Creating the ‘Prime Mentalist’

5:03 pm - September 10th 2009

by Laurie Penny    

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So. Rumour has it [well, Guido has it] that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is taking a course of mood-stabilising anti-depressants. Several blogs and broadsheet columnists of all stripes have gone public with the allegation that Gordon Brown is taking “heavy duty antidepressants known as MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors)”.

This rumour, along with what Guido reminds us are “the stories of rages, flying Nokias, smashed laser printers, tables kicked over and crying Downing Street secretaries subjected to foul-mouthed tirades”, have led many in the national press to suggest or imply that Brown’s leadership is inherently undermined by his alleged mental health difficulties, as well as by the medication he supposedly takes for those difficulties.

We have no way of substantiating this rumor, but let’s for a moment run with the assumption that Brown is taking anti-depressants.

My response? Good. Great. If the Prime Minister of Britain is suffering from depression or some other mental health condition, which given the stresses of his current position seems highly likely, then I’m glad he’s getting treatment for it. I’m glad he’s man enough to admit that he might need help.

Anti-depressants are used by millions of people in this country, although the stigma attached means that many of us don’t talk about it, and in almost all cases barring those of people detained against their will in institutions, the process is both voluntary and helpful. It takes courage to go to the doctor and say that you have a problem, even if you’re not a leading political figure who’s constantly in the public eye.

I only wish more politicians would follow his example – after all, it’s not as if mental health difficulties in government are unheard of.

Some of the greatest leaders the Western world has ever seen had serious mental health difficulties. Winston Churchill was plagued by crippling depression, which he referred to as ‘black dog’ and treated with that much less effective anti-depressant, booze.

Lincoln was also chronically depressed and anxious. The Time To Change campaign has hilighted these examples, along with other famous figures who had mental health difficulties, such as Florence Nightingale and Charles Darwin.

Last year, a Mind investigation found that large numbers of politicians and staff were forced to hide mental health problems, with 19% of MPs, 17% of Peers and 45% of staff reporting personal experience of mental health difficulties. And in 2001, the Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik outed himself as a person with depression, and was subsequently elected for a second term.

So is the ‘Prime Mentalist’, as he has become known, a person who has mental health problems? It certainly seems likely . Would that fact, by definition, make him unfit to lead the country? Absolutely not.

Not only have plenty of great statesmen and women had mental health problems, the experience of overcoming those problems and playing to one’s strengths may even be an advantage in politics – as it is for many people who, like myself, battle mental ill health.

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About the author
Laurie Penny is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a journalist, blogger and feminist activist. She is Features Assistant at the Morning Star, and blogs at Penny Red and for Red Pepper magazine.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Health ,Media ,Westminster

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Reader comments

Hey, at least he’s not off his nut on Benzedrine like Eden was during Suez…

I think I may agree with you on this one Laurie, which would be a first. So there you go.

Winston Churchill was plagued by crippling depression, which he referred to as ‘black dog’ and treated with that much less effective anti-depressant, booze.

Warning: this fact may conveniently be ignored by most Tories.

3 – Hell, Churchill was effectively crippled by the end of his Premiership, what with the strokes and everything. Could no longer control cabinet, could no longer read briefing papers, left everything to subordinates.

There are better reasons for Brown leaving no.10 than any depression he might be feeling.

5. Fellow Traveller

Not much has been written about The Ibogaine Effect as a serious factor in the Presidential Campaign, but toward the end of the Wisconsin primary race — about a week before the vote — word leaked out that some of Muskie’s top advisors had called in a Brazilian doctor who was said to be treating the candidate with “some kind of strange drug” that nobody in the press corps had ever heard of.

It had been common knowledge for many weeks that Humphrey was using an exotic brand of speed known as Wallot . . . and it had long been whispered that Muskie was into something very heavy, but it was hard to take the talk seriously until I heard about the appearance of a mysterious Brazilian doctor. That was the key.

I immediately recognized The Ibogaine Effect — from Muskie’s tearful breakdown on the flatbed truck in New Hampshire, the delusions and altered thinking that characterized his campaign in Florida, and finally the condition of “total rage” that gripped him in Wisconsin.

