Dear Nurse Dave,
I went to a furniture store the other day looking for a couch. As soon as I stepped in the store a salesman introduced himself to me and I told him I was just looking around. For the next 10 minutes he followed closely behind me singing and whistling but never saying anything. Eventually I got so uncomforable with him following me and whistling that I left the store. On my way out the door he saw a coupon in my hand and asked if he could have it. Is there some kind of medical condition that would explain this salesman's bizzare, socially unacceptable behavior?
Marcy, Savannah, GA
There are many potential explanations. The salesman could have been suffering from some kind of electrolyte imbalance such as hyper or hyponatremia. Both of these conditions can affect the central nervous system leading to a sedation or other CNS changes. Imbalances in neurotransmitters could also cause bizarre behaviors. Also exposure to large of amounts of gamma radiation have been known to have strange effects on the central nervous system. But more likely than not this man simply suffers from a classic clinical case of desperation. The man obviously lacks some basic social skills required for social interaction and as time has moved on his lack of sales began to induce this clinical desperation. A common symptom of clinical desperation is distorted thought process where ideas that are obviously bad suddenly seem reasonable. This same process of thought can even occur in a normal person who is just very hungry. Suddenly McDonalds can actually sound like a good idea (this is an awesome idea). So in his mind following you closely was just a way of making himself available. The whistling was probably rationalized as a way of seeming friendly. The salesman was working with the same disorder that these guys obviously also suffer with in Provo UT. September 6, 2009: Two male subjects were knocking doors in the female area of Wyview Park. They identified themselves as missionaries. When the police arrived the two male students said they thought it was a novel way to meet girls. The only known treatment for this disorder is to ignore the person that has it but unfortunately that can sometimes just make it worse (for instance my wife initially tried to ignore my phone calls but that didn't help her).