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FACT-CHECK GUARANTEE (References): [Peer-reviewed research papers: 3 sources] [Academic journals/websites: 2 sources] [Straight from the source: 2 sources]
22 April 2022 | By Richard Ahern – From roid rage to autism to Parkinson’s disease, rumors about Vladimir Putin’s mental health are circulating after his irrational invasion of Ukraine.
But are they just that, rumors?
The Kremlin has categorically denied Putin is ill, describing his health as “excellent,” so there are no confirmed accounts. However, many experts have suggested that severe mental and physical health issues could explain Putin’s recent behavior.
We’ll examine the credibility of the most interesting and sometimes bizarre rumors about Putin’s mental health. In this article, we will focus specifically on mental health aspects but will discuss how physical illnesses could be affecting the Russian president’s judgment.
We’ll explore all the Putin rumors and assess the probability of each using our proprietary rating system, including an unheard-of intelligence report released several years ago speculating on a developmental disorder Putin may have.
Let’s get digging!
Putin is on steroids — The Putin roid rage theory
A popular theory circulating is that Putin has cancer and is on steroid treatment. The cancer theory was even peddled by Nancy Pelosi during a TV interview and gained further steam when reports emerged that Putin had numerous visits from a doctor specializing in thyroid cancer.
One report alleged that Putin was visited 35 times at his luxury residence by Yevgeny Selivanov, a doctor specializing in thyroid cancer.
The report also noted that Putin is followed religiously by Dr. Alexey Shcheglov, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. The doctor is often seen in photos alongside the Russian president.
Putin had also shown public interest in thyroid cancer when he questioned a doctor about a treatment that had a 95-98% recovery rate.
Standard treatment for cancer is the use of steroids, which many believe Putin is taking due to the apparent bloat and puffiness of his face. The bloat results from water retention because steroids can cause the body to retain fluid.
Let’s get this clear:
The reasoning that these steroids are causing “roid rage” in the Russian president is somewhat misguided as cancer is treated with corticosteroids, not anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids mimic male hormones like testosterone produced by the testes, which are known to increase aggression, but corticosteroids mimic hormones produced by the adrenal glands.
That being said, the list of complications from corticosteroids does include aggression, depression, confusion, hallucinations, cognitive impairment, and paranoia.
Here’s our rating for this theory:
1) Probability rating:0%
55% — marginally likely
We give this rumor a 55% probability because there are some compelling factors, such as the doctor visits and Putin’s public interest in thyroid cancer.
If Putin were on corticosteroids for cancer, that could certainly affect his reasoning around the Russia-Ukraine war; but this theory likely stems from the misunderstanding that he is on anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders.
As far as the Putin face bloat theory, an alternative suggestion is that Putin is fond of plastic surgery, and cosmetic fillers have caused the bloated look around his face.
Has Putin got Parkinson’s?
The rumor of Putin having Parkinson’s disease has been doing the rounds for years when it was falsely reported that he was resigning from the presidency because of this diagnosis.
The Kremlin denied these claims, but that hasn’t stopped the speculation.
Parkinson’s is a progressive nervous system disorder that primarily affects movement. It happens when the neurons in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine stop working properly. Neurotransmitters like dopamine allow neurons in the brain to communicate with each other.
The most common signs of Parkinson’s are tremors, slowed movement, impaired posture, and speech changes.
The rumors of Putin having this disorder stemmed from his unusual walk, where one arm swings as expected, but the other remains fixed and rigid by his side.
Here’s the problem:
This theory somewhat fell apart when it was found that this walk was taught to KGB agents and is known as the “gunslinger’s gait.” It’s likely Putin adopted this from his days in the KGB. The walk allows a quick draw of a handgun at the side if needed.
Mental health problems are widespread with Parkinson’s, either directly from the disorder or from medications used to treat it. Depression, anxiety, psychosis, and hallucinations are all common psychiatric aspects of Parkinson’s disease.
Here’s our probability analysis:
2) Probability rating:0%
30% — unlikely
Has Putin got Parkinson’s?
If Putin had Parkinson’s, that might explain his irrational behavior, but the evidence is lacking now that we can assume his unusual walk stems from his KGB training.
Is Putin sick and retiring?
The rumor of Putin retiring appears to be false, and it seems he has no intention to leave office anytime soon, as he recently changed the law to allow him to remain in power until 2036.
That seems like an unlikely move from someone with a neurodegenerative disease.
Does Putin have Asperger’s? — Putin autistic theory
This little-known theory stems from a 2008 Pentagon study that suggested Putin’s “neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy,” resulting in Asperger’s syndrome.
Asperger’s syndrome is an outdated term and is now diagnosed as an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Asperger’s is generally regarded as level 1 autism, the least severe on the spectrum.
Autism is a developmental disorder involving challenges with social interaction, understanding emotion, restricted interests, and repetitive behavior.
Autism is described as a spectrum disorder because of the wide range of severities. There are three levels of severity, with one being the mildest and three being the most severe. For example, someone with level 3 autism will have learning difficulties, could be non-verbal, and require substantial support.
People with level 1 autism (Asperger’s) may be highly intelligent with extraordinary abilities but struggle in social situations. They understand language and can communicate but find it difficult to understand social cues and maintain eye contact.
Autism is often characterized by a restricted and intense interest in a specific subject. Someone on the spectrum may be extremely obsessive over one subject and know everything about it.
Autism is also associated with amplified emotional responses, such as extreme anger and a poor ability to control emotions. People on the autistic spectrum are often characterized as cold and lacking empathy, but this must not be confused with psychopathy, which we will explain below.