There was no doubt about it: The Man from Maine had turned to massive doses of Ibogaine as a last resort. The only remaining question was “when did he start?” But nobody could answer this one, and I was not able to press the candidate himself for an answer because I was permanently barred from the Muskie campaign after that incident on the “Sunshine Special” in Florida . . . and that scene makes far more sense now than it did at the time. Muskie has always taken pride in his ability to deal with hecklers; he has frequently challenged them, calling them up to the stage in front of big crowds and then forcing the poor bastards to debate with him in a blaze of TV lights.

But there was none of that in Florida. When the Boohoo began grabbing at his legs and screaming for more gin, Big Ed went all to pieces . . . which gave rise to speculation. among reporters familiar with his campaign style in ’68 and ’70, that Muskie was not himself. It was noted, among other things, that he had developed a tendency to roll his eyes wildly during TV interviews, that his thought patterns had become strangely fragmented, and that not even his closest advisors could predict when he might suddenly spiral off into babbling rages, or neocomatose funks.

In restrospect, however, it is easy to see why Muskie fell apart on that caboose platform in the Miami train station. There he was — far gone in a bad Ibogaine frenzy — suddenly shoved out in a rainstorm to face a sullen crowd and some kind of snarling lunatic going for his legs while he tried to explain why he was “the only Democrat who can beat Nixon.”

It is entirely conceivable — given the known effects of Ibogaine — that Muskie’s brain was almost paralyzed by hallucinations at the time; that he looked out at that crowd and saw gila monsters instead of people, and that his mind snapped completely when he felt something large and apparently vicious clawing at his legs. We can only speculate on this, because those in a position to know have flatly refused to comment on rumors concerning the Senator’s disastrous experiments with Ibogaine. I tried to find the Brazilian doctor on election Bight in Milwaukee, but by the time the polls closed he was long gone. One of the hired bimbos in Milwaukee’s Holiday Inn headquarters said a man with fresh welts on his head had been dragged out the side door and put on a bus to Chicago, but we were never able to confirm this. . .

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72
Hunter S. Thompson

Not to mention a gin soaked Richard Milhous Nixon getting down on his knees with Henry Kissinger before Abe Lincoln’s portrait in the White House and demanding that they pray together.

6 – Or Harold Wilson claiming to be a big fat spider in the corner of the room, and advising journalists to go and kick a blind man on Charing Cross Road.

…Wilson had Alzheimer’s when he said that, shortly before his resignation.

7 – Is that official now? It’s been rumoured for ages, but I’ve never seen it confirmed. Horrible thing to happen to a chap as bright as Wilson was.

I remember reading this post: by Chris Dillow last year which suggested there might be some evidence that depression contributed to better decision-making (except in severe cases).

That 45% staff figure is incredibly high. The 19% and 17% ones aren’t that surprising, but 45%, wow.

#So is the ‘Prime Mentalist’, as he has become known, a person who has mental health problems? It certainly seems likely . Would that fact, by definition, make him unfit to lead the country? Absolutely not.#

Would having mental health issues make him unfit to lead the country? er…possibly not…undecided. But am I alone in thinking that, ideally, I’d rather have a leader with a clean bill of mental health? Does that make me an elitist or chauvinist to some degree?

Is he unfit to lead the country? Yes…undoubtedly. Possibly due to an ongoing personality disorder which might well be totally unconnected to his current depression.

Has he induced depression in others? Undoubtedly.

In short..Brown is a mental health catastrophe. He has probably induced more depression than any politician I can think of since Thatcher…(unless you’re including Texans who hear voices ). It now seems he’s depressed himself..presumably because of all the depression he’s induced in others. He’s pathologically obsessive, self-obsessed, inflexible, deluded…seems to believe he’s some kinda left-wing politician FFS and socially inadequate. If he wasn’t PM and turned up at the job centre they’d put him on invalidity benefit, then give him a social worker and a six monthly case review. Do I think he ought to be running the country? On reflection…I wouldn’t trust the mad bastard to run a bath.

