Guess the diagnosis – Gordon Brown


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…

6 Responses to “Guess the diagnosis – Gordon Brown”

  1. NorthernIrelandExile says:


    That made me laugh – especially the Moses part. However, it does lead me to question whether large numbers of the people in the Bible were, infact, mentally ill. Hearing voices, seeing demons and burning bushes, reporting their friends walking on water, raising the dead… it all sounds a lot like hallucinations and delusions. Or perhaps they were all just permanently out of it?

    Have you got a diagnosis for good old Boris yet?

  2. Paul says:

    Do you think the fact that Stuttaford is a former Tory MP has anything to do with his objective medical diagnosis?

    He certainly is talking bollocks. It would have been better if he’d just called Brown a w**ker, and have done with it.

  3. NorthernIrelandExile says:

    Circle Line party anyone??????

    I feel like I need to mark the passing of Londoners being able to have a drink on the tube without being classed as a criminal (and as a lawyer, I feel a duty to uphold the rights of non-violent beer drinkers!!!)

    I think it could be fun – loads of very diverse but smart people read this blog – I think a Circle Line party would be brilliant!

    FP….have you a view?

  4. Frontier Psychiatrist says:

    An interesting idea, and thank you for the invite. I must pass though: I did a Circle Line pub crawl once and was sick on someone’s shoes. I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t do this again; if they were your shoes you’d probably stop reading my blog….

  5. NorthernIrelandExile says:

    The mere threat of semi-digested food and beer on my much loved shoes is too terrible to contemplate.

    Consider yourself uninvited FP!


  6. Wang says:



    (There are thousands of copies of the information below on the Internet in the United Kingdom.)


    Speaking of Barack Obama:

    Barack Obama is a racial-minority individual and does not like racism:


    (I) I do solemnly swear by Almighty God that George W. Bush committed atrocious, racist, hate crimes of epic proportions and with the stench of terrorism which I am not at liberty to mention. Many people know what Bush did. And many people will know what Bush did—even until the end of the world. Bush was absolute evil. Bush is now like a fugitive from justice. Bush is a psychological prisoner. Bush often worries. In any case, Bush will go down in history in infamy.

    (II) It is opined that Bill Clinton committed terrifying, racist, hate crimes during his presidency, and I am not free to say anything further about it. ‘Be sure your sins will find you out’ (Numbers 32:23).

    (III) What if basically all racial-minority people would subscribe to the interpretations that George Herbert Walker Bush committed monstrous, racist, hate crimes while he was the President of the United States? It will eventually come out: it is only a matter of time.

    (IV) I know it may be hard to believe. However, Ronald Wilson Reagan committed horrible, racist, hate crimes during his presidency.

    Respectfully Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang, J.D. Candidate
    B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
    Messiah College, Grantham, PA
    Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

    (I can type 90 words per minute, and there are thousands of copies on the Internet (by March 29, 2009) indicating the contents of (I), (II), (III), and (IV). And there are thousands of copies in very many countries around the world.)

    ‘If only there could be a ban against invention that bottled up memories like scent & they thus never faded & never got stale.’ Off the top of my head, it came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.

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