Friday, October 17, 2008

Interesting Reading

When I'm not checking out patients or falling out of chairs at work, one will often find me reading the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM as we in the biz will call it). For those of you unfamiliar with the DSM it is a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) that includes all currently recognized mental health disorders.

So what began as an earnest attempt to educate myself on the issues that many of our patients deal with has turned into a quest to diagnose myself. And everyone else around me.

For example, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have sleep terror disorder. The DSM describes this as night terrors, also known as pavor nocturnus, characterized by extreme terror and a temporary inability to regain full consciousness. The subject (me) wakes abruptly from slow-wave sleep, with waking usually accompanied by gasping, moaning, or screaming. It is often impossible to fully awaken the person, and after the episode the subject normally settles back to sleep without waking. Thereby leaving that subject's spouse to scrape himself off of the ceiling.

For any of you who have had the misfortune of spending a night under the same roof as me, you know this to be all too true.

For those of you who have had the extreme misfortune of sharing a bed with me, I am truly sorry.

While often comical, my night terrors have proven to be dangerous as well. My "episodes" have inflicted countless bruises, nasty scrapes and even one round of stitches. My children have become immune to the sound of mom's pounding footsteps running down the hallway in the middle of the night. Even the blood curdling screams are no longer cause for alarm.

Not so much for poor Don. I don't think one ever grows accustomed to being woken from a dead sleep by a screaming lunatic next to you.

There is no cure. No telethon. No awareness campaign.

Anti-anxiety meds are the only treatment. And, until Don is at the point of slipping a Klonopin in my late night diet coke, I don't see that happening.

Simply stated: Do you think it's a coincidence that my co-workers took my manual away yesterday?

P.S. I believe that mental illness and mental disorders are no laughing matter. I'm a strong proponent of therapy and medication for people suffering with a variety of mental disorders and illnesses. I also can't pass up an opportunity to use self-depricating humor to get a cheap laugh. Maybe some more diagnosing is needed.