Can’t someone send him to recuperate somewhere and let John McDonell have a go?

Surely Paul ‘drunk driver’ Staines is the last person in the world who ought to be insinuating that somebody’s use of mood- or perception-altering substances might result in their posing a risk to others.

Other than that pretty juvenile point, this says it all – wonderful post.

As someone a bit cuckoo myself, the issue isn’t whether Brown suffers from mental illness but whether it is managed. It took me six years after diagnosis before I found medication which was effective and had few side effects. There are no ‘magic bullets’.

You can’t seperate mental illness from who people ARE either. Depression can be linked to OCD, which might make someone ‘thorough’, or ‘prudent’ if you like, but also controling.

‘As someone a bit cuckoo myself, the issue isn’t whether Brown suffers from mental illness but whether it is managed.’

That’s exactly it. Which is having a go at him for taking antidepressants is so low!

14. Silent Hunter

Winston Churchill was plagued by crippling depression, which he referred to as ‘black dog’ and treated with that much less effective anti-depressant, booze.

Warning: this fact may conveniently be ignored by most Tories.

Yes but he was still capable of winning a F**KING WAR now wasn’t he.

What is Brown capable of?

EH? . . . Sunny?

Apart from “losing” an economy. What is so far a £26,000 DEBT for every man, woman and child in this country, thanks to Labours mismanagement of the economy.

And let’s not forget George Osborne’s ‘autistic’ jibe from a few years ago.

@14, what about the North African campaign? What if he hadn’t been in the way and the western front had been opened earlier?

There are too many counterfactuals to say yeah but but but Browns shit Churchill rocked.

That’s not really under discussion here. Most here think he’s shit (less shit that Cameron and Osbourne who would have us following Ireland</a<'s shit policies).

The point is this Prime Mentalist stuff is low down disgusting and a bit counter-productive.

‘Yes but he was still capable of winning a F**KING WAR now wasn’t he.’

But a hopeless peace time leader. Having an alky in charge is pretty handy when you are up for a ruck with your neighbours.

Churchill was perfectly capable as Prime Minister in 1940-1945, however he suffered strokes in the period 1951-1953 and by 1952, was probably not sufficiently fit to do the job. Eden was unwell in 1955-56 and taking medication which may have contributed to the disasterous decision over Suez. If Brown’s mental capacity is reduced because of his illness and/or medication he should stand down. Eden and Suez may be example which illustrate’s the dangers of Prime Minister who is not fit enough to do the job.

Considering the stakes at issue, it’s a truly terrifying insight that President Ronald Reagan succumbed to Alzheimer’s. Long before that became evident, Nancy, his wife, used to commission horoscopes to determine the most propitious times for important decisions. Little wonder then that, by accounts, the Soviet leadership in the early 1980s worked themselves into believing America might initiate a pre-emptive nuclear strike.

There was Reagan’s little “joke” when preparing for a broadcast in his campaign for re-election in 1984:

“On August 11, 1984, United States President Ronald Reagan, while running for re-election, was preparing to make his weekly Saturday address on National Public Radio. As a sound check prior to the address, Reagan made the following joke to the radio technicians:

‘My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.'”'s_%22We_begin_bombing_in_five_minutes%22_joke

Fortunately, the test wasn’t broadcast.

Published accounts of internal animosities and rivalries in the Nixon administration also make terrifying reading given the scale of international conflicts then, for example:

“Mental Health. Nixon confided to Haldeman, according to the unpublished diaries, that he was ‘quite shocked’ at how Kissinger had ‘ranted and raved’ at Alexander Haig during a 1971 phone conversation, telling Haig that he ‘had handled everything wrong,’ and calling U.N. ambassador George H. W. Bush ‘an idiot.’ Nixon believed that something more serious was going on, and it is known that he once mused to Ehrlichman that Kissinger might need psychiatric help. The subject of Kissinger’s stability came up again in 1972. Having read The Will to Live, by Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, his former psychotherapist, Nixon recommended it to Haldeman as providing a road map to what Nixon, according to Haldeman’s unpublished diary notes, called ‘K’s suicidal complex.’ Haldeman went on: ‘He also wants to be sure I make extensive memoranda about K’s mental processes and so on, for his file.'”

