George Farthing, an expatriate British man living in America, was recently
diagnosed as clinically depressed, tanked up on anti-depressants and
scheduled for controversial Shock Therapy when doctors realised he wasn't
depressed at all - only British.

Mr Farthing, whose characteristic pessimism and gloomy perspective were
interpreted as serious clinical depression, was led on a nightmare journey
through the American psychiatric system. Doctors described Farthing as
suffering with Pervasive Negative Anticipation - a belief that everything
will turn out for the worst, whether it's trains arriving late, England's
chances at winning any international sports event or even his own prospects
to get ahead in life and achieve
his dreams.

"The satisfaction Mr Farthing seemed to get from his pessimism seemed
particularly pathological," reported the doctors.

"They put me on everything - Lithium, Prozac, St John's Wort," said Mr
Farthing. "They even told me to sit in front of a big light for an hour a
day or I'd become suicidal. I kept telling them this was all pointless and
they said that it was exactly that sort of attitude that got me here in the
first place."

Running out of ideas, his doctors finally resorted to a course of "weapons
grade amphetamine", the only noticeable effect of which was six hours of
speedy repetitions of the phrases "mustn't grumble" and "not too bad,

It was then that Mr Farthing was referred to a psychotherapist.

Dr Isaac Horney explored Mr Farthing's family history and couldn't believe
his ears.

"His story of a childhood growing up in a grey little town where it rained
every day, treeless streets of identical houses and passionately backing a
football team who never won, seemed to be typical depressive ideation or
false memory. Mr Farthing had six months of therapy but seemed to mainly
want to talk about the weather - how miserable and cold it was in winter and
later how difficult and hot it was in summer. I felt he wasn't responding to
therapy at all and so I recommended drastic action - namely ECT or shock

"I was all strapped down on the table and they were about to put the rubber
bit in my mouth when the psychiatric nurse picked up on my accent," said Mr
Farthing. "I remember her saying 'Oh my God, I think we're making a terrible
mistake'." Nurse Alice Sheen was a big fan of British comedy, giving her an
understanding of the British psyche.

"Classic comedy characters like Tony Hancock, Albert Steptoe and Frank
Spencer are all hopeless cases with no chance of ever doing well or escaping
their circumstances," she explained to the baffled US medics. "That's funny
in Britain and is not seen as pathological at all."

Identifying Mr Farthing as British changed his diagnosis from 'clinical
depression' to 'rather quaint and charming' and he was immediately
discharged from hospital, with a selection of brightly coloured leaflets and
an "I love New York" T-shirt.