Jodi Arias Trial: Does Jodi Arias Have Borderline Personality Disorder?

By | April 21, 2013

If you are a regular reader of this site, you know that in an earlier rather lengthy article we analyzed the popular public diagnoses of Jodi Arias. I posted this article well before Dr. DeMarte stated her diagnosis during testimony.Jodi5

I have had many of my regular readers ask me how I felt about Dr. DeMarte’s diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD), in light of the fact that my earlier article had chosen antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) over BPD.

The fact that we disagree does not come as a surprise to me. Studies show that professional agreement of particular diagnoses is surprisingly low (Aboraya, 2007).

A look at research done in this area shows something of note. Studies that were done to look specifically at diagnoses, across professionals, show the following results. When licensed practicing clinicians, as a whole, were divided into three groups: 1) those who had recently graduated; 2) those who were more distant from having graduated; and 3) those who were the most distant from having graduated, a most interesting relationship was found (kappa score). The highest agreement of diagnoses was in the group of professionals who had most recently graduated or group one.

Group two, those who were more distant from their date of graduation were less likely to agree upon diagnoses and group three, who were the most distant from their time in graduate school, had the least agreement of diagnoses.

Let me state that another way. Those who had the least experience, agreed the most. Those who had the most experience, agreed the least. There does appear to be a correlation between experience and agreement of diagnoses.

Logically, two explanations are possible. It could be that the most experienced group, agreed the least, because they just forgot how to do a diagnosis since they had been out of school so long. I don’t think this is very likely.

The second explanation, is the one that I choose and believe to be true. With experience you come to see the uniqueness of each client, their problems and their situations. As a clinician, if you’ve had 100 borderline clients, you’ve had 100 different clients. No two were the same.

Experience makes it harder and harder, to neatly fit a unique individual into a category contained within a book. We should not come to believe too strongly in a particular category. Why? Because with certainty, we know that category and the diagnostic criteria to fit someone into that category, will most definitely change.

The DSM-5 will be out very shortly. The diagnostic criteria for antisocial PD has changed (Paris, Chenard-Poirier, & Biskin, 2013). Before, or should I say currently, to diagnose someone with antisocial PD, conduct disorder must be present before the age of 15.

In the DSM-5, this is no longer true. Today, there are many individuals who would qualify and do qualify for a diagnosis of antisocial PD, except there is no evidence of conduct disorder before the age of 15. Two months from now, they will qualify.

This is not a complaint about the DSM but is instead a realization of the limitations of labeling and categorizing human beings. I wrote much about this in the previous article “Diagnosing Jodi Arias.” I would encourage you to read that article for more of an explanation, as I do not plan to repeat that information in this article.

Now back to Dr. DeMarte and her diagnosis of borderline PD. It’s not too bad. I still believe wholeheartedly, that the antisocial PD diagnosis is most appropriate.

In her testimony Dr. DeMarte stated why she believed a diagnosis of borderline fit Jodi Arias. She did not discuss why a diagnosis of antisocial was not her choice. I can’t speak for Dr. DeMarte but I don’t think that she would’ve argued too much against a diagnosis of antisocial PD.

It’s a best fit situation, not a perfect fit. All the personality disorders are axis II diagnoses. We have to choose one. What we need for Jodi, is a new category, that encompasses antisocial, borderline, narcissistic and histrionic. She shows traits of each of these categories.

I’ve also received emails from individuals who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Because of Jodi’s diagnosis, they are worried that they too could become a horrendous murderer or that their friends or family members will come to see them that way. That’s the problem with labeling.

For those of you that have written in, diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, worried that you too are like Jodi Arias, stop worrying. You are very different. First of all, Jodi Arias would never have written in, worried about being a murderer or being perceived as one.

You care and you worry because you do have a conscience and have morality. From all I’ve seen and read, Jodi Arias does not. If Jodi Arias is found innocent and moves into the house next door to mine, I will move out. That’s how dangerous I believe Jodi Arias to be and how dangerous I believe anyone could be with antisocial personality disorder.