I sometimes wonder how we survived all that.

Brown’s bad, but seriously, Suez????

Also Churchill was a staunch defender of Empire, if he’d been a bit less obsessed with North Africa the Nazi, might have been defeated before, or not. It’s really quite hard to tell if Churchill was the best possible leader…

It’s the virulence of those attacks that is actually, forgive the pun, quite depressing. Politically speaking, I wish Gordon Brown resigned tomorrow and retired from politics altogether.
But I couldn’t care less what sort of medication he’s on.
But this kind of personal attacks (not to mention that they’re unsubstantiated) are just low – in line with the horrible tabloid culture that is turning us all into cannibals with the attention span of a goldfish- ultimately another contributing factor towards Yob Nation really.

22. Alisdair Cameron

You shouldn’t judge Brown by the fact that he may have mental health problems, but neither can he use them as any kind of excuse or mitigation for his dreadful performance as premier.
Look, Laurie, you know as well as I do (I’ve both used MH services and work in them) that service users deserve understanding but also (like any other individual in society) have to take responsibility. If Brown has been unwell, then he should not have been making critical decisions of great import whilst unwell . If he himself lacks insight then it sadly falls on those around him to take responsibility, which (if this is all true…q. a big if) hasn’t been the case. A history of mental health problems should ever be held against someone, but if he doesn’t take responsibility for his condition and manage it, then he shouldn’t be managing the country too.
I have to say, I don’t much care for the rumours, simply because of the levels of ignorance, prejudice and stigma they reveal many commentators to have.

23. Chris Baldwin

Urgh, who reads Paul Staines anyway?

Alisdair @21 is spot on.

25. the a&e charge nurse

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are sometimes referred to as the last (pharmacological) line of treatment for depression (usually an SSRI or tricyclic is offered first).

This class (MAOIs) may provide a clue to both duration and severity of symptoms.

However I find it virtually impossible to believe that anybody could suffer true features of biological depression yet continue to function in a job that is scrutinised to the extent that the PMs is.

“My response? Good. Great. If the Prime Minister of Britain is suffering from depression or some other mental health condition, which given the stresses of his current position seems highly likely, then I’m glad he’s getting treatment for it. I’m glad he’s man enough to admit that he might need help.”

Well, actually, he’s not admitted it (if true) has he?

Did find this very amusing though, the previous LC article starts:

“The Liberal Democrats launched an online campaign yesterday encouraging people to report adverts featuring heavily airbrushed images….”

As someone who has actually been a PR bod for a politcal party I’d say that yes “Xcuse me, is your boss mad?” “No, no, the drugs are working” could be considered “airbrushing”.

(Yes, yes, forgive me, depression is not madness, etc, etc etc, it’s simply the conjunction that amused me so much.)

27. Fellow Traveller

…calling U.N. ambassador George H. W. Bush ‘an idiot.’

My respect for Nixon rises a fraction.

Nixon believed that something more serious was going on, and it is known that he once mused to Ehrlichman that Kissinger might need psychiatric help. The subject of Kissinger’s stability came up again in 1972.

Kissinger did allegedly say ‘Anyone in Washington who isn’t paranoid must be crazy’.

Interested parties could look up the life story of CIA director James Jesus Angleton for confirmation.

US President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) was virtually incapacitated by a stroke in October 1919 and never fully recovered. His wife and personal physician, Dr Grayson, effectively ran the presidency until his term of office expired in 1921:

The LibDems definitely need medicating over the airbrush nonsense.

30. Alisdair Cameron

Just realised in my post at 21^^, it should say never, that is to say …a history of MH problems should never be held against someone…

“a history of MH problems should never be held against someone…”

Not even a medical history of psychopathic behaviour?

“Not even a medical history of psychopathic behaviour?”

