Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An interview with a patient who claims he "faked his way" into a psychiatric hospital

The patient, "Tony," was convicted, at age 17, of causing grevious bodily harm. (This was in Britain.) He started creating a new persona for himself by plagiarizing from any sources he could find — movies like A Clockwork Orange, a biography of Ted Bundy — so that he'd be sent to a psychiatric hospital instead of prison.

It worked. But Tony instantly regretted it and tried to get out.

In a new book called The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson reports on his interview with Tony in the hospital:

It is an awful lot harder, Tony told me, to convince people you're sane than it is to convince them you're crazy.

"I know people are looking out for 'nonverbal clues' to my mental state," Tony continued. "Psychiatrists love 'nonverbal clues'. They love to analyse body movements. But that's really hard for the person who is trying to act sane. How do you sit in a sane way? How do you cross your legs in a sane way? . . ."

"[T]hey saw how well behaved I was and decided it meant I could behave well only in the environment of a psychiatric hospital and it proved I was mad."

I glanced suspiciously at Tony. I instinctively didn't believe him about this. It seemed too catch-22, too darkly-absurd-by-numbers. But later Tony sent me his files and, sure enough, it was right there. "Tony is cheerful and friendly," one report stated. "His detention in hospital is preventing deterioration of his condition."
I'm sure I'm not the only one who read this and thought of one of the greatest movies ever made: