Monday, July 11, 2011

Part 2: Is Sarah Palin Mentally Unstable?

By Blueberry T

Image by Azure Ghost
(click to enlarge)

The January 2010 publication of Game Change should have been just that for Sarah Palin’s presidential aspirations. The book, which gained some media attention, is full of nuggets indicating her mental instability, including this gem about the debate preparations:

“The next two days, by all accounts, were a total train wreck. Never before had Palin's team seen her so profoundly out of sorts for such a sustained period. She wasn't eating…She wasn't drinking…She wasn't sleeping…The index cards were piling up by the hundreds, but Palin wasn't absorbing the material written on them. When her aides tried to quiz her, she would routinely shut down--chin on her chest, arms folded, eyes cast to the floor, speechless and motionless, lost in what those around her described as a kind of catatonic stupor.”

This did not happen just once. Regarding preparation for the Couric interview, “…when Wallace tried to raise other topics, Palin would not engage.” Wallace’s husband (also part of the campaign team) had warned her about “the two Sarahs. One minute, Palin would be her perky self; the next, she would fall into a strange, blue funk.”

“…On Saturday, September 27, Wallace sent an urgent SOS to McCain headquarters…he described…how dire the circumstances were…They began discussing a new and threatening possibility: that Palin was mentally unstable.” (emphasis added)

"…[A]fter witnessing her near-breakdown during debate prep and monitoring her subsequently by phone and email, some in the upper echelons of McCainworld began to believe that Palin was unfit for higher office. McCain was aware that his senior team considered Palin troubled and troubling…It was inconceivable that Palin undertake the duties of a Gore or a Cheney—or that, if McCain fell ill and dies, the country be left in the hands of a President Palin.”

Malia Litman wrote an excellent post for HuffPo on this topic that catalogs the book’s many references to some level of mental unbalance exhibited by Palin during the campaign.

Patrick’s post on Palingates in January 2010, shortly after Game Change was published, highlighted the 60 Minutes interviews that Anderson Cooper did with Steve Schmidt and the book authors.

Schmidt pointed out how she lied – that up was down and down was up – about being vindicated in the Troopergate case and about Todd’s involvement with the AIP. Halperin and Heilemann reported that the campaign staff said that:

‘The Other Sarah’ frightened them; her eyes glazed over she was not responding…” “At the end of the campaign, some top McCain staffers were so concerned about Sarah Palin being a heartbeat away from the Presidency that if … McCain had won, that they were actually going to urge McCain to have her step down… the thought to them of Sarah Palin being Vice President, some of them found terrifying and unfathomable.”

“They felt…that she was mentally limited and attitudinally limited…that she simply couldn’t do the job…”

“…I think that there’s a profound degree of guilt on the part of the most senior people in the campaign because…they regard her as dangerous…she would have been somebody who was ill-equipped to serve…they did something that was irresponsible.”

Politicususa reported on the book’s revelations as well as the Steve Schmidt interview by Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes.

"Were it not for the familiarity of Schmidt’s accusations, so eerily echoing those of Palin’s past allies in Alaska, one could easily dismiss this as hard ball politics by a party well versed in selling its soul. And were these accusations only brought up in the gossipy Game Change, we would be duty bound to ignore them when attempting to figure out just how unfit for office Sarah Palin really is.

But back in Alaska, cries from multiple Republicans calling Palin a 'sociopathic narcissist' with unmanageable ethics problems double down on the description of Palin by Schmidt and the authors of Game Change.

It seems that once people meet The Other Sarah, they’re immediately disenchanted, disturbed, horrified even. This story took on a palpably sharper edge when we realize that Schmidt is warning us, at a probable cost to his own career.

The New York Times review included this quote: They write that during debate preps, some staff members assigned to Sarah Palin by the McCain campaign discussed the “threatening possibility: that Palin was mentally unstable.”

Here is Andrew Sullivan on the topic.

