Interdisciplinary Methods Research Paper

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Interdisciplinary Methods

One weakness of Robert G.L. Waite's classic work of psychobiography and psychohistory, The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler (1993) is that no written evidence exists today from any psychologist or psychiatrist who actually examined Hitler, although his political opponents in Germany allegedly had reports from military psychiatrists in the First World War that Hitler was no promoted above private first class because of mental and emotional instability. In spite of the lacunae of evidence, Waite offered a convincing medical and psychological portrait of Hitler, and he has gathered considerable evidence to demonstrate the irrationality of his subject, who he diagnosed as a borderline psychotic. George Victor asserted in Hitler: The Pathology of Evil (2007) claimed that he had a depressive nervous breakdown in 1909 and a schizophrenic breakdown in 1918, when he was in the Pasewalk military hospital in Berlin. In A First-Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi found that Hitler suffered from a bipolar disorder or manic-depression, as did his alcoholic father Alois, and even though Adolf did not drink, his mental illness was exacerbated by chronic use of amphetamines, steroids and opiates like Oxy-Contin.

From a medical point-of-view, Martin Housden (2000) found evidence that Hitler suffered from moderate Parkinson's disease, as well as high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis, which probably increased his depression, paranoia and cognitive decay. His physical and mental health was further damaged by daily methamphetamine injections by Dr. Theodor Morrell, which made him more aggressive and paranoid. Housden also agrees that his father was and abusive alcoholic and that he had a mental breakdown in 1918 that caused hysterical blindness and muteness. Hitler did have a courageous record as a soldier in World War I, as Frank Cass noted in the military history Corporal Hitler (2005) and even received the Iron Cross first class, which was rarely awarded to enlisted men in the German Army. In later years he frequently said that he enjoyed soldiering more than any other profession and his military experience greatly influenced the Nazi ideology and worldview, including its glorification of war, militarism, aggression and heroic self-sacrifice. In addition, Hitler was very likely suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after four years on the Western Front, which contributed to his breakdown when he learned of Germany's defeat in 1918.

As Robert Rosenbaum points out in Explaining Hitler (1998) certain myths about the Nazis Leaders background, personality and psychosexual makeup have persisted since the 1920s and 1930s. Among these were the stories that he had only one testicle; that he forced his niece Geli Raubal to urinate and defecate on him during sex and murdered her in 1931 when she tried to escape from him; or that his father Alois was half-Jewish. None of these explanations of Hitler's personality and psychology have any real evidence to support them, no more than that he was homosexual, impotent and suffering from tertiary syphilis. His family doctor, Eduard Bloch, who treated Klara Hitler for breast cancer, actually reported that young Adolf Hitler was a very quiet, polite young man who was devoted to his mother, and he suffered from no obvious physical or mental abnormalities but seemed to be depressed and withdrawn. In Adolf Hitler, Shree Zalampas describes hoe Freudians like Eric Erikson and Walter Langer diagnosed Hitler as a paranoid narcissist and psychopath (or sociopath), which they traced to his abusive and dysfunctional childhood. Alfred Adler argued that his real childhood trauma was an inferiority complex in relation to his father, which caused him to live isolated in his own fantasy world of gods and heroes, where he played the central role.

Methods Section

From an interdisciplinary viewpoint, historians, political scientists and international relations theorists assume that most states and their leaders are rational actors who make decisions calculated on the basis of self-interest, although there is considerable debate about the rationality of Adolf Hitler. Physicians, psychologists and psychiatrists almost invariably have found that Hitler was mentally ill at least to some degree, and that his psychological problems were worsened by physical illness and drug addiction as he aged.. All of these professionals have applied their specialized expertise to the Hitler problem, in order to determine the medical and psychological factors that contributed to his personality and political ideology. Given the lack of direct evidence beyond the reports of Hitler's own physicians and the reports of German Army psychiatrists, any attempt to describe his possible mental illness are bound to be speculative, but not blindly so.

