Beyond chionophobia

February 13, 2010

The American Psychiatric Association this week released its proposed revisions to the bible of the profession, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM, and the timing could prove fortuitous.

The DSM is always controversial, chiefly because of psychiatrists' propensity to discover and name new illnesses each time the hefty tome is rewritten. The fifth edition continues the trend, with certain substance abusers labeled as suffering from "cannabis-use disorder" and people who twitch while they sleep having "rapid eye movement behavior disorder."

But what the draft document lacks is a full evaluation of human behavior in the wake of record storms that hit Baltimore and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic over the last eight days. Extraordinary weather has engendered unusual human conduct -- much of which deserves a medical diagnosis.

You or I might label some of the more unpleasant episodes simply as people behaving badly. But psychiatrists seek more precise descriptions for obvious reasons (most having to do with getting health insurance companies to compensate them for treatment).

To assist this enterprise, I would humbly submit this modest list of maladies observed in Baltimore and its environs since Maryland's recent transformation into Hoth, the ice and snow planet from Star Wars fame.

Screen Withdrawal Syndrome. Youngsters who have run out of video games, DVDs or Facebook entries after a week of being snowbound. Symptoms include listlessness and repeated verbal references to boredom. Advanced cases may extend to non-electronic media such as books and even homework.

Plow-chotic Disorder. Anyone possessing the inexplicable delusion that snow plows will have cleaned their streets to bare pavement a matter of hours after the fourth foot of snow has finished falling.

Ice Denial Disability. A condition wherein the sufferer believes he or she can walk in the middle of the street during a snowstorm without risking life and limb. Buffalostrophobia. The feeling of being trapped in one's home for a long period of time. Named after the city in Upstate New York, it was not found south of Ithaca until the winter of 2010. Only effective treatment involves southbound air travel.

Snowexhibitionism. Found chiefly among irrational TV station employees, patients have the strong desire to stand out in the middle of blizzards in front of video equipment and complain about the cold over and over again.

Parkingdomainia. An overwhelming anger that occurs after one spends hours digging out a parking space that is promptly taken by someone else.

Flurriousness. An overwhelming anger toward weather forecasters.

Tonypannintheneck Syndrome. An overwhelming anger toward weather forecasters who look like the kind of person who would take your parking space.

Cardio-excusism. An inability to adequately explain to one's spouse or significant other why there's no Valentine's Day gift this year.

Chronic Lazyteen Syndrome. A young adult's aptitude for devising creative excuses for not shoveling snow. Example: "I would be happy to clear the driveway if not for the twinge in my left shoulder that I just can't shake whenever the ambient air temperature falls below 35 degrees."

Goundhog-acidal Rage. The inescapable desire to cause extreme harm to whatever caused the severe winter weather.

--Peter Jensen

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