Monthly Archives: July 2012

Diana Dial & Delusional Thinking

If you have never interacted with an individual who is delusional, then you might find it difficult to understand what delusions are like. A delusion is the strongly held belief in something despite there being strong evidence to the contrary.Delusions are associated with psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, bipolar disorder, among several others.

Delusions feel very real to the individual who is experiencing them. An individual who is delusional is unable to recognize that what they are thinking is untrue. They cannot know, they are mentally ill. People do not become delusional on purpose. Delusions happen to people, in most cases because of a mental illness.

Diana Dial

One of the best examples of an individual (on tape) who is clearly delusional is Diana Dial. Ms. Dial shot and killed her roommate because she firmly believed that he was going to poison her and the rest of her family. Despite having a long and documented history of schizophrenia, at her trial she adamantly denied this diagnosis. Under no circumstances did she want to be seen as being mentally ill.

In this video (which I cannot embed), Ms. Dial explains to Dr. Michael Stone her version of events. As you can see in the video, she is clearly delusional. Ms. Dial is not evil. She is mentally ill. Upon the last report on her status (which was years ago) Ms. Dial has not received any mental health treatment while incarcerated.

Have questions about delusions or psychosis? Don’t hesitate to ask.

The Rush to Diagnose The Colorado Shooter

Dave Cullen, author of the New York Times bestseller Columbine was part of a roundtable discussion this morning on MSNBC with Chris Hayes. The topic was the media coverage of the latest mass shooting. When conducting research for his book, Cullen reviewed the early news reports regarding the “facts” about the two shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. In the several days after the shooting, the media interviewed many acquaintances of the two boys. What Cullen ultimately realized was that those early “facts” about Eric and Dylan, (proffered mainly by acquaintances) what essentially became the media narrative, were untrue. Despite that media narrative being untrue, many people still continue to believe those “facts.”

The same thing could easily happen in this case.

Another interesting element of the Columbine shooting media aftermath, mentioned by Cullen, was the leading questions asked by reporters to the acquaintances being interviewed about Eric and Dylan. Those leading questions included (paraphrasing): “we heard Eric and Dylan were loners, is this true? We heard that they were part of the “trench coat mafia,” what do you know about this? We heard that they were bullied, what did you see?” and so forth. Those leading questions by reporters could have easily swayed those being interviewed into giving an answer that they may not have given otherwise.

The Psychological Status of the Colorado Shooter

At this time, we know virtually nothing about the shooters’ mental health history. News outlets are reporting, based mainly on interviews with acquaintances, that Holmes was quiet and shy. With regard to a psychiatric diagnosis, it is impossible to know what diagnosis he has, if any. Only after extensive evaluations and interviews, with trained mental health professionals, could a reliable diagnosis be determined. Short of that, every diagnosis is simply guess.

In time, we will learn a great deal of information about the shooter’s mental health status. Being quiet and shy, liking Guitar Hero, and possibly setting up a profile on Adult Friend Finder are not the actions and behavior of any identifiable mental illness. In the meantime, resist the urge to diagnose the shooter. Critically evaluate the media’s message and don’t jump to conclusions based on a very limited amount of information that is currently available.

Have a comment or want to reprint this article? Let me know.

Clinical Terms In The News, Related to the Colorado Shooting

In light of what many are calling the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, you will likely be hearing many reports about the clinical and psychological status of the shooter. At this time, there have been no reports about his clinical or psychological status but mental health professionals have been speculating about it in the news. Below is a list of clinical terms and information that you may be hearing about or may be wondering about, in relation to the Colorado shooter.

Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a severe and debilitating thought disorder that is diagnosed in less than 2% of the United States population. Symptoms of the disorder include: having a break with reality, illogical thoughts and extreme emotional and social dysregulation, among others. The probability of developing schizophrenia is relatively low compared to other mental health disorders.

The perception of individuals with schizophrenia being violent remains strong in our society. The facts do not match that perception. Individuals with schizophrenia are no more dangerous than the average person except under four conditions that increase the likelihood for violence. Those four conditions include:

1. Having a history of violence
2. Actively using drugs and alcohol
3. Off medication and actively psychotic
4. Lack of insight into one’s mental illness

Those conditions may increase the likelihood of violence but they do not guarantee violence. It is difficult (and in fact may not be possible) to accurately predict who is going to be violent and under which conditions.

The National Institute of Mental Health states the following about schizophrenia and violence:

“Most violent crimes are not committed by persons with schizophrenia and most persons with schizophrenia do not commit violent acts.”

Individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators of violence.

Schizophrenia is often confused with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which was formerly called multiple personality disorder.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: DID symptoms include: the presence of two or more identities, at least two of these identities recurrently take control of the person’s behavior and having an inability to recall personal information. DID is very rare and is diagnosed in less than 1% of population.

The Bottom Line: Schizophrenia is not DID and multiple personality disorder is now called DID.

Psychosis: Psychosis is a break with reality. An individual who is psychotic might hear voices, see things that are not real or believe that someone is following them. The voices associated with psychosis are generally negative. The voices may be telling an individual to harm themselves or someone else. The voices can be very unpleasant and frightening.