Sarah Jones at Politcususa wrote: "Is this ‘The Other Sarah' the McCain campaign references the 'Frightening, Dangerous, Mentally Limited' side of Palin? We got our first glimpse of the Other Sarah during the Couric interview, when Palin froze and sneered at the same time. Panic in the snow or something.

Last July, as we sat stunned watching Palin’s breathy, near hysterical quitting speech in July of 2009, it was easy to wonder if a threatening phone call from party leaders hadn’t preceded Palin’s still unexplained mid-term resignation, as it was accompanied by behavior suggesting a nervous breakdown was imminent."

Even the New York Daily News headlined their review calling Palin an “unstable ignoramus.”

More recently, Frank Bailey’s book Blind Allegiance reaffirmed Palin’s mental imbalance; here are some quotes:

She walked on emotional thin ice with the weight of countless hopes and dreams on her back; we should have noticed the cracks.”

“While Sarah Louise (Heath) Palin‘s charisma energized followers, her fragile emotional makeup was unnerving.”

“There is myth and reality to nearly every storyline, whether it was God‘s chosen one, devoted wife, mother, and political maverick, or unhinged diva, thin-skinned attack dog, and self-absorbed zealot. Reminding me of the Three Faces of Eve, multi-faced Sarah slipped into and out of these roles and personalities, unpredictably mixing and matching one to another. The complexity of the Palin psyche kept those around her alert, if not eternally anxious.”

“I should have seen the creeping insanity.”

“…as the months wore on and her personality grew increasingly unpredictable, we felt a need to understand which Sarah would show up on a given day.”

“This tale, unfortunately, includes the worst of Sarah’s dysfunctional psyche…”

“As political Perfect Storms go, this resembled two Category Fives meeting head-on.”

“Sarah didn’t change; she’d always been distracted, unmanageable, and emotionally unhinged…"

Geoffrey Dunn also writes about her mental instability in The Lies of Sarah Palin; here are some quotes:

“In the case of Palin…this distinction [between clinical paranoia and paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people] becomes blurred.”

“…I can confirm that the vast majority of Alaskans I spoke to (albeit none of them psychologists or psychiatrists) – from across the political spectrum, both men and women – believes that Palin suffers from a “psychological disorder.”

Paul Fuhs, who worked on Palin’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign, said he thought Palin suffered from a persecution complex rooted in her Christianity.

Jeanne Devon of the blog The Mudflats “agreed that Palin suffered from some sort of ‘mental disorder.’” Devon sees Palin as a pathological narcissist whose instability allows her to get whatever she wants.

Anne Kilkenny described Palin as “dishonest, unprincipled character whose aberrant and erratic behavior is savagely destructive and sows hate.”

“One longtime political operative in Alaska, Leslie Ridle…put it more succinctly: ‘Sarah Palin is a pathological liar.’”

Dunn concludes: “It is a pathology of deceit.”

He quotes Andrew Sullivan: “Palin is a delusional fantasist, existing in a world of her own imagination, asserting fact after fact that are demonstrably untrue…She is a deeply disturbed individual whose grip on reality is very weak, and whose self-awareness is close to nil.”

“Senior McCain advisers confided…that this psychological compulsion of hers was the root cause of their contentious relationship with Palin…”

Dunn reports that, when asked if Palin were sane, John Bitney responded: “Is a sociopath sane?”

Laura Chase “believes that Palin suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder.”

John Bitney: “They’re bizarre people,” he said, “emotionally immature.”

The blood libel speech offers another example of how far from normal Sarah Palin really is. She thought this would be the right thing to do -- would in fact put her on a comparable stage to the one that President Obama would occupy that very evening. Instead, it became a symbol of her narcissism and paranoia.

There are many other questions that have been raised that I will report but not resolve: the possibility of amphetamine use (perhaps connected to extreme dieting); the odd lip-tongue gestures which may be a side effect of anti-psychotic medication; the slurred speech, unkempt appearance, hygiene problems and inappropriate dress. I do not know the answers, but I know that these questions are obvious enough that they should be investigated.

Here are several other blog posts that also delve into Palin’s mental state:

Sarah Jones of Politicususa recently wrote on Laura Novak’s blog: It’s probably foolish to try to predict what an irrational, erratic person will do.”