If someone with borderline personality disorder, moved into the house next door, I would have no worries. Anyone can be dangerous, with or without a personality disorder, and each individual is different, each situation different. I am speaking generally and saying that there is a major difference between someone with borderline PD and someone with antisocial PD. One is very dangerous, and the other potentially dangerous but no more so than any other stranger. The antisocial is dangerous to others. The borderline PD, is far more dangerous to themselves than to others.

Now back to the Dr. Randle – Dr. DeMarte debate. No I don’t agree that borderline is a better diagnosis than antisocial. There is an elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about, and that’s Jodi’s lying. Lying and deception, are not characteristic of borderline personality disorder. With Jodi Arias, we are talking about immense lies and grand attempts to deceive. If you haven’t followed this case too closely, then her lying may not be so apparent to you. If you just heard, on the news, that first she lied about being there and then she lied about two ninjas having committed the murder, then you really don’t know about Jodi Arias the liar.

To see Jodi in action, you need to see her Academy award winning performances in her 48 Hour interviews and her police interrogation. You really need to see those interviews.

After watching those interviews, you might say “my God, who could lie like that?” If God doesn’t choose to respond to your question, I will (he loves you but he is very busy).

Who could? An antisocial could. They could. They can and they do. If for no other reason, this makes Jodi Arias someone with antisocial PD.

I would like to include just one more reason why Jodi Arias better fits antisocial than borderline. The lack of emotion. Have you seen her show any real remorse in the courtroom? When she talks about killing Travis, she shows no remorse. After arriving back home at Yreka, having just finished days earlier killing Travis, she acted perfectly normally. Her father said so. Her mother said so. People at work said so.

Where is the emotion? Where is the terror? Where is the guilt? I could give you many, many examples but if you’ve watched this trial, you already know them well enough.

Someone with borderline PD, is filled with emotion. They have trouble dealing with that emotion. They have trouble containing that emotion. Not just a little trouble but more like the trouble you’d have trying to put a cork in an erupting volcano. They are filled with swirling intense emotions.

Do you see, have you seen, anything like that in Jodi Arias?

In the debate between a diagnosis of borderline and antisocial, there is one last thing of tremendous importance. Premeditation. The prosecution contends that this murder was premeditated. A .25 caliber pistol, was stolen from the home in which Jodi was living,  just one week before Jodi shot Travis Alexander in the head with a .25 caliber pistol.

Jodi borrowed and bought, gas cans, that would conveniently eliminate the need for gas receipts and records as she diverted her trip to Salt Lake City, to include a trip to Mesa to kill Travis. She also shut off her cell phone, so that there would be no cell phone records to go along with no gas receipts, so that there would be no evidence of her trip to Mesa.

There are many more things, much more evidence, that proves Jodi Arias premeditated this murder.

Premeditated murder requires planning, scheming and deception. These are all characteristic of antisocial personality disorder. This premeditation shows a desire to kill that goes back at least a week or more. That means the urge to kill, the emotion necessary to kill, has been sustained for at least a week or more.

Though someone with borderline personality disorder may feel the urge to kill in a fit of rage, this emotional state will pass quickly, usually within minutes or hours. Rarely will this last as long as a day. If Jodi Arias did indeed premeditate this murder, it almost completely eliminates the possibility of her primary diagnosis being borderline personality disorder.

Dr. DeMarte testified as to the reasons why Jodi Arias fit a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. She did not focus on the reasons why Jodi Arias does not fit a diagnosis of borderline PD. She likewise, did not testify as to why a diagnosis of antisocial PD would be incorrect. I am not at all blaming her, after all she could only answer the questions that were asked of her.

I can live with the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. It however, does not fit as well as does the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder.

References

Aboraya A. (2007) Clinicians’ opinions on the reliability of psychiatric diagnoses in clinical settings. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 4, 31-33.

