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Old Man's Syndrome

What are the signs? How can you protect yourself from it?

Take the test yourself, to see if you are at risk!

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Overview and facts:

This poorly known disorder, also called "Grumpy Old Mad" or "Grumpus", affects a large percentage of the population. While no studies have been done, current estimates state that between 20-40% of the population suffers from the disorder. Though the name of the syndrome reflects the extremely high percentage of older males that are struck with the disease, it can affect either sex at any age. Comprehensive statistics are lacking.

It is unclear when the disorder was first discovered and named. It is believed to have been present since the dawn of man. Scientists speculate that it may have developped as a survival strategy. Older men, being less able to physically repel predators, may have developped this behaviour as defense against them. What hungry bear could match the fury of a fuming, steaming, self-righteous man, yelling and pointing at the beast?

Early Homo sapiens families may have tolerated the presence of a Grumpus and his behaviour, as it would also have increased their own chances of survival against raiding or hunting predators. Such families, generally being able to survive better than those without a Grumpus, served to entrench the genetic basis of this behaviour in later generations.

Archeologic excavations have shown that a large stone was often placed directly outside the cave entrance, for the comfort of the protecting Grumpus. Also provided were such items as a platter of food, and some form of drink, believed to have been made from fermented vegetable matter. These are believed to have evolved into the modern day behaviours such as chair territoriality, porch sitting, and beer drinking.

Paradoxically, with the invention of such devices as the radio, television, and other information ressources, modern living has allowed the disorder to become very accute in patients, and the percentage of people suffering O.M.S. is steadily rising. It is believed the brain of people who suffer this particular disorder was never designed to store data well, or use it logically. The already confusing pattern of emotionality and illogic becomes overloaded by the bombardment of information available today. While this is not fatal to the patient, the symptoms have generally become much more pronounced than ever before, and the suffering it causes has grown to epidemic proportions.

The mechanisms in younger O.M.S. sufferers, as well as female sufferers, is poorly understood. Research into a possible testosterone link, incidences of prior head trauma, and previous Grumpus exposure are pending. In all cases, genetics is believed to play an important factor.

Symptoms:

Loss of functional abilities:

  • Inability to think rationally and logically.
  • The inability to think before speaking
  • The inability to remain quiet on any subject, or hold back one's thoughts' or opinions.
  • Displays extermely poor short-term memory. Whole conversations that happened only moments ago can become completely forgotten for all time.

Cognitive distortions (mistaken beliefs):

  • The belief that their own thoughts and beliefs can actually affect the world.
  • The belief that the patient has highly predictive abilities in forecasting events.
  • Very specific belief that the government is an institution that knows everything people are doing, except for themselves, because they are too smart, and the governement could never possibly figure out what they've done.
  • Believes their pet conspiracy theories were founded by them before anyone else was aware of them.
  • Unusually persistent belief in the patient being more knowledgeable than everyone else in the world. Though untrained and inexperienced in a variety of fields, patients are absolute in their certainty of the superiority over trained doctors, accoutants, analysts, etc.
  • Belief that meals should appear the moment the patients' hunger becomes apparant to themselves.

Other (general):

  • Intolerance to new ideas, new approaches, new people. Almost violently resistant to any change, personal or worldly.
  • An excessive need to control others' actions and thoughts.
  • Loud, manipulative, usually angry, often when no cause seems apparent.
  • Inconsiderate of possible pain or humiliation the person may be inflicting on others.
  • Excessively nosey. Neighbours are usually the prime targets of their curiosity. Also displays a tendency to believe the neighbours are up to no good. However, can appear friendly and jovial when actually talking to them. (scientiests believe this trait developped as a method of seeking out danger before it got too close to the cave.)

Diagnosis:

No laboratory tests have been devised to accurately diagnose patients. Diagnostic methods involve assessing the degree of affliction by satisfying a number listed criteria below: The higher the score, the more severe the syndrome is present. A score of "3" is usually taken to mean that symptoms are only starting to manifest themselves, and it could be many years before the disorder becomes intolerable. A score of "10" usually warrants seeking professional help immediately.

