Mental Illnes in the book “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales”

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Many people in the United States are affected by a mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health states that “Nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness.” Most people have a mental illness or know someone who has a mental illness. They could be affected by illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and bipolar disorder.

While they might have a mental illness, the severity of it could range from being very low or very high. In the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, Oliver Sacks talks about the different neurological disorders that the patients that he has seen have and how the disorder has affected their lives. Sack’s most interesting patient was Dr. P., the man who could not recognize a person by just looking at them.

Dr. P. was a musician and a teacher at the School of Music. They first discovered that he could not recognize people by seeing their face at the school he taught at. When students would come up to him, he would recognize them until they talked (Sacks 8).

Dr. P. thought he had a problem with his sight because of his diabetes but that was not the case, so they referred him to Dr. Sacks. Whenever Dr. P. would look at a picture, he did not see the whole picture. Sacks states, “He failed to see the whole, seeing only details, which he spotted like blips on a radar screen” (10).

Dr. P. would only see the details of the picture. He did not see the whole scene as one. This is interesting because when others see the picture, they see the whole thing. For example, if it is a picture of the desert, they automatically know it is the desert while Dr. P. would only see details of it but does not know it is the desert. This was kind of the way he recognized people.

He would recognize them by looking at key features from their face. He would also be able to recognize someone by just hearing their voice. This is what makes Dr. P an interesting patient. The only way to recognize them is by seeing something that makes them stand out from other people.

He had to use these details to be able to recognize them, unlike other people who do not have the disorder. People without the disorder could recognize someone by just looking at their face and they do not look at a person for key features to be able to recognize who they are.

Dr. Sacks continued to work with Dr. P. and tested how he recognized different things. For example, Dr. Sacks showed Dr. P. different cartoon pictures. Sacks observes, “Churchill’s cigar, Schnozzle’s nose: as soon as he had picked out a key feature he could identify the face” (12). This part also shows that the only way Dr. P. could recognize a person or character is by looking at features that stand out from the person.

After showing these cartoons to him, Sacks gathered pictures of Dr. P.’s family to show them to him. He did not recognize anybody. This was interesting because he was able to recognize others by seeing their key features and by listening to their voice, but he could not recognize the people in these pictures. When people without this disorder see a picture of their family member, they automatically know who they are.

Something interesting about Dr. P. was when he was asked to name things that he had passed he could only name things that were on his right side. Dr. Sacks asked him to imagine going in through the north side of a local square. Sacks reports, “He listed the buildings on his right side, but none of those on his left” (15).

He could not name any buildings on his left side whenever he went in through the north. Then, he was told to name the buildings as if he was coming in from the south. In this case, he also only named the buildings on his right side which were the building he had not named before. This is interesting because if someone did not have the same disorder as him, they would be able to name buildings from both the right and left side.

The thing that Dr. P.’s condition indicates about being human is that anyone is susceptible to this disorder. This could affect anyone so maybe over time, someone might not be able to recognize someone by just looking at them. They might have to listen to their voice or look at key features that set some people apart from others to be able to recognize them.

Another thing that his condition indicates about being human is that people are not only susceptible to this disorder but others as well. People could develop other medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s or a heart condition. The thing Dr. P.’s condition indicates about society is that when humans are faced with something difficult, they tend to do something that they like. For example, to help Dr. P. deal with his disorder, Sacks told him to continue to do music since that is what he has done for almost all his life. When something goes wrong, human beings tend to do something they enjoy like listening to music or playing a sport.

In the book, the most interesting patient was Dr. P. He was an interesting patient because he could not tell who was who by just looking at someone’s face. He had to find specific features that separated them from others or by listening to their voices.

It was interesting how he could not figure out who was in each of the photos that Sacks showed him even though they were his family and friends. An interesting part was how he confused his wife for his hat. While he had this disorder, he continued to do what he liked which was music. He did this while doing his everyday activities like getting dressed or eating. Even though he had to live with this disorder, he continued to do what he liked.

Cite this paper

Mental Illnes in the book “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales”. (2020, Sep 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-man-who-mistook-his-wife-for-a-hat-and-other-clinical-tales/

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