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Psychiatry and politicians: the ‘hubris syndrome’

  • Gerald Russell (a1)
Summary

Lord Owen has alerted us to the dangers of ill health in heads of government, especially if they strive to keep their illnesses secret. The description of the hubris syndrome is still at an early stage but Owen has provided psychiatrists and other physicians with useful guidance on how to recognise its appearance in persons who hold positions of power. He has also provided advice to doctors caring for such persons.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Concieçao Santos-Sinclair (pb@rcpsych.ac.uk)
Footnotes
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See commentaries, pp. 145–150, this issue.

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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1 Owen, D. In Sickness and in Power. Methuen, 2008.
2 Owen, D. The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair and the Intoxication of Power. Politico's, 2007.
3 Owen, D. Hubris and nemesis in heads of government. J R Soc Med 2006; 99: 548–51.
4 Russell, B. A History of Western Philosophy (2nd edn): 782. George Allen and Unwin, 1961.
5 Owen, D, Davidson, J. Hubris syndrome: an acquired personality disorder? A study of US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers over the last 100 years. Brain 2009; 132: 1396–406.
6 American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edn) (DSM–IV). APA, 1994.
7 World Health Organization. The ICD–10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders. WHO, 1992.
8 Jablensky, A. The syndrome – an antidote to spurious co-morbidity? World Psychiatry 2004; 3: 24–5.
9 Casey, P, Dowrick, C, Wilkinson, G. Adjustment disorders. Fault line in the psychiatric glossary. Br J Psychiatry 2001; 179: 479–81.
10 Birnbaum, KC. Der Aufbau der Psychose [The Structure of Psychoses]: 67. Springer,, 1923.
11 Russell, GFM, Treasure, J. Anorexia nervosa through time. In Eating Disorders (eds Szmukler, G, Dare, C, Treasure, J): 910. John Wiley,, 1995.
12 Russell, GFM. Bulimia nervosa: an ominous variant of anorexia nervosa. Psychol Med 1979; 9: 429–48.
13 Pincus, HA, Tew, J, First, MB. Psychiatric co-morbidity: is more less? World Med 2004; 3: 1823.
14 Roxby, P. Mental health: are we all sick now? BBC News Health 2010, 28 July (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-10787342).
15 Wykes, T, Callard, F. Diagnosis, diagnosis, diagnosis: towards DSM–5. J Ment Health 2010; 19: 301–4.
16 McSuibhne, SP. What makes ‘a new mental illness’? The cases of salastalgia and hubris syndrome. Cosmos History: J Natural Soc Philosophy 2009; 5: 210–25.
17 Wessely, S. Commentary: the psychiatry of hubris. J R Soc Med 2006; 99: 552–3.
18 Porter, R. Is mental illness necessarily stigmatising? In Every Family in the Land: Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination against People with Mental Illness (Revised Edition) (ed Crisp, AH): 313. Royal Society of Medicine,, 2004.
19 Merrick, J. Mo Mowlam lied to Blair about her brain tumour: minister forced her doctor to keep malignancy secret as she took part in Ulster peace talks. Independent on Sunday 2010; 17 January.
20 Aaronovitch, D. Private lives should never belong to the public. Times, 2010; 16 February.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 1758-3209
  • EISSN: 1758-3217
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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Psychiatry and politicians: the ‘hubris syndrome’

  • Gerald Russell (a1)
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