  • Listens to news programming for more than 2 hours a day.
  • Displays excessive territoriality over own chair
  • Hears different words when being spoken to.
  • Must be the loudest person in the room during discussions.
  • Rarely looks into the eyes of the person he/she is speaking to or about.
  • Hordes financial documents, as proof of their superior financial intellect. May also horde newspaper clippings, emergency supplies, and coupons.
  • Frequently references the past in such a manner as "In those days, we really knew how to...", or references the present as "All screwed up!", and "...about to crumble."
  • Patients often show a lack of ability in manipulating tv remote controls, microwave ovens, and radio alarm clocks. It goes without saying that the computer, though amazing because "You can talk to someone on the other side of the world!", are beyond their abilities to master. O.M.S. sufferers often consider computers the structural weakness of society, which will cause a collapse of the Western World very soon.
  • Often owns a collection of books supporting their favorite conspiracy theories.
  • Neighbours often evacuate the scene upon hearing the patient in the vicinity.(though not a symptom per se, can be used as a good indicator that O.M.S. is present in the patient)
  • Show overwhelming concern with lawn maintenance and snow removal. May mow the lawn or plow/shovel snow more often than once a day. (Seasonal symptoms)
  • Illogically cheap. Will drive 10 clicks to save 10 cents on toilet paper.
  • Will tell complete strangers their beliefs, their life stories, how they should proceed with what they are currently doing, often forcefully.

Treament and Care

This is a most frustrating disease, as no treatments have been devised. The usual course of action is to help the friends, family, and poor passers-by, to learn to cope more comfortably with the patient's affliction. The psychological trauma for the entourage of the patient can be extremely grave. Relationships are often stressed to the point of abandonment. Frequently, close family will develop disorders such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and other stress related disorders. Since there is no known therapy for O.M.S., the health of those around the patient becomes the primary concern.

Support and ressources

As the disease is still very poorly known, there are no official programs to help either the patients or their family.

  1. Patients can however often find solace in meeting peers. Social settings such as meeting friends for breakfast at the local coffee shop, or becoming involved in a local same-interest group, often gives the patient an outlet to completely let loose their symptoms upon others of like mind, who often also suffer from O.M.S. When the patient participates in such activities, they often return home fatigued, but satisfied, giving a well needed break to the rest of the family.
  2. Also, sometimes getting a part-time job, or working at home, or finding projects that the patients enjoy, gives them both a clearer foothold on reality, as well as a place to release some of that inner criticalism in a more beneficial manner.

O.M.S. sufferers enjoying fellowship and comeraderie at local social establishment.

Family and support persons are advised to follow the the following coping strategies:

  1. Whenever possible, leave the vicinity of the patient. This is by far the most useful coping mechanism, and should be considered the prime option whenever permisseable. All other methods, though helpful to a degree, cannot compare with the effectiveness of this choice.
  2. Avoid bringing up subjects that are known to trigger the patient into displaying their symptoms.
  3. Do try to bring up subjects that you know will start a conversation that you can tolerate, and that the patient will enjoy. Happy childhood memories are a good example. As patients usually suffer from poor memories, they can be induced to discussing the same stories time and time again.
  4. Do not reorganize furniture, paperwork, meal times, etc. O.M.S. sufferers are very sensitive to change, posess poor short-term memories, and volatile temperaments. No change in environment can be so small as to go un-noticed by the patient.
  5. Whenever possible, agree on points made by the patient, even if you know they are wrong. Debating, even while using clear logic, will not sway the patient's beliefs, and will only cause hostility among all involved. Nod and agree with them.
  6. Families of O.M.S. sufferers should learn not to take things personally. This can be quite challenging. It must be understood that the patient is seeking approval, attention, self-worth, as so many of us are. It is sad that their need for these is so poorly expressed, but these are symptoms of a disorder they have no control over.
  7. Whenever possible, leave the vicinity of the patient.
Article submitted by Dr. Osera,
web master, author, and lifetime O.M.S. caregiver.
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