Paris, J., Chenard-Poirier, M., & Biskin, R. (2013). Antisocial and borderline personality disorders revisited. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 54, 321-325.  

34 thoughts on “Jodi Arias Trial: Does Jodi Arias Have Borderline Personality Disorder?

  1. Lisa

    Hi Dr. KR.

    I disagree. Lying and deception are so much a part of borderline, just like in antisocial….the reasons for them are different. you often see lying and deceiving in borderlines to gain a way for people to see their views, to gain sympathy, etc….whereas in anti socials, the lying and deceiving are meant as a means to a harmful end…..

    1. Dr KR Post author

      Lisa,
      There is not one mention of lying being associated with BPD in the DSM. Everyone lies but most people don’t lie about big things. When they do its clinically significant.

  2. Babs

    After reading this I must say I agree with you. I have a pretty good understanding of BPD and you are right about the feelings of wanting to kill would go away rather quickly. BPD sufferers normally don’t have the concentration it takes to carry out something as planned as this murder was. BPD suffers from intense guilt and regret, she doesn’t seem to have either of these symptoms.

  3. Eleanor Farris

    I was once married to a man who had Anti-social/boarder line personality. I thought I could fix him. I had him committed 4 x in the 5 yrs we were married. I didn’t know until after I was married to him that he had these problems. My breaking point was wen he stopped taking his medication and was going after my daughter with a knife. For some reason I was the only one who could break thru to him and calm him down. I believe that Jodi has both disorders. Thank you for your articles.

  4. Jon

    I agree with you 100%. After being married to a borderline, and a rent break up with an ASPD, I have learned that in addition to the main differences between ASPD and BPD, you listed, is the “fear of abandonment”. Though from the outside their behavior is often very similar (jumping from relationships, cheating, etc), a BPD will not have the ability to simply walk away and shut off their emotions BECAUSE THE BPD CARES! BPD’s are not evil, they mess up and then scramble to make it right in desperation. Occasionally they leave someone cold, but as a “pattern”, they are very clingy as much as they push others away for getting too close. But their fear is emotionally based-the fear of engulfment. SOCIOPATHS SIMPLY DON’T CARE about anyone other than themselves. Narcissists are like this too, but I believe even NPD’s can and do often truly bond, even though they just prefer their relationships to be all about them. ASPD’s don’t care because they can’t bond, and we know them by how easily they discard others with no emotion. They don’t care. Never did. People are merely tools for their survival, and nothing more. Some ASPD’s are just plain evil, like Arias, but I believe that many aren’t the violent type, and have learned to perfect their mask of “peaceful do gooder” because they have learned that the “mask of sanity” gets them much further with others than being an a$$hole, or violent. In other words, they are “nice” because it better suits their means, just like Jodi Arias.

  5. Rachel Blakley

    I enjoy reading your posts that link this trial and the mental health aspects that the general public may not know. However, please include information regarding treatment for those with these disorders. I generally direct my clients and their families to the website of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org) for comprehensive info about symptoms, treatment, and support.

    Although these disorders can be overwhelming, there is hope for people with mental illnesses.

  6. Maria Cristina Santana, JD

    Defense attorney Jennifer Willmott’s utter ignorance about psychology was on full display during her cross-examination of Dr. Janeen DeMarte.

    But there was one special moment on personality disorders that was breathtaking. (If by breathtaking one means laughing so hard one cannot breath.)

    During her contrived display of special skill cross-examining forensic psychologists, she shrieked something to the effect of “and you know that defense expert Dr. Dick Samuels diagnosed Ms. Arias with Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, Right? Not Borderline! Right?” (How’s THAT Dr. De Marte!!!?) Yes, that’s true, Dr. De Marte admitted.

    I need to laugh again for just one moment….

    Not only did the defense attorney expose a fact that is highly prejudicial to Jodi but its obvious everyone had agreed not to mention this before.

