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One of the more maligned horror film subgenres is the one featuring escaped mental patients. For every good one (Nightmare in a Damaged Brain, anyone?) there's all sorts of crap that's barely even worth a time slot on the SyFy Channel. These stories can be rather problematic, too, but that's another article in and of itself. But guess what? Psychologists do know what it's like to have an unsettling patient or two. We're certain they occasionally hear things that keep them up at night.

After Redditor dodge_menace asked the online community, "Psychologists, what is the most bone chilling thing a patient has said to you?" people shared their stories.


"I've heard some disturbing stories..."

I work with complex trauma patients. I've heard some disturbing stories that would keep me up at night if I didn't have to take a medication that makes me really drowsy. One that has been on my mind lately is a patient whose dad died (of a heart attack, IIRC) when she was young and her mom didn't tell anyone, instead choosing to keep the body in a spare room. The patient described in detail the last time she saw her dad's body, when it had spent several weeks decomposing.

In general, I'm pretty comfortable letting patients talk through their homicidal fantasies, and that yields some disturbing things. One young man used to talk about how he loved to daydream about cutting abusive family members to pieces, roasting them, and feeding them to the neighbor's dogs. The most disturbing part to me is that he was actually one of the sweetest patients I've ever worked with. Genuinely would never hurt a fly, but just had this really dark daydream he'd carry around.

CurveoftheUniverse

"He wanted to flay him..."

I had a patient explain to me in detail how he planned to kill his neighbor. He wanted to flay him put him in the ground and cover him with horse manure so he would slowly die of infection. I informed my supervisor. His neighbor was warned and my patient was picked up by the police. Not sure how that case turned out.

shaniusc

"That they liked to watch..."

That they liked to watch videos of babies crying when they felt upset because it made them feel happier and more relaxed.

MorticiaBlue

WHAT.

What did we just read?

Unsettling.

"I work mainly in mental health..."

I work mainly in mental health and I had a client tell me they were going to throw the boiling oil I had been frying chicken with in my face. Then they proceeded to punch me in the back.

Sgtpal

That is terrifying.

The fear of being assaulted can be a very real one.

"My recommendation was not to parole him."

Clinical psychologist here. I used to work in a prison and did a parole evaluation for an inmate that was a high-ranking gang member in a national gang. By his account, he was the highest-ranking in the state. In fact he was placed in that prison to hold his "people" accountable and keep the peace. He had a long violent record and was, in my opinion, a genuine psychopath.

Part of the eval is discussing the crime and assessing remorse and whatnot. He was so clinical in his description of how he tortured and left this guy to die over an unpaid debt. "Live by the sword, die by the sword" was his phraseology for the act. Like it was nothing.

He was also very nonchalant about his ability to "take care of his business" while inside. I believed him. He had only spent 18 months of his last 15 years outside of prison.

My recommendation was not to parole him. There were various factors that I gave and in the end, the parole board went with my recommendation.

So the part that actually scared me (this was my first parole eval) was this guy's ability to affect the world outside. He could have sent someone to my house if he wanted to. I had no doubt about that. More experienced psychologists told me not to worry about it. That he knew the score and wouldn't take it personally. I had a hard time buying it.

I was running a long-term offender group a few months later and he was part of it. After the first group, I pulled him aside and asked if we were good. He smiled at me and told me not to worry. I did my job and he didn't blame me for writing what I did because it was true. He went on to be a really insightful and active group member.

djtravels

To which this person replied:

Criminal defence lawyer here: A lot of those guys basically understand that we exist in the system, but that we're in a different role than they are. So, they might kill a guy for shorting them on cash because he's part of their world, but not be upset at the prosecutor who sends him to jail for a decade because that prosecutor isn't. It's an interesting disconnect.

varsil

"Luckily..."

A few people had unpredictable anger and outbursts that could be scary at times, and once a husband brought a gun to a couples therapy session and threatened to kill himself/wife.

Luckily we were able to calm the situation down, but things like that can end badly, and you always have to be aware of that possibility when emotions run high.

NadiaLee81

"The client had a volatile temper..."

Had a client years ago who had recently gotten out of prison for assaulting a police officer pretty badly. The client had a volatile temper and lived in a violent family growing up. The client never got angry with me, personally. However, while talking about their family and other people in their life the client would get so worked up with anger that I sometimes wondered if I was safe. I started pretending to be on "emergency call" duty in the clinic where I worked so that I had an excuse to carry a walkie-talkie with me during our sessions. Shortly after I began doing that, I terminated the therapeutic relationship and referred the client for a completely different type of treatment than what I provided. The last I heard, the new treatment method was helping the client.

Glitzyn

"I've never been afraid..."

Clinical psychologist in training here. I've never been afraid, but my friend had a client once who made her extremely uncomfortable. Without revealing any information that could break confidentiality, I will say that he had issues with masturbating too much (and not doing much else), and at one point asked my friend if they could watch porn together in the next session so he could show her what he does... At another time, he talked about his masturbation habits while touching himself through his pants a bit - totally inappropriate behavior, obviously. This client had lots of other issues, but when these things came up, her supervisor took her off the case because it wasn't suitable for training and my friend didn't feel safe.

iamnotsaturn

"When I started..."

I'm a psychologist now, but, between undergraduate and graduate school, I worked at this facility with male teenage sex offenders for about two years:

https://www.youthvillages.org/services/residential-programs/inner-harbour-campus/

It was the single worst period of my entire life.

When I started, I generally had faith in the staff, and I really wanted to help the kids. It probably wasn't six weeks in before all of the stress got to me. The kids knew that most of the rules were not enforceable, and they could constantly curse at us, threaten us, steal, break rules, manipulate the system, and act out with very few repercussions. I think it was my second day there when I saw a kid break down a steel door with a chair. They would provoke staff. They would provoke each other so they could force staff to intervene and try to get the staff in harm's way. What's worse, I'm a bit of a straightforward and by-the-book guy, and the kids started to learn that I would enforce the rules, and they started to hate me and target me.

I began to have chest pain on the drive to work. I would have trouble falling asleep at night because I would be imagining the threats and restraints the next day that I might be involved in. It does bad things to your psyche when someone can criticize you, make false allegations against you just to get you in trouble, lie to you, demean you, and threaten you for months on end, and you essentially can't defend yourself because you're constrained by your role. You can't hit them back, talk back, show attitude, and the only tiles you can enforce or privileges you can take away, the kids could give a sh!t about. Meanwhile, you are giving them your everything. Basic hygiene, school help, counseling, playing games, talking them through life issues, putting them to bed at night. You're essentially their parent.

But to answer your questions, yeah I was afraid of several of them. I was assaulted three times while I worked there. Two of the assaults were relatively minor, just a single punch to the chest or a single punch to the face, but one of the kids punched me 6 or 7 times in the head.

tigerofsanpedro

Well, this was quite the read.

We applaud the psychologists who keep going, continue to care about their patients, and do their best work despite some of the risks. And to those who couldn't, that's okay too. Safeguarding your own mental health is so important.

Have some stories of your own? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section below.

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