Borderline personality disorder is alive and well on the internet these days, what with the shenanigans of Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan. Googling Mel and borderline just now, I found lots of links, including a diagnostic blog entry on the Huffington Post by a psychiatrist and author named Mark Goulston.
In Mel’s case, it’s the rage that caused me to make the connection; some online diagnosticians point to narcissistic personality disorder instead. Ms. Lohan’s major BPD symptoms are substance abuse and general emotional disintegration.
This diagnosing at a distance interests me — looking at a person’s behavior at some remove and teasing out the symptoms, like scholars who theorize about Jane Austen’s final illness or wonder whether Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression, Graves disease and/or hyperthyroidism. People commonly assert that Princess Diana, Joan Crawford, and Marilyn Monroe were BPD sufferers. Also Mary Todd Lincoln! Blogger Bon Dobbs speculates as well about Courtney Love, Amy Winehouse, and Britney Spears, among others.
One recent study maintains that Darth Vader suffered from BPD!
These speculations may seem both silly and unseemly, but I have to acknowledge that I’ve done the same thing. I’ve diagnosed my mother posthumously. As I was writing my book about my mom’s BPD, a little voice in my head kept whispering I wasn’t allowed to do this. I wasn’t a professional.
Interestingly, no expert who’s read the book has expressed any doubt about my “diagnosis.” I’ve received no negative feedback, thus far, on this point. I don’t know if that means my insights are correct or that I’ve stacked the deck.
What I know is that when I experienced the epiphany — connecting the disorder to my mom’s irrationality, unhappiness, and hurtfulness — it felt revelatory. It felt right. It helped me, ultimately and gradually, forgive her.
What do you think about diagnosing at a distance? Any other celebrity candidates? Naomi Campbell, anyone?