    Which leads me to my two part point: Jodi scoring high on borderline personality disorder traits was only admissible to rebut her claims about those exact same traits; and the fact we were told about that disorder does not necessarily mean the experts did not also find high scores on antisocial or sadistic personality traits or disorders.

    Normally, psychological testing is inadmissible by the prosecution except to rebut a defense psychologists conclusions. My opinion is that the ONLY reason borderline was admissible is because Jodi opened the door claiming she was neither jealous, angry, obsessed or even upset that Travis, or any boyfriend, had cheated on or abandoned her. If she had not opened the door by making statements in press conferences, the 48 Hours interview and court testimony, Dr. DeMarte would have probably been limited to presenting evidence contradicting PTSD and rebutting the subjective methodologies of Dr. Samuels and Ms. Laviolette.

    But Jodi opened the door to evidence that she scored high on those exact personality traits that she denies.

    What we do not know is whether Dr. DeMarte found a co-morbid disorder that might be inadmissible. Antisocial personality disorder, for example, would be too prejudicial because it improperly suggests a defendant is “the kind of person” who would commit a murder or that she has no place in society. Not even the prosecutor would want to expand on that interesting little tidbit because of the risk of reversal on appeal.

    We don’t know what that Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified means at it relates to Jodi. We only know that all the experts and attorneys are pretending we ain’t gonna talk about that.

    Even Jenny realized she had walked dangerously close to the edge in raising that unmentionable fact to discredit Dr. DeMarte’s borderline diagnosis and shut her trap in record time.

    1. Lisa K

      Thanks so much for your comment, Maria! You answered many questions regarding why many aspects of DeMarte’s testing may not have been discussed.

      JA’s MMPI test results are fascinating. I would love to know which of the 7/10 scales that JA tested high on.

  7. Freud Jr

    You missed the most likely reason for clinician diagnosis differential across cohort-time axis. The older guys will have kept up with the changing world of diagnostics imperfectly, some more, some less. As the diagnostic universe changes at a fast pace, this certainly eclipses any contribution of personal experience or memory loss.

  8. Sue Germain

    Dr. K., I have always thought that Jodi not only planned the murder but also made contingent plans when she got caught. She did not want it to look like she actually killed Travis but she did want everyone to know she and Travis spent the day together. Due to her narsasistic personality she wanted to be famous, she wanted all the other women in Travis’s life to know she was in his life, she wanted everyone to know how smart she thinks she is, she wanted to be admired, she wanted her art to be seen, she wanted public sympathy. She left just enough clues in the house to show she was there on the day of the murder. She left a bloody hand print and she left the memory card in the camera. Jodi is not stupid, she knew someone would find the camera in the washer eventually and she knew the images could be retrieved. She needed enough time after the murder to set everything else up like the stuff she wrote in her journal. No one really knows what time she arrived at Travis’s house, the time she committed the murder, or the time she left the house. I think she has the knowledge and ability to change information that was on Travis’s laptop. She could have changed the dates and the content of emails. She could have added and changed the content

  9. Sue Germain

    Hit submit too quickly. She could have added and changed the content and dates on his text messages. I think she thought the “ninja” story was her out. She wanted the police to believe she lied about being there because the “ninjas” were going to kill her & her family. If the police bought this story, in her mind, she had spent enough time in jail to get a interview with a national news network to get her face in public view and to get her 15 minutes of fame. When she originally planned the murder perhaps she did not count on getting caught but when she got cut she realized she needed contingent plans because she knew her blood would be mixed with Travis’s blood and tried to make to make it all work to her advantage. Maybe I am giving Jodi too much credit for having a diabolical criminal mind but I don’t put anything past her. I think she will do anything and everything to get sympathy from this jury. I am surprised she has not used her sexual advances on a male guard at the jail so she can get pregnant.

