Does Eminem Have a Personality Disorder

The controversial rapper has garnered worldwide publicity for two decades. His songs are violent, funny and often inspiring, but behind the masks is harsh portrait of mental illness. Could Marshal Mathers have BPD?

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Obviously its the liberty of an armchair writer to offer a celebrity mental health diagnosis. Nevertheless, when it comes to Eminem, it could be warrented. Out of all self-destructive stars of postmodernity it is he who appears to have Borderline Personality Disorder.

The DSM characterises BPD, as a serious psychiatric condition, marked by a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, and marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following symptoms. I present my case that Marshall Mathers, does in fact have a personality disorder, which in no way diminishes his accomplishment, but rather enhances it. After all, everyone of us with the diagnosis, knows the hidden well springs of creativity, and the demon which bids us write, paint, or in this case rap the truth for those who are willing to hear.

Evidence: Kim — ‘So long, bitch you did me so wrong I don’t want to go on, living in this world without you.’

The snuff track where Eminem takes it too far, murdering his wife Kim by when she threatens to leave him. A frighteningly real portrayal of domestic violence, Kim makes for uncomfortable listening; it is a song laced with violence and misogyny. However beneath the bluster we see Eminem’s real and imagined ‘borderline’ reaction to abandonment with all its catastrophic consequences. When Eminem played it to Kim, he said ‘this shows how much I care about you’ — enough said. While not pretty, Kim displays is a song which shows both frantic efforts, and abandonment, which holds a dark mirror up to the diagnosis.

Evidence: Love the Way You Lie: ‘ I love her the more I suffer, I suffocate
And right before I’m about to drown she resuscitates me She fuckin’ hates me, and I love it. “Wait! Where you going?”, “I’m leaving you.” “No, you ain’t
Come back!” We’re runnin’ right back.’

When it comes to relationships, Eminem tends to resort to what psychologists call Splitting, or in layman’s terms Black-and-White Thinking. It is a world seen through a child’s eyes; sharply divided between love and hate, fear and aggression. Splitting is defence mechanism that emerges in infancy, as a way to cope with parents who display ambivalent styles of parenting. From the stories we hear, Debbie Mathers wasn’t the best mother. It’s likely Eminem grew up both loving and hating her equally — Cleanin’ out my Closet & Headlights show the confusion. However, by the psychological process of Transference, Eminem continues to see all women through the same lens of idealisation and devaluation, Interpersonal chaos results. It makes good material for songs, but in real life it is the debilitating effect of traumatic attachment, which perpetuates itself.

Evidence: Legacy: I used to be the type of kid That would always think the sky is fallin. Why am I so differently wired? Am I a martian? What kind of twisted experiment am I involved in? Cause I don’t belong in this world’

Look no further than the alias Slim Shady for evidence of identity disturbance. However, more than an artistic gambit to indulge, slim shady’s persona preceded popularity, fame and fortune. For this reason we can say it speaks of a raw need to find a sense of self. Eminem’s alter ego is mask which allows him to survive trauma. The real Marshall Mathers is the bullied and abused kid who grew up on 8 mile surrounded by poverty, drugs, and gang violence. He needed a suit of armour to make it out.

Evidence: Rock Bottom: When this life makes you mad enough to kill — That’s rock bottom. When you want something bad enough to steal — That’s rock bottom. When you feel like you’ve had it up to here Cause you mad enough to scream but you’re sad enough to tear.

If we want an artistic view of Impulsivity check out Guilty Conscience ‘the song which has gotten such rotten responses’. When Dr Dre is placed as a good angel of a conflicted mind, and eminem as the devil, you know ethics are out the window. Theft of a liquor store, date rape, and murder are just some of the behaviours Slim Shady can convince you to do. However for a more real-life portrayal of impulsivity there’s Rock Bottom. Poverty, violence, disenfranchisement, and despair breed behavioural instability, which is acted out in songs. Of course we don’t need to look at Eminem’s back catalogue to find evidence of it. In real life, the last twenty years have been marked by drug overdoses, binge-eating, assault charges, and brandishing firearms. Rock bottom, is on the borderland too.

Evidence: Going Through Changes: I‘m debatin’ on leavin’ this world this evenin’ Even my girls can see I’m grievin’ I try and hide it, but I can’t Why do I act like I’m all high and mighty When inside I’m dyin’? I am finally realizin’ I need help, I can’t do it myself, too weak Two weeks I’ve been havin’ ups and downs Going through peaks and valleys, dilly-dallyin’ Around with the idea of endin’ the shit right here

Eminem has a tattoo on his wrist saying ‘slit here.’ A rather conspicious reference to self-harm, if ever there was one. A cursory glance at his discography will reveal it also plays a predominant theme in his work. However when he replies to Stan he says ‘What’s this shit about you like to cut your wrists too? I say that shit just clowning dog how fucked up is you.’ Was it all pretend? In 2007 Eminem overdosed on Methadone and nearly killed himself. Whether a suicide attempt or not, Going Through Changes puts it out there, death-wishing is never far from Em’s mind.

