03 April 2006

Am I Insane?

Voices telling you to wipe your butt with ham again? Hell, we all go a little crazy sometimes. Here’s how to know whether to chill out or check in.

Ever stood by a window and thought Why not jump and end it all? Or wanted to make a trench coat out of your boss’ epidermis? Yeah, me, too. Odds are you’re not nuts, just stressed out. But part of being sane is recognizing that your mind needs an occasional checkup.

So in an effort to keep us all out of straitjackets, I've identified symptoms most guys suffer from at some point, minor mental glitches that usually go away with some massaging or a good screw. Unless of course you really are descending into madness.

Symptom: Parties and public speaking make you want to puke.
You may have: Butterflies
Unless it’s: Social anxiety disorder! Chances are you have every reason to be nervous. Making a presentation to Officers or Upper Enlisted? Your pits should run like faucets. You get nauseous when introduced to a woman? Breasts can have that effect, especially when history tells you that your attempts at being clever are one Freudian slip away from a knee to the balls. But this isn’t serious if a scotch is enough to help you swallow your fear. People with real anxiety problems have trouble leaving their houses, explains COL. Michael Wagner, a psychiatrist on Schofield Barracks, HI. “We’re talking panic that can peak in 10 minutes, causing intense sweating, vomiting, and numbness.” Sound like you? No? Then you’re fine. If that bigwig presentation makes you sweat, take a minute to visualize the event going well. If that doesn’t help, get a prescription for Propranolol or Ativan, medications a lot of performers use to get rid of butterflies.

Symptoms: You fear germs wherever you can’t smell bleach; you use coasters.
You may have: A little German in you
Unless it’s: Obsessive-compulsive disorder! Let’s face it, some guys are so uptight, they need a shoehorn to take a crap. “A lot of people have obsessive personality traits, but that’s not a disorder,” explains COL. Wagner. The characteristic becomes a disorder when it impairs daily functioning, he says (examples: Silkwood-style hand washings and hourlong shoe-tying rituals). If this rings a bell, Prozac and Zoloft can help. But for lots of guys, relaxation exercises (deep breathing, yoga) can help loosen those cheeks. Once you’ve learned that you don’t need to waterpick your molars hourly, you’ll sleep easier.

Symptoms: You lose stuff; you can’t focus; you can’t sit still.
You may have: A little problem setting priorities
Unless it’s: Attention deficit disorder! So your attention span sucks, eh? Chances are MTV has shredded your mental endurance like a log in a wood chipper. “So many things in today’s society cause distractions,” says Major Dave M. Davis, an TAMC psychiatrist. “A lot of adults come in thinking ADD is the reason why they can’t get anything done.” But shrinks estimate that only 10 percent of the population has ADD (most of whom respond to drugs like Ritalin and Wellbutrin). So if you can’t make it through a quickie without stopping to check your E-mail, you probably just need discipline. Try making a list of things to do and ordering them according to importance. And cut down on the ganja.

Symptom: You can’t sleep, but you’re too lethargic to get out of bed or take a shower.
You may have: A hangover
Unless it’s: Clinical depression! Reality: You got loaded last night, and your boss is pissed because you showed up at noon. That’s depressing. And what better way to wash away the blues than a little happy hour? Alcohol is a cyclical drug, says Jody Scott, an ASAP therapist and addiction counselor. “You feel better when you’re drinking,” she says, “but it’s a central-nervous-system depressant. When it wears off, you feel worse than when you started.” If you’re in a funk, laying off the sauce for a week may whip your ass into gear. “But if you’re clinically depressed, the symptoms don’t go away,” says LTC. Marc Graff, a TAMC psychiatrist. “You don’t enjoy anything, not even drinking.”

Symptoms: You have boundless energy; challenging the laws of gravity seems like fun.
You may have: Balls
Unless it’s: Bipolar disorder! That Y chromosome responsible for your penis also makes guys want to risk their asses for glory. Bungee jumpers and Wall Street high rollers share with bipolar patients a need for thrills and sometimes the consequences as well (jail, the doghouse, etc.). “There’s most probably a biochemical connection,” says LTC. Graff. “The difference is, if you’re bipolar [also called manic-depressive], you’ll never get your fix.” So if you’ve maxed out your credit cards in Vegas and totaled every car you’ve ever owned, you’re probably just reckless. Make sure you’ve got a good insurance policy (if you can manage that, you’re not insane). If your thrill rides last for weeks and involve bizarre behavior (naked in public is a tip-off), odds are you’re manic, and you’ll be the last to know. Hopefully your pals will give you a ride to the funny farm before it’s too late.


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