they're written by the person who has it, and not someone who "was affected" by someone with the disorder. In my experience, accounts by people who knew someone with an illness end up being something about how much it hurt them to be around the ill person, and how terrible they are, or how hard dealing with them was, or how frustrated they got. Since those negative types of stories tend to be the most interesting for people to read they become the most popular, unfortunately. These accounts paint the people suffering from the disorder in an often unfairly bad light, and they'll be biased and inaccurate. It's even worse for "scary" disorders like schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and so on. Also, do not use guides on "how to tell if your ex-partner was psychopathic/narcissistic/etc," or "how to deal with a loved one that has x disorder." They generally have the same problems with bias and unscientific facts (i.e, not facts at all)

Second-hand accounts also suffer from the fact that you cannot know what's going on in someone else's head all the time- the person telling a second-hand account of someone else's illness cannot possibly know all the details like the personal with the illness themselves does. While you can't either, by learning through a first-hand account, you'll get closer. It's like the game telephone- the more people the message has to go to, the more inaccurate and diluted it gets.

If there's medication, therapy, or treatment available, research those too if it's relevant to your character. These things are about as important as the disorder themselves in accurate portrayal, since if it affects the character too, it will affect them significantly at some point in their life- even if they've made a decision to not seek help, having a realistic reason why will help you flesh out your character (e.g, stigma, it being harder to get government jobs with certain dx's, etc.)

Spend lots of time making sure you know as much as possible and understand the disorder, how it's symptoms manifest, and how it would affect your character. Researching for five or even thirty minutes isn't going to be enough to have a good grasp of it, especially with all the misinformation and myths spread around.

Actually remember what you've learned, too. That's probably the most important thing. Take notes, write out a description of your character and how this affects them, or whatever helps you memorize best. Just make sure you've actually learned about it before writing your character and keep these things in mind while you do.

Don't just look at the Types of Disorders/Brief Descriptions and Misc. sections and think that's enough. Do your research.


Types of Disorders/Brief Descriptions

Because there's so much misinformation I figure I'd give a list of the different categories of mental illnesses, list some common ones, and give a short description of those too.

Originally, in order to make things easier on myself most of the descriptions were taken from a psychology class I took. The short descriptions they provided were great for that purpose. However since the guide was created, details have been added and changed, and wording altered to a significant extent, only the formatting is exactly the same as it used to be.

This is not a comprehensive list of every mental disorder, or a comprehensive description of any one. Please do your own research to go in-depth on any of the specific disorders.

And most importantly, do not use this to attempt to diagnose yourself, anyone you know, or any other living person!

What makes something "not normal" - Maladaptive Behavior

Maladaptivity is the most common way that mental health professionals assess an individual's behavior. Unlike terms such as "normal" and "abnormal," which can have confining and/or negative connotations, considering maladaptive behavior allows psychologists and other health professionals to determine how behavior might cause an individual person distress. Maladaptive behavior can consist of one or the both of:

  1. self maladaptivity, or the inability to reach personal goals/adapt to life's changes; the distress an illness causes oneself
  2. societal maladaptivity, or behavior that disrupts an individual's ability to function within a group; the distress an illness causes to the people around an individual

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a state of intense apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from the anticipation of a threatening event or situation, often to a degree that normal physical and psychological functioning is disrupted. When anxiety is severe enough that it disrupts an individual's daily life, the person might be suffering from one of several anxiety disorders.

Many people feel intense anxiety in their lives, and, in fact with over 19 million recognized sufferers in the United States alone, it is the most common mental disorder.

There is no conclusive research on what causes anxiety disorders, but there is evidence that suggests it is hereditary in addition to external factors.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by prolonged and excessive worry about situations even when there is no apparent cause for concern. People suffering from GAD may also experience physical symptoms like insomnia, headaches, and fatigue.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by obsessive, irrational thoughts that increase/intensify feelings of anxiety. These thoughts are called "intrusive thoughts." In an effort to reduce the anxiety and intrusive thoughts, people with OCD often engage in compulsive, repetitious behavior (e.g, repeatedly washing their hands to eliminate germs or checking the stove to ensure it's turned off.) Even if individuals suffering from OCD realize that their thoughts are irrational, they are unable to control anxious and intrusive thoughts or their consequent compulsive behaviors- it is not the same as delusions. OCD is not being uptight, needing things to be tidy, or symmetrical.

  • Panic Disorder is characterized by panic attacks. During panic attacks the feeling of being in danger overwhelms individuals, and they may experience physical symptoms such as sweating, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, chills, or hot flashes. Additionally, they may also feel disconnected from reality, like they will lose control, "go crazy," or feel like they are dying.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs in individuals who have gone through a traumatic event. These events are varied and can include any number of things such as war, sexual abuse, witnessing the death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. PTSD is characterized by four main categories of symptoms: reliving the trauma through intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or nightmares; avoiding people, thoughts, situations, or places that trigger memories of the trauma; memory problems exclusive to the event, feeling stuck in emotions related to the event such as horror or sadness, reduced interest in pre-trauma activities, feeling detached or disconnected; difficulty concentrating or falling asleep, irritableness, hyper-vigilance, or being easily startled. Sometimes these symptoms or even a strong reaction will not occur until long after the event happens.

  • Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is similar to PTSD but not to be confused with it. It occurs as a result of prolonged or repeating stress or trauma, especially in the context of interpersonal dependence. A few examples of causes for C-PTSD are: chronic maltreatment or abuse by caregivers, being in captivity or some other form of entrapment, surviving a religious cult, as well as prolonged psychological manipulation such as gaslighting. While C-PTSD is not currently included in the DSM or ICD, common agreed upon symptoms can include: difficulty regulating emotions, variations in consciousness (such as forgetting or reliving a traumatic event), changes in self-perception (such as a pervasive sense of helplessness, guilt, defilement, or feeling inhuman), changes in perception of the perpetrator, alterations in relationships with others (for example isolation, distrust, or seeking a "rescuer"), and changes in systems of meanings or religious beliefs. [x]

  • Social Anxiety Disorder (also called Social Phobia) occurs in individuals who experience anxiety over judgments others may make of them in social situations, fear of public embarrassment, or fear of showing physical symptoms (e.g, sweaty palms or shaking) in front of others. Individuals suffering from social anxiety disorder tend to avoid social situations.

  • Specific Phobias are characterized by an exaggerated and irrational fear of objects or situations that are generally not harmful. Like individuals suffering from OCD, these people realize that their anxiety is unwarranted, yet can't get past it. Some examples of specific phobias include fears of heights, dogs, bugs, or snakes. These are not delusions.

Somatoform Disorders

There are certain times when the need for escape severely disrupts not only daily routines/responsibilities, but also a personal sense of well-being. Two primary instances of disruptive escape are somatoform and dissociative disorders.

  • Conversion Disorder (also known as hysteria) is marked by a significant change in, or absence of, physical functions in the body. These changes are usually the mind's attempt to escape from overly stressful situations. Individuals with conversion disorder are generally characterized as being extremely indifferent, although conversion disorder can be subdivided into three sets of more specific symptoms:
    • Sensory symptoms — Individuals either feel too sensitive to stimulation (hyperanesthesia) or numb to pain (analgesia).
    • Motor symptoms — An individual's motor skills may be disrupted (paralysis) or distorted (ticks, twitches).
    • Visceral symptoms — Individuals experience the visceral (instinctive) in the extreme (burping, vomiting, coughing.)

  • Hypochondriasis is marked by an obsession with normal bodily functions. Unlike individuals suffering from conversion disorder, hypochondriacs maintain normal bodily function. These individuals are plagued with the constant fear that some unknown or undiagnosed disease is overtaking their bodies. The more common signs of hypochondriasis include preoccupation with minor physical complaints, being overly concerned with deadly diseases such as AIDS or cancer, repeatedly requesting physical examinations, visiting several different doctors with the same complaints ("doctor shopping"), complaining of incompetent medical care, and repeatedly performing physical exams on their own body

  • Somatization Disorder is characterized by individuals, usually under thirty years of age, who have a pattern of unexplained physical complaints. In order to be diagnosed with a somatization disorder a patient must have at least four separate physical complaints of pain (e.g., chest, neck, painful urination), two gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., vomiting, bloating), one sexual/reproduction complaint not related to pain, and one pseudoneurological complaint (e.g., paralysis, loss of balance.)

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder is characterized by being overly preoccupied with what one believes is a physical defect, often focused on areas of the face or one's body shape, and the individual being obsessed or chronically anxious about their appearance. Constantly glancing into reflective surfaces and/or avoiding mirrors altogether are two common symptoms of BDD. While it can start out as a nagging insecurity, it can lead to eating disorders, repeated cosmetic surgeries, skin-picking, depression, and more. Because of the ritual grooming and/or camouflaging techniques that these patients can develop, BDD is classified as a sub-type of OCD in the DSM-V.

Dissociative Disorders

There are certain times when the need for escape severely disrupts not only daily routines/responsibilities, but also a personal sense of well-being. Two primary instances of disruptive escape are somatoform and dissociative disorders.

Dissociative disorders are a group of mental disorders characterized by a sudden temporary alteration in consciousness, identity, or motor behavior. In other words, the mind disassociates, or "escapes", from the body because it is too difficult to integrate a particular experience into the conscious self.

  • Dissociative Amnesia, also called psychogenic amnesia, occurs when a person blocks out personal information about himself or herself. This type of amnesia has several manifestations: localized (memory loss about specific, usually traumatic, events); selective (memory loss about portions of events); generalized (memory loss about an individual's entire life); and systematized (memory loss about specific categories, i.e., certain people, places, or things).

  • Dissociative Fugue, also called psychogenic fugue, occurs when a person unexpectedly leaves the environment to go on a journey. These journeys can be very brief or extend over long periods of time (because these individuals are confused about their identities, some have been known to take on new ones). This is a very rare condition.

  • Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) occurs when someone develops more than one distinct identity as a direct result of repeated and frequent severe abuse or trauma while developing as a child. These identities may have different memories and personalities.

Ghost's Notes, courtesy of [X]

It was previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder, but the name was changed over 20 years ago. Using it's "new" name is correct- MPD is not. This is one of the media's favorites, but it's also misrepresented a lot.

The first common misconception relates to memories of trauma specifically. Some people may think that individuals with DID may completely forget trauma, and in the media examples I can think of off the top of my head it's common there too. Individuals may forget episodes or aspects of it, but it's rare to forget 100% of it and then suddenly recover memories.