  10. Karen

    I am not sure what is going on with The State vs Jodi Arias Facebook site, but for some reason, many peole have been blocked from posting…I am one of many who want to see her convicted and think she is evil incarnate, I agree with their posts – so I don’t understand what is going on – others have said the same…could you follow up???

    https://www.facebook.com/events/329011103852722/451206648299833/?comment_id=452534231500408&ref=notif&notif_t=event_mall_comment

  11. Sue Germain

    Hit submit too quickly, and dates on his text messages. I think she thought the “ninja” story was her out. She wanted the police to believe she lied about being there because the “ninjas” were going to kill her & her family. If the police bought this story, in her mind, she had spent enough time in jail to get a interview with a national news network to get her face in public view and to get her 15 minutes of fame. When she originally planned the murder perhaps she did not count on getting caught but when she got cut she realized she needed contingent plans because she knew her blood would be mixed with Travis’s blood and tried to make to make it all work to her advantage. Maybe I am giving Jodi too much credit for having a diabolical criminal mind but I don’t put anything past her. I think she will do anything and everything to get sympathy from this jury. I am surprised she has not used her sexual advances on a male guard at the jail so she can get pregnant.

  12. Lisa K

    I’ve been rewatching day 50 of the JA case. This video covers part 1 of the afternoon session: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPEX7gHduxE

    At approx 22:00, you can see JA’s scores on the MMPI. She scored above the clinically significant level on depression, hysteria, psychopathic deviance, paranoia, psychasthenia, schizophrenia and hypomania (scales 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9). (NOTE: Those who do not have a psych background should not interpret the titles of the scales as diagnostic in themselves. JA doesn’t have schizophrenia.)

    JA scored highest on “Psychopathic Deviance”; her score exceeds 100. Her 2nd highest score is on paranoia, which is close to 100.

    Dr. KR, any thoughts? Maria makes an interesting point about how legal aspects of the case may limit Dr. DeMarte’s ability to fully describe her diagnosis.

    I’m in non-clinical psych research, so I know absolutely nothing about how to score and interpret the results of this complicated test. I would love to hear from clinical psychs about this.

    1. Lisa K

      Subscales are also shown soon after the clinical scores are shown in the above video. Scores and subscores are visible for 10-15 mins.

    2. Dr KR Post author

      My guess is that if those results meant a great deal then Dr. D. would have included them. Perhaps that is why she did not comment on that aspect of the test. Not sure, though.

    3. Marley

      I’m really interested to know why the MMPI I was used when the MMPI II has been out since 1989?! And I also hope she comments on the issues you have brought up :)

  13. Don Osborne

    I agree with you, Dr K. Arias is a person who truly fits the definition of a psychopath. She has no remorse whatsoever for what she has done and not a trace of empathy towards her victim or his family. She indulges in absolutely amoral behaviour, is perverted and totally aggressive – traits not discovered by defence experts, however.
    She is also the master manipulator who certainly hoodwinked, and used, Samuels and La Violette.
    In addition, her counsel, Wilmott, has allowed herself to develop an unhealthy/ unprofessional relationship with her client – but then again is there anything about the defence that is in any way professional?

  14. Ria

    For those of us laypersons, with no knowledge of all these tests and scores, we refer to her as batsh!t crazy.

    On Dr. Drew they were talking about Jodi’s tendency to smile inappropriately, even the jury mentioned it during their questions to Dr. DeMarte. She smiles at times nobody would think to smile. Is this related to her PD or is it something she doesn’t realize she’s doing? Is it smile from pleasure or trying to look attractive? It really creeps me out that she does that!

  15. Manik

    As long as a person with Anti-Social PD can still be given the death penalty, I agree with you. If not, then I think it must be better strategically to stick to BPD, not to give her a ‘get-out of jail’ card.

    1. Dr KR Post author

      Most would feel much more sympathy for someone with BPD than with Antisocial PD. People with borderline PD are sincerely struggling whereas less so with the person with ASPD.

  16. Melissa

    I must say, that after reading several of your articles, I find this blog so informative and helpful in explaining clinical diagnoses to us ordinary citizens!! Please keep up the good work and I look forward to reading more of your entries.

