Writing crazy is fun. Its a niche market, but writing the clinically insane (for a short period as a phase for the character) or for a prolonged period as a character's MO can be really great. This isn't a "my way or the high way" sort of thing, its just a set of tips for you to use to up your writing cred if/when you do write madness, cause let's be honest, we all have wanted to write someone who has a few loose screws. ((Just for reference, those who do not know this already, psychology is the name of my game IRL)).
Here are a few myths to derail:
1) The clinically insane are not always happy. A lot of the time "Mania" is mistaken for "happy." Mania is actually just the thought of "I can get away with anything" if you wanna put it simply. By that standard 99% of the characters on this board suffer from it regularly. :p But mania is always followed by negative side effects--depressives. The majority of Manics also are not violent, so if you wanna play a serial killer a manic-depressive is usually not the way to go. You'd wanna go to something different most of the time for that--Schizophrenia.​
2) Not all Schizophrenics hallucinate. Beatiful Mind was a well-done movie, but it convinced the American populace that those with Schizophrenia all see things that aren't there. The majority actually just hear voices, and most believe it is God and/or aliens and/or the Illuminati, etc etc etc. Also, Schizophrenia is highly treatable sans medicine. However, medication is recommended for in parts of therapy for this disorder as long term or in short term. If you are going to play a schizophrenic you are going to need to have as few objects and friends as possible. Their highly erratic mental instability makes them usually homeless, and more penniless than you'd expect. If you don't want that you're better off writing the next thing: Psychopaths/Sociopaths.​
3) Psycho/sociopaths do not hear things. FORGET WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT PSYCHO/SOCIOPATHS because chances are what you think you know is pure crap. Psycho/sociopaths are the same thing, basically. The working definition I use is "a person who is out of touch with their moral compass." Yeah, this would again define 99% of the characters on this board. :p There is a deeper definition that I do not have time to go into at this moment. Maybe later. The big difference between a sociopath and a psychopath is a sociopath stays on the lower end of things (gangsters, domestic abuse, etc) while a psychopath ends up on the higher end of your SES (CEOs, politicians, etc). Both sets of people see others as tools to be used or obstacles to be crushed.​
4) Depression is not Being really really sad. Its a heckva lot deeper than that. A sad person gets out of bed in the morning. Depression is when you wake up every day and spend 10-15 minutes trying to decide if its worth it to get out of bed this morning. A person suffering from Major depressive disorder doesn't get out of bed in the morning--there is no point. A person who suffers from Anxiety (which 85% of those suffering from a major anxiety disorder also suffer from depression) feels anxious because they feel there is no point in getting out of bed in the morning.​
5) PTSD does not make you violent (necessarily) or cause flashbacks (necessarily). PTSD results in high levels of anxiety. In males this usually results in frustration and violent tendencies and with females its generally crippling (GENERALLY does not mean always). People with PTSD feel like they are still there all the time. They have a hard time slipping out of "that place." Learning about how very wrong the majority of America is about PTSD was really amazing for me. You can definitely expect a blog on this later. Flashbacks can be common, but for some who have it buried deeper with suppression, will not experience these. Their PTSD is moreso depression and anxiety based. Most victims of PTSD self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and stress eating. People with PTSD actually usually have hearts of gold and can be some of the softest, most loving people you will ever meet under all that pain.​
6) The mentally unstable do not know they are unstable. You would be surprised how many people think that those are mentally unstable "know" they are crazy. To the mentally unstable they think they make sense. That means you could be clinically insane and never know it. (Have a nice time trying to flush that out of your head as you go to bed tonight.) Its like when Plato was talking with the girl who was blind, she was convinced the world where she lived was dark. A mentally unstable person believes they are self-consistent that is to say, they see no discrepancy between the world and their perception of it. Anything that goes in the face of it--well they dismiss it until intervention takes place. At this point there is a chance for meds to become involved, chemical balance to be restored and they are slowly walked back to sanity from there.​
7) Most of the Mentally Unstable aren't born unstable. This is debated topic, even in the mental community. "Are people who have mental issues born with defects that are made worse by triggers or are we all able to fly off the handle?" That is still unsettled after 100+ years. If those brainiacs couldn't decide among themselves in that time, I sure couldn't. However from my experience, there is more evidence that most of the time, mental instability is a reaction to something intensely horrible. How horrible? This is a PG-13 board, so I couldn't say. I will just say this: Thing of the very worst possible thing that could ever happen--and multiply it by six. Then imagine you just lived through that. Its gonna mess with you. Most of the time those who are mentally unstable have undergone something that bad, its rarely if ever something that you are "born with."​
8) The Majority of the mentally unstable are not violent. Pop culture would have you believe otherwise but most of the mentally unstable do not want to harm you from the bat. They certainly can be if triggered, but most are not. However, this is Chaos so I don't expect anyone to follow that...​
9) The Brilliant are not always crazy, and vice versa. There is a weak correlation of both left-handedness and brilliance with Schizophrenia but like I said... its weak. Being smart does not make you crazy, however the brilliant people have a history of being branded as loons (since everyone else was still light years behind them). Being crazy does not make you smart (or stupid), being smart or stupid makes you... you get the idea.​
10) The mentally unstable are always extreme on those scales. Actually most of those with mental issues are as harmless as a "sane" person. The majority of the mentally unstable are not flamboyant like the Joker or whatever. Most of the mentally impaired have one foot on the ground, the other is just out there, so when you write the mentally challenged, feel free to reflect this with a mild to moderate hold on reality.​
I'm hungry so I'm gonna go get dinner. As always, my inbox is always open.