Saturday, September 18, 2010

Diagnosing the crazy woman

A reader disagrees with me:
There are some severe personality disorders, like borderline personality disorder (BPD), that are not easy to detect. Most BPs are very good at hiding their disorder form judges, mediators, evaluators, etc. They will even hide it from their own therapists and psychiatrists if they feel it's in their best interests. They can put on a mask to hide it when they want.

The problem is that once they are comfortable, in their own homes, and they don't feel it's necessary to hide it, the true personality comes out and it is very damaging to children... both emotionally and physically, depending on the degree. ...

I know it's not medical proof, but check out the movie "The 3 Faces of Eve" sometime... even though it deals with multiple personality disorder, it was very similar to what some of us see when dealing with someone with another personality disorder.
The movie is based on a book that supposedly told a true story of a woman with a split personality. Such a condition is very rare.
It is nothing to do with schizophrenia, which is the preferred term for someone who is crazy.

I think that BPD was originally meant to be a term to describe people who on the border between being crazy and normal, and who do not necessarily need treatment. Now it has its own definition.

The movie was uncritically accepted as truthful, until it was recently debunked:
Then in 1998, several publications exposed the case as a sham. Robert Rieber at John Jay College of Criminal Justice listened to the Sybil tapes and concluded that Wilbur had induced the personalities in the patient. Her sessions included hypnosis and sodium pentothal and her technique was to name different emotional states as personalities. She would not allow Sybil to protest. Rieber realized that no evidence for the reported abuse had been found.

Then Peter Swales, a historian of psychoanalysis, discovered Sybil's true identity and located her. He discovered she bore little resemblance to the patient presented in the book. "It was the case," said Swales, "that Shirley was only a multiple personality in the full-blown sense in the psychoanalytic setting." Newsweek and The New Yorker followed up these revelations with startling stories.
I guess that I've given my reader some hope of smoking out his wife as a BPD. But it just sounds like a medieval witch-hunt to me. When he says that "BPs are very good at hiding their disorder", it just sounds like a medieval prosecutor saying that witches are good at concealing their pact with the devil.

I don't doubt that there are a lot of crazy moms out there. I do doubt that they can be smoked out by some silly issuing a court order for the mom to take a 175-question true/false questionnaire.

If BPs are so harmful, and if these psychologists can reliably screen them out, then why don't we just give this test to everyone in the adult population? While we are at it, we could give them lie detector tests, diabetes tests, and whatever else some highly-paid professionals can lobby for.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the movie (it was made in the 50s) is a bit extreme, and I don't doubt there are inaccuracies. But I've seen a lot of similarities in Eve's behavior, early in the movie, to when I was living with a BP spouse.

There are a number of good books on Borderline Personality Disorder, and it is an illness that is recognized and defined in the DSM. Diagnosis is supposed to be having 5 or more of these characteristics:
* Intense fear of abandonment
* A pattern of unstable relationships
* Unstable self-image or sense of identity
* Impulsive and self-destructive behaviors
* Suicidal behavior or self-injury
* Wide mood swings
* Chronic feelings of emptiness
* Anger-related problems, such as frequently losing your temper or having physical fights
* Periods of paranoia and loss of contact with reality

Obviously it is very vague. I think that having a more "scientific" test makes more sense than not, even if it is a series of true/false questions.

Aside from having a blood or DNA test to "smoke out" such illnesses, how would you propose they be diagnosed? Especially when the one who is ill does not want a diagnosis that could hurt his or her case?

It's hard to imagine for those that have not dealt with someone like this... someone who can seem perfectly normal on the outside when they want to, interact with others, smile, etc. But all the while hiding an intense emotional storm inside, and treating it behind closed doors with drugs, alcohol, and self-abuse.

George said...

Assuming that everything you say is correct, I would have no confidence in the legal system to effectively deal with your problem. But good luck trying, and let us know what happens.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, which is why I see the evaluation you posted as a ray of hope, not a terrible thing. I do see how it could be used in the wrong way as well, though. It's a fine line.

Here's a more detailed explanation of BPD:

They also have a lot of links and reference materials, including a book on divorcing someone with BPD and what to expect. I found that info very helpful, but discouraging at the same time.

I'll keep you posted. It's been a bit over a year now and things are going okay so far, as I took a very assertive initial approach, and have been on the defense since.

George said...

Glad the declaration was useful. That psychologist would probably be very annoyed to learn that it was posted and criticized on this blog, but I believe that the public ought to know what is going on in the courts. In your case, you have no way of knowing what your legal options are unless you have access to this sort of info.