Did Rohana Wijeweera suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Posttraumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED)?
Posted on February 19th, 2017
Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge
Rohana Wijeweera -an extreme-left Sinhalese nationalist launched two unsuccessful insurrections against the democratically elected Sri Lankn government in 1971 and 1987-89. Following these insurrections nearly 80,000 people lost their lives.
Wijeweera was a charismatic leader who bore a complex character. He was an eloquent orator, an excellent organizer and an energetic agitator. He motivated masses. Some considered him as a Political Messiah who came to liberate the proletariat. However some of his followers uncovered the dark side of Wijeweera after working with him for a long time. They noticed that Wijeweera was manipulative and sometimes acted remorselessly. The psychological analysis of Wijeweera‘s personality could provide a better explanation of some of his pathological traits.
Over the years many of his followers observed specific traits like inflexibility, suspiciousness, avoidance and risky decision-making in Wijeweera. Wijeweera underwent phases of depression and had lack of trust on colleagues. Sometimes he was paranoid and accused some of his supports as CIA agents. In 1969 he believed that the USA was planning to invade Sri Lanka. When the Tourist Ministry stared building the Bentota guest house he thought that it was an American military base. According to Wijeweera the widening of Ella – Wellawaya road in 1970 was a secret mission to construct a runway for the US militarily planes. He profoundly believed the myth of US invasion and prepared his followers to overthrow the democratically elected Sirimavo Bandaranayake’s government in 1971.
Rohana Wijeweera was incarcerated from 1971 to 1977 in which he experienced harsh conditions. Wijeweera was released in 1977. After his release Wijeweera re organised the party recruiting new members. In 1982, Rohana Wijeweera contested the presidential elections but lost. After the 1983 communal riots Rohana Wijeweera’s political party JVP was proscribed by the president J.R Jayawardene. Hence he went underground with his loyalists and functioned as a secret political organization.
Rohana Wijeweera was dissatisfied with his body image. He was drastically impacted by low self esteem due to his protruding teeth (malocclusion). Throughout his life he was self conscious and seeking reassurance about the overbite. Wijeweera was a very shy person and mostly an introverted. In the early days he deliberately made efforts to be away from girls. He lacked social skills and self confidence. Wijeweera prohibited his followers to have love affairs when he formed his movement in late 60 s.
Patabendi Don Nandasiri Wijeweera was the founding leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna- JVP. He was born on 14 July 1943. Wijeweera‘s father Patabendi Don Andris Wijeweera was an active member of Ceylon Communist Party (pro-Soviet wing). When Wijeweera was four years old he was stricken by a devastating event. During the Parliamentary election in 1947 Wijeweera‘s father was severely beaten by thugs and he became paralyzed. Young Wijeweera witnessed the suffering of his father after he became disabled. He had feelings of embitterment, rage, and helplessness due to this unjust occurrence. It violated his basic beliefs.
Wijeweera‘s family lived in Kottegoda. They belonged to the The Karava cast who were considered as the traditional fisher-folk. The family lived in poverty and they were often discriminated by the high cast villagers. He viewed this as unjust insults and humiliations.Young Wijeweera experienced social and financial hardships. Moreover he had unresolved mental conflicts with his mother Nasi Nona Wickramakalutota. Wijeweera believed that his mother did not provide adequate care for his disabled father. His father died in 1965. These negative events affected his mental well-being.
There are sufficient evidence to believe that Rohana Wijeweera suffered from Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Posttraumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED). Ironically some of his political decisions had been influenced by these psychological conditions.
Body dysmorphic disorder is a debilitating disorder, characterized by obsessions and compulsions relating specifically to perceived appearance. Body dysmorphic disorder is defined as having a preoccupation with a perceived flaw in one’s appearance, which appears slight to others and significantly interferes with a person’s functioning (Joseph et al., 2016). Wijeweera had an excessive concern about his protruding teeth and preoccupied with his imagined defect. It caused him significant distress and sometimes he avoided looking at him self through a mirror.
In addition to Body dysmorphic disorder Rohana Wijeweera had numerous psychological reactions to his negative life events. As a result of these dire experiences Wijeweera may have suffered from ‘posttraumatic embitterment disorder.
In 2003, the German psychiatrist Michael Linden proposed the new mental disorder concept of “post-traumaticembitterment disorder (Dobricki &, Maercker, 2010). In the last decade, post-traumatic embitterment disorder (PTED) has been internationally recognized as a specific form of adjustment disorder (Belaise et al., 2012).
According to Linden (2003) the Posttraumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED) is introduced as a new concept for a subgroup of adjustment disorders. PTED is precipitated after a single exceptional negative life event. The emotional response to this negative life event is embitterment and feelings of injustice. The sufferer can have repeated intrusive memories of the event and thoughts of revenge. Additional symptoms are feelings of helplessness, self-blame, rejection of help, suicidal ideation, dysphoria, aggression, down-heartedness, seemingly melancholic depression, unspecific somatic complaints, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, pain, phobic symptoms in respect to the place or to persons related to the event, reduced drive ( Linden,2003). Linden (2003) highlights that no obvious other mental disorder that can explain the reaction and PTED can be discriminated from PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders, and other adjustment disorders.
Rohana Wijeweera was revengeful for the personal injustice and humiliation that he experienced since childhood. He launched his aggressive Campaign against the political system in Sri Lanka killing his opponents sometimes their family members. Among the murdered his ex followers were included.
He ordered his cadres to destroy government property worth millions of rupees. In addition Rohana Wijeweera recruited under aged cadres in both the insurrections and they committed a number of atrocities. These events caused a collective traumas in Sri Lanka. Many families suffered under the insurrection. The social fabric became disintegrated.
In the final years he was in hiding and making a proxy war against the Sri Lankan government. Finally the armed forces managed to locate his hideout and arrested him in 1989. After the arrest Wijeweera was shot dead. Although Rohana Wijeweera died in 1989 his political party JVP became on of the influential political movements in Sri Lanka.
Belaise, C ., Bernhard, L.M., Linden, M.(2012). [The post-traumatic embitterment disorder: clinical features].Riv Psichiatr. ;47(5):376-87.
Dobricki, M ., Maercker, A.(2010).(Post-traumatic) embitterment disorder: critical evaluation of its stressor criterion and a proposed revised classification. Nord J Psychiatry. 4;64(3):147-52.
Joseph, J. , Randhawa, P. , Hannan, S.A . Long, J. , Goh, S. , O’Shea, N. , Saleh, H. , Hansen, E. , Veale, D. Andrews, P. (2016).Body dysmorphic disorder in patients undergoing septorhinoplasty surgery: should we be performing routine screening? Clin Otolaryngol. . doi: 10.1111/coa.12752.
Linden ,M. (2003).Posttraumatic embitterment disorder. Psychother Psychosom. 72(4):195-202.