The second is that many people think of DID as "different people in one person's body." More accurately though, it's characterized by different identities or "self-states" and an inability to remember things beyond normal forgetfulness that's attributed to switching self-states. (I.e, not being able to remember what happened when an alter was fronting.)

The third is that it's really rare. Actually, it occurs in about 1% of the population, which is as common as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Although it's not that rare, it's also often falsified either purposefully or accidentally by the individual, and there's some controversy over it. Cases where memory is completely absent between alters is considered most believable, and cases where each alter can remember what the other does is not, and likely something else.

Next is how obvious it is. People who have it usually don't know they have it until they seek treatment for symptoms or co-morbid disorders, and the people around them most likely won't know either. DID is more subtle than the media likes to think it is.

People afflicted with DID don't really have distinct personalities, but as said before, different self-states which is like having different ways of being themselves, which we all do to some extent, but people with DID cannot always recall what they do or say while in their different states.They may act very differently and they may not. The media likes to portray people's alters as being violent or sadistic, but it's not always the case and is simply a stereotype.

Additionally, people with DID are not inherently psychotic. They are not delusional, and they don't have hallucinations either. They will not "see" or "feel" their alters interacting with them, as movies like Fight Club or shows like Mr. Robot would have you think. If they have a co-occuring psychotic disorder, they will have normal psychotic symptoms in addition to their DID symptoms- it will not magically make them able to interact with their alters as if they are separate people living in the real world.

Lastly are some things I need to address after having seeing false information being spread on a certain website. You might be able to guess which one. Systems are created as a direct result of severe trauma as stated above, and can only develop before a child has reached a certain point in their natural brain and personality development. Therefore, it is not possible to become a system after early childhood, become a system on purpose, or to gain more alters later on in life. It is possible for system members' personalities to be influenced by media or influenced by a particular fictional character, but it would only be media someone would see while experiencing the trauma as a child.

  • Depersonalization Disorder occurs when individuals feel chronically detached from themselves. Considered an anomaly of self-perception/awareness, many have described this feeling as similar to the "spaced out" feeling of intoxication. However, individuals with depersonalization disorder might experience this feeling so often that it may eventually impair their ability to distinguish reality. Individuals with depersonalization disorder are not delusional, however, and they recognize that it is only a feeling- although that does not make the experience less frightening or stressful.

Ghost's Notes (Info is from many sources collected over a large period of time)

Related to depersonalization and often accompanying it is derealization, which is a similar but distinct feeling of being detached from reality, or that the outside world is or even looks unreal. Like depersonalization, despite how real it feels and how frightening it can be, the individual is aware that it is only a feeling and is not delusion or experiencing hallucinations.

Both in depersonalization and derealization the individual may also experience hyper-awareness, which can either be a pleasant or unpleasant experience. Usually it's the latter.

Both can be chronic and/or episodic. These feelings of unreality can be triggered by a variety of things- stress, anxiety, existential thoughts, thinking about the dissociation itself, jokes about everything being fake, etc.

If afflicted individuals are not aware of these disorders they may worry that they're going insane.

They are categorized as both anxiety and dissociative disorders. Anxiety often accompanies them- the states can be brought on by anxiety, or the states themselves can bring anxiety.


  • Schizophrenia refers to a psychotic and developmental disorder where a person displays two or more of the following symptoms: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, catatonic or disorganized behavior, and negative symptoms. Two of the symptoms they display must be one of the first three listed.

    There were different types of schizophrenia included in the DSM-IV that have since been removed in the latest version, the DSM-V. Because they are no longer relevant and were removed because of clinical inaccuracy, I have also removed them from this list.

    In regards to the negative symptoms mentioned above, they do not mean symptoms that are bad for the individual. Instead, the symptoms of schizophrenia are generalized into three categories: positive, negative, and disorganized.
    • Positive: This category refers to behaviors that should not be present in an individual, but are. These symptoms include delusions and hallucinations. For example, individuals with schizophrenia might hear voices that no one else can hear; they might see things that are not there; they might believe that someone is reading their mind, or trying to harm them in some way.

    • Negative: This category refers to behaviors that should be present in an individual, like sociability and emotion, but are not. Instead, these type of symptoms are marked by social avoidance and emotional withdrawal.

    • Disorganized: This category refers to the confused thinking, speech (varying in intensity, sometimes to the point of incomprehensibility), and behavior that many people with schizophrenic experience. Word salad is an example of disorganized speech, and catatonia an example of disorganized behavior.

  • Schizoaffective disorder (SZA) is a psychotic disorder similar to, but different from, schizophrenia. Individuals have symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder (bipolar or depression) but do not strictly meet the criteria for either. However, symptoms of psychosis cannot only occur during an episode of mania or severe depression, otherwise a better diagnosis would be of a psychotic mood disorder. Additionally, two or more psychotic episodes that last two or more weeks each must be present in SZA,

  • Delusional disorder consists of experiencing delusions, but not the other symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations, disorganized thoughts, or flat emotions. Delusions are fixed false beliefs that an individual will continue to believe even when presented with counter evidence, and these beliefs have an undue influence on their life. Examples include an believing they're being followed, that they are someone famous, that someone is in love with them, that statements on tv are directed towards them, and etc.

Personality Disorders

A personality disorder is a disorder in which patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about oneself and one's environment interfere with the long-term functioning of an individual, often manifested in deviant behavior and lifestyle. In other words, individuals with personality disorders often have difficulty relating to other people in particular, and society in general, because of their often inflexible thoughts and behavior- aka, their personality.

They can be suffering from other mental disorders, lack a sense of personal responsibility, or have a distorted vision of self and others.

Currently, the DSM-V has identified 10 distinct disorders in three different categories.

Diagnostic criteria generally requires people to be 18 or older to be diagnosed with a personality disorder. However, if the circumstances absolutely require it, individuals younger may be diagnosed. The only PD with a hard age cap is ASPD.

Personality disorders tend to have some overlap or similar symptoms/behaviors within their cluster, and an individual may have a few traits that are not specific to the disorder but present in general traits of their cluster- for example, dissociation is common in cluster A PD's even if it's not listed in the diagnostic requirement for all of them. Research on general traits and their relations to specific personality disorders will probably require further research.

Cluster A (odd disorders)

Cluster A PD's are considered a part of the schizophrenia spectrum, although they should not be confused with schizophrenia as they are separate disorders.

  • Paranoid PD: These individuals have difficulty trusting others and they often believe, without reason, that others are out to wrong them in some way. They tend to hold grudges for long periods of time, and vocally accuse people of what they suspect them of. However, these thoughts don't cross into delusional territory and the individual can admit that these thoughts may be irrational or unlikely to be true.

  • Schizoid PD: Characterized by emotional withdrawal and a lack of desire or capability for close relationships, even with family. Schizoids are often seen as loners. They may be emotionally cold and detached, or lack affective empathy. There are two main subtypes: overt and covert. Overt schizoids do not try to hide their disorder or blend in with "normal" people, whereas covert schizoids put on a "mask" and can seem like completely normal people.

  • Schizotypical PD: Eccentric. Displaying odd behavior, dress, social interaction, and even thought. Individuals tend to have magical thinking and ideas of reference, and some level of paranoia. An example of magical thinking includes believing they can influence events with their thoughts, and an example of an idea of reference is thinking that someone on tv is speaking to them, or that everyone in public is looking at them. However, these thoughts don't cross into delusional territory and the individual can admit that these thoughts may be irrational or unlikely to be true.

Cluster B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic disorders)

  • Antisocial PD: Lack of regard for moral, legal, or culural standards. These individuals also may have a difficult time in interpersonal relationships. Considered something like the "smaller cousin" of psychopathy. Individuals may have a history of crime or have been diagnosed with conduct disorder as a child. Substance addiction is commonly co-morbid in ASPD. A lack of affective (i.e, emotional) empathy is common but not required for diagnosis. This is the only PD with a hard age cap of 18.

  • Borderline PD: These individuals experience extreme emotions, mood swings, impulsive behavior, volatile relationships, and tend to lack a sense of personal identity. Individuals tend to think in black and white terms, crave attention and approval, and may "split" on people- switching between idealizing and hating them. A fear of abandonment and trying to prevent possible abandonment is another common feature. BPD is commonly co-morbid with psychosis and can be debilitating for the individual.

  • Histrionic PD: These individuals exhibit inappropriate, and rapidly shifting emotional reactions to everyday situations. They tend to be overly dramatic and self-focused, and often their reactions are purposefully exaggerated. They have a need for attention, and partake in attention-seeking behaviors. Other common symptoms include suggestibility and sensitivity to criticism. Often HPD is misdiagnosed as NPD or BPD, or they are misdiagnosed as HPD because of the similarities they share.

  • Narcissistic PD: Individuals are overly focused on their self and their needs, and may have a general sense of entitlement or victimization. These individuals need to be admired by and gain attention from those around them, and they can be very sensitive to criticism. Their self-esteem relies on their perception of how well their interactions go with other people. They may also have low affective empathy or be easily angered, though this is not required. Although narcissistic personality disorder is named after the Greek myth, it does not imply romantic or sexual interest in ones self. People with NPD may be prone to idolizing, devaluating, and splitting on the people around them in a manner that presents similarly to, but is not the same as, those with BPD. NPD typically presents in one of two manners: overt (stereotypical extroverted narcissist) and covert (symptoms and behaviors are more internalized, individuals are more sensitive) narcissism. Without enough positive attention (sometimes referred to as supply), someone with NPD may fall into depression or a state of self-hatred.

    Note: despite common stereotypes, not all abusive people have NPD and not all people with NPD are or will become abusive. The manner in which mental illnesses (including PDs) present in an individual is wide. For example, someone with NPD might exaggerate their stories or be boastful to seem impressive, and another person might try to be as polite and kind as possible for approval and praise. Many people who develop PDs were abused at some point in their life, and people with mental illnesses are more likely to become victims in the future.

Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders)

  • Avoidant PD: Very self-conscious in social settings, these individuals generally have feelings of inadequacy, extremely low self-esteem, and a fear of rejection. Like the name suggests, they tend to avoid interactions with other people as a coping mechanism. Unlike social anxiety however, their fear is typically focused on close relationships and who they are as a person. They might be fine with public speaking, ordering food, or talking on the phone, but situations that call for emotional intimacy or speaking with a friend might make them intensely uncomfortable. Unlike social anxiety, their fear does not go away the longer they know someone. A common symptom is perfectionism and a fear of making mistakes. Long periods of isolation might make it harder to interact with others, and turn into a vicious cycle.

