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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Character Clinic: Cecilia Phelps

Today's Character Clinic is for Cynthia. She's writing a paranormal romantic comedy featuring Cecilia Phelps, a 27-year-old who is scared to venture outside her house. Her mother died of a bee sting allergy while working in her garden. Cecilia found her when she was 9 years old. As an adult, Cecilia has an online job and all her friends are online.

Cynthia wants to know: Can a person be afraid to go outside and still want to go outside? What kinds of feelings/physical reactions might she experience? Is this believable?

Cecilia - 

Your author asks some great questions that I think many readers will benefit from. After reading your intake form, it's clear that you are potentially suffering from one of several things:

1) Agoraphobia w/o History of Panic Disorder 
2) Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia 

I link the first two together for a reason. Since you didn't mention what happens when you are faced with the outside, your diagnosis would depend on whether you has panic attacks (diagnosis #2) or not (diagnosis #1). 

Agoraphobia is anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult/embarrassing or in which help may not be available in the event of having an unexpected or situational predisposed Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms. In your case, if your scared that you'll die outside and no one will find you (as in the case of you mother), then agoraphobia would fit in that you would never know if someone would come around and find you lying on the ground, passed out from anaphylactic shock.

3) Specific Phobia 

This option to me is the most intriguing one to play around with character-development wise. If you basically can boil your fear of death down even further to perhaps a fear of death by bee sting, then you would have a specific phobia of bees--Apiphobia.  

Specific Phobia is limited to a single situation--like heights or confined spaces or water. But bees would count. You'd only have this is you avoided the outside in order to avoid bees. This makes the most sense, given that you say you want to go outside, but you can't because you're afraid. 

Are you really afraid of outside or are you afraid of what you'll encounter outside (bees)

As to your backstory about why you might be afraid of bees, your author already did an excellent job setting that up. For a young girl of 9 to find your mother like that, her face blackened, lying in her garden, that would be very traumatic. It is beyond feasible that you'd develop a specific phobia of the exact insect that killed her.

I hope you've enjoyed your time on the couch today, Cecilia. If you want to delve a little deeper, like how the symptoms might have arrived or to discuss how the panic attacks might look for you, buy a detailed assessment and take another spin on the couch.


Lydia Sharp said...

This is great, thank you!

Jenn said...

I really love reading these character assessments! So interesting!

Jeff King said...

Yes, very informative.

Kristen said...

This was a very interesting one! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

Cecilia Marie Pulliam said...

Very interesting!

Cynthia Selwyn said...

Thank you for the analysis. Oddly enough, my author was outside the other day and STEPPED on a bee! Her fault for not wearing shoes in clover-studded grass. (I warned her, but did she listen? No!)

Fortunately for her, the only ill-effects of her bee sting were a limp and a terribly itching while the site heals. I think the bee made out much worse than she did. But that doesn't mean I'm any less afraid of the little suckers!

Thanks again for the couch time. You've given me a lot to think about--and my author, too.


Cecelia Phelps

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.