Dr. Madrid at the Peoria Institute of Medical Research and Deli (PIMR&D) today announced the discovery of a new syndrome afflicting writers. Authors, probably because of their solitary nature, sedentary habits, and infrequent bathing are known to be susceptible to a similar syndrome: writer’s block, a not-well researched syndrome characterized by whining and heavy drinking.
An article about the new syndrome, Post Publication Depression or PPD, was rejected for publication in the in the New England Journal of Medicine, but Madrid said just saying New England Journal of Medicine makes him feel important. The Journal of Irreproducible Results also is not taking the report with the seriousness Madrid would like. Madrid said PPD promises to be a very common diagnosis among his colleagues at the Institute. He estimates that once practitioners become familiar with the symptoms there could be as many as 150,000 new cases per year in the United States, and a minimum of 75 per year in Peoria, Ill. alone. This epidemic promises to be a windfall to unemployed therapists, big pharma, and breweries, even though, to date, there have been no successful trials of efficacious treatment.
PPD primarily afflicts fiction writers, most often demonstrating a three-to-six-week incubation period following the publication of a new work. Novel writers are most susceptible, but short story writers make up a substantial percentage of patients. Flash fiction writers seem to be immune. Madrid speculates the reason flash fiction writers are spared is their short attention spans, but he has no idea why a lack of focus imparts protection from the malady.
The incubation period led researchers to conjecture it might be caused by a virus that writers were exposed to when they came into the sunlight after months of writing in darkened apartments, libraries and bars. Species crossover infection with a computer virus was ruled out when a study showed none of the afflicted writers’ laptops were infected. Research into neurotransmitter imbalance was halted when the National Guild of Writers objected to writers selling brain tissue samples to the Institute for study.
Technical writers at large corporations and otherwise employed writers receiving regular paychecks have not been reported with the syndrome, but a variable explaining this anomaly has not been determined. Madrid cited Andy Borowitz and Ian Frasier as examples of convalescence, as neither have suffered since going to work for the New Yorker. Authors who remain on bestseller lists or appear frequently on television have also been resistant. Questionnaires filled out by authors David Sedaris and Bill Bryson indicated they felt fine at the time of the study.
Symptoms include a prodromal period of euphoria following the acceptance of a work for publication. The manic state lasts a week, never more than 10 days. It is followed by periods of dissipation, self-recrimination, and an utter lack of cheer. Obsessive behavior is common, including logging onto Amazon and clicking on sales reports more than twice an hour. Sufferers report a compulsion to check email inboxes and a sinking feeling akin to hypoglycemia upon finding no new mail.
The obsessive-compulsive behavior fatigues with repetition and is replaced by hourly trips to a grocery store for chips, chocolate, and alcohol. Writers in florid PPD gather in cafes or on park benches and complain about the decline of fiction reading, print books, and civilization in general.
The National Institutes of Health and Amazon both denied funding for treatment research. To date, no traditional anti-depressant has shortened the course, which runs six weeks to six months, with the longer periods occurring in romance novel writers.
Temporary symptom suppression has been achieved with a regimen of aspirin, vitamin C, and cabernet sauvignon. Surgery has proven useless and prolongs the condition, unless it is neurosurgery and involves the frontal lobe. The receipt of a royalty payment terminates the illness, and researchers at the N.I.H. and Centers for Disease Control are investigating why.
Until a cause and treatment are discovered, Madrid advises writers to avoid slush piles in winter, a possible reservoir for the virus.
About the author: Timothy Hurley is a humor writer and retired physician. He lives in Brooklyn and had his flu shot this year, but has taken no precautions against PPD.