  • Dependent PD: These individuals need to have others around to feel complete and secure. Like the name suggests, these individuals psychologically depend on others for their emotional and physical needs. They often are unable to make even small decisions alone, and live in fear of separation from their loved ones. Individuals may act subordinate to their depended, act in complete compliance to their wishes, encourage them to make decisions for them, feel uncomfortable when alone, or be unwilling to ask people or even reasonable demands.

  • Obsessive-compulsive pd: Separate and distinct from OCD, this disorder overlaps with anxiety disorders. It is characterized by an inflexible need for orderliness, attention to detail, perfectionism, and a need for control over one's environment. Workaholism is often seen with this disorder, and leisurely activities are often given up in favor of their rituals. [x]

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders (also called affective disorders) are a group of diagnoses where a disturbance in the person's mood is the main underlying feature.

Mood disorders fall into the basic groups of elevated mood (such as mania), depressed mood, and moods which cycle between mania and depression known as bipolar disorder. There are several sub-types of depressive disorders. Mood disorders may also be substance-induced or occur in response to a medical condition. [X]

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)(also known as clinical, major, or unipolar depression; or as recurrent depression in the case of repeated episodes) is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. Other common symptoms include excessive irritability, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, a lack of appetite, and loss of motivation that can lead to problems with basic functions such as self-care (e.g, getting out of bed, trouble with hygiene, not eating.) In the United States, around 3.4% of people with major depression commit suicide. [X]

    Many different subtypes of depression exist such as seasonal affective disorder, which is depressive episodes that occur based on the season, often during winter months.

  • Bipolar disorder, also known as bipolar affective disorder (and originally manic-depressive), is a mental disorder characterized by periods of elevated mood and periods of depression. The elevated mood is significant and is known as mania or hypomania, the difference being the severity or whether it is accompanied by psychosis. During mania an individual feels or acts abnormally happy, energetic, or irritable. They often make poorly thought out decisions with little regard to the consequences. The need for sleep is usually reduced. During periods of depression there may be crying, poor eye contact with others, and a negative outlook on life. [X]

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurodevelopmental disorders are impairments of the growth and development of the brain or central nervous system. A narrower use of the term refers to a disorder of brain function that affects emotion, learning ability, self-control and memory and that unfolds as the individual grows. The term is sometimes erroneously used as an exclusive synonym for autism and autism spectrum disorders.

Not covered in my psychology class, and many of these technically do not count as mental illnesses. Because of this they're only receiving a passing mention.

Disorders considered neurodevelopmental in origin, or that have neurodevelopmental consequences when they occur in infancy and childhood, include:

  • Autism and autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger syndrome
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • Motor disorders including developmental coordination disorder, stereotypic movement disorder and the tic disorders including Tourette syndrome.
  • Traumatic brain injury (including congenital injuries such as those that cause cerebral palsy)
  • Communication, speech and language disorders
  • Genetic disorders, such as fragile-X syndrome
  • Down syndrome
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Mendelsohnn's Syndrome
  • Schizophrenia

Neurodevelopmental disorders are associated with widely varying degrees of difficulty which may have significant mental, emotional, physical, and economic consequences for individuals, and in turn their families and society in general. [X]

Misc. Info

Info that I didn't think fit anywhere else, but still thought I'd mention.

  • First off, people that have mental disorders may not be very open about them. Of course everyone is different and some people may tell everyone they know or the people they become friends with- especially if symptoms will be noticeable or be relevant to their personal relationship - but typically someone with a mental disorder isn't going to tell strangers about it, coworkers, or even necessarily people they're close too. Some people may be afraid of stigma, or feel embarrassed, or simply feel that it's not someone else's business.

  • Some people may not want a diagnosis. This is because certain fields of work in addition to government jobs will not accept you if you have certain diagnoses, usually the "scary" ones such as ASPD, BPD, schizophrenia, etc. Not to mention the stigma from friends, family, coworkers, or employers if they found out. Plus, if there isn't any kind of decent treatment currently available for a particular disorder (such as SZPD) some people may feel that it might not be worth it to gain a diagnosis in the first place.

    On the other hand though, lots of mental illnesses have a bad enough impact on someones life or social life, or other people lives, for someone to eventually seek out help and diagnosis- and sometimes people will be hospitalized and receive it whether they want to or not. I do think this is obvious, but I also don't want to make it seem like mental illness isn't a big deal either- it's called illness for a reason.

  • However, self-diagnosis isn't accurate. Since it's a bit of a touchy subject for some, I'm just going to stay out of whether or not self-diagnosis is a good or helpful thing and instead just simply say that it's not always as accurate as some people may think it is. Different disorders can have similar or overlapping symptoms, and one symptom could be caused by or found in a multitude of disorders or even physical illnesses. People cannot look at or study themselves without bias either. Professionals take years to learn everything, and can still misdiagnose people. Doctors and psychologists are not allowed to diagnose themselves because of issues with objectivity. Maybe just something to keep in mind if you're writing a self-dxed character if it's relevant.

    There are cases where people have identified their symptoms as likely to be something specific after lots of research and self-reflection, and later receive a professional diagnosis that matches their own. There are many cases where people are mistaken as well.

    Most people who struggle with undiagnosed mental illness however have the self-awareness to realize something is wrong or to identify individual symptoms.

  • Comorbidity is common. Comorbidity is when one person has more than one disorder, or one disorder and traits of another. Due to many disorders having similar causes, overlapping symptoms, or through developing unhealthy coping mechanisms, having multiple disorders is as likely as having one. If you have any one disorder, it's likely you experience/have experienced depression or some form of anxiety as well.

    However, not all disorders are comorbid with each other- meaning there are certain combinations you can't have together. As always, do your research!

  • You generally can't tell who has a mental illness by looking at them, or even interacting with them. While some symptoms of certain disorders may be apparent, mental disorders are generally "invisible" to outside people. Family members or close friends might realize something's wrong, but that's different and a result of having intimate knowledge of their personality and behaviorisms. I wanted to mention this specifically because of the media and how they love to make everyone think that all mental illnesses make people crazy, or noticeably weird.

Something I wanted to address that I didn't anywhere else is a, for lack of a better word, trope that some people mentioned in the thread Types of Things. This trope is something that appears in media often enough that I've seen numerous unrelated people complain about it. It also must be showing up in rps because it was mentioned in Types of Things multiple times as well. That trope of "mentally ill person falls in love, and is never sad or bothered again and it's happily ever after for them both."

Treatment for mental illness involves a lot of things. Support and healthy relationships are important for human health in general, but it's not a fix-all. A combination of medication, therapy, learning healthy coping mechanisms, hard work on behalf of the ill, and lots and lots of time are all needed. Falling in love might feel good or even alleviate depression symptoms while the infatuation is still new, but those feelings wear off, their brain chemistry is still the same in the end, unhealthy habits haven't been broken, and fleeting feelings can't replace what I've listed. Not to mention the trouble many disorders cause with interpersonal relationships!

Now I'm not saying mentally ill people can't either fall in love or be happy. The point is that falling in love or having someone that loves you isn't going to make mental illness go away or cure anyone, and this trope puts unrealistic expectations on what it'll be like to be in love with someone who's mentally ill, and it could give inexperienced/young mentally ill people themselves unrealistic expectation for falling in love. While it might be easier to work through symptoms with someone that loves them and understands and can do their best to help, it won't be a cure for mental illness.​

A Note About Socio/Psychopathy

Since I see a ton of character sheets with things like "Oh, by the way, he's a socio/psychopath," I figured I'd talk about this and how what you think a socio/psychopath is probably isn't accurate. When people hear or see either of those words they generally think of an insane, delusional, mentally unstable killer who's far away from reality. However, the media's portrayal of psychopathy is what's far from reality.

Psychotic killers and psychopathic characters in media may get confused, because they're both often (incorrectly) referred to as psycho and the words themselves are easily confused. Which is another point- don't call your psychopathic character "psycho," because psycho refers exclusively to psychosis.

The term psychopath is a medical term, and as a really short description, is like ASPD but with shallower, shorter-lasting emotions and narcissistic qualities. Some people will incorrectly claim psychopathy is simply a more extreme version of ASPD which is "close enough", however ASPD and psychopathy are not the same disorder.

Sociopath is generally used to refer to the same thing, however, the term isn't currently used in any academic fields by professionals. Technically, it's an incorrect and outdated term.

Robert Hare's psychopathy checklist the PC-LR is rather popular, however his sample sizes were small and he focused on only criminal psychopaths already in jail. His psychopathic checklist is very centered around criminality. Some of the 'psychopaths' he interviewed may not have even been psychopaths. [x]

Hare's research is fine, however, if you only use it to refer to psychopaths who have committed crimes. It's very hard to find psychopaths that haven't committed crimes, as those of them that don't commit crimes have no desire to be discovered. Most psychopaths who are even evaluated and assessed are done so only because of a court order. The vast majority of psychotherapists won't even work with anyone that shows signs of ASPD or psychopathy. Because of all these reasons, there is not much current research on non-criminal psychopaths.

Additionally, you should be very careful picking your sources when studying psychopathy and ASPD. A lot of popular sites focus on why you should be afraid of psychopaths and don't have much useful or accurate information. Despite what I said previously about looking for first-hand accounts of disorders, when it comes to this, unbiased and objective scholarly sources are the best since recounts made by people claiming to be or have known a psychopath are... unfortunately not that great. As a result of the status of the disorder there's a lot of people who claim to be psychopathic but are not, and people tend to label anyone cruel as a psychopath regardless of whether they'd meet the PC-LR requirements.

Websites dedicated to people who were in relationships with psychopaths shouldn't be trusted either- as statistically it's unlikely that most of them dated a psychopath, or even that most abusive people are psychopaths.

Not all ASPD individuals are psychopathic either. While the majority of serial killers may be psychopathic, not all psychopaths are killers.

The main differences between the average person and psychopaths or ASPD individuals are...

  • A lack of emotional empathy. They have empathy on an intellectual/cognitive level- meaning if they think about it they can understand why someone's upset, etc, but it will have no affect on them emotionally.
  • A lack of remorse/guilt. They can, however, feel bad because there were negative consequences for them- remorse implies that you feel bad because of what happened to the other person. So, guiltless people can feel bad for themselves because they got in trouble and regret something, but will not feel remorse for the negative effects on others.
  • A generally prevailing sense of boredom.
  • Shorter-lasting or less intense emotions. This is mainly in psychopathy- people with ASPD are more likely to have a "normal" amount/intensity of emotions. There is one personality disorder involving a small to nonexistent display or amount of emotions, but it's SZPD and not ASPD or psychopathy
  • A disregard for traditions or rules, including laws.
  • Recklessness and impulsiveness; a lack of forward thinking.

