By Abbey Mikha
Mental illness is a very taboo subject in the Assyrian community and always has been even in the days when our great grandparents lived in towns and villages. How many Assyrians have been diagnosed with mental illness in the past ten years in the homeland and outside of the homeland? Does war, depression, trauma, and pain increase mental illness? Is mental illness on the rise in our community? In university my majors were Psychology, History, and to a lesser extent Philosophy. Since studying Psychology at this level I found the various kinds of mental illnesses to be very interesting especially after reading that the Essenes and Jesus Christ of Nazareth were known to cure mental illness in the days when He was a Healer on earth. It is even said in the Bible that Jesus cured Mary Magdalene of seven various illnesses some of which were mental illnesses.
There are many interesting mental disorders but the most thought provoking to me are the various kinds of bipolar, schizophrenia, and antisocial personality disorder. Two disorders, which I also studied in university, were borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. I came across these disorders in various classes such as Abnormal Behavior and others. In this specific class we had to study the personality of someone many of you may have heard of. Peter Sellers was a very interesting person who was among other things an actor and the star of the Pink Panther movie. He was rich and famous, but the amazing mechanism which we call brain, by which his psyche manifested, in many ways made him act out in ways which, had he been rational and stable, he probably would have never done so. Interestingly the etymology of “Psyche” in ancient Greek was among other things “self” and “conscious personality.” A question to the Greeks and psychologists and psychiatrists out there from Abbey is, “What would you call someone who is acting out of their subconscious mind?”
I want to dedicate this post to all Assyrians and people of our nation who have suffered from mental illness especially those who suffer from borderline personality disorder and features of narcissistic personality disorder like Peter Sellers. When I say Assyrians I mean all of our people regardless of whether they belong to the Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, or Aramean churches. Mental illness does not discriminate based on ethnicity. A percentage of people in our various name groups are affected.
It is a shame that there are supposed religious people in our communities who teach that people with mental disorders are beyond repair, lost souls who have behaved badly in their life. This is untrue as evidenced by actual Science! Also, regular people are many times afraid of individuals with various mental illnesses. Statistics show though that most people with mental illness are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else.
I also want to dedicate this post to my uncle Salem Mikha who lived in Iraq and was a member of the Chaldean church who had mental illness and was presumed dead during the past years during the war on Iraq although his body was never found. God rest his soul and God help the souls of all those poor helpless people in Iraq who suffer from mental illness and are living with it as best as they can, and those who have passed away and struggled throughout their life without the help of psychiatrists, psychologists, and medication.
If you know anyone who is acting out or just very depressed or in a psychosis of any sort please be kind and help them get in touch with a psychiatrist or anyone else in the community who can help. As Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Note: The following diagnosis was created by analysis of the biographical movie, “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” 2004. It was for a specific assignment for the class called Abnormal Behavior. The professor said we did not have to use quotation marks in regards to the DSM-IV-TR criterions. This diagnosis is a good introduction for anyone interested in mental illness and in borderline disorder, which goes undiagnosed as a lot as people cannot figure out what is going on in their life, which seems like a rollercoaster ride.
An Example of Borderline Personality Disorder- Mr. Peter Sellers
Identifying Information For Mr. Peter Sellers
The client Mr. Peter Sellers is a Caucasian British national who is 48 years old and currently employed as an actor. Peter is of a high economic status and has lived in upscale neighborhoods. He was married to Anne with whom he has two children. Their marriage ended in divorce. He also married Britt Ekland with whom he has a daughter. Their marriage also ended in divorce. Peter smoked marijuana, drank alcohol, and used cocaine on a regular basis. He is currently single. Although previously very affluent, he is now lacking in funds and thinking about taking part in the next Pink Panther movie. The main reason for this is that he wants to maintain his standard of living. The producers at United Artists have requested that Peter undergo a psychological assessment because the director Mr. Blake Edwards is reluctant to work with Peter again. Peter has reluctantly agreed to comply.
Peter presents himself as a wealthy individual with above average intellectual ability, yet he is childlike and very much a jokester. Upon meeting him Peter is well dressed, talkative, and wanting to exchange ideas. After some discussion he opens up about his difficulties. Peter appears to lack self-confidence and he does not keep eye contact continuously. He expressed that he had been told by his wives that he has not been receptive to his children’s emotional needs. He says that he tries to provide as best as he can, including things like a pony and a motorcycle for his children. He also feels guilty that he could not tell his mother that he loved her when she explained to him that she was dying in the hospital. Nonetheless, he says that he sobbed at her funeral. Peter appears to be an extremely creative and intelligent person but he is also contradictory in many ways. He recently has watched old videos of his time at the old comedy show, times with his mother and father, and his two wives Anne and Britt and their children. Although he had positive and negative memories he says that he does not necessarily treasure them. After thinking it through Peter burned all of these pictures and videos.
