Personality Disorders in Camouflage

Camouflaged Personality Disorders

Recently in the news, Stephen Green, age 21, was discharged from the United States Army for a “personality disorder”. Unfortunately, this was only after Green and a few of his comrades, dressed as workmen, came into the home of a teenaged Iraqui woman, executed her parents and younger sister, and then raped and killed her. Although exact details of this atrocity are still being released, the heinous incident begs the question: how do people like Green, with severe personality disorders, pass through the Army’s initial screening process and survive boot camp, let alone combat itself? Wouldn’t people with such a dramatic, disabling, and dangerous condition be identified and discharged immediately?

The response from a recent New York Times report on the incident says “not always”, pointing to both the military’s reluctance to conduct full personality tests without a specific reason, and the general ability of people afflicted with this disorder to camouflage themselves. Often, people with personality disorders can seem like “bold”, “rough-and-ready types who tend to be trouble makers”. Under fire, they tend to be clear-headed and effective, then relaxed quickly when danger clears. Such traits render them extremely effective soldiers, and when these traits are mixed with charisma and the ability to lie without moral apprehension (characteristics also common to people with personality disorders), personality disorders are very hard to distinguish from a cool-headed, aware soldier’s attitude.

Since the Green incident, the Army has committed to taking a harder look at the mental stability of the soldiers it recruits. There are certain distinctions people with severe personality disorders have; notably, Dr. Andy Moore at Yale University found that the levels of stress hormones in the Army’s most elite fighting groups were elevated, compared to regular infantrymen. They also had higher levels of a hormone that acts as a relaxant, which helps explain why they are able to function at high levels during times of stress without letting the stress interfere with performance.

It is clear that these disorders are very difficult to determine in controlled environments. However, signs of personality disorders, no matter how minor, should be noted and reported to school psychologists and administrators. Even if they amount to very little, it gives the Army, or whomever would trust certain individuals with a gun, the heads-up about doing further screening to ensure that this person is not a threat to the safety of the people we are trying to protect.

Created By: Kristen Holtschlag

Footnote: Carey, Benedict: July 9, 2006. New York Times “When the Personality Disorder Wears Camouflage”