Psychosis is associated with mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorder not otherwise specified (NOS), and several others.

An individual can have a psychotic break and never have another. In clinical terms, that is called Schizophreniform disorder.

Psychopath: According to research by Hare and Newman, psychopaths are:

  • shallow,
  • deceptive,
  • grandiose,
  • dominant,
  • superficial,
  • manipulative,
  • are unable to establish emotional bonds,
  • lack empathy, guilt, and remorse,
  • are social deviants, impulsive and ignore the norms of society.

Many clinicians and researchers believe that psychopaths are untreatable.

Psychopath is a term used interchangeably with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), sociopathy, and psychopathy but they are not same, at least technically (and according to Hare). Research shows, according to Hare, that most people with ASPD are not psychopathic but most psychopathic individuals meet the current diagnostic criteria for ASPD. Despite Hare’s contention that psychopaths and individuals with ASPD are very different, some researchers contend that both psychopaths and individuals with ASPD are virtually the same.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD): Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by difficulty interacting with others or lacking the desire to interact with others. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder are typically not shy. On some occasions, they can be charismatic. Ted Bundy, who is considered by many to be a “textbook” case of ASPD, was generally well-liked.

Individuals with ASPD lack empathy, tend to be arrogant, are excessively opinionated, can be charming, and engage in aggressive or criminal acts. There are also characteristically irresponsible, frequently manipulative, impulsive, and have no regard for others.

The aforementioned are some of the terms and phrases that you will likely hear discussed in reference to the Colorado shooter, and in other cases of a similar nature.

Incredible and Memorable Video: “Why I Jumped”

Tina Zahn was a mother of two, wife, church and school volunteer in addition to working full-time. She was also struggling with postpartum depression. One day, she was so distraught, she rushed to her car and decided that it was time to end her life by jumping off a 200-ft bridge. Unbelievably, 911 was called and she was saved. Part of this video is taken from the surveillance camera of a State Trooper’s vehicle. You have to see it to believe it.

Interestingly, Tina reports that she did not recall anything about the event until months later.

Studies of suicide survivors show that their decision to end their lives was often not well-planned. Those decisions were often made impulsively, just like in Tina’s case.

Know the Risk Factors For Postpartum Depression.

Below are some book recommendations:

[amazon_enhanced asin="0553370758" /][amazon_enhanced asin="0415989965" /][amazon_enhanced asin="0425208087" /][amazon_enhanced asin="0470073357" /]

The Vault & Threats to Members of Congress

The FBI has made thousands of files available in an online resource called The Vault. There is a great deal of interesting information in The Vault.

A file called “Threats To Members Of Congress -2003″ revealed 58 threats. Here are examples of some of those incidents.

Victims: John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy, and Joseph Lieberman 

A threatening letter was sent to both Lieberman and Kennedy that contained the following statement: “We Are Going To Kill You.” 

A different threatening letter sent to Kerry and Clinton contained the following message: “For you slowly trying to kill our son, we’re going to kill you…Your to die on the cross…” 

It was determined that the individual sending the letter was male but no other information could be identified through DNA analysis.

Victim: Senator Mary Landrieu

A threatening letter was sent to the home of the Senator that stated the following: “if you vote against invoking cloture against another one of President Bush’s nominees… I’m going to kill you. I will also go after your family, such as your husband and kids… I will kill them as well… If you care about yourself and your family, you’ll do what I say… If you vote against invoking cloture again, I’m going to track you, your family and even your staff down and kill them and you… I know where you live.” 

No DNA or latent prints could be retrieved from the envelope.

Victim: Congresswoman Maxine Waters

A phone threat was called into the Congresswoman’s Reno office and stated the following: “I’m going to kill you communist piece of shit.”

While being interviewed by the authorities, it was noticed that the interviewee had a book of photos in which the faces of Democratic senators and representatives had been stabbed and contained the word “dead” under each individual’s picture. Ultimately, the individual was seemingly no longer deemed a threat, perhaps due to the failing health.

Victim: Senator Mark Pryor

A letter was sent to the senator regarding an FCC rule change that stated the following: “it’s a bad idea and I’m counting on you to stop it. Do it or I’ll kill you. Really. I’m crazy. Just wait… Oh, and start an organization to save the jellyrabbit.” No additional threats were made and the case was closed. 

Victim: Senator Dan Inouye

An individual called the Senator to discuss healthcare. The individual identified himself as a medical doctor who said that he had been “illegally tormented by the FBI” and said “that if the senator did not call him back within two days, he would “take out” his family.” 

Some of the threats to members of Congress were relatively nonspecific, and some others received letters that were thought to have contained Anthrax.

The Case of Darlie Routier

There have been over 290 people who have been exonerated in the United States (i.e. their innocence has been proven). We usually hear about these cases after they have been released from prison but what about the people who are currently in prison and claiming to be innocent. Darlie Routier is one such case.

Darlie is currently on death row in Texas for the murder of her two young sons. She has always proclaimed her innocence. She has many supporters who also believe in her innocence. One of those supporters created a video about the case.

Here is an update on her case. She might have a strong case.