‘Debunked’ psychological diagnoses of Amber Heard must be discounted, prominent psychologist warns

The two disorders are ‘highly contested controversial psychiatric labels’, psychologist says

Clinical psychologist testifies that Amber Heard has two personality disorders
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“Debunked” psychological diagnoses of Amber Heard must be immediately discounted, a prominent psychologist has said.

Dr Jessica Taylor’s warning comes after a psychologist hired by Johnny Depp’s legal team to evaluate Ms Heard, his ex-wife, testified she has borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.

Mr Depp, a Hollywood actor, is currently embroiled in a high-profile defamation lawsuit against fellow actor Ms Heard in Virginia in the US. Mr Depp sued Ms Heard in March 2019, claiming a column she wrote for The Washington Post about domestic abuse was defamatory and requested $50m in damages. Ms Heard submitted a $100m countersuit.

Although the article does not include any reference to Mr Depp, his legal team argues the piece contains a “clear implication that Mr Depp is a domestic abuser”, which they maintain is “categorically and demonstrably false”.

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Taylor, who examines the pathologisation of women in mental health settings, said that in her view the two disorders the psychologist diagnosed Ms Heard with are "not proven medical conditions" but are instead "highly contested controversial psychiatric labels".

Dr Taylor, who also specialises in sexual violence and victim-blaming, said she has not "heard anyone use the term ‘histrionic personality disorder’ unironically in years, and suggested it is a “debunked disorder”.

The psychologist, previously a senior lecturer in Forensic and Criminological Psychology at the University of Derby, said: “Histrionic personality disorder was borne out of the ‘hysteria’ diagnosis, which could only be given to women.”

Dr Taylor explained the term “hysterical woman” in the 1968 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder was changed to “histrionic woman” in a revised version of the manual in 1980 after “top psychiatrists theorised that ‘histrionic women were labile, egocentric, seductive, frigid, and childish’.”

She added: “Hysteria and histrionic personality disorder became known as the ‘wastebasket of mental health’, with many influential scholars rejecting their existence.

“Women could be diagnosed with these terms for not smiling enough, not giving men enough sex, being lesbian or bisexual, being too assertive, too opinionated, leaving their husbands, or even reading too many books.

“It is outrageous that in 2022, a psychologist would testify on the stand that a woman has ‘histrionic personality disorder’.”

Dr Taylor argued similar arguments could be made about borderline personality disorder, which she branded “yet another junk diagnosis thrown at women”, as she noted women are at least seven times more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder than men.

She said Borderline Personality Disorder was borne from Histrionic Personality Disorder, they are overlapping constructs in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and “one is borne from the other”.

Dr Taylor also noted Dr Shannon Curry, the psychologist hired by Mr Depp, had suggested borderline personality and histrionic personality disorder have a “genetic basis”, but Taylor hit out at this assertion.

She added: “There has never been any proof of genetic basis of any personality disorders, and so this is categorically false. No gene has been found for any mental health disorder, and the American Psychiatric Association agree that at the current time, we do not know the relationship between biology and psychiatric disorder.”

Dr Taylor argued a man’s mental health is routinely used to “position him as vulnerable and victimised”, while conversely, women’s mental health is wielded to cast her as being “deviant and dangerous".

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