Exercising the demon “mental illness”, or the force be with you, nerdlings

Once you have demonized someone, your demon needs a name. In some cases that name turns out to be “mental illness”.

Take Adolf Hitler, for instance. Here’s what we get from a Wikipedia page on Adolf Hitler’s health, this bit specifically deals with views on his mental health.

[Historian Robert] Waite, who wrote an extensive psychohistory of Hitler, concluded that he suffered from borderline personality disorder, which manifested its symptoms in numerous ways and would imply Hitler was in full control of himself and his actions. Others have proposed Hitler may have been schizophrenic, based on claims that he was hallucinating and delusional during his last year of life. Many people believe that Hitler had a mental disorder and was not schizophrenic nor bipolar, but rather met the criteria for both disorders, and was therefore most likely a schizoaffective. If true, this might be explained by a series of brief reactive psychoses in a narcissistic personality which could not withstand being confronted with reality (in this case, that he was not the “superman” or “savior of Germany” he envisioned himself to be, as his plans and apparent early achievements collapsed about him). In addition, his regular methamphetamine use and possible sleep deprivation in the last period of his life must be factored into any speculation as to the cause of his possible psychotic symptoms, as these two activities are known to trigger psychotic reactions in some individuals. However, researchers and behaviorist have studied the life and mannerisms of Adolf Hitler, some believe he may have had Asperger’s Syndrome, which is part of the Autism Spectrum. Michael Fitzgerald, an expert in the field, concludes that Hitler did indeed meet all the criteria set out by Hans Asperger. Fitzgerald cites Hitler’s poor sleep patterns, food fads, dislike of physical contact, an emptiness in human relations, and an inability to forge genuine friendships. It is important to note these are common traits in many people with or without Autism. Just because one or more of these traits exist does not mean a person has Autism or any other diagnosis. However, it is still debated today. Hitler never visited a psychiatrist, and under current methodology, any such diagnosis is speculation.

Note where it says he may have had borderline personality disorder.

Guess what? Darth Vader has been diagnosed a borderline personality disorder sufferer by a number of French mental health professionals. Fox News has a story on the matter, Jedi Mind Tricks: Scientists Probe the Psychology of Darth Vader.

The tragic hero of the “Star Wars” prequels displays patterns of instability and impulsivity in the second and third films that make him an obvious candidate for borderline personality disorder (BPD), according to French psychiatrists and psychologists.

The suggestion has been made that Darth Vader appeals to teenagers out of a sort of mutual borderline personality disorder affliction.

“I had watched the two prequel movies [“Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith”], and it was during my residency in psychiatry while trying to explain borderline personality disorder to medical students that I thought of Anakin,” said Eric Bui, a psychiatrist at Toulouse University Hospital in France.

What’s more, Anakin passed their test. Uh, but just by the skin of his teeth.

Skywalker hit six out of the nine borderline personality disorder criteria as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV). He only needed to meet five criteria to qualify as suffering from the disorder.

6 out of 9 is only so so, but maybe George Lukas wasn’t going by the DSM.

Skywalker’s case of borderline personality disorder has proven useful for both Bui and Rachel Rodgers, a researcher at the Center for Studies and Research in Applied Psychology in France. They have used the “Star Wars” example to teach their students for the past few years, and noted that such a famous fictional example could spread awareness.

Fictional!? Here’s the problem for me with this diagnostic label game. If Darth Vader is fictional, perhaps he should have a fictional “mental illness”. Of course, some of us take the view that much, if not all, “mental illness” is fictional, or mythological, anyway. Also, it is important to remember the fiction we are dealing with here is science fiction.

Somewhere in a universe far far away…

In this piece of science fiction, why should it’s main characters be beset with earthly afflictions? You’d think they could come up with a few demonic pathologies of their own to characterize their villains with. They wouldn’t need ours. They are, after all, so far beyond the earth, and it’s rather timely DSM. We don’t know that borderline personality disorder will make it to the DSM-9 and 7/8ths Revised Bootleg Edition, for instance. We’d need a copy of whatever Manual was current in their universe before we go jumping to conclusions.

Perhaps, in fact, the denizens of this universe far, far away, have dropped the ostracizing medical model of psychiatric treatment, and have developed a much more workable and holistic approach to people (and other creatures) with personalities and life crises. Perhaps they’ve advanced beyond this business of labeling, and pathologizing people, however physically impaired. I would think the person to consult with about the matter would be Yodi. He seems to know a lot of stuff.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to have people I know who have been labeled with borderline personality disorder associated with the likes of Adolf Hitler and Darth Vader. The very idea is offensive. I think the problem we have is with these mental health professionals who go around trying to affix mental illness labels to non-labeled historical personages and legends of infamy. Nobody, sans a few exceptions, is looking into the disorders that may afflict them, the professional mental disorder labelers that is. We need more checks and balances to this system.

These mental health professionals, in France or elsewhere, have a long way to go before they stop attaching labels to human beings, and calling them bad names. I therefore propose classes be initiated to retrain mental health professionals. I suggest people who have been diagnostically insulted by such mental health professionals get the chance to return the insult. I think, in fact, that mental health professionals don’t know that much more than mental health amateurs do about the subject. For this very reason, I think mental health amateurs should be given a chance to show mental health professionals how much of their profession is truly based upon illusion. If the listeners among them, and that’s making a leap, are truly good listeners, maybe something worthwhile can come of the endeavor.

Then again, joining Moe, Curly, and Larry at the formal bash for a cake fight might prove fun, too. I’m just wondering…what kind of “mental illness” labels should be affixed to each of them, uh, besides stooge?