Monday, December 10, 2012


Quirky traits can translate to success

At one time or another, haven’t we all secretly suspected that we were exhibiting signs of “going a little crazy?” 

When I was a little girl, my mother often said to me, “You’re either laughing hysterically or crying – there is no in-between with you.”  

She was right; I did seem to always be behaving at one extreme or the other. When I was older and took Psychology 101 in college, I wondered if I was exhibiting signs of bipolar disorder.

Recently, I was very comforted to read an article in the March 2012 issue of Reader’s Digest, entitled, “The Upside of Being a Little Nuts.”   Psychiatrists tell us that all behavior occurs on a spectrum.  For instance, we all worry about things at times, but some of us are crippled by frequent panic attacks.  The article described the very good news that people diagnosed with certain disorders can also possess desirable qualities and useful characteristics. 

For example, people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are more likely to be hardworking and diligent.  People with OCD thrive in situations and occupations that have strict rules and guidelines and require focus and concentration, like accountants and business managers.

Someone with anxiety disorder is more likely to be sensitive, attentive to others, and compassionate. The author of this Reader’s Digest article suggests that highly anxious people are also hyper-vigilant, so they make good surgeons, dentists, and bankers.

People with mild bipolar disorder are more likely to be creative.  Artists, musicians, and writers tend to be prone to mood swings, but this can be their forte. When they are manic, their creativity is maximized.

Well, I can attest to that one.  When I am exceedingly happy, I can write health columns, draw pictures, paint in watercolors, cook gourmet dinners for 10 and plant the garden — all in one day.   Other days, when I feel disappointed and down, I can’t even make a breakfast omelet — a bowl of cold cereal is all I can manage. 

Many people who have Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, are also good problem solvers. They may be socially awkward, but their ability to focus is intense. They make good engineers and scientists.  Los Angeles Psychiatrist Dr. Soroya Bacchus reports that, “Numbers and concrete science really make sense to them.”

The good news for all of us is that behavior we suspected was “a little nuts” can actually be an asset that can benefit and be valued by society.   
Alice Facente is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at   

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