No, you get to head up a bank with that.

ba boom, tish.

I agree that the need for medication shouldn’t be held against a PM in virtually all cases. As to where this story is coming from, despite the prominent blog on Guido, it’s not him running with/making this story. Until I see evidence to the contrary, the ‘Prime Mentalist’ thing seems to be coming from within Labour.

(obv the term ‘prime mentalist’ is an interntet thing, but the basis for it comes from rumours spread by Labour types).

Grand post Laurie.

35. Alisdair Cameron

@ Bob B. Depends slightly, but the key issue is management. There is no definition of psychopathic behaviour per se. There are traits and indicators that may lead to a diagnosis of psychopathic personality disorder. An incidence of psychopathic behaviour may be ‘committed’ by someone who is not subsequently given the aforementioned diagnosis. Furthermore, an incidence of psychopathic behaviour of the dramatic kind I think you maybe have in mind would typically be a crime then leading to forensic MH services. The issues then become rehabilitation for the crime (as with any crime), and treatability/management of the diagnosis.So the MH history should not be held against an individual, but their criminality may.

I agree that mental health should not necessarily be something that must be hidden – although like all health issues it is personal and the decision to “out” should be taken by the afflicted not the media.

The question here is whether it affects performance in a job, which applies to a truck driver as much as a Prime Minister. Sudden outbursts and mood swings when under stress are obviously not a good sign for someone in a stressfull job. Not sure I quite share Laurie’s enthusiasm for pills as the solution though. Anti-depressants don’t actually work as mood stabiliser after about 3 months (your synapses get used to the artificially raised level of seratonin and reduce it back to baseline levels), the main affect after that is as a placebo/mild tranquiliser and they are chronically over prescribed for that reason.

The evidence is that they are most effective when accompanied by a programme of therapy and/or a change of lifestyle. People do need to accept that their mood is a natural expression of their inner state and that in the long term you cannot fix one without fixing the other.

One other thing – IIRC MAOIs are very old fashioned, with heavy duty side effects, and are normally used to stabilise moderate/severe depression with mania, most people are given SSRIs (generic versions of Prozac) nowadays.

Oh, and the other story:

Only once has a man stood up in Parliament and said “I’m not mad”! And I’ve my discharge document here to prove it!”

Yes, yes, yes, I know…..

but neither can he use them as any kind of excuse or mitigation for his dreadful performance as premier.

His dreadful performance as a premier is irrelevant then and shouldn’t be used as a stick to ridicule someone. That’s surely the point? I don’t remember Brown issuing a statement saying that his performance should be excused for reasons of mental health.

39. Alisdair Cameron

I don’t remember Brown issuing a statement saying that his performance should be excused for reasons of mental health.

That’s not what I said or meant Sunny: my point as explicitly made separates out the two issues of accountability for one’s deeds, which cannot and should not be escaped regardless of mental healthiness or otherwise and that of being judged for the fact of having or having had a MH problem. It’s all hypothetical, but were he to have a MH problem, it might be spun to get sympathy (and to unseat him at the same time) and to somehow excuse his poor premiership/labour’s poor performances, and that would be wrong, because MH explains one’s actions but does not provide an excuse/escape clause.
His dreadful performance as premier is worthy of condemnation as it stands, MH problem or not, but were he to have a MH problem the fact of the problem shouldn’t be condemned (though its management, maybe).

Not sure I can post links on my phone, but (hopefully) here’s the excellent Raymond Tallis on the ‘My Brain Made Me Do It’ fallacy:

Difficult to believe that he is taking MAOI’s. I started working in psychiatry in 1968, and they were regarded as a bit old hat and tricky to deal with then, due to the dietary restrictions, infringement of which can lead to a rapid hypertensive crisis. I’ve met one psychiatrist who still used them, and he was a well-known expert in use of them in conjunction with more modern anti-depressants. They are indeed, as someone said above, the antidepressant of last resort. MAOI-takers are unable to eat a variety of foods rich in tyramine – every psychiatric nurse or medic could reel them off for exam purposes or as a curio: cheese, particularly Gruyere, if I remember rightly, pickled herring, and presumably other pickled fish, broad beans, Marmite, Vegemite, Bovril, certain wines, such as Chianti. Having said that, I always remember an actor in a long-running soap who made a very rapid and significant recovery after starting a combination of MAOI’s under the care of the above-mentioned expert. He once went up to the top of the building to kill himself during a break in recording.
Brown clearly has some minor personality problems which might be less visible if they weren’t augmented by the stress deriving from his being a clear example of the Peter Principle.