Peter was referred for a psychological assessment because he appears to be acting out and the producers at United Artists are worried about his mental health. Peter fell in love with Sofia Loren who was a fellow actress. He idealized her as a human being and a friend, and he wanted to be with her, although they were both still married. He misunderstood his relationship with Sofia Loren. Peter tried to approach her for a relationship, but she told him, “Go home to your children, and go home to your wife.” Her dismissal caused in him a great deal of pain and anxiety.
Other stressful events in Peter’s life are that his father and mother have both passed away. He is haunted by the image and words of his mother. He had a stressful relationship with his second wife Britt. He wanted her to have an abortion but she persuaded him to keep their child. He has also had a near death experience and this has changed his outlook on life. He is tired of all the characters and roles. He has come to the realization that he wants to be himself even in the movies, although he realizes this is impossible. Peter displays great instability, including major shifts in mood, a very unstable self-image, and impulsivity. His interpersonal relationships are also very unstable. Furthermore, Peter is grandiose, needs much admiration, and at times appears to feel no empathy with others. Peter is an amazingly intelligent person who is also very talented at making people laugh, but his chronic feelings of emptiness have deprived him of his own happiness.
In Peter’s childhood his family moved around a lot. His father wished he had more influence on Peter and hoped to have raised him differently. Peter’s mom spoiled him and allowed him to have whatever he wanted. At the beginning of his career Peter had a role in the Goon Show, which was a radio comedy show. He became an actor after he persistently tried to get movie roles. Peter is very proud of having received a British Academy Award. He loves taking on characters and becoming them for films, but sometimes this carries over to real life. He encompasses the characters very well. These personas fulfill in him the need to be someone. He believes himself to be without much personality of his own. At one point he was passionate and wanted to play the part of a man who has no discernable personality. He felt a kinship with that kind of a character.
Peter appears to be hard working and he takes care of his family’s material needs. After his first marriage to Anne ended he started dating Britt Ekland. He told her soon after their first few dates, “I think I’m in love with you” to which she responded, “But you have just met me.” At first he idealized Britt as he had done with Sofia Loren. When Peter was not able to be with Sofia Loren he tried to satisfy his desire for her by having sex with her stand in, in the back seat of his car, although he was still married. Peter also used cocaine while having sex with his second wife Britt. During one of these ventures Peter had a heart attack and almost died. He told his children after his near death experience, “The Spirits have spoken daddy has come back from the dead…and nothing can hurt him ever again.”
Generally when Peter was upset he visited his mother. He confided in her when Anne left him that he thought if he just gave the world a little push it would all fall in to place. Peter got mad at his mother for not telling him his father was not well and in the hospital. Peter’s mother acted like she was his protector. She said things to him like that the press notices when he misses his daughter’s birthday. Peter recalled his mother telling him that when they went out to dinner someone asked her, “How was lunch with your son,” and she said, “I don’t know I did not see him.” He clings to his first wife more than to his second wife at his mother’s funeral. Peter had an out of the ordinary relationship with his mother. He goes to a therapist who hypnotizes him in order to be able to speak to his mother once again after her death.
Peter appears to be suffering from borderline personality disorder. The following five criteria from the DSM-IV-TR further explain this. Peter shows symptoms of criteria three in the DSM-IV-TR, which states that, for borderline personality disorder to be diagnosed there must be an identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self present. This is evident in various aspects of Peter’s life. He voiced his concern about his unstable self-image when he told of the time he was once asked, “Peter, how are you able to inhabit your characters so successfully,” to which he responded, “I don’t really have any personality of my own… there used to be a me behind the mask but I had it surgically removed…If I didn’t have characters like Clussou I don’t know who I’d be, perhaps I’d be you.” Furthermore, at one point Peter’s children are trying to cheer him up and he expresses to them that, “Your dad does not exist.”
Criterion two in the DSM-IV-TR for borderline personality disorder, which appears to be present in Peter’s personality states: A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation. Peter’s interpersonal relationships are intense, as is evident in his relationships with his first wife Anne, Sofia Loren, and Britt Ekland. He idealized them all. Concerning his first wife Anne, he was deeply in love with her for many years until he met Sofia Loren, and suddenly decided that he did not love Anne as much. In Britt’s case he idealizes her at the beginning of the relationship but after devalues her to the point where he hit her and pushed her around after his mother’s funeral.