Some facts are clear enough, such as his father Alois being an abusive, authoritarian parent, probably suffering from alcoholism and manic depression. Hitler never loved him like his mother Klara, but rather feared him and also found his public drunkenness embarrassing. Alois physically abused his children, and left Hitler with a lifelong disdain for alcohol and alcoholics, which he regarded as a genetic aberration. Most sources also agree that young Hitler was depressed, isolated, withdrawn and tended to live in a fantasy world, although there is no consensus about exactly how far along the spectrum he was in the direction of actual psychosis or schizophrenia. He was by all accounts a courageous soldier for four years during World War I and suffered a nervous breakdown in 1918 when he learned of Germany's defeat. This resulted in psychosomatic or hysterical blindness and muteness which the psychiatrist treated with hypnosis. Another important factor after Hitler became dictator was his 'treatment' by Dr. Theodor Morell, who injected him with steroids and amphetamines, which probably increased Hitler's paranoid and aggressive tendencies as well as cognitive deterioration. All of these factors together almost certainly influenced his more irrational, aggressive and destructive decisions, his lack of human empathy for the millions of victims, and his decision to commit suicide when all was lost and taking as many others with him as possible.

Discussion of Hitler's Possible Mental Illness

Robert G.L Waite argued in The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler that the Fuehrer of the Third Reich was probably suffering from some severe psychopathology such as paranoia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or borderline personality disturbances, which led to irrational decisions in both foreign and domestic policy. His hatred of the Jews and others he regarded as 'inferior' was downright maniacal, obsessive and pathological, as was his inability to love or trust any other human being except perhaps for his mother Klara. His military planning lacked any rational, long-range strategic plan and finally assembled an Allied coalition against Germany that even Hitler sometimes realized could not be defeated. From a psychiatric viewpoint, Hitler may have been a borderline or schizoid personality, with both neurotic and psychotic symptoms, and his "fantastic view of the world…had very little relationship to external reality" (Waite, 1993, p. 359). Coming from an abusive, dysfunctional family, young Hitler developed into an isolated, alienated loner, prone to fantasies and delusions that may well have been psychotic or schizophrenic at times, particularly after the defeat of Germany in November 1918. This seems to have been a key turning point since the politician and warlord that the world knew emerged only after the breakdown and collapse in 1918. His passionate ideological hatred of Jews and Communists became very clear after this time, and even if they already existed in Vienna or Linz, he would have been in no position to act on them. After this time, none of these ideas changed even slightly until his suicide in the Bunker in 1945.

Very little reliable information is actually known about Hitler's childhood beyond the basic facts that he hated the abusive, alcoholic Alois and loved his mother Klara. In fact, he always carried his mother's picture with him right to the end of his life, and frequently admitted that he feared his father. Hitler's racist and militaristic ideology was based on his own delusions and paranoia, and his obsessions about the Jews infecting the body of the 'healthy' Aryan Volk are well-known. Waite traces these back to his unfavorable childhood circumstances, such as his abusive, alcoholic and authoritarian father and his idealized mother who died of cancer when he was still an adolescent. In Hitler's mind, the blonde, timid, submissive Klara was symbolic of Germany and many of his female relationships were with younger women who resembled his mother. Klara may also have felt guilty about marrying her older male relative Alois, who she usually referred to as 'uncle' (Zalampas, 1990, p. 116). Ian Kershaw and other biographers also noted that he hated his "authoritarian, overbearing, domineering" father Alois, and also that he copied most of his traits (Kershaw, 2008, p. 3). Alois may have been manic-depressive as well as being an alcoholic, and in his manic phases he moved his family seventeen times over the years (Ghaemi, 2011, Chapter 13). Hitler recalled that even when he was 12 or 13 years old, Klara sent him to the bar to tell Alois to come home, and would have to prop him up as he staggered down the street. He recalled this experience as so humiliating and embarrassing that he…[continue]

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