Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico

Hubris syndrome - Lord Owen speaks to IoP students

Students from the Mental Health Studies Programme at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s were given a fascinating insight into the dark world of the Hubris Syndrome in a lecture presented by Lord David Owen. 

Lord Owen was a Member of Parliament for 26 years, with appointments as Foreign Secretary and Health Minister, and was co-founder and leader of the Social Democratic Party. Educated as a physician at Cambridge and St Thomas’ Hospital, London, he was a Neurological and Psychiatric Registrar and Research Fellow in the Medical Unit.

In his talk, Lord Owen described the ‘Hubris Syndrome’ - how the intoxication of power takes hold and turns many leaders into tyrants who are no longer able or willing to listen to the advice from intelligent and respected sources.  Consequently, for those suffering from the syndrome, once the glory and success has gone to their heads, it affects every action they take - a trajectory which can lead to devastating consequences. 

Lord Owen discussed various examples from recent global political decisions.  He was keen to point out that although his own experiences have led him to believe that many politicians are affected by Hubrism, this is by no means a maladaptive behaviour pattern confined to the corridors of government.  Rather, he claimed it exists in a multitude of organisations where those who rise to the top progressively become restless, reckless and impulsive before experiencing a loss of contact with reality.  Although Lord Owen said that there is currently no scientifically validated measure for the Syndrome, he felt that the behavioural traits are gaining recognition amongst those interested in the area of personality disorders. 

The Mental Health Studies Programme consists of two courses: the MSc Mental Health Studies and the specialist MSc in Organisational Psychiatry and Psychology. Run by the Department of Psychosis Studies, the courses are unique to the UK and focus on a wide variety of  mental health topics in order to give students an extensive understanding of the current mental health field and the issues society and professionals have to address. Students on the courses come from a wide range of backgrounds, including nursing, psychology, management, work with the homeless, drug and alcohol counselling, physiotherapy and mental health work.

Gilly Wiscarson, Course Leader for the MSc Organisational Psychiatry and Psychology, said: “We were privileged to have Lord Owen to come and speak to us; his enormous breadth and depth of knowledge of world affairs and history provided great insight into this new area of research.  We currently have three MSc students working with the Daedalus Trust on research into Hubris and we hope to continue to develop knowledge in this area in the future".

Previous lectures given to students from the Mental Health Studies Programme include Professor Lord Robert Winston

For further information, please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, email: or tel: (+44) 0207 848 5377