Criterion eight in the DSM-IV-TR for borderline personality disorder states: a person with this illness has inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger. For example frequent displays of temper, constant anger, and recurrent physical fights. An example of this anger is when Peter destroyed his young son’s toys because he painted a striped line across his brand new car. Peter averted to physical aggression and violence against his sons toys when the boy was only trying to make his father happy. He also destroyed his house after he realized that his wife Anne was sleeping with the interior decorator. Furthermore, after his mother’s funeral his anger was unleashed at his wife Britt and they also got into a physical fight.
Criterion seven of the DSM-IV-TR for borderline personality disorder states that there must be symptoms of chronic feelings of emptiness present. For example at one point Peter said to his daughter Sara that he is, “A useless, talentless, empty man.” Peter also confided to a psychic about this emptiness. He said, “I keep making changes, you know, big ones, and little ones; always hoping that the next one will be the right one…nothing makes me happy the way that I’m supposed to be happy.”
Lastly, criterion four of the DSM-IV-TR for borderline personality disorder, which states that impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging, for example: spending, sex, substance abuse, and reckless driving. These are all evident in Peter’s life. For example, Peter was always changing homes from one mansion to another. He splurged on various types of cars and had other types of spending sprees. Peter tells of the times he raced down the highway with his boss trying to escape his responsibilities to the movie he was filming. Peter also misused alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. Moreover, he also had sex with Sofia Loren’s double in the back seat of his car while he was still married to his first wife Anne.
The etiology for borderline personality disorder is that like most personality disorders, there are interrelated issues that may contribute to the progression of symptoms. A fear of abandonment tortures Peter, psychodynamic theorists look to early parental relationships to explain this. Object-relations theorists propose a lack of early acceptance or abuse/neglect by parents. Research has found some support for this view, including a link to early sexual abuse. This may be indicative of the unconventional relationship Peter had with his mother Peg. He even mockingly expressed to his mother at one point that he was going to marry his then girlfriend Britt because he was not allowed to marry his mother. The Symptoms of borderline personality disorder may continue on for the remainder of Peter’s life. Some features of the disorder have also been linked to biological abnormalities. Sufferers who are particularly impulsive apparently have lower brain serotonin activity.
Peter also appears to have some narcissistic features. The DSM-IV-TR states in criterion six that a person with narcissistic personality disorder is interpersonally exploitative. For example, when Peter took Anne to meet the interior decorator, he was fully aware that the man was handsome and Anne might be attracted to him. He set this situation up because he wanted to start a relationship with Sofia Loren. So, he was introducing Anne to another man because he had ulterior motives. He told the interior decorator, “Whatever is fine with Anne is fine with me”, which was suggestive. A further example of criterion six is that Peter remembered someone saying that he, “Always got the last cake even on someone else’s plate.”
In the DSM-IV-TR it further states in criterion one, of narcissistic disorder, another characteristic of Peter’s personality, which is that he has a grandiose sense of self-importance. For example, he exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements. An example of this is when Peter said to his mother, “I’m a star now; these people can’t do anything without me.” Peter also remembered saying in front of a crowd of people that the only reason he, “Compromised his artistic integrity by walking in front of his cameras” (referring to Blake Edwards the producer of the movie Pink Panther) was because of money. He embarrassed Blake in front of the crowd and inflated his own ego. Peter also said that no matter how bad the picture is he will always be the best thing in it.
Moreover, Peter is seldom interested in the feelings of others in this innocent way; he does not realize this about himself. The DSM-IV-TR for narcissistic disorder criteria seven matches with Peter’s personality where it states: He lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. This is very evident in his interactions with his children. Peter’s daughter asked him if he still loves them, to which he responded, “Of course I do sweetheart, but not as much as I love Sofia Loren.” He does not seem to understand what he is saying. He also inappropriately tells his son at one point that his mother is sleeping with the interior decorator. If he was considerate of his children’s feelings he would not have said such things, but Peter did not even realize how much these words could have hurt them. On the other hand, Peter does show empathy for his dying father on his deathbed.
The DSM-IV-TR criteria nine for narcissistic disorder is also evident in Peter’s personality. It states that the person shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes. An example is when Peter says to his pregnant wife at the hospital while she’s having contractions, “Make it quick we start filming in a week.” Another example is when Peter overreacts about taking a role another actor declined. He does not want “sloppy seconds.” Other times he gets mad at the director and yells at him.