Please note however that anyone can have some or even all of the traits on this list and not be psychopathic or have ASPD- this is only a general overview, and not diagnostic criteria by by any means. For example, even disorders such as depression can cause all of these symptoms.

It's also in the diagnostic criteria that psychopaths cannot be schizophrenic. They aren't detached from reality, they are not delusional.

About violent urges- A common misconception is that all psychopaths are violent criminals. The vast majority of psychopaths, if not all, do have violent urges, but they are not all violent criminals. The difference between a violent urge and a violent criminal is whether or not you act on those urges.

Violent urges are on a spectrum. They can range from violent fantasies to actual impulses. Where they are on a spectrum and how strong any impulses may be depend on the individual, and may affect how likely one is to act on them.

A good amount of people with psychopathy may go unnoticed because typically they seem normal. They can be adept at wearing a "mask" of normalcy and pretending to be empathetic, caring, and etc. But this also depends on the individual.​


Some general resources that seem to be okay, but as always fact-check.

If anyone knows of any more trusted resources, feel free to comment or send me a link and I'll update this list.




PsychCentral Forums



U.S. National Library of Medicine

PsychForums (For reading topics and created by and for people with mental illnesses.)

PsychoGendered (A professionally diagnosed psychopath shares on a blog her insights about many psychological and philosophical topics pertaining to aspects of psychopathy, psychopaths, and their relation with non-psychopaths/neurotypicals.)​

Useful/Insightful Quotes from the v1 Thread

In the v1 thread, many users commented additional insights or personal stories.

Sadly I cannot transfer them over into the comments on this thread.

To keep them from going to waste and having an easy-to-find reference of them, I'm compiling these comments here with quotes.

I did have to re-format them a bit because the site update removed some formatting, but that's the only changes I'm making to these. Most of it is just paragraph breaks.

If you're one of the people quoted and would like your quote removed, PM me and I'll take it down.


determinator determinator - Additional thoughts about writing characters with a mental illness

This is a fantastic thread; thanks for making it. Like others, I'll be keeping it around both for myself and others.

The only thing I could/can think of—and it's not a suggestion for an addition—is that while research is mandatory, being open to readers/partners/what have you about the character's afflictions (would this be a polite term? I can never find a good word) doesn't need to be obvious. I say this beyond a character being private about their issues, because that goes without saying; the stigma and embarrassment and surroundings the character might be in could all influence a choice not to be open about it. I'm not open about my problems 99% of the time because of the reactions that come of it, and I'm even reluctant to go through it with friends and family.

What I mean is that I've seen people, mostly on other websites (but they're still roleplayers/writers, so I think this is important) trying to flaunt their character's diagnoses, if any, to make it very clear to the audience what is going on. I don't see this as particularly helpful to the writer or the readers, because it conveys the wrong messages from the writer and may give the wrong ones to the readers (or augment any assumptions they have). If a mental illness is a central part of a plot, this is understandable, but if the character simply has this issue and it is not something that the plot relies on, there is nothing obligating a writer to tell the world in their prose about how "fucked up" their character is, which is a problem I see a lot, and not just in romanticizing it. This adds to the misconceptions and the stigma, but also says that the writer, while they did research, are still displaying this character's issue as some form of identifying badge.

This is meandering and probably doesn't make sense, but my point is that I've seen people across websites (I'm new here, so I can't speak for this one) state outright that their character is X, and then proceed to "prove" it in their writing. This always comes off—to me, anyway—as an obvious attempt at showing that they did research but in a gauche way, because it still expresses hidden messages that might not be intended by the writer.

Say that someone researched quite a bit on ASPD or psychopathy after deciding they wanted to portray a character with such a diagnosis. They went to painstaking effort to do this, took every bit of information they could and soaked it in, and even took in a lot of firsthand experiences—but right from the outset, whether the writer says it themselves, the prose does, or the character's attitude does (in a distinct manner), there's a blatant statement that "this character has X" or that the character is somehow "off".

I'm using ASPD or psychopathy as an example because the conditions themselves have a fantastic ability at 'going incognito', as mentioned. Also, given people's views of the very words "sociopath" and "psychopath" (not the same, woo newsflash), if something was stated outright, they'd automatically be slated as bad news bears. I can understand this narrative if it's used to prove people's perceptions wrong, but it's usually not, and in many cases I've seen with ASPD or psychopathy (and many other mental illnesses), care is taken in research but less with the execution (unless the person is serious; of course I don't mean those people) and it comes out looking like they did no research at all or they researched just to demonize a character, if that makes sense.

I'm still making less sense than I'd like, so I'll use Horns as an example, a book I just finished: mental illness wasn't mentioned. At all. The antagonist was revealed in an indirect manner and the reader is given a flashlight and gently guided through the dark, not dragged around. He killed an animal as a kid (children abusing animals is usually seen as an ill portent), he killed people, he lied and manipulated, he had no emotional empathy or remorse, could fake emotions, etc. He worked with a Congressman (as a lawyer lol), volunteered as a youth minister and taught kids, and so on. But early on he talked about people like a scientist looking down at a rather fascinating set of experiments. There was a huge disconnect or dissociation between himself and others and it showed. (I can talk like this, it by itself doesn't mean anything.) By this point, people could make their own assumptions whether they're right or wrong, right?

Point is, no one said outright that the guy was mentally ill, nor that whether or not he was mattered at all. It could be inferred if one looked at his actions, how he spoke, what characters said about him to the MC (which ran contrary to how the MC saw him, because MC is naive), and his own narrative in the section dedicated to him. He did some shit. lol. My point here is that even if you don't bring in any explicit statement about a person's condition, it can be inferred—and not telling the audience might be preferable because it could leave doubt in whether or not the person is "mentally ill" at all, thus avoiding romanticizing the condition(s) to begin with. People doing shitty things doesn't have to be explicitly connected to mental instability. Anyone can do shitty things. It's the context that matters and there is literally no need for a character to prance around IC or OOC wearing a flag or neon sign saying "I am mentally ill!" Real people don't, so why should characters with any depth?

I didn't dislike the character because someone came out and screamed at me that he was a mentally unstable man that needs to be watched; the narrative told me he did shitty things and killed people without highlighting any actual formal diagnosis. (They even put in a very subtle cause for how these changes came about. Changes. The character went through physical trauma.) The idea that he could be "mentally ill" wasn't even part of the picture, but I make those inferences now more to make a point than anything else. He may or may not have been a ~"psychopath"~ but the point was that that didn't matter in the narrative. I do not approve wholly that someone "traditionally ASPD" was portrayed as the usual villain, but it was done so in a way that didn't put light on mental illness at all. If he had anything, it was like the more criminalaspects of psychopathy, but that is still inconsequential because the focus should be on the characterization of the individual, not on whatever label they have slapped on them.

This guy could have just been a really shitty dude because no one put a focus on a specific diagnosis. ("Really shitty" can be relative depending upon how you view morals and how attached you are to fictional characters and events, but I digress.)

In my opinion, if you want to center a character around a specific type of mental illness, or build one off of one, do it subtly. If you want practice, do your research. A lot of it. But when it comes to things like ASPD and psychopathy, profoundly ill-defined and ill-understood concepts,take even more care. The character I've laid out could be put under Hare's happy little list for criminal psychopaths, but my point is how he was characterized. He wasn't demonized. I still think he's a phenomenal(ly written) character. His actions weren't even put in any direct light, like "this is bad". They simply were. They could be interpreted on their own merits (tinged by the MC's idealism, if one allowed). No one said "Hey look, a psychopath", because that would have taken away from the narrative. Anyone with mental illness can commit crimes. That doesn't mean they will, and it doesn't mean that all criminals are mentally ill (and if they are, is it that big of a deal? People tend to make assumptions that if a criminal is mentally ill, then correlation = causation and obviously being mentally ill = more likely to commit crime, which is incorrect).

So, in summary: the mental illness doesn't have to be part of the narrative, and any issues a character has can be a lot more profound if they're explored in indirect (or direct, via actions) prose. Show, don't tell. We don't need to know if someone has major depressive disorder, or a panic disorder, or bipolar II, or dysthymia, or schizophrenia, or whatever. You, as the writer, can know that and use it as an anchor for your portrayal. The character will help do the rest, by living out their lives within the frame you (and other people) have given them. Your research will do leagues in dictating what they tell you with far more accuracy and less misconception and bias. If they have any issues, they'll express themselves on their own. There's no need to go out delineating in character or during writing what they have.

This post isn't trying to discourage anyone from anything other than going out and screaming to the hills that a character has a specific "issue". Doing that tends to make readers make premature assumptions to begin with—and again, I could see its merit if someone took that in mind and wanted to prove it wrong: it may actually help people learn something. The things I'm laying out tend to be more important if one is writing a full-fledged book, but roleplaying isn't a monologue.

It's my opinion that explicit statements of mental illness should be avoided unless there's a direct point to displaying them, because just being open about mental illness, in real life or in fiction, opens a floodgate of judgments on the person. I wouldn't want readers to be clouded by whatever bias they have, especially if I'm trying to focus on something else.

If I'm playing a "mentally ill" character, as can be examined from the outside, they aren't mentally ill IC. I have characters with mental illness but that is by observing them from the outside; in experiencing and writing them, there isn't any label telling me "this is how a person with X should be". They are expressing themselves as human beings, because that is what people with mental illness are. Humans. And that's probably the best thing to keep in mind as a person researches and looks to portray mental illness.

edit: lol just realized Pine said something like this but I don't care

edit 2: book reccomendations

Pine Pine - On Defining Characters by their Mental Illness

This guide is pretty grand and is something I have been using for other people to refer to.

In any case, I just wanted to add something I find to be really key about writing mental illnesses. There just has to be a balance. People can suffer from a mental illness in many varying degrees, but no matter what, a mental illness, or any other kind of disability for that matter, does notdefine a person. People will always have a personality. While it can have a big impact on their life, it becomes somewhat of a norm to people, so it isn't something that is constantly on their mind by any means. It is very possible for people to have a mental illness and function properly in society.

With that being said, don't underestimate it either. A mentally ill character is more than just a plot device. This kind of goes with romanticizing mental illnesses. Don't just make a disorder come into play when it's convenient for you for some insta-drama. Similar to my pet peeve about how the pregnant woman always seems to give birth when everything is going wrong, all too often do these disorders only seem to come into play when it would be most exciting. Make it affect them in normal situations and everyday activities.

