"Diagnosis is comforting, mainly for the diagnoser"by Anna Blundy / March 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Is your partner a psychopath? Is your partner a sociopath? Is Donald Trump suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder? My sister told me that eating the whole of an apple including the core means you are a narcissist. A psychiatric nurse told our seminar group that before studying psychoanalysis he’d always understood “personality disorder” to be a euphemism for arsehole.
If you do these quizzes on Facebook it always turns out that your partner is a psychopath or sociopath or narcissist. Diagnosis is comforting, mainly for the diagnoser. (America loves an all-encompassing diagnosis to dispel complexity, ADHD being a prime example). Ah, that’s the problem!
Of course, for the actual person in question, things are a lot trickier. His or her whole life has contributed to the behaviour currently being manifested and this label does not amount to treatment.
So if, as a group of psychiatrists writing to the New York Times last month claimed, the president is seriously mentally ill (as certainly seems to be the case), what then? It almost appears to be a way of jeering at him, of maliciously ridiculing him in precisely the way the mental health professions have spent decades trying to counter. Professor Allen Frances, the psychiatrist who wrote the criteria defining “narcissistic personality disorder,” replied, saying that Trump causes rather than experiences distress and might not, therefore, be mentally ill.
Personally, I would have thought that projecting your own distress on to others in order to rid yourself of it is a pretty classic symptom of a fragmented mind. Trump looks very disturbed indeed. His terrible isolation, frantic nocturnal tweeting, apparent inability to bear criticism, trouble focusing on subject matter or interlocutor, monstrous perception of “the other” and his straightforward objectification of women make him look chronically fragile to me. He’s a toddler, desperate to control everyone around him, terrified by his relative success in doing so, living in a constant frustrated tantrum, longing in vain to be taken seriously.