People in the press have been playing one of my nasty habits – guess the diagnosis of someone you’ve never met. In this case the beleaguered UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
For anyone who lives in a cave, Mr Brown came to be PM about a year ago having been the Chancellor of the Exchequer for ten years. During this time he presided over unbroken economic growth and was well know for his prudent policies and dour demeanour. Whilst his lack of easy charm and attention to detail made him apparently trustworthy as the head of the economy, they haven’t played out well as PM, especially as he is following the TV friendly and charismatic – but warmongering – Tony Blair. Incidentally, I met Brown’s private secretary, a rather attractive girl, at a party once and was thinking of trying to get off with her but regrettably she left before I could work any magic.
Writing in The Times, GP Dr Thomas Stuttaford has speculated that Mr Brown has personality traits which might lead him to be diagnosed with a DSM-IV cluster A personality disorder. He also says that Tony Blair would meet all the criteria for histrionic personality disorder
(If you need to brush up on personality disorders here’s a link to my previous post on the subject)
BPS research digest disapproves
There are two issues here. Is Dr Stuttaford proper to speculate in such a way? Yes, in that we are in a free country, and it would be cheeky for me to say no when I have done similar myself*. But he is very careless. You can’t make these kind of diagnoses without meeting the patient, and it is sloppy to take a cursory glance at the DSM criteria and then imply that if someone possibly meets particular criteria and the diagnosis is likely. He should at least have stated that what he is presenting is purely idle speculation.
Is he actually right? Unlikely. With regards to Tony Blair, Dr Stuttaford can’t have looked very carefully at the DSM-IV histrionic personality disorder criteria. Is he saying, for instance, that Tony Blair’s interactions with others are ‘often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behaviour’ or that he ‘consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to (him)self’? (DSM IV criteria)
He says of Mr Brown:
‘He is likely to be demanding, self- absorbed, have difficulties in relationships with others, suffer discomfort in social situations with unfamiliar people, have vaguely unsettling inappropriate gestures or facial expressions and may be so focused that he finds it difficult to concentrate on subjects other than that which has caught his immediate attention’
I find it difficult to believe that anyone with these sort of characteristics could not only elevate himself to the job of PM(think of the political deals and alliances necessary), but also run the country for more than five minutes with this sort of personality. ICD-10 states that a personality disorder is ‘usually accompanied with considerable personal and social disruption’ which sounds incompatible with any of Mr Brown’s achievements. Dr Stuttaford is talking bollocks I fear.
David Owen, former Labour minister and SDP leader, has written a book about illness suffered by heads of state, and has also coined a term ‘hubris syndrome’ which I think he is un-secretly hoping will pass into common parlance, if not into diagnostic manuals. Rather less prestigiously, I wrote a post on a leaders and their drug problems, prompted by speculation that Moses was under the influence of psychedelic drugs.
Other articles on this subject:
*It would be hard to imagine that Josef Fritzl is not even a little bit anti-social though…