Psychologists Talk About The 'Red Flag' Patients Who Truly Terrified Them.

Psychologists Talk About The ‘Red Flag’ Patients Who Truly Terrified Them.


She told me she had killed a cop. I tried not to overreact or show fear, but, well, that was difficult.

The she said she also enjoyed strangling cats, and followed that up with: “just like I am going to strangle you.” Then she wrapped her hands around my throat, trying to choke me.

Luckily, there were two of the big male nurses who rushed out and saved me from strangulation. They must have known her history of violence and been watching me.


4/8. A colleague asked me to take care of a patient she had been assigned. She said the patient was making her “uncomfortable”. She was visibly upset, but wouldn’t elaborate. This colleague is an incredibly compassionate and competent professional, and I had never seen her this way.

Anyway, when I met the patient, he told me things about myself and my family that he had zero way of knowing. Things no one knew. The patient did not threaten me, he just quietly listed off all of our secrets.

It was terrifying. I excused myself politely and managed to pass on his care to someone else.


5/8. This was decades ago, during my internship in the Psychology department. of a state mental hospital. I treated only one patient who really scared me. Let’s call him Hanniba. Not only was Hannibal on a locked ward, he was locked in his room! This was quite unusual.

This was Hannibal’s 42nd hospitalization. He suffered from severe Bipolar Disorder and enjoyed hitting people when he lost his temper. He was here because he had punched his 18 year old daughter in the stomach during an argument. I was asked to meet with him to determine whether he was a good candidate for individual therapy.

One of the staff unlocked his door and told me to just knock when I was ready to leave. I wondered how long it would be before someone heard me knock – or scream.

Hannibal sat on his bed. He appeared middle-aged, disheveled, and sluggish, with one seriously mean-looking face. I offered my hand and said, “Hi! I’m Rick.” (continued…)

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