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Cyberpsychosis is a mental illness, specifically a dissociative disorder, caused by an overload of cybernetic augmentations to the body.

Background

Those afflicted with cyberpsychosis are known as cyberpsychos, those who have existing psychopathic tendencies, enhanced by cybernetics, and as a result have lost their sense of identity as a person, either to themselves or others. They come to view regular people and other living things as weak and inferior. With their enhanced physical abilities and complete disregard for life, Cyberpsychos are extremely dangerous to anyone that crosses their path. Cyberpsychosis can affect anyone modified with cybernetics eventually, but the less empathetic or psychologically unstable a person is, the more susceptible they are to it.[1]

There is no real cure, though treatment is available (see below). The effects are cumulative. A single cyber hand is unlikely to cause Cyberpsychosis, but Replacement of all four limbs and both eyes will probably start down the slippery slope to madness.

Cyberpsychosis symptoms are gradual, ranging from decay of self-preservation, distancing or disregard from friends and family, and poor or impulsive outbursts or acts. They start to identify more with machines than people, and stop doing things that used to give them pleasure (eating, sleeping, socializing, sex, etc). Eventually human interactions become irritating, and then irritation morphs into contempt, and finally violence.[2]Not all cyberpsychos are physically violent. Some have fragmented personalities, some are kleptomaniacs, others are compulsive liars. But violence towards living things, especially people, is most common.[3]

Cyberpsychosis has become a major problem in the technology-saturated world of Cyberpunk. It is actually quite common in many boostergangs, though fairly rare in polite society. Police departments have heavily armed and armored units, called Psycho Squads, who specialize in subduing or killing cyberpsychos. Psycho squads are the SWAT of the cyberpunk world.

Incidentally the government (and corporations) are not going to wait for you to go over the edge. It is quite common for governments or corporations (who are often the de-facto government) to track people who are known to install lots of cyberware. This is another reason ripperdocs exist; not everyone wants to be on a government watch list for cyberpsychosis.

By 2077, the occurrence of cyberpsychosis had markedly decreased due to medical and implant advancements, but people still succumbed to it every day. Practically none survived any encounter with police, which usually applied overwhelming firepower to put down the threat regardless of the circumstances, a tactic which resulted in collateral civilian deaths. An expensive drug called baloperidol was a common treatment for individuals believed to be on the verge of cyberpsychosis, but its effectiveness was questionable. Standard practice for corporations who learned one of their own was becoming cyberpsychotic was to have them isolate themselves away from the public and wait for a corporate medical team to sedate them and transport them to a therapeutic retreat, but unknown to the victims, these medical teams were actually hit squads.[4]

Registered Cyberpsychos and Therapy

People who are near the edge are politely asked (that is, required) to register. A registered Cyberpsycho is on something like parole. They must attend periodic therapy sessions to keep them human. They have implants to monitor their activity. So long as they don't do anything nutty, they can go on with their lives as normal.

A Cyberpsycho who goes over the edge is often killed outright. Cyberpsychos usually have enough implanted hardware to cause significant damage, and are a threat to anyone they come across. Most police departments will not go out of their way to risk people's lives trying to take the psycho alive.

But if the Psycho can be subdued, they will be strapped down and all of their cybernetics deactivated. They are forcibly jacked into a custom braindance, where a Cyberpsychologist (sometimes called a Psychoshrink) attempts to piece their personality back together.

Over weeks or months, the Cyberpsycho gradually regains their humanity. They may even eventually become human enough to install cybernetics again (assuming they are not in prison for crimes committed on their rampage). But they are never really the same again. Mental damage from cyberpsychosis will change aspects of their personality, and follow them their entire lives.

Notable Cyberpsychos

References

  1. Cyberpunk Red Corebook p.108-109: "Cyberpsychosis is a dissociative disorder which occurs when someone with preexisting psychopathic tendencies enhances themselves via cybernetics to the point they no longer see themselves or others as complete, sapient organisms, but simply as a collection of replaceable parts. Common symptoms of cyberpsychosis include lack of self-preservation, complete disregard for others, poor impulse control, and explosive outbursts. Let's get this clear from the start: if you already have these underlying psychological issues (in game represented by a very low Empathy) you are more likely to be a candidate for cyberpsychosis)."
  2. PONDSMITH, M. Cyberpunk. 1st ed. Berkely CA; R.Talsorian Games, 1988
  3. FISK, C. Cyberpunk, Version 2.0, 1st ed. Berkeley CA: R.Talsorian Games, 1990
  4. Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk Red Corebook. R. Talsorian Games, 2020

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