Paranoid Schizophrenia, the Krays, and Freud’s Confusion

There are various types of Schizophrenia, but Paranoid Schizophrenia is the most common. The patient has delusions that people are deliberately trying to persecute her, she may well consider herself of exalted birth, or maybe that she’s been sent on a special mission by the Government, although she’s not always sure what that mission might be.

Jealousy is another unpleasant symptom, together with hearing voices that are either of a threatening tone, or which threaten her directly. Sometimes she smells and tastes things which aren’t real.

The onset of this disease is usually between the ages of 15 and 35, and while there’s no cure, it can be controlled by conventional medications such as Thorazine, Prolixin, Haldol and Stelazine. These drugs became available in the 1950s.

In the last decade, more advanced medications appeared, such as Abilify, Zyprexa, Seroquel and Geodon. However, doctors recommend that if you’ve been placed on a course of the older drugs, you should stick to them and not try to change.

The DSM-IV, (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, volume four), defines the illness as follows:

1 ‘Preoccupation with one or more systemized delusions, or with frequent auditory hallucinations related to a single theme.

2. None of the following must be present. Incoherence, marked loosening of association, flat or grossly inappropriate affect, catatonic behaviour, grossly disorganized behaviour.’

A man with a classic case of Paranoid Schizophrenia was Ronald Kray. He, together with his twin brother Reggie, were two of the most vicious villains that London, especially the East End, has had the displeasure of encountering. Their reign of terror spanned nearly two decades, through the 1950s and ’60s.

Their gang, or ‘The Firm,’ as they insisted it be called, included a character named Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie. They employed him as a hit man and general enforcer. Now Reggie was a lot more balanced than Ronnie, and often fell beneath his twin’s spell.

Jack the Hat had been given 1500 pounds to eliminate a rival gangster. For some reason, he failed to deliver on the contract, and the Krays invited him to a party at a house in Hackney, East London. Except that there wasn’t a party. Jack was the only guest.

As soon as he walked through the door, Ronnie told Reggie to shoot him. The gun misfired twice, so Ronnie took Jack in a bear hug, slipped Reggie a knife and told him to do the necessary. Reggie did so with a vengeance.

That’s just one example. Nobody knew where they stood with Ronnie. He could be your best friend one minute and carve his name between your shoulder blades the next. No reason. Just sudden violence, a sudden desire to kill or maim.

The brothers owned an upscale nightclub in the West End of London, and of course this suited Ronnie’s feelings of self importance. Violence, a dominant symptom of the illness, and jealousy were two of the foremost traits that Ronnie displayed.

Finally, he and his brother were arrested by Superintendent Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read of Scotland Yard, and imprisoned for life.

Freud was of the opinion that patients would be in the grip of serious mental disorders for life and that slowly but surely they’d be dragged down to the gutter. He was wrong, as we’ll see later.