It’s not a symptom, it’s irony

The Utne Reader has a shocking article on a near medical tragedy – a misdiagnosis of depression that led to inappropriate medication and the patient almost being given electroshock treatment.

Luckily, one of the more cultural sensitive of the medical staff noticed the patient’s normal behaviour was being inappropriately pathologised as mental illness.

George Farthing, an expatriate British man living in America, was diagnosed as clinically depressed, tanked up on antidepressants, and scheduled for a controversial shock therapy when doctors realized he wasn’t depressed at all, he was just British!

Farthing, a man whose characteristic pessimism and gloomy perspective were interpreted as serious clinical depression, was led on a nightmare journey through the American psychiatric system. Doctors described Farthing as suffering from pervasive negative anticipation: a belief that everything will turn out for the worst, whether it’s trains arriving late, England’s chances of winning any national sports events, or his own prospects of getting ahead in life. The doctors reported that the satisfaction he seemed to get from his pessimism was particularly pathological.

You can read the full story at the link below for all the shocking details.

Of course, it would be churlish not to mention Whybrow and Gartner’s theory that the personality of the American people reflects the fact that they have a greater genetic propensity for mania.

Yes, they are being serious. You may wish to insert your own comment about the genetic propensity for irony at this point.

Link to article ‘Not Depressed, Just British!’ (via TWS).


  1. colin
    Posted January 16, 2008 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    yeah know this is a not really an article but piece of fictional satire right?

  2. Posted January 16, 2008 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    I was also wondering if Vaughan knew it was satire… Perhaps his deadpan tone was intended as its own form of satire? Or maybe it’s just because he’s British!

  3. Posted January 16, 2008 at 7:41 am | Permalink


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