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Did Samson Have Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Eric Lewin Altschuler, MD, PhD; Ansar Haroun, MD; Bing Ho, MD; Amy Weimer, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2001;58(2):202-203. doi:.
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Besides intrinsic, historical, and literary interest, and pedagogical utility, the study of the history of a disease can provide clues to its pathogenesis. It is necessary, but not sufficient, that the cause of disease be at least as old as the disease itself. We note a possible case of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) nearly 3000 years ago: the biblical figure Samson (Judges,1 chapters 13-16), son of Manoah.

The DSM-IV requires that 3 of 7 criteria be met for the diagnosis of ASPD. Samson meets 6. (1) Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior: The Philistines tried to arrest Samson after he burned the Philistine fields (15:5) and went to Gaza (16:1). (2) Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying: Samson did not tell his parents that he had killed a lion. Furthermore, he proffered honey for his parents to eat, but did not tell them it had come from the carcass of a lion (14:9) and thus caused them to violate their dietary laws. (3) Impulsivity: His burning of the Philistine fields (15:5). (4) Irritability and aggressiveness: This is indicated by his repeated involvement in physical fights. (5) Reckless disregard for safety of self or others: Samson is reported to have taken on and killed 1000 Philistines single-handedly (15:15). Telling Delilah the secret to his strength (16:17), even after she had attempted 3 times previously to get this secret, can also be considered reckless disregard for safety of self. (6) Lack of remorse: He gloated (15:16) after killing 1000 men.


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