It's only fair to share…

Mental health problems are, contrary to popular belief, contagious. It takes only a single pilot foaming at the mouth and running down the aisle of his plane, screaming “there’s a bomb – we’re all going to die.” to induce extreme anxiety disorder in over 300 people. Not to mention a team of aeroplane cleaners.

It’s getting harder to tell the normal from the nut-bag these days, especially in the workplace. Just think about it  – how many of your own co-workers are rowing with only one oar, psychologically speaking? They may not be licking windows or coming in dressed as Napoleon, but gradually you pick up on things that make you wonder if their job interview should have involved electrodes.

Taking a pro-active approach to HR issues must be especially hard to resist for doctors. It’s unfortunate that well-intentioned but surreptitious medication of your staff can have you hauled in front of various Boards and tribunals. People don’t trust water that comes out of the cooler slightly cloudy.

Competitive pressures, stress, and technology create a mental Molotov cocktail in the workplace. MicroSoft alone is doubtless responsible for the invention of several new syndromes, assuming serotonin levels crash in sync with operating systems. But I reckon that being a few cards short of the full deck can be a corporate advantage. In my book, sweaty palms, anxiety and increased adrenaline are a perfectly valid response to an Excel spreadsheet budget, and AGMs are much better appreciated from the foetal position.

Every known personality disorder can be found in Australian workplaces, including a few that have yet to be defined and published. Body Dysmorphia by Proxy, for example, is a condition whereby sufferers hate their workmates’ guts. Many people have worked with someone who has  Ambidextrous Proctological Disorientation Disorder, which renders its victims incapable of finding their backside with both hands. Today-Tonightis Nervosa produces questionable judgement in sufferers, with compulsions to splurge money on miracle body- shaping underwear instead of just eating less rubbish.

Technology brings us a plethora of new ways to be dysfunctional. These include Sat Nav Schizophrenia,  whose victims hear malicious voices in their heads insisting that they turn left in 300 metres over a sheer cliff, and Apple Amnesia, whereby people  become so engrossed in their apps that they completely forget their own identity.

If you throw hormones into this mix as well, then it’s no great wonder that women working together often exhibit all the easy-going bonhomie of a flock of vultures on finding a dead donkey. Little quirks of the personality are crystallised out in the crucible of the workplace, so add a dash of PMT to power and sociopathic tendencies and suddenly you’re working alongside Pol Pot in a frock.

 To look at it philosophically, we’re all fellow travellers on the highway of life – it’s just the baggage we bring with us that’s different. All we can do is hope that the nutter on the bus isn’t the driver.

Wendy Wardell is a satirical writer and professional speaker based in Western Australia. Wendy’s work is published in her regular column in Medical Forum Magazine and in her blog