Popular Culture Meets Psychology

Understanding ourselves through pop culture.

Restless Finger Syndrome: Do You Have It?

OMG, my dog ate my flash drive.

It has been a while since last I posted; I'm sure most of you have been checking your RSS feeds, Facebook pages, listserves, tweets and emails for notification of my next post.  Truth be told, I've been busy practicing psychology, teaching psychology, learning about psychology and even once in a while trying it out on myself.

I felt that it was fitting that I re-nter the fray on the verge of the one-year anniversary of the release of the DSM-5, the much-heralded, and now widely implemented, and even more so, highly criticized nomenclature of psychiatric disorders.

The psychiatric, psychological, and counseling communities have had to hunker down in earnest to learn and utilize the new glossary of mental disorders so that clients and patients could be correctly categorized, insurance companies properly satisfied, clinical, educational and counseling services appropriately authorized, and the pharmaceutical industries revitalized (although, I don't suspect that sales have been flagging).

It has been a year since clinicians and researchers have had the opportunity to field-test the newest pathologies(Hoarding Disorder, Binge Eating Disorder, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder), to adjust to a clinical world without some of their old favorites (Asperger's disorder), and to consider future implementation of new forms of psychiatric illness (Internet Gaming Disorder, Caffeine Use Disorder, and Non-Suicidal Self Injury).

Creation and consideration of two of these disorders, Internet Gaming Disorder and Binge Eating Disorder, have compelled me to consider even newer possibilities for inclusion in the DSM 5.1. In a previous post, I asked you to consider with me the abject horror I experienced one dark day when I inadvertently deleted all of the contacts from my smart phone, and in the moment, considered myself to be a "depopulated self." I was reminded of that dreadful experience last night while teaching my Abnormal Psychology class. One of my otherwise high-functioning, typically focused, and historically diligent graduate students was distracted and distressed. Apparently, her flash drive had malfunctioned, and she had, in the moment lost all of her files, all of the information related to her clients, and of course the term paper for my class that was due in five days. A modern day equivalent of "my dog ate my homework."

So, on the heels of this new era in psychiatric nomenclature, a brave new world of psychiatric conditions to afflict us, and our growing dependence on technology, social media and digitization of self (see the new Johnny Depp movie yet?), I humbly offer the following list of candidates for inclusion in the DSM 5.1. However, and on a preparatory note, I must acknowledge the very real day-to-day struggles of the very many real people out there.

Restless Finger Syndrome (RFS). A disorder characterized by incessant and unrelenting agitation of the forefinger or forefingers, associated with autonomic hyperarousal that can only be satisfied by immediate access to texting. Passersby may think that the afflicted patient is mentally rehearsing the Rachmaninoff 3.

Phantom Phone Phenomenon (PPP). A disorder characterized by the uncomfortable and unremitting sensation of physical vibration on the hip, or location on which ones cell phone is typically carried. These sensations occur in the absence of proximity of the smart phone to the physical body location and persist after the smart phone is removed. Associated features include a manual tic in which the hand moves to the affected area and the patient is distracted.

Post Traumatic Digital Displacement Disorder (PTDDD). A disorder characterized by panic, dissociation, hyperarousal and impending doom associated with temporary or permanent loss of a digital storage device. Associated features include self-recrimination for not having downloaded, or uploaded the digital contents to the Cloud.

Facebook Deprivation Disorder (FDD). A disorder characterized by emotional, physical, and cognitive distress and disorientation at the thought of something of global significance occurring on Facebook that the patient is unaware of. Associated disorders include FWD (Facebooking While Driving) and TWD (Texting While Driving). High mortality rates have been associated with the latter two disorders.

Upgrade Envy Disorder (UED). A disorder characterized by feelings of anger, embarrassment and resentment toward those who are perceived to have a smart phone, computer, or other digital gizmo more colorful, quick and expensive than one's own. Associated symptoms include all-night vigils at Best Buy, maxing out credit cards, and vengeful homicidal fantasies toward those whose gizmos are better.

If you or anyone you know or love are afflicted by any of these symptoms, please contact the FDA immediately to see if you or they qualify for a drug study that I am sure is currently underway.

Lawrence Rubin, psychologist and counseling professor, is co-author with psychiatrist Mike Brody of Messages: Self Help Through Popular Culture.

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