“a clear example of the Peter Principle.”

Best point made yet.

According to Wiki, the Peter Principle is:

The Peter Principle is the principle that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.”

And the corollary is that all useful work is done by those who have not yet risen to their level of incompetence.

45. Alisdair Cameron

By the way, there is a lot of allusion to Brown’s mental wellness or not coming from Labourites, e.g. John Harris’ last piece in the Guardian, much of John Rentoul’s output etc.
I suspect plain nastiness and factionalist attempts to jettison the man, but to collude with the spreading of falsehoods is wrong. Doubly wrong if the falsehoods are about something for which nobody should be criticised per se, but is being stereotypically stigmatised by the rumour-mongers.
If they aren’t falsehoods, then all my earlier points above come into play (it’s wrong to vilify for the fact of having a MH problem: criticism is only valid when it is poorly managed). Neither scenario reflects well on the party.


The man is incapable of making a decision, incapable of facing up to and dealing with failure, he is a mass of physical and mental tics, a stumbling shuffling disaster in every sense, he *hides* for god’s sake when things go wrong – hides, like a child – and his only other political tactic is to smear and defame; and this man is a good leader eh? His mental and character problems aren’t a problem? Sheesh.

IF he was effective, as Churchill was, you could forgive him anything, overlook anything – but he is *not*.

And Churchill was just depressed – Brown is barking mad.

BTW – these leaks and rumours may be being spread by right wing bloggers, but I can tell you for a fact that they are coming from inside government.

not inside *labour* – inside government.

Any mention of Churchill is wingnut flypaper, I find.

I see, is he the one whose name must not be taken in vain?

Let’s put it this way – if someone drew a cartoon of him with a bomb in his top hat, you’d rapidly find out what ‘political correctness’ is actually about.

What about a picutre of him with a top hat made of eugenics?

Laurie – its not the depression I have an issue with – its the Aspergers in a Prime Minister that I think is debilitating. If you cannot read social cues – how can you manage a country?

Lilliput You are an idiot aspergers is not a problem, you are a bigot, aspergers is a male trait. People with aspergers have more male brains,. which means they have more strategic brains. In the army they choose people to be generals based on how strategic their brains are. Having social skills is not important if you planning a war.
Who needs a pm who has great social skills but no strategic ability?
Why do you need read social clues to manage a country compared to strategic ability. I do not think you understand aspergers syndrome. An intelligent perosn with aspergers syndrome would be intelligent enough to learn social clues and would have a powerful strategic mind which i think is better
I think the best sort of PM would be someone with aspergers syndrome but clever enough to learn some social clues.


Obviously, the focus on whether Brown is or is not suffering from depression and whether this might affect his ability to lead (which has been going swimmingly so far..) is mere political points scoring.

The only interesting point is that it brings into focus our general tabloidesque shock and horror at the idea of people not being “normal” – especially the man on the front page of our newspapers every day. Yeah, mental health issues can affect your job performance – so can having a cold, children, a bad day, a tendency to bore people to death or a Cliff Richard fixation… People are multifaceted and unfixed – there is no single tick box that can tell us if we’re “capable” or not, or likely to be in a couple of days time.

Mr Brown can be decried for a multitude of sins – by limiting the field to his mental health, think of all the fun we’re missing out on.

