Article excerpt

Byline: Jeannette Kupfermann

MOST OF us today have an understanding of psychology, yet certain personalities still elude us.

We can't make up our minds whether they're simply stupid, manipulative or seriously disturbed.

The Duchess of York is one such individual. Listening to her extraordinary outpourings on both sides of the Atlantic last week as she promoted her new book, one could be forgiven for wondering if she wasn't perhaps just a few emeralds short of a tiara. Is the poor girl a suitable case for treatment?

Certainly she appears to show signs of the classic split personality. How else does one explain the carefully scripted interviews which are completely at odds with each other?

Those in the US and one over here for Radio Four appear to present two completely different Fergies: the American version was up-front, blowsy and seemingly open about her sexual adventures, hinting at an open marriage with Andrew. The BBC interview was full of `poor little waif-like me' references to her vulnerability and supposed immaturity at the time of her marriage, in which she refused to confirm she had been unfaithful at all.

How does one reconcile these conflicting portrayals - of the fighter on one side and the victim on the other?

What would a psychiatrist make of all this? Using the common psychiatric diagnostic method MSE, or Mental State Examination, Fergie would fit into several possible categories.

Schizophrenia: This is the obvious one, since she appears to show two or more distinct personalities. Here, the personality is fragmented. Behaviour, thinking, emotion become disorganised and dissociated.

There is an illogicality and elusiveness in sufferers' speech. They may become focused on the mystical.

HERE is also an incongruity of emotion - an inappropriate response - which, of course, is what one sees again and again in Fergie, whether it's the stories of her juggling phone calls from Andrew and Steve Wyatt while making love to John Bryan or, when she wishes to present herself as a mature and sensible woman, appearing - as she did in America last week - in a skirt split to the thigh.

Her sense of self-awareness seems non-existent, and she has no concept of the implications of her behaviour. On the cover of the autobiography she is touting is a photograph of Fergie presenting one naked foot towards the camera, the toenails painted blood red. Most observers have taken that to be a less-than-coy reference to the most notorious of Fergie's exploits - when she was secretly photographed having her toes sucked by Bryan.

Yet, when asked about this, Fergie swore that she had had no idea people would make such a connection. To her, she said, it was simply a nice photograph, and I am sure she was telling the truth.

Schizophrenics also exhibit superficiality and a silly facetiousness - all very much part of the Fergie make-up. They frequently come to believe cosmic events or even events on TV have a special meaning or message for them. Witness Fergie believing she was destined to marry Charles and become Queen.

Manic Depression: With Fergie it is usually the mania we see. This can involve boundless energy, unusual talkativeness, paranoid delusions (and we've heard a lot recently about `courtiers' and `The Firm'), overspending - and an obsessive interest in sex.

There is often a general loosening of inhibitions: dirty talk (and we know from Allan Starkie's book that there was lots of this), abuse of alcohol and drugs, a voracious appetite and the individual becoming obsessively sociable. There is also an increased tendency to restlessness and being distracted, and sudden mood changes from cheerfulness to irritability and anger.

Much of Fergie's hectic life seems to fit this pattern, from the frequent trips abroad to the rampant `It's A Knockout' style of exhibitionism.

Personality disorders: A predominant feature of these is the denial of responsibility. …