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Monday, August 27, 2012

Desire for the Apocalypse part 5

by J. R. Wagner

Today is our interview with an actual mental health professional! (seriously)

For completely understandable reasons, she has decided to remain anonymous...so we will call her Dr. G.

Dr. G, what, exactly are you a doctor of?

 I'm a doctor of clinical psychology

Is there a clinical term for someone who is obsessed with the apocalypse, (or end of the world)?
There is no clinical term for someone who is obsessed with the apocalypse, and depending on the severity of the obsession it might not even be of clinical significance.

 In your professional opinion, is there an underlying psychological issue with people who fall into this category or is this simply human nature?

 I think it's hard to generalize this answer. Some people become obsessed with this subject due to psychotic disorders which represent breaks in reality. In that case, the person would actually believe via hallucinations or delusions that zombies exist, the end of the world is near, etc. Some people may become obsessed because they are depressed and its the fantasy of the world ending that provides them with relief. Some people might feel anxiety about the world ending to the extent that they would not be able to control their worry over it and thus it would be an anxiety-related disorder. But, I do also think it is a general human notion to wonder about existence and the end of the world, and things that are bigger than us. It's really the extent that the obsession interferes with everyday life that makes it of clinical origin or not.
Do you believe the origins of this obsession are religious in nature or pre-date any organized religion?

Again, hard to generalize but I think it's a natural thing to wonder about existence (see the end of the previous answer). And, in turn by wondering about the beginning of existence which people have wondered about since the dawn of time, it's only natural to think about it's conclusion. But, in every religion, ancient and recent, the story of origin and the end of existence is a recurring theme. Many of the world's religions speak of a messiah of sorts, and many of these religious commonalities pre-date world-wide communication. So I suppose my personal answer would be that it's a natural thing to be curious about but is further supported by religion.
 Do you believe modern day literature, television and video games contribute to this condition? In your opinion, has there been a rise in apocalypticism that can be directly correlated to the rise in modern day entertainment based on the subject?

 I think that media has certainly caused an increase in the obsession with the end of the world, particularly with the rise in shows on the Mayan calendar. I have seen several people in my office expressing worries about what is to come 12/21/12. I think as it gets closer and the media continues to hype this date it will only get worse. However we have seen several other ways in which the media promoted a sort of mass hysteria over the apocalypse. Y2K, other Mayan calendar dates, rogue theories surrounding 9/11 and the ozone, etc. There are also more and more shows on TV regarding this subject, from science channels that explore what the ancients knew to TLC shows like Doomsday Preppers. I don't have as much knowledge as far as specific literature or games have promoted this obsession, but I would imagine it's the same answer.

Is there one brand of apocalypticism that is less mentally stable than the others? Religious, nuclear, zombies etc.

Definitely not, it's like comparing apples and oranges. Both fruit, but that's where the similarities end.
 Do you believe it is necessarily bad to obsess over the end of the world?

Again, I'll refer to my previous answers for this. The definition of a mental disorder is that it is impairing and pervasive (meaning it affects several areas of one's life). So if people are obsessed with the apocalypse but get some enjoyment out of it, make friends because of it, or even worry about it but at a level that is tolerable then no, I would not consider it "bad." However, if it causes an impact in functioning in any manner (social, occupational, etc) then it becomes of clinical significance and that's where it would be considered a problem.
At what point does an infatuation become an obsession? Where would a basement full of canned goods, guns and survival gear fall on this scale?

 This is kind of the same answer again, if you can collect a basement full of goods as a hobby or to be prepared without it bleeding into other aspects of life, then fine. The DSM (our manual of disorders) really describes an obsessive disorder as one where there is great difficulty controlling the worry, and that the worries are distressing to the client. There are also repeated efforts to decrease the worry, usually with little success. So clinically speaking once it crosses those lines I would consider it an obsession. Also, once it starts being confused with reality, I would begin to label it as a delusion. It really is all about the impact it's having on the client and their life, rather than defining specific thoughts and behaviors.
If the apocalypse does come, whose house would you want to hold up in?


 Thank you, Dr. G. We are most grateful for your time and knowledge.

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