Malia Litman wrote recently on this topic as well.

Another from Malia on Sarah’s paranoia.

To wrap up: Many people have questioned Palin’s mental stability. People have independently come to the conclusion that she has a personality disorder; is sociopathic; displays some signs of mental illness. This is not trivial; this is a woman who aspires to be the President of the United States. Even if she doesn’t run (which I believe she will), she continues to exert undue influence on the political discourse in this country, including having used such inflammatory rhetoric and imagery that she unleashed latent racism against the President and may have helped incite a psychotic rampage. It is high time that the media demanded and exposed the truth about Sarah Palin’s “dysfunctional psyche.”


There were a number of great comments by people who know more about psychology than I do. Here is one from NebraskaNative:

The problem is that people who have personality disorders view themselves differently than we view them. Personality disorders are not treatable because they are ego-syntonic -- meaning the thinking and behaviors they have/show are totally within how the person views themselves. Their behaviors are synonymous or consistent with who they think they are. Any problems someone may have with them is not their fault, they are never to blame. This is a consistent "symptom" across the entire menu of personality disorders. Most people who seek therapy have ego-dystonic behavior-- they don't like how they are feeling or behaving and are looking for help to change, to feel more like themselves again. The only way people with PD's get therapy are at the behest of someone else who can't take living/loving/managing around them anymore. People with PD's would never present themselves for therapy, they don't think there is anything wrong with them.

Our reader ibwilliamsi opined that Palin has characteristics of Borderline personality disorder; here is more information on BPD.

So what's your opinion? Is Sarah Palin mentally unstable? Don't forget to take part in our poll at the top of the page in the sidebar. Thanks for participating.


UPDATE: Thanks to esbee, crystalwolfakacaligrl and several others, here is some information on the “B Cluster” of personality disorders:

Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders)

Antisocial personality disorder (DSM-IV code 301.7): a pervasive disregard for the law and the rights of others.

Borderline personality disorder (DSM-IV code 301.83): extreme "black and white" thinking, instability in relationships, self-image, identity and behavior often leading to self-harm and impulsivity. Borderline personality disorder is diagnosed in 3 times as many females as males.[5]

Histrionic personality disorder (DSM-IV code 301.50): pervasive attention-seeking behavior including inappropriately seductive behavior and shallow or exaggerated emotions.

Narcissistic personality disorder (DSM-IV code 301.81): a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.


Marieke02: As a clinical psychologist, I'm bound to say that, while she's clearly displaying some extremely serious psychiatric symptomatology, any real diagnosis of Palin would require a decent interview or two plus a verifiable history plus testing. So even with the mountain(s) of evidence that we have, all we're doing really is speculating. That said, here goes: limited intellectual functioning (borderline intellectual and developmental disability) with some form or forms of learning disability; mixed personality disorder w/paranoid, borderline, narcissistic and sociopathic features; possible PTSD from early childhood experiences; possible bipolar disorder, although her mood and energy swings as well as delusions of grandeur could be due to her personality disorder and/or the use or abuse of prescription meds and/or illegal substances.

THIRD UPDATE: NebraskaNative: Stepping on soap box again... antisocial (sociopath) pd needs adolescent history of behavior and then continuing behaviors into adulthood. It's sort of like 3 from column A and 3 from column B type stuff, so I am not sure about that as a diagnosis. BPD has come under fire from those who are working from a trauma framework, their research is indicating that people diagnosed with BPD may be misdiagnosed and instead are manifesting symptoms of PTSD, maybe as a result of childhood trauma. Personality disorders have historically been described as "enduring" meaning there is a pretty well established pattern of behavior when making the diagnosis. People can have a specific personality disorder (or more than one) or be described as having "traits," meaning symptoms are there but they aren't at the level that would warrant a diagnosis. What does this mean? I don't know. I do know she can't be diagnosed without testing and an in person assessment. Doubtful she will allow that. (I am secretly voting for narcissistic) Steps off soapbox.

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