Just... balance.

Vaughn Vaughn [/URL] - On Bipolar Disorder, PDs, and Flawless Characters

My brother has bipolar to, I think it would be best to write about it here.

He becomes manic, everything excited him, he gets wide eyed and hyper, and he will casually say things that have universal gravity. He feels like the hero of the world and the one in the right, but his mentality is so fragile and I'll balanced that flaw can be found in his speaking by any person able to see trough his ridiculous charisma. Hell burst into a room and suddenly say "you're gonna do everything man, you're gonna change the world! Im so excited for you, I just got this vision and I realized that we're gonna be on the top!"

The opposite side of the spectrum is easy to explain. When depressed, my brother is, quite singly, not moving. Hell enter a room and sit on a couch and won't move until perhaps the same time tomorrow.

mental illness vs not mental illness

I may not have done much role playing yet, but I've been around the block enough to see some characters using mental illness in ways I strongly disagree with.

1. Mental illness is not an excuse to have a flawless character. I have no greater pet peeve than the Mary Sue with a dark side. A character that is all around good natured, happy, and perfect except for the fact that they have a split personality Which is malicious, or can fight, or etc, that's not a fully realized character. If you want split personalities, think of each personality as its own character, and none of them can be Mary Sues. This goes for characters with different modes, states, drugs, anything.

Without bipolar, my bro is still a flawed person. If he was perfect, he bi polar wouldn't be much of a problem because he'd deal with it well and understand himself during manic or depressive attacks.

2. I don't have time to write two out with my dying phone battery, but basically personality disorders are like personality traits. They can have causes and effects, be triggered and be quelled, but stay with people, being learned over time. they are states of mind, and often they don't care about context or logic, they just are. A depressed person feeling a weight on their chest-- personalities can interact with it, I can be a sepressed person and logically say "I should do x" or have the strength to say "I NEED to do y!" But my depression is a state which can at times, be almost separate from and acting on me. And at other times I can move into it and decide it is logical right now for me to be depressed or to not move for a day or two. Is it my depression that's making me sad, or some circumstance? It's a chicken or egg thing, and your character may very well not know.

CheshireKittenWill CheshireKittenWill [/URL] - On Borderline Personality Disorder and Being Defined By Mental Illness

determinator determinator First off, that was an IMPRESSIVE wall of text! Like seriously, I doubt I could write that much if I wanted to, and that's why I didn't 'reply' to your comment, and instead tagged you in a whole new one!

I would like, if I'm able, to make a point of contention on 'real people are more than their diagnosis' point, if I may?

Now, I am perfectly open about my Neurodivergancy (My preferred term. Neurotypical and Neurodivergence. Hereon out described as NT and ND), I have BPD and have been showing symptoms for as long as anyone in my life can remember (my mum often recounts to me on how my self-damaging behaviours began at a very young age in the form of hiding that the frame of my bed was broken and scraping my arm along it because apparently 'I enjoyed the way it felt' (obviously not a direct quote, I don't remember this time, but apparently that's the essence of what I said to her))

A big part of BPD (for me, personally) is the unstable sense of self. I will cling to any label I'm able to apply to myself in order to give myself some sort of identity. To have the chance to say "Yes, this is me, this is who I am." And that's exactly what I did when I (FINALLY) got my diagnosis. It was already part of my personality (what little of it was actually MINE and not stolen from fictional characters and those around me) but after being able to give it a name, it became a BIG part of who I am, because it's something I can 100% be certain is mine and is me. I can loud and proud stand up and say, "I am Neurodivergent, I have Borderline Personality Disorder." with the firm knowledge that it's true. That it's not going to change like the rest of me will. (The way I often describe it to people is that I am my very own dress up doll. I get bored or find a better personality or trait? I take it and wear it with pride because hey, it's better than what I had before.)

So while I can't speak for other ND folks, I AM my diagnosis. That is entirely who I am, because I don't know who I am underneath all of these layers of other people that I've taken on.

Therefore (while I don't often because it's bad practice) were I to portray someone with BPD, even if the RP/Fic/Book/Show/Whatever wasn't centered around their mental health, it would be something in the forefront. It would be a major character trait, and it would be ruminated on and mentioned (at least during an internal monologue of some description) on a semi-regular to regular basis. Because it's the one sure thing.

Like being in a room of holograms and finding a real rock. While it might not be relevant to what you're doing, you'll think about that rock. Because hey, that's the one thing I found in this entire place that's real! Awesome, yes, I must remember that the rock is real and go back to it as often as I can in this upside down crazy hologram world.

(And yes, I'm aware I use a lot of weird metaphors (I think they're metaphors, it's late, don't hate me if it's the wrong term!) but that's because, in my experience, NT folks struggle to understand where I'm coming from without them. I don't aim to talk down, sorry if that's how it's come across!)

To summarise:

I agree with your point on most fronts (from what research I've done) however it would not be unrealistic or wrong to portray certain Neurodivergences as a key personality point as for some of us, they are a key personality point.

determinator determinator 's response to Cheshire-

CheshireKittenWill CheshireKittenWill I wasn't referencing that so much as people that think that mental illness is an accessory (and this, to my experience, comes from people who are not mentally ill most of the time) and treat it accordingly. When I referenced TFiOS and its fandom in my previous post, I distinctly remember when teenage girls would say, "joke" or not, that they wish they could have terminal illness too so they could have a romance like that.

People do it with other topics, too, like the obsessive and controlling relationship between Edward Cullen and Bella (which is treated like it's a healthy and ideal relationship to have, that Edward's manipulation, isolation, and stalking are okay and normal), and things like 50 Shades, where Christian Grey is lauded because of and despite how badly he treats the main character. Irony when it's taken into account that 50 Shades is a glorified Twilight fanfic

As someone with mental illness and very likely neurodivergent (a detail I'm taking up with the appropriate authorities), I realize how important it is to show a realistic take on a character's illnesses, if they have them. It's very important to me that pains are taken in communicating that in a way that is both real and palatable to readers, without losing any of the characters' voice in the process.

Most of the characters I write tend to be a bit mentally unhealthy or ND and that does, inevitably, come into focus. I'm not saying that it shouldn't, nor am I saying that we shouldn't play them as key personality points, because for many of us, neurodivergence and mental illness consume—and often define, in their severity—our being. It would be daft of me to say that one should avoid including a character's or person's unique experience with mental illness or neurodivergence (or anything else that informs their self, for that matter)—that would rob them of their reality and their integrity. It would remove something that forms their perspectives, their thoughts and behaviors (unique depending upon context, of course), and their actions. To avoid that would be fallacy.

I am saying that it should be done with care by the people who do not have direct experiences, and that those who don't are better off looking at the experiences (how the symptoms manifest) before the name, because many people who are not crippled in their mental health tend to have preconceived judgments about the names/diagnoses and what they look like based on stereotypes (I doubt I would need to expound upon this, as BPD is a very good example of the sort of stigma I'm talking about).

People too often want me to write characters with serious issues that they need to work through as if they do not have them, for the sake of romance. I enjoy writing through and exploring these issues and how the characters handle them. I live for the other characters that come into their lives and help them, and slowly aid them in learning how to live again. I explore their recovery, and people ask me to eschew that because it's 'ugly', because it's unpleasant, because it isn't always happy—and because it isn't a good ingredient for romance.

I've gotten a lot of people who ask for nothing short of that, and that is my beef in my most recent post: I cannot, ethically, pretend that part of a person's being doesn't exist in order to cater to romance—or act like everything that they do is a good thing, or that they shouldn't be accountable for (as I've gotten from some people that want "this totally isn't abuse, because (insert justifications here)" abuse relationships with the Joker, as an example).

TL;DR when I play "villains" or "dark" characters especially, the theme between them all is that they probably have mental illness—and the shitty things they do or are portrayed to do is what attracts people to them, and in the process, they want the edgy grimdark villain guy, but they also want a free pass from the darker aspects of their personality, because it's "uncomfortable". This is what I get when (NT and mentally healthy) people ask for romance with mental illness.

That doesn't jive with me. Mental illness is real. It is raw. If the character hasn't started their journey to recovery, it is dark. It is not a happy place. I will not give that up all at once for the sake of romance. I will allow them to make that journey along the way of recovery, but I will not carelessly discard part of a character's core just to appease someone who doesn't understand them and wants them to fit a warped ideal.

I'm sorry, that was kind of ranty and rambling, but I love playing the characters that aren't all joy, sunshine, and roses, and I get that and see itevery day.

Pine Pine - Personal Account of ADHD

Okay, so not sure why I didn't think about this before, but since Ghost's lessons didn't really cover it, I think it would be worthwhile for me to throw in my experience/knowledge of ADHD. It's a fairly common disorder, and one I believe where misinformation within "common knowledge" is rampant, so hopefully this will be helpful to anyone interested in writing anyone aspiring to write a character suffering from this. Not to discredit myself, I'm a psychology major, have done fair amount of research, but I would still advise against taking my account as an end-all be-all authority on the topic. Everyone has a different experience which personality could play into. Also I'm writing this at five in the morning and tend to get a bit rambly so bear with me going over every painstaking detail that I can.

Let me start off primarily with an overview of my experience with public school education, as this is a developmental disorder.

I believe it's been a little over a decade now since the DSM has lumped the term ADD (attention deficit disorder) in with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and simply made the disorder into three types. Type 1 ADHD is the inattentive type, or what was once called ADD. Type 2 ADHD is the hyperactive-impulsive type, and I don't know if they call it Type 3 or not, but there is a combined type. I was born in 1996, which is supposed to be two years after the shift in terminology has taken place, so it was somewhere in the early 2000s that I was diagnosed with Type 1 ADHD, and perhaps some time before that my sister was diagnosed with Type 2. I do not know for a fact which type my mom has, but I suspect she has a combined type, or at the very least has displayed symptoms I recognize in the inattentive type. (Like almost all mental disorders, ADHD has a very strong genetic presence.)

I don't remember the details at this point in time, for obvious reasons, but when I took my basics for psych, my teacher mentioned satirically something about it being commonly misdiagnosed to children via a ten question quiz in a doctor's office. I read that studies were originally done predominately on young boys, and so a bias was developed to overly diagnose them with ADHD and underdiagnose females. The disorder generally develops differently between males and females, where for males it loses severity with age but persists and worsens for women as they approach adulthood (particularly during their college years). These inaccurate diagnoses could be fun to play into a character, as any energetic male could accredit this to a disorder he doesn't have, and thus in a self-fulfilling prophecy sort of way, feed into this obnoxious behavior. Then for a female ignorant of her own disorder, this could damage self-esteem and create a buffer between any coping mechanisms she could have otherwise been using. (I'll touch on the latter somewhere down the line.)