Evidence: I Just Don’t Give a Fuck: Extortion, snortin’, supportin’ abortion
Pathological liar, blowin’ shit out of proportion, The looniest, zaniest, spontaneous, sporadic, Impulsive thinker, compulsive drinker, addict
Half animal, half man, Dumpin’ your dead body inside of a fuckin’ trash can
With more holes than an Afghan.

Eminem’s discography is a textbook of emotional instability. No evidence needed, we only need to look at the art and artist, the real and representative to know emotional problems are at the heart of his work. The blessing of course, is something that many of us should be familiar with — instability is linked to creativity. Without rapid cycling emotions, there would be no art. We learn by suffering, but we can pass the test, when we can channel pain into something good.

Evidence: Talkin 2 Myself: Marshall, you’re no longer the man That’s a bitter pill to swallow All I know is I’m wallowing, self-loathing and hollow Bottoms up on the pill bottle Maybe I’ll hit my bottom tomorrow

Lately the mature Eminem speaks a lot about emptiness. In fact we can say his early career, was much more adolescent in outlook — concernered as it was with rage and aggression. Words are weapons, and they become a way to attack the void within. However now in his 40’s Eminem is able to reflect ‘it just breaks my heart to think of all the pain I’ve caused, but what am I gonna do when the rage is gone and the lights go out in the trailer park. And the window is closing and there’s nowhere else that I can go with flows And I’m frozen cause there’s no more emotion for me to pull from Just a bunch of playful songs that I make for fun.’ Thankfully Em still has emotions, which means songs are still created, and because of that there is still a space to speak truthfully about the scars of the past. Scars which show the only way to attack emptiness is sometimes via self-destruction.

Evidence: The Way I Am: I can be a prick if you tempt me My tank is on empty, no patience is in me And if you offend me, I’m lifting you ten feet in the air I don’t care who was there and who saw me just jaw you Go call you a lawyer, file you a lawsuit I’ll smile in the courtroom and buy you a wardrobe I’m tired of all you, I don’t mean to be mean.

Eminem once pistol-whipped a bouncer for kissing his wife. In the old days of psychoanalysis, it was argued Borderline Personality Disorder was a condition which emerged out of ‘excess aggression.’ Anger and hatred are the consequence of an invalidating enviroment. Marshall Mathers formative years were most likely marked by his mother’s need to suppress her son’s emotional character. When this happens, the person becomes like an emotional burn victim, and everything feels raw. The true self has not been allowed to speak or feel freely. Because of this, anger emerges as a counter reaction to feeling powerless and hurt. Beyond the violence, is pain which needs to be addressed.

Evidence: 97' Bonnie and Clyde: Baby, don’t cry, honey, don’t get the wrong idea Mama’s too sweepy to hear you screaming in her ear (Mama!) That’s why you can’t get her to wake, but don’t worry Dada made a nice bed for Mommy at the bottom of the lake Here, you wanna help Dada tie a rope around this rock? (yea) We’ll tie it to her footsie then we’ll roll her off the dock Ready now, here we go, on the count of free One, two, free, whee! (woosh!) There goes Mama, splashing in the water No more fighting with Dad, no more restraining order No more stepdada, no more new brother Blow her kisses bye-bye, tell Mama you wuv her (Mommy!).

We end where we began. We come full circle. 97 Bonnie and Clyde is the aftermath of the snuff song Kim. Eminem kills his wife, and he and his daughter attempt to dispose of the body. Of course we know Kim is still alive, but we can wonder at such songs and ask if they are not the product of dissociation in and of themselves. Eminem pretended he was taking his daughter to chuckie cheese to get her vocals — very unethical, but also quite unhinged. We know Eminem is a good dad, and a genuinely good person. So why such tracks? I can only argue, that maybe in those early days before the millennium, fresh out the trailer, eminem really was paranoid, stressed, and prone to zoning out. The good Marshall Mathers is the artist who is a spokesperson for the disaffected youth, the bad Slim Shady is the angry borderline personality. This song highlights the split most convincingly.


Of course now we come to the crux — there’s a danger here, to see art and life as synonomous, personality disorder and personal choice as the same. That’s the problem with labels: We are more than a diagnosis and more than a list of symptoms. The above evidence makes Marshall Mathers III look like a Psychopath much more than someone with BPD; yet is it any different to the way Borderline Personality Disorder will appear crazy to the public, who don’t understand the nature of the illness. Looks can be deceiving and there’s more than meets the eye. Eminem is also the artist who gave us Not Afraid, the Monster and Guts Over Fear, just so people like us, can have hope and go into the future feeling more positive. As with BPD as with Eminem, motives matter just as much as actions. Stories are just as important as descriptions. This is a playful look at the Real Slim Shady, but beyond all this, the real Marshall Mathers is hiding in between.

Written by

Freelance journalist writing on mental health and disability. Words have the power to shine a light on realities otherwise missed.

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