Friday, 15 January 2010

personality disorder

a woman was telling me this week that her partner has Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder. this is why he behaves as he does. great big "hmmm".

i am hugely sceptical of the diagnosis of personality disorders anyway, having spent time with so many awesome not-very-mental people who've had such a label slapped on them. it horrifies me what that does to someone; how we all defer to medical experts. so many people, especially women, especially queers, who've been through abuse and display normal responses to the twisted, conflicting realities of abuse, who were never asked about it, who were medicated and sent away with that label, who believe the label is what they are and always will be.
 "The authors of the DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual] sought to extend the territory psychiatrists controlled. Just as various European countries built up their overseas empires in the nineteenth century, so psychiatrists in the twentieth century claimed jurisdiction over every aspect of human behaviour... They wanted to be experts on every aspect of behaviour which manifests or causes mental distress. So they invented personality disorders."
from Dorothy Rowe's incredible self-help book, Beyond Fear

and the diagnosis of personality disorders are used, like a great many things, to oppress survivors of abuse and to buttress the privilege of abusers.

our culture is always seeking new 'explanations' for why abuse happens, why rape happens, Why Men Are Violent. to make it even harder for us to sift through the lies, excuses, silencing, apologism, victim-blaming and so on to get to the real reasons (you get more power; no one stops you). personality disorders, infinitely malleable to fit the patient at hand, have become another tool for apologist psychiatry. the poor man is a victim of a mental illness. his behaviour makes no sense (ignoring the rewards he gets from his abuse combined with the lack of sanctions against it). result: the perpetrator does not have to take responsibility for his abuse. he has a label which he can wear indefinitely, explaining and justifying his behaviour. he can't help it. he is a victim, deserving of care. he can carry right on.
"[Abusers'] value system is unhealthy, not their psychology. Much of what appears to be crazy behaviour in an abuser actually works well for him... The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders... includes no condition that fits abusive men well. Some clinicians will stretch one of the definitions to apply it to an abusive client - "intermittent explosive disorder," for example - so that insurance will cover his therapy. However, this diagnosis is erroneous if it is made solely on the basis of his abusive behaviour; a man whose destructive behaviours are confined primarily or entirely to intimate relationships is an abuser, not a psychiatric patient."
from far and away the best book on domestic abuse, Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft. please read it. 

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