@ 52 You’re absolutely right. Aspergers is a myth. It’s a label given by (usually female) teachers to male children to “explain” the fact that they prefer not to spend all day emoting and empathising.
In adulthood it’s a means of marinalising men whose brains are one end of the male/female configuration scale and consequently excel at systmatising whilst being less good at the “social skills” that are apparently so crucial to modern existence. Aspergers, like all Autistic spectrum disorders, is simply a trendy label which has no agreed clinical diagnosis and no agreed treatment, in other words it doesn’t exist except in the minds of feminist educationalists and psychologists who use it to try and make intelligent men seem inadequate in some arbitrary way. Einstenin would now be judged to have Aspergers, but it didn’t seem to do him any harm did it ?

@52 – neither do you. Aspergers is not about having a ‘male brain’. For fuck’s sake.

“Aspergers is not about having a ‘male brain’. For fuck’s sake.”

Simon Baron Cohen, the leading autism researcher in hte country, would disagree with you their I think.

Matt I agree. Also i have just looked at a list of famous people with aspergers it has Bill gates is on it. So should Bill Gates have been banned from working under their logic. I think men and women can run countries. But as you say alot of the talk about aspergers is just a way of putting a different sort of person down. I would be against dismirimation of women and men.

Diagnostic Criteria for Asperger Syndrome.

Are Matt and “The Truther” saying that these criteria apply to all men?

@Matt Munro – do you strive to come up with these ridiculous conspiracy theories, or does it come naturally?

@ 55 Brains are organised on a male/female continuum. In laymens terms people at the female end tend to emaphise more, people at the male end to systematise more (which is why women tend to be worse at reading maps than men, but better at reading people, and vice versa) “Aspergers” is indicative of a brain organisation at the far male end of that scale.
As someone has cited above, Mr BC is one of the worlds leading authorities and would disagree with you.

@ 59 No Neil, I have a psychology degree (a proper BSc, not the feminised BA) and have probably forgotten more about neuroscience than you will ever know.

I meet all those diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s, and I don’t have Asperger’s.

Exactly “Aspergers” = you are a bloke with a blokes brain. Being male is now a syndrome. Imagine the fuss if someone tried to turn “spends all day chatting” into a syndrome.

Unfortunately I don’t like football or eat pies so I don’t meet the full diagnostic criteria for being a bloke.

“Aspergers” = you are a bloke with a blokes brain

Funny, because I know plenty of blokes who clearly don’t have Aspergers. I also know some blokes who do. Yes, you could describe Aspergers as “indicative of a brain organisation at the far male end of that scale”, but you then seem to be confusing “extreme” with “typical”, or even “universal”. People who suffer the most severe form of Aspergers are almost completely unable to interpret facial expressions and body language – surely you don’t think that’s typical of men?

“@ 59 No Neil, I have a psychology degree (a proper BSc, not the feminised BA) and have probably forgotten more about neuroscience than you will ever know.”

Well congratulations, but could you answer the question I actually asked?

On second thoughts, don’t bother – I think we can all see where you’re coming from.

“Being male is now a syndrome”

No, that’s not quite the way it works.

“Brains are organised on a male/female continuum”

Not even quite that. SBC has noted that the human brain seems to run along a continuum from systemizing to empathizing. We tend to regard systemizing behaviour as male and empathizing as female and thus the use of “male brain” etc. It’s also true that the distribution seems to show more men with the systemizing brain type than the empathizing.

No, this isn’t simply a social construct (although the use of “male brain” as a description may be) for we can actually see differences in the average male and average female brain. And when we look at those who are atypical (say, a highly systemising female) we see the same brain structures as other systemizers, not the same brain structures as empathizers whether male or female.

The mechanism in development is thought to be the bolus of testosterone that male fetus’ get and female don’t: or rather, don’t normally but if they do will develop the systemizing brain type. And if a male fetus doesn’t get that bolus at the right time then it too will develop the empathizing.

Autism (and the lesser cousin, Aspie’s) is, in this scenario, an extreme form of the systemizing brain.”Extreme male” if you prefer. Note that this can occur in either sex but is much more common in males. There are also “extreme female” types but this is very much less common (probably something to do with XX being more robust than XY).

Sure, you can reject all of this if you wish but that’s roughly the outline that our leading autism researcher thinks it all is about.