I think it's worth noting that until I took that aforementioned psych class, I had always been told that I had ADD and I was entirely ignorant of it being renamed as Type 1 ADHD. I'm unsure of whether or not it was described to me this way to simplify/help my understanding of the disorder at such a young age, or if the good doctor was just not up to snuff on the DSM because... they probably weren't a psychologist. Either way, my mom seemed surprised when I later went on to tell her about the name change, but I digress.

I don't know how this got planted in my mind as a child, be it my mom again trying to simplify me or having booger-flicking five-year-olds for peers, but I grew up with a sore misunderstanding of my own disorder. My understanding of ADD was how it has come to be stigmatized and portrayed in media. I believed the symptoms were like that dog in Up, where someone would have an uncontrollable urge to stare at a squirrel or a shiny object any time one passed by, even in the midst of a back-and-forth conversation. While I must admit that is literally something I've seen my mom do (including the declaration of whatever fucking animal it was she happened to catch glimpse of), I would strongly suggest to you guys that isn't what the entire disorder is cracked up to be.

As a result, growing up, I didn't see myself ever having such a reaction to things, so I never saw my ADD as a problem. I had been given some sort of medication on weekdays, and since I habitually copied my sister who decided she didn't like taking medication, I decided Ididn't like taking medicine and probably skipped on taking it quite often unless my mom specifically forced me to. I don't know the name of the specific medicine that I was taking. If memory serves, it was a tiny white pill, not troublesome to take at all, but I wouldn't quote me on that. According to my mom, the medicine had strong addictive qualities, though obviously I remained unaffected. However, I did experience a decent amount of side affects, including trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and what ultimately lead me to getting off the medicine before the end of elementary school, mood swings (I think).

I can definitely account for the loss of appetite, as I distinctly remember the staff at my school bribing me with ice cream money to eat my meal. (In all fairness though, school lunches were fucking disgusting and I have no idea what kind of "meat" was in those burgers.) I also do remember having very intense, morbid nightmares which eventually lead to me visiting the school counselor. I think that issue was ultimately resolved as latent feelings over our recently deceased horse and I remember her doing that whole "draw anything you want on this sheet of paper" thing, in which, lo and behold, I drew a horse and told her all about it. I did have a distinct fear of death as a child though (still do), so I'm not sure if that is relevant to the medication or not, but I did eventually stop having nightmares about myself and family members dying in such frequency.

Another thing I think that's worth mentioning is how common ADHD seemed to be among my peers in elementary school. It wasn't an uncommon practice to hear one kid to share "I have ADHD," "I have ADD and ADHD," and so forth. (Again, misconceptions on my part lead to me falsely asserting that you can't have ADD and ADHD, as I thought because of the acronym ADHD only differing by adding the "hyperactivity" bit that ADHD was just a more severe form of ADD which is, once again, very, horribly wrong.) It wasn't something that seemed to be really hidden or to be ashamed of, in my experience, and it just seemed to be the norm for someone to have one of the three. Even if someone didn't and they acted like a total spazz, kids would accredit that to undiagnosed ADHD.

I don't really know enough about my sister's experience in life to talk as much in depth about Type 2 ADHD, but I do know she had to take a special ed class for a little while early on, but she definitely isn't an idiot. In our own ways, we both excelled early on in school, and following after the special ed class I believe she was also placed in the gifted talented (GT) program they had at school. I do also know that she becomes restless without almost constant stimulation and would always be the person dragging me places, including trespassing into our neighbor's very, very extensive back yard, then also running around my grandma's neighborhood, even into the pen where my neighbor's horses were kept (hence, impulsive). Her grades suffered in high school and she had to take at least one summer class. Present day, she was put on academic suspension with one semester left in college (after rescheduling courses for switching her major) and seems to mostly vent her energy with board games and her two dogs. I could try to analyze how ADHD has played into her life and how it's turned out, but I never thought to try to until after she moved out. I will say, though, that she interrupts often when people are talking and I have never once been able to solely blow out my birthday candles in her presence. I digress. Back to me. :'^)

Another thing to note is that my mom did try to help treat/control our disorders, at least for a while. We had a timer for an hour for as to how long we were allowed on the computer each, which at the time, seemed largely unfair where the internet was concerned. We had dial-up, so if we wanted to get on Cartoon Network and play a game there, it would take probably half an hour for the game to load, so we would often mess with the time to better suit our needs. In addition, I was introduced to Gamecube/Super Smash Bros. at my neighbor's house, and as a result of sitting way too close to the TV and obsessively playing it at each visit, to the point where at least I would always come home with bloodshot eyes, my mom forbade us from having a console attached to the TV. Eventually I was gifted a Gameboy Color, then when the Wii came out and was advertised as some miracle for exercise, my mom caved in and bought one thus leading to over 300 logged hours of playing SSBB. Before video games, my sister and I largely just played "pretend," where we would make up rather elaborate stories for our age (imo) and play them out with our stuffed animals (then later at age eleven, I believe, I went on to roleplaying). I suppose I'll explain the video game thing in a second when I actually get past the whole anecdotal story but for now whoo boy I'm rambling.

Elementary and middle school went without a hitch. It wasn't until high school where classes took a bit of outside work that I began struggling a little. I ended up dropping a substantial amount of advanced courses, which in theory I would have been able to pass with flying colors, but I simply couldn't bring myself to affording the appropriate attention needed to all six courses. Since I was convinced I would just go on to play an instrument professionally after school, after college, I focused more on that and was content to skid by with just passing grades. Spoiler alert, but I never tried majoring in music.

When I took my aforementioned psych class, my teacher's lesson on ADHD was just a two minute aside, as I don't believe it was any material taken on a test. She simply covered that, as I mentioned before, the process for diagnosis was flawed and that ADD isn't a thing anymore. Rather unfortunately, either because I had been ignoring the lesson in favor of something else (not an uncommon practice in that class, unfortunately) or it had just been poor wording on my teacher's part, but I had then been lead to believe that what I knew as ADD was not a disorder at all. I didn't realize that she meant it had been renamed to ADHD. I thought that she had meant that ADD had been falsely named a disorder while it was simply a quality of poor student that psychologists had at one point in time overreacted to. This lead me to believe for almost a solid year that I was neurotypical, which was hugely problematic upon me entering college.

When I came to college, I had resolved to buckle down and actually really study for the first time in years in my life. College is what determines your future career, so I couldn't afford to fuck it up on account of my own laziness. In high school, it hadn't clicked in me that just memorizing a few facts just before a quiz/test didn't help me learn and the future field you intend to apply yourself to necessitates KNOWING your field of study in the long-term.

What I found was that buckling down and studying was not as easy as I wanted it to be. If ever it came to any online homework, I would often click away to RpNation, often prioritize a roleplay post over homework, cram writing an essay into an hour before it was due, not finish reading the text needed for that day's lesson in English class, and show up ten minutes late to my big lecture classes habitually. This mostly came to fruition in my second semester of college. I began to blame my own inadequacies on my innate shortcomings. I felt that I was lazy, incompetent in a working world, and the perceived lack of motivation would fuck me over for life. I believed that even if I did by some miracle graduate on my four year degree plan, that I wouldn't have what it takes to get a teaching job, because I would have learned nothing of the material I would need to teach.

All of this amounted to my own fluctuating self-esteem, and periodic bouts of anxiety and depression, the likes of which I had not experienced before. At one point the stress had come crashing down on me hard enough to leave me largely unresponsive for about an hour. I wouldn't call it dissociating, per se, but that's the closest I've ever felt to it. Needless to say, it would have helped me a lot sooner if Ihad realized that I was not neurotypical. Once you know a disease, then you can work to find a way to cure it.

Now onto specifics with the disorder itself.

As I mentioned before, Type 1 ADHD is not some spastic split of attention between everything that sparkles or moves around you. In my experience, it's all about concentration and distractions. Anything that doesn't interest me and requires a lot of attention, I have difficulty focusing on. I'm able to handle mundane jobs just fine, and in fact, they're rather therapeutic. When I'm at work, I could do the dishes for hours, because it's all simple, repetitive actions that require little to no thought, and I can wander in my thoughts all the while, developing personal philosophies, analyzing a coworker's behavior (something I actually wrote a whole theory on, but that's a story for another time), plot out characters, story ideas, just... anything. When I started to feel overwhelmed with college, I would clean up the room, and accomplishing all those small feats left me with a sense of satisfaction, that I was productive, and prepped me ready to launch myself back into homework. That is more or less one personal coping mechanism I have come to develop for myself. I also enjoyed taking algebra, because after taking it for what was basically the third time, it became systematic and similarly mindless. It's all about resolving my feelings of laziness, which I equated to worthlessness in myself.

But laziness is a grievously improper term for what was going on. Contrast to math, I struggled in geography and foreign languages, which are classes that are heavily reliant on committing things to long-term memory. I can't stand reading a list of words over and over again in an attempt to associate them with x item. It bores me out of my fucking mind. There is no new knowledge to be found in being able to point out Zimbabwe on a map, nor do I want to learn alternative names for an item that I'm already intimately familiar with its form, its functions and so on. I would much rather be exploring new concepts. This conflict of interests came up primarily when I was taking my basics for anthropology. I loved learning about the concepts of the skeletal structure in men versus women, adaptation to warm climates versus cold climates, functionality of quadrupeds versus bipedals, but fuck if I'm going to be able to recognize a skull as Australopithecus Osteowhatever and the something fancy scientific name for that crack on the frontal lobe appearing in Asian ancestry. The classes were interesting, I knew all the concepts, but I had no way of showing my knowledge on the tests because I didn't have a fucking name for what I knew.

So when it comes to things like word association, I can't concentrate. My mind wanders to one of the 5,000 things I would rather be doing, and before I know it, I've read through an entire paragraph without comprehending a single word of what I read. I'll have a separate tab open to RpNation, which somehow multiplied to five when I wasn't looking, and now I have seven tabs, two of which were related to my long forgotten Spanish homework due in a couple of hours.

