One Good Turn – Free on Kindle for two days!

Yup, as the title so succinctly states*, my collection of short crime stories One Good Turn is free on Kindle!

But only for two days.

Because I’m nice, but not that nice.

Click here to get your copy!

Or, to make sure you actually want to read the stories and that they’re not a collection of romantic fiction tales about robots and 80s sitcom characters**, click here for more information.

 

 *I quite like alliteration.

**The robot/80s sitcom character romantic fiction idea is mine.  You heard it here first, folks.

Win a signed copy of my new thriller!

As of today, Goodreads are running a giveaway to win a signed copy of my psychological thriller Victim Mentality!

To be in with a chance of winning click here to enter.

After the closing date (14 June) Goodreads will get in touch with the winner, and I’ll write something hilarious/profound/lame inside the book, then sign it and send it to the lucky person!

 (If you’ve already got the book/couldn’t care less about psychological thrillers, do feel free to share this with anybody else who might want a signed copy.)

 Good luck everyone!

George, OCD and a shot in the dark…

angelo-marcos_george-ocd_brain

Every so often, while either researching something for a novel/short story (or just generally wasting time on the internet), I stumble across an interesting case that I can’t get out of my head.

It happened with Brandon Swanson, it happened with Elisa Lam, and now it’s happened with a man named (by the British Journal of Psychiatry) as George.

George and OCD

At the age of 19, George was depressed.

In fact, that’s an understatement.

George had been plagued with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for years, spending hours every single day washing his hands, taking four-hour showers, checking doors and windows were locked, and checking his wallet for cash. As is common with OCD, he was tortured by intrusive thoughts of horrific scenarios and terrible images – all tailor-made by his own mind to be as disturbing as possible. The subsequent rituals and compulsive behaviours he developed to mitigate the impact of the thoughts soon became their own reward, strengthened over and over again through a lifetime of repetition and a feeling of relief when carrying them out. Operant conditioning in full effect.

As the character Nick in my novel Victim Mentality says:

Giving in to anxiety becomes its own reward, so you become less able to deal with it when it comes.  OCD, in a very real way, feeds off itself.  Imagine having a constant slideshow of trauma in your head, with each personalised scenario more horrific than the next. There’s only so much you can take before you give in and just count the bloody numbers to make it all stop.

(And yes, this was the novel I was researching when I came across this story about poor old George.)

As things continued, they got so bad for George that not only did he drop out of school, he also quit his job. The combination of the intrusive thoughts, the compulsive rituals, the knowledge that he was being completely illogical (as is common with OCD), and now the triple loss of social life, further education, and income, became a perfect storm of conditions that tipped George over the edge.

Falling into the black hole of depression and finding himself irresistibly crushed on all sides by it’s darkness, he told his mum that his life was so “wretched” that he just wanted to die.

Her response – which possibly took her out of the running for Mother of the Decade – was that if his life was so bad, he should just go and shoot himself.

So, one night in 1983, he did.

George, OCD and a Gunshot

Using a .22-caliber rifle, he went down to his mother’s basement, aimed the weapon at his head, and pulled the trigger.

George didn’t die, obviously.  This would be both a very short and very bleak story if he did.

What did happen is that the bullet lodged into his brain – in the left frontal lobe.

He was rushed to hospital and worked on by surgeons, who managed to remove the majority of the bullet but were unable to remove every little piece.

Three weeks later, George – who as we know had been plagued by OCD so severely that he saw no alternative to suicide – was cured.  He was no longer obsessive.  No more compulsive hand-washing, no more four-hour long showers, no more incessant checking and re-checking.  Nothing.

Interestingly, for over a year prior to his suicide attempt, George had been treated on an ongoing basis by psychiatrist Dr Leslie Solymon. He had undergone IQ tests and various other assessments of his mental capacities, which helpfully gave a huge amount of data with which to compare his abilities after the suicide attempt.

Comparing the data, Dr Solymon saw that George hadn’t lost anything, except for his OCD.

George went back to college and excelled in his studies, got a new job, and basically lived the life that he had always wanted to.

George, OCD, a Gunshot and… a cure?

Historically, an extreme treatment for OCD was – and sometimes still is – surgery on the sufferer’s left frontal lobe. (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, possibly in combination with medication, is the preferred treatment for obvious reasons).  Even though the surgery would sometimes be successful, it often came with horrific side effects, such as massive personality changes, paralysis, and cognitive impairment.

For some even unluckier souls, they didn’t survive the surgery at all.

Of the successful cases, the OCD symptoms wouldn’t just disappear either.  In most cases they would be improved after the surgery, and then gradually get better and better over time, which makes George’s total and immediate ‘cure’ even more incredible.

By accidentally aiming at exactly the right spot, at exactly the right time, and with the exact right ‘tool’, George had performed surgery on himself.

He’d given himself an accidental lobotomy.

And it had worked.

(Just to be clear, I’m not advocating self-surgery here, and especially not with, y’know, a gun.)

It’s difficult to know what to make of all this.  If there is a moral to this story it’s hard to know what it could be.  Attempted suicide might help in unexpected ways?  You can cure yourself of OCD?  Sometimes a gun will solve your problem, but only if you aim at yourself?

Realistically, there is probably only one message to take from this story:

Always listen to your mother, kids.

