Worrying signs Putin has lost it

Torbay Weekly

Has Putin lost it? It is impossible to make a psychiatric diagnosis from selected clips on the media but there are worrying signs.

An antisocial personality disorder is a long-term condition which involves a failure to conform to social norms, repeated lying and conning others, impulsivity, aggressiveness and irritability. They have a reckless disregard for themselves or other people’s safety and a lack of remorse. I have seen these people when working at the police station or in prisons. They can be charming when it is in their interest but are extremely arrogant. Scans have shown that the “prefrontal cortex”, the part of the brain which is our conscience, is less active. They do not respond to other’s emotions.

It is commoner in men who are often intelligent and see themselves as victims, accepting no responsibility for their own, antisocial, behaviour.

Characteristically, they act on impulse and show a lack of remorse, shallow emotions, a grandiose sense of self-worth and a lack long term goals. They leave a ‘chain of chaos’ behind them.

Their relationships are usually superficial; they need to be dominant and so friendships only last up to about eighteen months and they have an exaggerated opinion of themselves.

For all of us any stress triggers the autonomic nervous system. This leads to anxiety, and increased heart rate and blood pressure as well as sweating. This is preparation for “fight or flight”, important in any animal under threat.

People with antisocial personality disorders need a higher level of stimulation to fire the autonomic nervous system Because they need more stimulation, to fire anxiety and excitement, they are often brave. Hitler won the Iron Cross in the First World War.

The lack of emotions also makes lying easier. They may end up believing their own propaganda however illogical.

It is the need for more stimulation, to generate excitement, which can lead to substance misuse. We all need excitement and stimulation but most people achieve this through work or recreation such as watching films, video games, watching or playing sport or engaging in music. However, these people need a larger stimulus, which can mean strong street drugs or extreme sports.

This self-belief lies and bravery which can make them appealing to a population in a time of crisis. They appear as a strong leader but a strong leader may try to remain in power indefinitely. Others are too frightened to oppose the all-powerful leader.

It is impossible to say whether Putin has an antisocial personality disorder but he does tick several of the boxes. Sitting at the end of a long table and not allowing anyone to come near while refusing to listen to advisers is certainly strange and worrying behaviour in any leader.

Although it is not possible to diagnose from the history books many of these features can been seen if we study Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. There seems little doubt that Putin also shares this arrogance and lack of remorse.

Apart from King George III I do not know of any English leaders who suffered from psychiatric conditions although it is unlikely the news would have been made public and so has not made the history books. Henry VIII’s behaviour comes close.

If he does have this personality disorder any negotiation will be difficult. He will not look for compromise but only complete victory. Any movement from the other side will be seen as a sign of weakness.

Political leaders are human and, like the rest of us, can fall ill. The important point for a democracy such as here or the USA is to have enough checks and balances in place so that the ill leader does not create dangerous situations. We all hope that, if Putin is ill, there are others to control the situation although this is not easy in a dictatorship.