I was in the middle of an exam once when, after I had repeatedly been watching the same episodes of the same show however many times in a row, a scene would play out in my head when I'm trying to write an essay. If I let my mind wander for even a moment, desperately trying to find some sense of stimulation when I get stuck on, stress about an answer I can't remember, all I can hear is the sound of turning pages, scratches of pencil on paper, the ticking of a clock, classmates sniffing, a chair squeaking, so on. I've held my head before, pressed my temples, covered my ears, pulled my hair, whatever to try to ground me back into focus on the task at hand, which is sometimes a sufficient distraction to bridge myself away from these outside noises and back to what needs to be done. The pressure of necessity, very rarely screaming at myself internally, is usually enough to push me to do what needs to be done. Procrastination, in a way, helps me get stuff done, but the amount of stress preceding me completing a task is anything but healthy.

Other times, when things are not immediately as urgent, I can force myself to look over a page, read over the words, but words lose all meaning and I have no idea what the sentence I just read even meant. Not dyslexia, but it really feels like it sometimes, and it's frustrating as hell.

Essentially, if ever something starts to bore me, or I experience even a modicum of frustration at a problem that takes special attention to solve, then my mind tries to stray away, focus on what's more interesting. Even when it isn't "interesting" to me, outside stimulation just becomes downright invasive. If I'm sitting in my room at home, the television is almost always on, and suddenly background noise can't just be background noise. I wake up early in the morning to avoid other people that are awake that would be doing something that would draw my attention away, because no one else likes to wake up early. When they're up, I have to listen to music to block them out, but if it's something that requires any special thought or concentration, it either has to be lyricless or atmospheric music (i.e., doom metal). Can't listen to baroque music or marches, though, because I fucking hate them, and my hatred simply provides another distraction. There is no true ideal conditions for me to work in. If it's quiet, my thoughts or small noises distract me. If it's loud, it's a toss up on whether or not all these noises suddenly try to organize themselves out in my mind. I will tell you, though, that TV is the absolute worst. I can have anxiety just watching it, knowing that I'm wasting my time and my life, but that might just be me myself and have nothing to do with my ADHD.

With this focus on interests comes periods of obsession. I get very deep into things that pique my interest at the moment, and once I get started on something, it's difficult to stop. For a while, I was obsessed with Marilyn Manson and watching interviews with him. At some point in time Super Smash Bros. was definitely something I couldn't my mind off of. Sometimes I can even obsess over a person, like wanting to hang out with them, get to know them, the sort. The absolute worst case I think I've ever had was when I first got into watching Gotham, in which I spent all my time rewatching episodes, thinking about the characters, analyzing them. I literally have pages written down on my thoughts on how each character was feeling and how it tied into x relationship, developing headcanons, so on, as if I ever actually intended to roleplay these characters. Hugest fucking waste of my time because it only took one season for the show to end up in the shit hole of rushed storyline and cheesy acting. A little more moderate example of my interests as distractions comes from writing this post. I was trying to go to sleep, but I was doing that whole tossing-and-turning in bed thing where I couldn't get comfortable, and I kept thinking about what I want to say in this post, so eventually I decided that I wouldn't be able to sleep until I got this all out there.

In any case, once I REALLY get invested in something, it's hard to concentrate on anything else. This also happens in smaller instances. If I'm doing dishes at work and a customer comes in, I don't want to stop doing dishes. I want to keep doing what I'm doing until the task is complete, then I can move onto other things. I CAN remove myself from what I'm doing, but it's annoying, irritating, frustrating, distracting as I move onto the next task while thinking about the last. Again, it's the sense of completion that helps me feel good about myself.

This want for finishing a task arises from the difficulty that may come if I leave it unfinished and try to come back to completing it. That's why I'm still here typing three and a half hours later when I should really be getting ready for work. I talked about these invasive distractions that prevent me from concentrating often, but when I do achieve absolute focus on a task, I can become very efficient and block out the things around me. I can hear a sound, but it doesn't register to me as to what it was because it becomes inconsequential. If I'm making a customer's sandwich and a coworker speaks to me when I don't expect it, it's just muffled sound, and not that they aren't speaking clearly to me, but I do have to ask for what they said again. Sometimes after they repeat themselves I still didn't entirely hear them, and not wanting to bother them (because I know I hate repeating myself), I just move on, return to what I was doing and hope I can figure it out later. This can also happen sometimes when I'm writing something, like finally getting down to a really long roleplay post, then someone comes to tell me dinner is ready. I then get greatly irritated if I don't just tune that person out, because otherwise I'll lose my train of thought and interest, more or less, in what I was already doing.

Hyperfocus is the term coined for what I'm talking about here. It's a state of being so immersed in what you're doing, your thoughts that you become oblivious to everything else around you, which often leads to losing track of time. It can be just as useful as it can be harmful. Hence, I will sit for five hours long past the point of hunger just to finish something that I'm writing, or a level in a game I'm trying to complete, and be surprised when I look up to see the sun has gone down. This has played a large part in why I was showing up to class late so often. I always have to be doing something, so that time spent doing something bleeds into the time that should be spent getting ready to leave. I have come to terms with the fact that I prefer living with someone, because even if the distractions caused by them are annoying, their presence motivates me to do productive things and keeps me from zoning out too much.

Schedules, timers, things of that sort are effective for regulating how my time is spent, though it's definitely not something I like to do, and admittedly have a tendency to skimp out on it. I keep a mental list of priorities in my head all the time, but when it comes down to it, my priority list is probably skewed.

I think the final thing I want to talk about is the root cause of Type 1 ADHD. From what I read, Type 1 ADHD is a deficiency of dopamine, a brain chemical related to reward-motivation behavior. If I'm understanding this correctly, the value of an incentive feels lower, and the pleasure gotten from that incentive is less than it otherwise would be (don't quote me on that). This deficiency is also associated with having a lower libido, a.k.a. sex drive. I identify as asexual, and my ignorance on both the association with that and ADHD as well as the fact that asexuality was a thing caused problems in the five year relationship I was in, but I won't go into detail about that. I'm not saying that all people with inattentive ADHD are asexual, but I do think there is a correlation with that.

In any case, I think that covers everything I know/think might be useful. But again, don't just take my word for it. Do your research.

EDIT: Forgot to mention study methods. Best thing for me to do is study as the information is passed on to me. Basically, if I'm sitting in lecture, I need to be paying attention, writing stuff down (pen to paper because the act of writing something out is another method of reinforcement because keyboard strokes don't force you to write letters/think about words), then maybe read over them again once more before a test. Usually don't have to study after that if it's more of a theoretical class like stats or English. For foreign languages, writing the word down, auditory reinforcement by saying it out loud, having a visual reference, rinse, repeat... a lot. orz


An accurate portrayal of people with mental disorders is important, whether it's in a rp or a movie.

The best thing you can do if you want to write an OC with one is do lots of research. If you don't want to spend time researching, don't write a character with a mental disorder.

While this tutorial/guide/resource thing is longer than almost all of the tutorials on this site, it is really only a brief tutorial and there's absolutely no way you can get all of the information you need to write a mentally ill character from this because I didn't put all the information you need in this guide. It's really only the bare, most important basics that I could think of. If I had included everything you needed, it would be pages and pages and pages longer.

The only reason it is as long as it is is because I thought to put incredibly brief descriptions of the disorders in for a quick reference and explanation- so most of it's bulk comes from that. And it definitely doesn't list every possible disorder.

If anyone wants to add something on here, contribute with their own experiences, if I missed something, or got anything wrong please tell me and I'll consider adding/changing it. I'm definitely not a professional.

^ ' w ' ^ )​
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ଘ(੭*ˊᵕˋ)੭* ̀ˋ
oh god its all fucked up all over again fucking rip


ଘ(੭*ˊᵕˋ)੭* ̀ˋ
I say its very well written. It gives me more insight on to tweak my character, Ezra.
thanks! the format used to be really nice, and its all fucked now because of the site update, but im planning on fixing that up sometime in the hopefully near future...


ଘ(੭*ˊᵕˋ)੭* ̀ˋ
D duegxybus ahhhh thank you!!
its ok a lot of people didnt know i existed

it probably needs an update to the content as well as the format but its probably my favorite thing ive made on this site


It looks hella nice Ghost, gj. I'm gonna throw a link to my RPers so they can lerninate from you.


HSS Fandom Rep/Pun Bun/A Friendly Face
I'd add the One Person Rule to this, which is essentially "If I am learning about x thing that makes it hard for people and a few people say they haven't had a problem with such and such thing that the vast majority of x type of people say they've had problems with, then the negation of experience by a few people is less valid overall to that disease than the stories of the majority"

I've seen people in MANY communities argue about what is and isn't an issue, like, "My friend Sarah has depression and SHE says the lethargy is just people being lazy and you CAN force yourself to get out of bed and do things and all these other people with depression must just suck"

And it's like....okay

But your friend Sarah is 1 person. And we're, like, 7 people having a discussion about this. And we've all experienced the lethargy and we couldn't force ourself to do the stuff....so your point is invalid, bruh.

The exception to the above rule is if you personally have or have had the mental illness you are giving your character, you probably don't need to do that much research. You can probably extrapolate from your own experiences and emotions and have it be believable. You are living or have lived through it. You're fine.

Yeah, I'd add that.


ଘ(੭*ˊᵕˋ)੭* ̀ˋ
It looks hella nice Ghost, gj. I'm gonna throw a link to my RPers so they can lerninate from you.
ohhh weli baby make me swoon

yeah, I definitely agree, which I why im so insistent on people finding multiple sources and fact-checking :b especially since people experience the same mental illness in a variety of ways and no ome copes or behaves the same.


Kar en tuk
The only mental illness I give my characters is ADHD. Why? Because I have ADHD. ADHD is not that bad until you get worked up. Whether it be anger and frustration or happiness and excitement, ADHD, more the hyperactive part, amplifies that. More energy, the more intense a person can be. Me and football is a prime example.


sax mom
Honestly, this is so well said. I'd imagine it took forever to type up, but wow. I even learned a few things here.

Personally, I know people with some of the more common disorders and I, myself have two of these (I've been diagnosed by a professional). I thought I knew a good amount, but I didn't realize there's all these categories. Great post, though!


Ayyy lmfao. I didn't realize this had a v3. It's good to know it's still around (not to say it wouldn't be; I'm just glad it is).


ଘ(੭*ˊᵕˋ)੭* ̀ˋ
Ayyy lmfao. I didn't realize this had a v3. It's good to know it's still around (not to say it wouldn't be; I'm just glad it is).
Ayyyy castigat!!!

Ya every time the sites moved to diff forum software I've had to repost it lol.