Even if it does sound like she just wants you dead.

Blue

To learn more about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or to get support for yourself or someone else, take a look at OCD Action or OCD-UK 

Blue

 

Victim Mentality is a crime thriller about stand-up comedian Nick and his life with OCD, with comedy audiences, and – worst of all – with a criminal named Gideon Matthias…

Click here to find out more


Goodreads giveaway – win a free paperback!

SLEEP NO MORE NEW ebook COVER ANGELO MARCOS DEC 2015 500 width

As of today, Goodreads are running a giveaway to win a paperback copy of my psychological thriller Sleep No More!

To be in with a chance of winning just click here to enter.

After the closing date (5 Feb) Goodreads will get in touch with the winners, and I’ll send the free books to those lucky, lucky people.

 

 (If you’ve already got the book/couldn’t care less about psychological thrillers, feel free to share this with anybody else who might want a copy.)

 Good luck everyone!

Sudden Strangers: The Capgras Delusion

capgras delusion_angelo marcos blog

Imagine you’re having a conversation with a close family member.

Maybe you’re talking about work, or someone you both know, or an event in the news.

Things are all fine, except for a strange niggling sensation at the back of your mind.  Like a cat scratching at the back door, insisting on being let in.

You can’t quite place what is bothering you, but its there.

Shaking it off, you continue talking, all the while trying to ignore the ferocious scraping of those feline claws.

As the conversation goes on, you slowly – but unmistakably – come to a horrific realisation.

The person you’re talking to is an impostor.

They look like your family member down to the tiniest detail.  They even sound exactly the same.

But they’re an entirely different person.  You know it, even though you don’t quite know how.

Something just feels wrong.

 

This might sound like science fiction – or even a horror film – but it’s not.

It’s a recognised neuropsychological disorder known as the Capgras Delusion.

And it’s really, really weird…

The Condition: The Capgras Delusion (or Capgras Syndrome)

The Capgras Delusion was named after J M J Capgras, a French psychiatrist.  In 1923 he had a patient named Madame M, who was convinced that members of her family had been ‘swapped’ with impostors. Like an oil spill the delusion inexorably spread outwards from its source, smothering her friends and neighbours, and convincing her that they too had been replaced.

There have been numerous cases since.

Some sufferers will suddenly believe that their pet is merely a copy of their ‘real’ pet.  Other sufferers feel that their house – which they may have lived in for decades – is no longer theirs, but is a place that has been constructed to appear to be their home.

It may be an exact copy, but it’s a copy nonetheless.

The Cause of the Capgras Delusion

So what is going on here?

As with the phenomena of sleep paralysis and automatism,we have a collection of theories interspersed with as-yet unanswered questions.

The Capgras Delusion generally occurs in people who have suffered a traumatic head injury, or damage to brain cells for other reasons, for instance through dementia.

There have also been a number of cases documented in people who are suffering from complex mental health conditions such as schizophrenia. (Madame M above had a number of other mental health issues, so the Capgras Delusion didn’t – and generally doesn’t – happen in isolation, but rather alongside other conditions.)

The main theory is that the connections in the brain leading to the amygdala (which plays a primary role in the processing of emotional reactions) have been disrupted through the head injury/brain damage.  This then inhibits the emotional response we would ordinarily feel when viewing something familiar.

This lack of any emotional response then trumps everything else, including intellect.  It’s so unnatural to us as human beings that the only logical explanation is that the person or object is fake.  If that lady was your mother, you’d have had an emotional response.  But you didn’t, so she can’t be.

Interestingly, there have been a number of cases where the person suffering from the Capgras Delusion will think that someone is an impostor in person, but if they hear their voice without actually seeing them – for instance over the phone – then there is no problem.

Treatment of the Capgras Delusion

At present, there is none.

Some sufferers who have developed the delusion through a physical brain injury can sometimes ‘reconnect’ the pathways between perception and emotion. There have also been cases of sufferers with other mental disorders having the Capgras Delusion symptoms alleviated by medication taken for those other disorders.  However, for many sufferers there is nothing that can be done.

Trying to convince a person that they are mistaken often doesn’t work, especially in the cases of dementia or complex mental health conditions where logic and rational argument are largely ineffective.  Distraction techniques can be helpful, but this will vary from one individual to another.

Sadly, this means that the Capgras Delusion is therefore permanent in most cases.

Fortunately its also incredibly rare.

It does make you wonder just who is worse off though – is it the person who feels as though they are surrounded by impostors and the victim of some sinister plot, or is it the ‘impostors’ themselves, who have not only lost their family member to illness/injury, but will likely never be able to convince them that they are who they claim to be?

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest.”

Goodreads Giveaway – Win a signed paperback!

SLEEP NO MORE NEW ebook COVER ANGELO MARCOS DEC 2015 500 width

Yup, as the chunky title says, you could win a signed copy of my psychological thriller Sleep No More!

(You know it’s exciting because I used an exclamation mark and everything.)

The giveaway is being run by Goodreads, and you can enter by clicking on this link or on the cover picture.

Goodreads will notify me and the winner after the closing date. I’ll then sign the book, send it out, and bask in the warm glow that comes from knowing I’ve made someone’s dream come true.

Or, you know, make a sandwich.  Either way it’s all good.

Anyway, why are you still reading this? Enter the giveaway here!