The etiology of narcissistic personality disorder like most personality disorders is that there are many interrelated reasons that may influence the development of symptoms. Symptoms are long lasting, and start to show in childhood and later in adolescence. The full symptoms show themselves when the individual becomes an adult. Psychodynamic theorists have theorized about this disorder focusing on cold, rejecting parents. Object-relations theorist interpret this grandiose self-presentation as a way for people with this disorder to convince themselves that they are self-sufficient and without need of warm relationships. Cognitive-behavioral theorists propose that narcissistic personality disorder may develop when people are treated too positively rather than too negatively in early life. Peter appears to have features of narcissistic disorder and is projecting this type of characteristics for protection of his equilibrium. His disappointments, the pain that he felt as a result of the relationships with his parents, the failed marriages and friendships, and the harshness of the reality of life are being projected as narcissism.
Axis I: Deferred.
Axis II: Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic features.
Axis III: Heart condition.
Axis IV: Problems with primary family.
Axis V: GAF score of 70.
There is evidence of borderline personality disorder present in Peter’s behavior, and features of narcissistic disorder. The GAF score is 70 because there is some mild symptoms present like depressed mood. There is evidence of some difficulty in social, occupational functioning, but Peter is generally functioning well, and has had some meaningful interpersonal relationships. In the DSM-IV-TR criteria three, eight, two, and seven have been met for diagnoses of Mr. Peter Sellers as having borderline personality disorder. In the DSM-IV-TR criteria six, one, seven, and nine have been met for narcissistic personality disorder, which therefore suggests that Mr. Peter Sellers has features of this disorder. Disorders to be ruled out are multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia. Peter does not appear to have different personalities; he is more just an actor who takes on different roles, as opposed to being different people in real life and having certain personalities take over at different times. He also is not delusional nor does he hallucinate, which would rule out schizophrenia.
Further information to strengthen the conclusions of the primary diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is that Peter had that great fear of abandonment, and psychodynamic theorists look to early parental relationships to explain this and the disorder. Peter always tried to fall in love and be with someone he cared about, or just randomly date, as long as he was not alone. When things did not work out with the women he found comfort in the arms of his mother, but as of late even the thought of his mother is not comforting to him, and the stress of being an actor has reached an ultimate high level.
Psychotherapy can be very helpful in Peter’s case when used in combination with medication. The most helpful forms of psychotherapy include cognitive-behavioral therapy and two broader sociocultural therapies: family therapy and social therapy. For borderline personality disorder it appears that psychotherapy can eventually lead to some degree of improvement for Peter. Antidepressant, antianxiety, and antipsychotic drugs have helped some individuals to calm their emotional and aggressive storms. Narcissistic disorder is one of the most difficult personality patterns to treat, and since Peter has features of this disorder, once in treatment, he may try to manipulate the therapist into supporting his sense of superiority.
In regards to Mr. Peter Seller’s assessment, it must be said that it is unfortunate to think that the directors Peter worked with were not sensitive to his personality and condition. Perhaps they did not realize that Peter suffers from mental illness. Peter’s talent for being able to express himself through various characters is a gift but should not be misused. Peter complained to one director that, “Three characters are enough!” He said three is a good number, but the director responded, “You are being paid for four.” This director also said to Peter, “I think you are whoever I want you to be.” People in show business should be kind and gentle with people like Mr. Peter Sellers. They said that Peter was, “A vessel in which characters and personalities ran like phantoms.” The director also said about Peter that, “There was no person there to begin with but even an empty vessel can become too full.” Sometimes Peter was not treated with humanity and he was you could say even abused by these people. The reality though is that Peter subjugated himself as well to continue living in his life style. I would recommend that firstly Peter receive treatment for his drug and alcohol addictions. I also would only recommend that Peter continue working in show business if he is allowed to find himself and be whoever he wants to be. The directors of his next movie should understand what Peter has been dealing with all along. If they do not want to understand him then they do not deserve to work with him.
Note: How many Assyrian Peters are out there and are undiagnosed and living their life in a supposed normal way without realizing that borderline personality disorder is devastating their lives? How many fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends? How many have never even heard of borderline disorder? Hopefully this analysis of Mr. Peter Seller’s life and personality was a good introduction for any of you who are interested in the subject. Please take the time to read more about this issue if you find it of interest and if you have similar symptoms.