One of the most common mental disorders, I'm forever treating bridge players for, is the Ganser Syndrome. In a nutshell, it is a dissociative disorder, previously classified as a factitious one. It is characterised by nonsensical or wrong answers to questions, as well as giving incorrect explanations. Other names given to this particular disorder include :
- nonsense syndrome
- balderdash syndrome
- syndrome of approximate answers
- 2+2=5 syndrome
- can-never-give-a straight-answer syndrome
- bridge players' psychosis
The last label originates from the fact that the syndrome is most prevalent in bridge clubs. Symptoms include a clouding of consciousness, confusion and extreme anxiety. Most victims, when flustered or panic-stricken, give approximate or incomplete answers to even the most simple questions, whether they are posed by opponents, partners or TDs. In some cases answers spurted out are a combination of contradictions, ambiguities and complete and utter nonsense. Ask them what is the point range of their Michael's overcall, and you might get the following answers: " 8 or 13 .....no ....8 possibly up to 18 ", or " 8+ non vulnerable and 13+ vulnerable ", or " 8 + 13 making it up to 21 in total ".
But not only that, victims with this disorder will make absurd statements to rectify the verbal hole they have dug themselves in, or hide behind excuses such as memory loss, mental fatigue, lazy thinking and malingering. However, because they fully understand the questions asked, they appear to those asking the questions to give incorrect answers deliberately ! Not so......these poor unfortunate people are not pathological liars.....they are simply victims of an extreme dissociative disorder, which many colleagues of mine describe " as being in a hysterical twilight state ".
What causes players to answer " what is your 1 notrump range ? " with the answer " 2 possibly 3 " has more to do with getting flustered than going gaga. When these players feel they are being interogated, they immediately experience undue pressure and stress. This causes the ganser syndrome to lock in straightaway. Indeed, the symptoms are worse if sufferers believe that those posing the questions will be paying very close attention to what they are about to say. Once the panic-anxiety button has been pressed, the boundaries of approximations bend ever further......to add to the verbal garbage that is inevitably spewed out by the bucket load. Ironically, the greater the pressure that is put upon them to give a correct or " corrected " answer, the greater the likelihood that the answer becomes ridiculously absurd.