CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT HOW TO WRITE A DISORDER, NOT JUST ABOUT A DISORDER?
That’s… very hard, because every person is unique, regardless whether they share (a) disorder(s) or not. There’s so many variables that go into how a disorder manifests in a person, which is why even psychologists can be wrong in the first (or other) diagnoses. The mind and psychology is simply not cut and dry. I could tell you how to write a disorder, but that just wouldn’t do the disorder in itself justice, and it would only be one way to write said disorder. That’s why I always give people the diagnostic criteria unless I’m given specific situational context (like temperament, childhood environment, current environment, motivation, interests, interpersonal behaviour and/or experience, etc), because other than that, there’s not much else I can do.
The way I personally write something I don’t have first-hand experience in is to first research clinical information or information of people who do have first-hand experience, and then just let the character tell me how it manifests for them (meaning, you can get reactions you didn’t anticipate but feel natural for the character, and afterwards you realise it’s because of a certain thing in their personality).
WHAT ARE EASY TRAPS TO FALL INTO WHEN WRITING MENTAL DISORDERS?
Popular culture, caricatures, backpack-disorders, tearjerking, that stuff.
- There’s hardly any representations in popular culture (Hollywood specifically) that I can attest to doing justice to a disorder.
- Many people end up making caricatures of the disorder of their choice without even realising it (a schizophrenic who wants to kill everyone because the “voices told them to”).
- People who write their character’s disorder only when it’s convenient and when it’s inconvenient the character display no symptoms even when symptoms should be displayed.
- Then the tearjerking, giving a character a mental disorder for no other reason than to garner sympathy.
These are largely the things I take offence in when it comes to the portrayal in mental disorders, and you should really, really avoid in writing. If you can write a character with psychological issues without slapping a diagnosis onto it, do it. Hell, even if your character fulfils all the criteria for the diagnosis of a disorder, there’s no reason you should slap on a diagnosis just because criteria are fulfilled.
People are usually so very petrified to portray mental disorders because they don’t know exactly what they can potentially do wrong, and end up not doing it, which means mental illness remains invisible. The reason people are petrified is also because the bad representation of mental illnesses of other people/writers that saturate the global writing community makes it harder for those who genuinely want to do right by these things.
"The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits" is a good general reference book that includes psychological disorders.