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Monday, December 12, 2016

Analysis of a famous person from afar, vs. from up close

Every now and then you'll hear someone say, you can't analyze someone unless you've examined him in a clinical setting. This seems to be the official position of the American Psychiatric Association.

But if you meet someone for the first time in a clinical setting, you might have no knowledge of him and how he behaves outside the psychiatrist's office. You have only a few sessions in which to get to know a complete stranger, and you will see only whichever face he chooses to present to you.

On the other hand, when someone is running for President, you see far more complete picture of that person. You can read about his entire life history, find out what his family background was like, see his entire employment history, and read many of his previous quotes. You get to see how he behaves on camera, and read about how he behaves off camera, in both stressful situations and during his relaxation time. You get a sense of his sex life, his extracurricular interests, and hear about how he treats the people he's known personally. And you get to hear what former friends and associates have to say about him.

All of this is far, far more revealing than a couple of interviews where he knows someone is trying to psychoanalyze him and he will try to hide things he doesn't want seen. And such subterfuge will always be the case with a narcissistic personality, or even worse, a sociopath. And almost by definition, virtually everyone who runs for President is, at the very least, a narcissistic personality.

The old expression "Actions speak louder than words" would seem to apply here.

(I wrote here about how you can't possibly understand how a sociopath works by chatting with him in a psychiatric setting.)

The American Psychiatric Association, of course, has a vested interest in preserving their fiefdom. They want to make it seem as if anyone who doesn't operate in a clinical setting is incapable of rendering any sort of worthwhile judgment. But the mere fact that they seem to believe that a few sessions in a doctor's office provides a better basis for understanding than seeing an entire well-publicized life history, calls into question their own judgment. 

Think of it this way: according to the APA standard, none of us should jump to the rash conclusion that Ted Bundy was a sociopath, because, after all, we never interviewed him in a clinical setting.

Psychiatry by its nature tends to lean liberal. Psychologists look for psychological/sociological -- as opposed to genetic -- explanations for all human differences. Someone who works in the field told me recently that politically incorrect conclusions are strongly disapproved of, and can even get you drummed out of grad school.

The fact that every article I saw on the subject of armchair analysis, like this Washington Post article, spoke only about Donald Trump's possible diagnosis, and not Hillary Clinton's, is proof of that narrowly pc view.

Anyway, that's my armchair analysis of the APA.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

The no-armchair-diagnosis thing seems to be psychiatrists' position when it comes to anything other than autism. Autism is the one condition they're happy to diagnose people they've never met with, including historical figures. There are several alternative explanations for autistic-like behaviours including shyness, migrant background, anxiety disorder, geekiness, garden-variety eccentricity and so on. The fact that someone is behaving consistently abnormally does not necessarily mean he has autism, and yet psychiatrists who've diagnosed Einstein (you know, the scientist who liked sports was successful with ladies), Hitler, Mozart (the Master Mason with a great sense of humour) and Enoch Powell with the condition suddenly forget this when it come to their retrospective diagnoses.

As I've said before, psychiatrists are generally ignorant about sociopaths because they don't seek help, unless it's for another condition. I've known a sociopath who convinced his psychiatrist into prescribing him diazepam for anxiety and quetiapine for psychosis when he actually has neither condition. He just wanted both drugs to help him relax, and probably for the thrill of getting away with lying to a psychiatrist. Prison officers, policemen and judges are usually much more knowledgeable about sociopathy.

- Gethin

Anonymous said...

Just love the way you dissect things. Your real life examples of human aberration make for insightful learning about the human race. Only wish you had tagged your posts, Asperger, Beauty, Sociopathy, Serial Killers, Pen Pals, etc. would make it easier “to kill time while putting off work” .

Sherie

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Yes, the hypocrisy of the psychiatric community on the issue of autistics is striking. A couple things to note about that, though. First, a lot of those lists of famous people who had Aspergers seem to be compiled by advocates for Aspies, and so they claim a lot of accomplished, admirable people, just because they want their club to be larger and more successful. And the evidence for these peoples' autism is often quite thin, and, as you say, may easily have alternative explanations. Second, retrospective diagnoses are often used to insult people that psychiatrists -- or others -- don't like, so, for instance, I've seen Hitler analyzed in all sorts of ways that may or may not have been true.

Agreed, most psychiatrists have little feel for sociopathy. They go by what they've read in books about them, and you can't really understand them unless you've known a few and seen them in action.

John Craig said...

Sherie --
Thank you very much.

Well, maybe some day.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you're right about them trying to claim all the admirable people as their own. I've seen suggestions that Socrates was autistic because he didn't like large crowds. And yet he is famous for having been one of the most calm, rational people ever remembered - unlike Aspies who can fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. Google any famous philosopher or scientist and the word "Asperger's" (like "Nietzsche Asperger's") and you're guaranteed to find a whole bunch of people claiming him as an Aspie. To prove my point, I tried googling "Richard Feynman Asperger's" and came up with a positive result. You'd struggle to find a more extroverted, party-animal scientist than Feynman.

Psychiatrists are often ignorant and biased (I've read that they prefer to diagnose women with borderline PD than sociopathy even if the symptoms more closely resemble the latter). The liberal bias in psychiatry is irksome because it's a hindrance to the development of new, more effective treatments. Psychotherapy doesn't work for the majority of psychiatric conditions and yet psychiatrists remain obsessed with it. The idea that mental conditions are necessarily due to childhood trauma is Freudian nonsense. Likewise, there's a body of evidence that the antidepressants most commonly used today - the SSRI group - actually make patients worse (even the FDA says they can cause suicidal ideation). Try suggesting to a psychiatrist that the older MAOI class of antidepressants worked better and he will most likely dismiss you without bothering to look at the evidence. It infuriates me that treatments that have been proven to work are not used. Imagine how many hundred of lives could be saved if acutely suicidal people knew they could have quick pharmacological relief: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid-acting_antidepressant

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
I've also noticed that gays tend to be another group who like to claim attractive celebs as their own, whether or not it's true.

Yes, agree with you about psychiatrists. Maybe the best way to analyze them is too look at their self-interest: if psychotherapy doesn't work -- and I agree with you that in the vast majority of cases it doesn't -- then psychiatrists become nothing more than drug-dispensers. They would of course prefer to think of themselves as Sherlock Holmes's, ferreting out clues and solving psychological mysteries to everyone's satisfaction.

Plus they tend to be narrow thinkers, whose thoughts are circumscribed by whatever is fashionable in the field at the moment, as you point out with the SSRI vs. MAOI example. Sorry, but MAOI's are not in fashion.

gambino dellacroce said...

Given your background, I would be interested in your take on Tony Soprano's sessions with Dr Melfi in The Sopranos. Did you think he was well defined as an anti-social personality, etc. Towards the end of the series Dr Melfi is brought to the realisation by one of her colleagues that Tony uses the therapy as just another tool to sharpen his sociopathy as a gangster.

gambino dellacroce said...

As an aside, referring to your series on Aspergers, those with Aspergers are capable of mimicking NT behaviour in a clinical setting, demonstrating theoretical understanding and application, but not in a fluid real world situation.

John Craig said...

Gambino Dellacroce --
I saw one episode of the Sopranos once, but couldn't really get into it, so can't offer an opinion on that, sorry.

John Craig said...

Gambino Dellacroce --
Aspies definitely try to fake NT behavior all the time, I've seen that. But they usually give themselves away sooner or later; I would think the same would happen in a clinical setting, and that someone who was aware of the possibility of that particular diagnosis would be able to spot it.