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Clinomorphism (from the Greek words klinikos meaning "bed" and morphos meaning "form") is the deliberate or unintentional simplification, alteration, or amplification of the term for a medical condition (usually for dramatic effect), often in the form of a caricature to which sufferers of (or care providers for those with) the condition often vehemently object.
Schizophrenia is clinomorphically simplified or caricatured as being a split personality, wherein the sufferer is depicted as having two different sets of behavioural mannerisms, between which they alternate subconsciously. These symptoms are in fact more likely to be associated with a condition that is medically recognised as dissociative identity disorder. It can also be misrepresented as being characterised by experiencing only essentially visual hallucinations, (such as in A Beautiful Mind), whereas in fact auditory hallucinations ('hearing voices') constitute a much more common syndrome.
Tourette's syndrome is typically clinomorphically depicted as being a condition of involuntary (and often unconscious) outbursts of offensive language or behaviour, usually on account of being unable to repress (or unaware that they are articulating) involuntary responses.
The typical clinomorphism of Tourette's is both an oversimplification and a conflation of various different aspects and conditions pertaining to some persons with Tourette syndrome. Some people with Tourette syndrome do have 'involuntary offensive speech' which is termed coprolalia and is sometimes clinomorphised into the term 'compulsive swearing' or 'compulsive profanity', terms which have 'clinomorphic currency' outside the use of the term 'Tourette's'. However, coprolalia is in fact a rare symptom of Tourette's.
Autism is clinomorphically seen as a condition where the sufferer is essentially mentally retarded and a human calculator at the same time, a cultural perception primarily based on the movie Rain Man. In reality, only 10% of autistics are savants
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. Similarly, clinomorphism within Autism has recently occurred in the opposite direction: autism is portrayed as synonymous with high IQ and a scientific disposition, and notable figures, such as Einstein and Newton, are put forward as examples of people with autism in order to back up this assertion
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Obsessive-compulsive disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are two very distinct psychological disorders, but when either of them is depicted in the media it is with the former label only. This is most apparent in the television show Monk. Although characters on the show go to great lengths to never actually mention the disorder, the title character is generally referred to in reviews and discussions as having OCD. However, the early onset and global persistence of his behavior, as well as the lack of irrational obsessions, suggests that he is more likely to have OCPD.
Problems with Clinomorphism
Clinomorphism is in fact often both a contributory factor in as well as being the result of the mythology and 'popular misconception' of many medical conditions.
Clinomorphism is usually the basis for controversy in medical conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), ADHD, and Dyslexia where consensus is not easily established concerning the validity of the conditions and clinomorphism is in fact seen as pejorative, so that clinomorphic references to these conditions are ascribed respectively to being 'cowardice', 'malingering', 'disobedience' and 'stupidity'.
Clinomorphism, whilst being a linguistic 'behaviour' which exemplifies particular 'errors' and deliberate misrepresentations, may also be a 'natural tendency' in the sense that it is potentially an understandable consequence of the need to abbreviate or simply 'use as a metaphor' an otherwise difficult to describe idea, in much the same way as anthropomorphism might be (where we attribute the characteristics of a mind to inanimate objects, purely for ease of description of a particular phenomenon, rather than as a result of holding a genuinely animistic belief).
An example of 'clinomorphic tendency' would be in the case of Autism or Asperger's syndrome where particular characteristics of these syndromes (such as the limitations on the ability of a sufferer to form a mental model of the state of mind of another person) would be clinomorphically used as a metaphor or simile for someone's behaviour, where the individual being described clinomorphically is not in fact believed by the utterer to be a sufferer of the condition in question.
The danger is that this will be seen as an offensive misrepresentation of and disrespect towards the condition of an actual sufferer, and thus such clinomorphism (even as a metaphorical convenience) would need to be restricted to discreet private discourse, or (at the risk of encouraging political correctness) avoided altogether.
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