Mobsters and Aliens
Hey, this is a very comprehensive and insightful manual! I always got curious about representing characters with mental illlnesses accurately, so it wasn't really of much use for me (though I loved reading the descriptions) but the tought and time spent into this is sincerely amazing. Kudos to you, my friend.

I think it would be interesting to put a section on eating disorders --bulimia, anorexy, stress eating, etc, as they're often comorbid with many mental disorders as well (I'm not sure whether this is mentioned in the quotes or not, I scanned quickly through that section, sorry >.<)! I would've written what I know about those but it's kinda late and I'm a little rusty on research anyways.

Great guide, friend! Keep up the good work <3


kibou kibou if you're still accepting some form of contribution, tell me, because i've thought of something/some things that might be apt things to mention, although their content and nature would be more anecdotal than clinically informative.

i thought about it because parts of the list look a bit lacking and while i'm far from someone certified to proselytize about how people should write, some information could be useful or necessary for actually writing something properly—like nuances in dissociative disorders, for example, which was my specific concern. research is mandatory for any believable representation of someone or something, but i have seen a common trend in pumping research into something but still sounding a bit 'stereotypical' or like it's a rehash of the DSM. (that isn't at anyone here, just something i've seen and that i'm concerned about.)

e.g. dissociative amnesia could be misinterpreted as just amnesia or amnesia with arbitrary trauma just attached to it lmfao, and i mention trauma directly because a lot of (more severe) dissociation is caused by high stress and trauma.


ଘ(੭*ˊᵕˋ)੭* ̀ˋ
yeah i'll always be accepting contributions! i know there's a lot lacking which is why i strongly urge people to do their own research, there's no way to teach people the ins and outs of every mental illness. i've seen people say they've researched a lot but still manage to completely misinterpret basic symptoms lol...

the disorder descriptions that have more information/that have been expanded over time only are like that because i've learned more about them. for example, the only real experience with dissociation i have is with derealization & depersonalization

even if it's anecdotal that's fine!


kibou kibou awesome, i'm glad you're okay with it.
and i hope i don't sound like i'm trying to imply it isn't "good enough"; my intent is to just help make it better, since it's already an invaluable resource for many people.

and just so you know, i'm going to be repeating and supporting a lot of the points you already made lmao.

with all that said, since it'll probably get long, stuff's going to be nested under a spoiler

regarding dissociative shit:
when it comes to dissociative disorders, especially dissociative identity disorder, a lot of it is premised on childhood trauma. to repeat, in DID, there are no "natural" systems. there are no systems that exist without trauma. DID crops up because of consistent childhood abuse, as already mentioned. i cannot state this enough. if there was a scale of dissociative severity, DID is the worst. think of it, the suffering was so bad that the brain needed to compartmentalize different self-states in order to survive.

again for the people in the back, DID doesn't exist without trauma. DID literally comes to be because a child is too young to have a cohesive sense of self when they endure abuse, so they end up with a fragmented one instead because of it.

dissociation is a natural defense mechanism that the brain uses in order to ascertain that you survive when you are under duress. when it happens a long time and/or with enough severity, like any other coping mechanism used in this way, it becomes automatic and reliable.

the further into dissociation a person gets, the more likely that the brain is using one or more of the listed dissociative disorders. mental illnesses don't travel alone and dissociative disorders are far from being excluded.

i'm sure we can make assumptions as to why i'm a fount of information here /throws confetti

anyway, time for my actual damn post.
in retrospect, it looks a lot like a repost of bits in the OP with personal flair added in lol

it's about to get real personal, buckle in my friends

dissociative amnesia
so, the copy-paste bit is in the quote above. i'm not going to bother with putting that in here again. i just kinda want to expand on it.

all of those types of memory loss can be manifested in different ways, but in my own personal case, they're like black voids. there's nothing there. it's a long black line with pockmarks of certain memories. this is related directly to the mention that we don't remember 100% of things and then suddenly Do; trying to search around for memories can yield varied results. in my own case, it usually results in my brain growing increasingly foggy and unresponsive (and then shifting into full on dissociation), and/or getting a throbbing migraine.
i've been told this is because """something""" is preventing me from going back and reliving that before i'm ready for it.

DPDR/depersonalization & derealization
depersonalization is subjective unreality of the person, derealization is unreality of the outside world

okay so aliens.jpg
this kind of thing is summarized as viewing yourself from the outside, out of body experiences, not accepting or recognizing your own reflection, "life is but a dream", etc. it's effing disorienting. your body doesn't feel real, the world doesn't, feeling like an observer of yourself or others (like you're viewing yourself over your shoulder)

a big one with depersonalization is that your actions and body and so on doesn't feel like your own. your experiences, thoughts, emotions, etc. don't feel like your own.

picture yourself just minding your own business
knock knock, it's derealization. now everything is warped, maybe different sizes, textures are funky, your vision is weird, what is smelling? on a more "visceral" side, it's like viewing the world through a barrier, it involves a lot of brain fog (or as i like to explain, "why is there cotton where my brain should be?")
deja vu and the like usually happens here

think of things like surrealism paintings, salvador dali's "the persistence of memory" or his other paintings, edvard munch's "scream", dadaism, etc.

god, explaining those two is the worst, because it's such a subjective and nebulous experience. basically, your brain has decided that the world and/or you are immaterial now, and now it's up to you to figure out how to fix it

also, yeah, please don't joke about everything being fake and so on if you know the person is dissociative
thanks in advance

dissociative identity disorder
i don't know if it was linked already, but this is an extremely good resource for learning about DID.

as a disclaimer, imo, DID would be one of the absolute hardest things to write (just look at hollywood lol. i'm not bitter, you're bitter) because of the nuances of it and how hard it is to understand, even for us.

i mean, it's hard to
live with, so naturally it'd be 483274927x harder to write about.

► DID is hard to see because it is high-functioning. the brain uses it specifically to help the "host" survive and function enough to move forward. it's so good at "peace out i'm gone" no jutsu that even sufferers don't notice, as said.

► alters can possess different skill sets. this doesn't mean that the system is the Renaissance Man and can do everything, but alters are delegated to specific functions based on whatever they were created for (and other personal attributes others have spoken of; tba for my own experiences).

i'm sure it sounds hackneyed and fake to some people, but it's very common for someone to have, say, a studious alter that handles school, a gregarious one that handles social situations, etc.

a very common reaction is to write off DID as simple complexity of personality, or "everyone has multiple sides to themselves uwu".

switching isn't going to be immediately obvious to much of anyone (including people with DID) unless they're familiarized with the experience/person (and even then it still messes up, lol).

tl;dr alters have different functions (called archetypes or roles). bottom line though is that they exist to hoard trauma like protective dragons so the "host" doesn't suffer and can at least function. DID is the brain's way of responding to extreme childhood trauma/abuse with the Substitute move in Pokemon. repeatedly.

little daily time losses and blackouts are a fun aspect of dissociative amnesia that can be because of a switch, but can also be because the brain is trying to spite them (that's a joke). daily life can and does become a jumbled mass of ??????¿ because of long-term dissociation and dissociative amnesia.

saying it loudly for people in the back, to back up the OP: alters are not all violent and sadistic. HOWEVER, people can and do have alters that resemble their abusers.

regarding people's perception of "different people in one person's body": it's common for us to think the same, and it's a big part of integration in therapy as well. however, for everyone on the outside, it's enough to know that these are not different people, as stated, but are various self-states/identities/etc. that fragmented from the main "whole" and became their own parts. we perceive them as individuals as well and it's extremely confusing, but that compartmentalization is why integration therapy exists.

"people usually don't know they have it until they go in for something else" 100%. been in the system for seven years and got blindsided by it a few months ago out of nowhere. chugga chugga all aboard the Full Denial Train

this isn't a joke, but a comparison: if you've ever played persona 3 and seen the bit where people are like "dude you were just staring into space for forever" whenever MC goes into the Velvet Room, that's a comparable allusion to dissociation, but please don't conflate it with simple "zoning out".

this varies for everyone, but 'inner worlds' are common in DID as a sort of homeland for alters, and if something like one doesn't already exist, creating one is encouraged in integration therapy to facilitate communication between alters.

conversion disorder is not uncommon in DID

bpd systems do not exist. "natural" or "endogenic" systems do not exist.
bpd systems do not exist. dissociation is a secondary symptom in bpd. that coupled with the identity disturbances in bpd does not mean that the person has DID. it means they experience secondary dissociation and identity disturbances. bpd systems do not exist. i'm not sorry.

to put it somewhat simply and help differentiate things more, alters' entire thought processes can (and do) change. entire perspectives can (and do) change.

note: i said "we" and "us" but i did mean people with DID at large, and my knowledge is far from cohesive.
kinda like me lol

dissociation in general
► the brain relying on dissociation extensively means there's a flawed Good Egg/Bad Egg system going on that habitually throws these proverbial "eggs" into the incinerator before even analyzing them. basically, we can't remember shit on a day to day, even hour to hour and minute to minute, basis. (that mixed with adhd is a mess)

the brain has gone absolutely gung-ho in making damn sure that nothing hurts my fragile papier-mache ass, so now even trivial things are absolutely gone. i need 9587239575987 reminders on multiple different sources in order to make it through a day. i can't remember two seconds ago. suddenly i've looked up and i swear it was two hours ago. did i do that thing or did i just dream or think about doing it? why do i have new belongings? where are my other belongings? i just put them down.

so, if you write someone that dissociates, expect them to be a """space cadet""". needs reminders, asks questions, needs things to be repeated, can't remember two seconds ago, you get it.
this is in the general section because this isn't specific to any disorder, it just varies in severity.

many, many things can cause lack of focus and clarity in mind (e.g. bipolar disorder, ADHD, sluggish cognitive tempo, depression, you name it), but so can dissociation. and as always, they can hold hands together.

i feel stupid immediately after writing this post, but i trust my garbage memory will help me blissfully ignore the embarrassment in favor of the nothingness of the void

if the coding broke i'm going to be mad lmfao

also, fun edit: spike spiegel is also an example of someone who dissociates real bad


We are Anonymous
Wonderfully written. I can clearly say that this truly will help me improve with the development of characters with mental disorders. Also, if you plan on creating a V.4, I can give you some insight on the Autism Spectrum, as well as my own account on Asperger's Syndrome.

But then again, I wouldn't mind giving you said info whenever you'd like.
kibou kibou


New Member
I have borderline PD and I never really knew how I could incorporate mental disorders into any previous role-plays I have done so thank you for this!

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