Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bipolars Don't Twitch: Mental Illness Workshop Described

Yesterday, Dee Yoder requested more information on one of the workshops I attended. “Bipolars Don’t Twitch: Mental Illness Workshop” was presented by Dr. Cathy Chance. We’re not allowed to post the workshops themselves, but I’ll give you a taste for what I’ve learned.

A lot of this workshop was put together so writers could get a better understanding of different mental illnesses. Dr. Cathy Chance wants us to depict these people as realistically as possible. Too many writers of books, movies, and TV shows don’t do the research and write the characters according to myths rather than truths of some mental illnesses.

Day 1: Aside from the welcome and overview, she talked about the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, and described a variety of therapists. She went into laws and ethics, including hospitalization of a patient.

Day 2: The second day was all about psychotic disorders. What are hallucinations and delusions? Schizophrenia was described along with misconceptions with this disorder.

Day 3: The next session focused on mood disorders. Major depression, bipolar disorder, and post partum depression were discussed.

Day 4: Some anxiety disorders were identified like: obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, panic disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder.

Day 5: Dissociative identity disorder or multiple personality disorder was explained.

Day 6: Personality disorders were the last on the list, but extremely important (at least to my research). Dr. Chance shed some light on antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

It’s hard to know what your psycho character has and what to research unless you have a general understanding of these disorders, which is exactly what Dr. Chance gave us. She also answered specific questions to assist us in our story writing.

If ever you have the opportunity to take this workshop, I recommend it.

Do any of your characters have mental illnesses? If yes, which ones?


  1. Sounds insightful!

    I don't have any characters to date with any such disorders. The possibilty for me is probably slim, unless it involves the abuse of a substance of some sort.

    Thanks for the information.

  2. The protagonist of my current book has major depression in the beginning. I was able to ask Cathy for tips about how he could recover without meds, so that was useful.

    I was glad to see the turnout for this workshop -- it's good to know people are invested in getting their portrayals of disability right!

  3. Thanks for answering my question! This workshop sounds like it was very useful. I just may have a character with a mental illness some day...I know my husband cares very much about those he wroks with, and would love to know this workshop took place.

  4. I would love to take this workshop - it sounds fascinating. I haven't written about a character with mental illness yet but I think it would be very helpful to know more about this subject to use with future character development.

  5. Hi all! Thanks for the kind words. I will definitely offer this workshop again next year.

  6. Sounds like it was a great workshop. With my characters, I don't have much mental illness. Some substance abuse in a secondary character, but that's it.