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Ripon, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Gary Dolman was born in the industrial north east of England in the 1960s, but grew up in Harrogate in Yorkshire, where he now lives with his wife, three children and dogs. His writing reflects his fascination by the dark places of the human mind.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Tick Grows Louder

From time to time the press and the media advise us of the next great, ‘ticking time-bomb,’ about to cause a holocaust in our society. There has been variant-Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Ebola, various avian influenzas, AIDS, cancers and many, many others. Let me say from the start that I certainly wouldn’t wish to minimise in any way the misery or devastation caused to anyone unfortunate enough to suffer from any of these conditions, or their families, but there is another group of disorders which profoundly affects millions of persons across the world, (especially the First World), which are hardly ever reported on and which are too-often ignored by the health professionals.

These are the Personality Disorders.

Whilst there are several different types and sub-types of personality disorder, the behavioural patterns they cause are typically disturbed, usually substantially so, and often in several areas of the personality. They are nearly always associated with considerable personal and social disruption for the sufferer, often causing severe anxiety and depression. Personality disorders are inflexible and pervasive.

Most people haven’t heard of these disorders and might be surprised to learn that they account for between 40 and 60% of all mental health diagnoses – by far the most common. Whilst there is likely a genetic predisposition, typically they can be traced back to trauma or other profound difficulties in adolescence or childhood.

Therein lies the problem: As society degrades and the family unit breaks down, and as the number of dysfunctional parental relationships increases, so does the number of children exposed to trauma, neglect and abuse. These are the individuals most likely to develop personality disorders.

And because psychological disorders in general, and personality disorders in particular are difficult and expensive to treat, so cash-strapped health bodies tend not to formally diagnose or even attempt to address them. They rely instead on the sufferer, and their family and friends, coping as best they can, perhaps prescribing anti-depressant medication. But because personality disorders are psychological in origin, medication is generally of limited benefit. Effective treatment typically involves talking or group therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy or the excellent dialectical behaviour therapy.

If diagnosis and treatment is generally poor in this, the 21st Century, it was virtually non-existent in the 19th. The rape and sexual abuse of girls was endemic in the Defloration Mania of the Victorian era. Most of it took place when the girls were just 13 years and above, (when they were deemed capable of consent), and this is the age at which such trauma can have the most profound and enduring consequences. There must have been tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of deeply traumatised girls living in continual anguish as a result of their being procured as children for the, ‘amusement,’ of wealthy gentleman.

I have tried to express the manifestations of such trauma in The Eighth Circle of Hell (available early October 2012, Thames River Press.) It is a stark, shocking account set in the explosion of the Victorian-age time-bomb. 150 years later, the ticking grow deafening once more.

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