James Holmes’ Affect Similar to Andrea Yates?

In court today, officers described the emotionality, or lack thereof, of Mr. Holmes after he had just massacred innocent people. Color

“James Holmes was the picture of calm, “just standing there” in a helmet, gas mask and body armor, staring off into the distance. “He seemed very detached from it all…very, very relaxed.”

Officers thought at first that Holmes was an officer, who had arrived early on the scene but they quickly realized otherwise.

It was also observed that Holmes was sweating profusely, literally dripping with sweat. He smelled badly.

Officer Grizzle said that Holmes “did not display normal emotional responses.”

His eyes were also dilated.

via NBC News

Demeanor Similar To Andrea Yates?

His lack of emotion is abnormal and interesting but we still know very little about Holmes and his mental health state both then and now. We may learn new information as the week progresses.

It does remind me of how Andrea Yates behaved after drowning her five children in the bathtub.

Immediately following their deaths, she called 911 to report what she did. She spoke “unemotionally” to the dispatcher.

Police reported her as being “emotionless” as she told them about having killed her children. Some officers said that:

“…Yates had a flat demeanor and that her reaction was unlike that of other mothers who just lost their children.”

Andrea Yates was seriously mentally ill. Despite having a long history of mental illness, including psychosis, during her trial, she staunchly resisted the efforts of her attorneys to plead insanity. She insisted that she was not insane and believed that she deserved to die. She made statements to that effect to virtually anyone who would listen.

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.

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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.