Psychologists Talk About The ‘Red Flag’ Patients Who Truly Terrified Them.
We all know that most mentally ill people are harmless; they just need treatment. And we also know that most psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists are pretty tough to unnerve.
But sometimes, it goes the other way.
This piece is based on a Quora Question. Link on the last page.
1/8. I have to answer this question anonymously, for obvious reasons.
I was a psychiatrist working with young offenders, so I’ve met a lot of pretty scary people over the years. But one in particular really stands out in my mind.
He was a boy, barely 18.
When I looked at his medical chart, he was a very bright kid, with an IQ of 140.
But his own parents were utterly terrified of him. They were convinced he was trying to kill them, and apparently he had made several legitimate attempts.
He showed no emotions, and refused to answer any of my questions.
But what scared me the most was when I realized he had actually been keeping himself to an incredibly strict routine – even though he didn’t have a clock in his cell. He seemed to have some sort of incredibly accurate internal timetable.
For example: he only went to the washroom at exactly 2 PM, 6 PM and 9 PM. On the nose. Every time.
Just before I retired, I visited him one last time, and got the chill of a lifetime when he told me this.
“All this time you’ve been observing me, but I’ve been observing you too. I figured you out easily. But you still have no idea who I am or why I do the things I do. And you never will.”
He was right.
2/8. The vast majority of patients are safe, and I generally never feel “safer” than when I’m working with my patients, especially after I get to know them a little.
But early in my career, years ago, I did get a little spooked by one patient – let’s call him Nick. Nick was in his 60’s, a widower, manic, and really, really agitated.
I didn’t know how his wife had died. (continued…)
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