  17. smh

    I am shocked and disappointed in the author’s unwillingness to even contemplate that her dx is incorrect especially in light of the fact that she does not have full access to the case info.

    Also, I am surprised that the author thinks that “Logically, two explanations are possible” for the CORRELATION between years of experience and agreement in dx’s. The author seeks a causal explanation for two correlated variables which is not good practice and goes against a fundamental rule of statistics.

  18. kariMz

    I enjoyed your article very much I allows me a better view into understanding the intricacies of this disorder. I appreciate that you share your education with us. In my opinion Jodi Arias has shown duplicity and lack of remorse, pointing me to think that this truly is premeditated and vindictive not self defense.

  19. Marley

    I just wanted to say a huge thank you for writing this post. As soon as the BPD diagnoses was thrown out there I started to panic. I have BPD. I’ve had a lot of dialectic behavioural therapy and I’ve met a lot of other people with BPD. There are a few things we share in common with ASPD. Sometimes we manipulate. We don’t do it with malice. We do it out of desperation and self preservation. We do it to keep people in our lives that we feel we would just die without. Sometimes we lie for the same reasons. We can be impulsive and reckless. When we do these things, they are done to hurt ourselves, or put ourselves in danger, not others. Deep down we feel broken and worthless and unworthy of love. Abandonment is our biggest fear. To say that someone with BPD would murder their partner in a jealous rage or out of begence is pretty absurd. Our biggest fear is being left to live without that person!! We feel things much deeper than others do. We are incredibly sensitive and hyper critical of ourselves. We blame anything that goes wrong on ourselves and try desperately to please others. If Jodi had BPD the breakup would have resulted in cutting herself, self destructive behaviour, a deep depression, withdrawal from her friends and family, and possibly a serious suicide attempt. We do not have it in us to purposely inflict pain on anyone else, because we are acutely aware of how much pain we have experienced and don’t want anyone else to hurt like that. We feel emotion to an extreme and people with ASPD feel very few emotions at all. We experience great shame and guilt over things we have no responsibility over, and people with ASPD feel no guilt or shame at all. People with BPD have difficulty seeing anything positive about themselves, and people with ASPD are narcissists. People with BPD form attachments to others very quickly and very easily, while people with ASPD are unable to form any sort of emotional attachment at all. We are very, very different, and I so appreciate that you took the time to discuss this. There is such a huge stigma and so much misunderstanding about BPD that this is really important. Thank you.

    1. renah

      Marley, thank you. You are the first person Ive seen to put a (sort of) positive spin on BPD. I am coming to believe that my own psychological issues are indicative of a BPD dx, & I have really really wished that I could discuss this with my husband, but have been too afraid to do so. I DONT want him to think Ive got a Jodi Arias personality somewhere deep inside. Now I have your post to both refute that and to back me up & show him that Im not some horrible psycho-sucubus from hell.

  20. Michael Shaw

    Police interrogation.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoUB2UzWjtI

    If you assume when she is talking about the people who killed Travis, she is really talking about herself you can gain some insights.
    1. The woman killed Travis with the knife.
    2. There is an argument whether to kill Jodi, to means she was having with an argument with herself about killing herself
    3. The killers told Jodi to leave, this is your one chance. That is what Jodi was telling herself.
    4. The killers told Jodi to not remember anything about the murder.

    I would others to watch the video, and assume that Jodi talking about the killers is talking about herself. What are your interpretations?

  21. Lea

    Maybe someone did mention this before..but some borderliner have other personality disorders included. For me, Jodi Arias has borderline with antisocial behavior combined, because she paints him “black”. Thats what borderliners do..”white” and “black”. And she couldn’t let Travis GO. She just couldn’t get away from him. Stalking is more “borderline like”, than antisocial IMHO. BUT her way to lie is antisocial and her lack of remorse…

    But…i am not an expert. I can only talk about my own experience. And Jodi remembers me of all the borderliners, with antisocial traits, i met.

    hmm..

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