I hesitate to do this as I write there for money (I know, filthy lucre!) but there’s a set of SBC’s tests if anyone’s interested in where on the spectrum they might be.

Note that the important numbers are not the absolute levels you get, but the difference between S and E.

@ 64 I’m not confusing them, you are. As I said “typical” is irrelevant, it’s at one end of a continnum of behaviours which overlap between by men and women and are exhibited, to varying degrees by both men and women..
And being “unable to interpret facial expressions and body language” is common to many forms of mental illness, incluing schitzophrenia (for which it’s one of the defining characterstics). As I said Aspergers has no agreed, discrete set of criteria and no agreed treatment. It is therefore not a mental illness.
@ 66 Why would I reject it. It’s what I said just with a bit of added sanctomony (as usual) and some biology. It doesn’t go down well on LC because it is evidence of (shock horror) innate differemce between men and women. I still maintain that it’s use in an early educational setting is a way of marginliasing male abilities but I wouldn’t expect anyone here to agree with that.

68. Laurie Penny

But then, how do you guys explain the fact that so many women, too, have aspergers and/or autism? [I meet those criteria, and I was a lady last time I looked].

If you want to classify brains as ‘male’ or ‘female’, fair enough – as long as you recognise that very far from all men have what you’d define as a ‘male’ brain, and far from all women have a ‘female’ brain.

69. Laurie Penny

It should also be noted that women who display the same symptoms are far more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness such as schizo-affective disorder or borderline personality disorder as opposed to aspergers, and given treatment accordingly. This is partly because, as you’ve demonstrated, aspergers is seen as a ‘male’ disorder which does not need to be treated, and borderline as a ‘female’ disorder, which does. Just throwing some facts into the mix 🙂

“If you want to classify brains as ‘male’ or ‘female’, fair enough – as long as you recognise that very far from all men have what you’d define as a ‘male’ brain, and far from all women have a ‘female’ brain.”

As above, that is exactly the theory

I tactfully recommend to all readers an early reading of the Wikipedia entry for (the truly terrifying): Rosenhan experiment

There’s a video about the experiment here:

Laurie Penny
I wrote that in capitals just to make sure people noticed.

Truther, along with accepting people with aspergers as they are, is it ok with you if we try and find out more about how we can help the be unable to read social cues so they don’t feel like killing themselves because they are so lonely.

I never said people with Aspergers could not be successful – I just said it needs to be in a field where reaching people on an emotional level isnt a requirement.

Matt – where did you get your degree – online?

Lilliput How does firing people from jobs they can do help people, it is a major cause of depression to do that?
One of comments in your link says that one of the men who killed himself was upset at being discriminated against. So your claim is they should be banned from any top job as a result. So your argument to stop them from killing themselves at being discriminated against, is to discriminate them from more jobs.
That is oppressing them and pretending, it is for their own good. And then giving them the very thing that upsets them.
You are very manipulative in your arguments for oppressing people.
How is making them unemployed and calling for them to lose their jobs going to help them in any way? Being unemployed is the worst thing you can do for someone’s mental health it will lower their self esteem and mean they meet less people. Banning them from jobs, that they can do, will make them more unhappy, more frustrated as you would be if you were banned for an irrelevant condition.

Imagine if Bill Gates had been kept from becoming a successful business man. How would that have helped him. Your argument is utterly bizarre. Would he be happier if he had been forced to be unemployed?
If you love such a notion, go on the dole yourself, do not force other people onto the dole under some screwball notion that will help them.

You want to suppress people with such a condition from succeeding in life, and then claim that is helping them.

You seem to think that we should make all people with such conditions unemployed and then experiment on them.
Why? It is as ludicrous as making all black and gay people unemployed and then experimenting on why all of a sudden all black and gay people are unhappy, and frustrated about being banned from top jobs.
Firing such people and then analyzing why making them unemployed on them will do nothing but kill more of them.
You seem one of these people who read an article, and then comes to opposite conclusion of what the paper was arguing for.

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