SHD is not formally recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Common symptoms involve an irrational, all-consuming fear of a mundane object or concept. The sufferer is both mentally and socially crippled by this fear, ascribing devastating attributes to the subject of their terror. In an attempt to persuade other people of these deadly properties, subjects may conjure images of loved ones killed in improbable ways by the substance. Such behavior is self-demonstrating in the following interview excerpt by Ms. A____, 34 years of age and suffering from advanced hydrophobia.
Interviewer: So you maintain that the water is responsible for your friend’s death?
A: Yes. *cries*
Interviewer: if you wouldn’t mind, please expand on that.
A: *sniffs, regains composure* She—she was going to sit down on a bus bench near me. I saw the water—I cried out that there was water, I said there was—but she sat down anyway.
Interviewer: How much water was it?
A: Three big drops. *begins sobbing* They soaked into her bag and the seat of her pants. I screamed for help *shouts* somebody help us! But n-nobody would come and she died. *dissolves into tears*
Interviewer: Okay, A____, at this point I would like to direct your attention to the window behind me.
A: *still crying* Why?
Interviewer: I would like you to see someone. Do you see her? It’s E____. *aside* Please wave, E______. *back to A* Would you please wave to her?
Interviewer: Good. Now, since E____is standing here in front of you, what does that tell you?
A: …that…that she died, and it’s so sad! *sobs to the point of hyperventilation*
Interviewer: A, will you please wave at E____ for me? Good. You see how she waves back? Does that in any way conflict with your judgement that she is dead?
A: Oh god, oh god—*hyperventilating*
Interviewer: Ms. A____, may I point out that your tears are also water?
*incoherent screams. A____ was restrained at this point to prevent her from clawing her eyes out*
Treatment of Sispey victims includes pharmaceutical intervention and therapeutic restraint. No one treatment has been completely successful. No sufferer has been able to return to a completely independant life, though few prove able to live outside of institutions, albeit with heavy familial support. The sufferers vary in age, social class, and ethnic background.
The syndrome is named after its originator, John Phillip Sipsey, who put forth the hypothesis that mental aberrations were merely affects with no biological precedent. He established a practice in 1958 for the sole express purpose of putting this to the test. He selected candidates from a group of individuals including but not limited to: manic-depressives(bipolar and general depression), nervous exhaustion(social anxiety and post-partum depression) and shell-shock(PTSD as well as soldiers discharged for various infractions.)
Culling from an initial group of 154, Sipsey ended up with 67 finalists whom he then interred in his clinic for an unspecified amount of time. For families inquiring after relatives submitted for what they believed to be a brief observation period, Sipsey coined the phrase “antisocial withdrawal” and barred any outside contact. Over the following months, nearly half the subjects would commit suicide. One extreme case involved a man eating over a pound of salt he had saved up in shaker-sized increments. The remaining 38 were held in the clinic in what were later deemed “unlivable” conditions by a committee formed to preside over the dissolution of the clinic.
Herman Gehry, 27, was a deputy responding to a noise complaint on June 5th, 1958. The front desk of the clinic was found empty and sounds of distress issued from a nearby door. Gehry drew his sidearm and proceeded. He reported stumbling upon Sipsey force-feeding a severely emaciated man behind the door, while others were detained in cages “[the] size of…a dog’s, not built for fully-grown people.” [Gehry 3/19/59] Sipsey’s death was ruled as accidental, as Gehry reported the doctor struggling for his firearm and discharging it in his own forehead. The presence of multiple bullet wounds(and a lack of Sipsey’s fingerprints) notwithstanding, Gehry was suspended for five weeks but received no further discipline.
Sipsey’s subjects were retained in state custody as the doctor had gone to extensive lengths to destroy or otherwise obfuscate their records. Familial identification proved successful for most subjects, those who remained unidentified are kept in state custody today.