People with autism often find their way to the top and are highly successful.
Here are some compelling examples:
Elon Musk recently announced he has Asperger’s when hosting Saturday Night Live (SNL). Many other important figures have said they are on the spectrum, including Anthony Hopkins and Courtney Love. It is also widely believed that people like Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates showed autistic attributes. The traits of intense interest and attention to detail likely contribute to this — people on the spectrum can become masters of their chosen subject.
The 2008 report by the Pentagon had experts analyze Putin’s mannerisms and concluded it was likely he had Asperger’s (level 1 autism). Still, it was impossible to confirm this without access to Putin himself, they noted.
Does Putin have autism?
Putin ticks some of the boxes; he certainly seems to have developed an obsessive interest in Russia-Ukraine history, evidenced by his 2021 essay and recent speeches. He also favors isolation, suggesting he prefers to avoid social situations. Furthermore, Putin rose to the top of the Russian empire and is often described as intelligent.
Here’s where it gets more complicated…
Does Putin’s lack of empathy suggest he could be autistic?
It’s clear to many that Putin shows a significant lack of empathy towards the thousands of Ukrainians suffering, and we could conclude that this is evidence of autism.
However, more precisely, Putin’s actions align with someone on the psychopathic spectrum. Research shows that psychopaths lack affective empathy, showing little emotional response to victims of aggression. On the other hand, studies show that people with autism have difficulties with cognitive empathy, struggling to understand someone else’s perspective.
Here’s the kicker:
Autistics do experience an emotional response, such as compassion towards victims of violence!
How likely Putin has autism:
3) Probability rating:0%
40% — fairly unlikely
We think this theory is fairly unlikely because the researchers in the report never interviewed Putin, which is essential to form a diagnosis of autism.
Instead, between autism and psychopathy, we would suggest that Putin has more psychopathic tendencies than autistic traits.
The Kremlin has denied that Putin has autism. Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov commented on the rumor in 2015, saying, “That is stupidity not worthy of comment.”
Lack of empathy in autism vs psychopathy
Putin has Covid-induced brain fog
It’s been widely speculated that Putin has contracted Covid and has not fully recovered; in other words, he’s got “long Covid.”
For some unfortunate people, COVID-19 infection causes symptoms lasting many months after the initial infection is gone. Known as “long Covid,” it is not linked to how severe your symptoms are when you first get it. People with initially mild symptoms can develop long-term symptoms that last months and, in some cases, over a year.
We don’t know if Putin has ever contracted Covid, but he seems very precautious, sitting at long tables away from people and frequently isolating himself.
Here’s some strong evidence:
There is video evidence of Putin breaking into a coughing fit during a virtual meeting. We also know that the Russian president went into self-isolation when some of his close colleagues tested positive for the virus.
With seemingly no rational reason behind the Russia-Ukraine war, many have speculated that Putin may be suffering from the typical long Covid symptom of “brain fog.”
Our probability assessment of Putin having long Covid brain fog:
4) Probability rating:0%
80% — highly likely
We assess this theory to be highly likely, considering we’ve been in a global Covid pandemic, and we know Putin’s inner circle has been infected.
Brain fog is one of the most prevalent symptoms in patients complaining of long covid. Brain fog includes problems with memory, concentration, dizziness, insomnia, and extreme fatigue — all symptoms that can undoubtedly impair rational judgment.
Scientists believe Covid brain fog is due to inflammation in the brain caused by the body’s immune response to the coronavirus.
Putin has denied having Covid-19 and claimed he had a cold after concerns surrounded his public coughing fit.
At least we know he will admit to having a cold!
Is Putin dying and got nothing to lose?
One of the simpler theories explaining Putin’s actions is that he is dying; whether he has cancer or some other terminal illness is irrelevant, the point is he’s acting like there is nothing to lose.
Putin has demonstrated that he is content with allowing Russia and Ukraine to suffer at any expense.
This invasion has no winners.
Perhaps the long-term future of Russia is no concern to Putin because he’s terminal. It may be the mentality of “going out with a bang” – Putin wants to be in the history books as the president that took Ukraine.
One thing is for sure:
Image is everything to the Russian president, which is evident from his past. Whether riding horses topless or hugging polar bears – he wants to be seen as a great man and leader.
A man like Putin, who displays narcissistic traits and is driven by ego, will fear nothing more than being forgotten in history.
Could the invasion of Ukraine be driven by a man’s selfish need to be remembered at the expense of thousands of lives?
Here’s our verdict:
5) Probability rating:0%
45% — marginally unlikely
Considering Putin’s unfathomable actions, it certainly could explain a lot, but he doesn’t appear on death’s door based on appearance.
Is Putin dying of cancer?
The theory of Putin having cancer is likely the most widespread currently, but it’s important to note there is no evidence of this. Instead, face bloat could likely be simple weight gain, and being followed by doctors is not unusual for someone we know is anxious about his health.
We must also remember he has access to the best Russian doctors — even if Putin is in ill health, it’s likely he won’t die anytime soon.
The Kremlin insists the Russian president is in excellent health and is not dying.
The bottom line — is Putin ill?
The theories we have discussed all have some supporting evidence, but we will never know without access to Putin. As we’ve shown, it’s all about probabilities at this point!
Some of the theories are more plausible than others. For example, the Russian president contracting Covid-19 during a pandemic is highly likely, but cancer and Parkinson’s rumors are less convincing.
At the end of the day:
The last thing Putin will do is admit there is anything wrong with him, that could indicate weakness, and as we said before, image is everything to Vladimir Putin.
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