Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Santa Barabara Massacre: Up The Downward Spiral Of A Psychotic Mind

Written by
Mark Allison

Complete unedited manifesto can be found here.

“This is the story of how I, came to be. This is the story of my entire life. It is a dark story of sadness, anger, and hatred. It is a story of a war against cruel injustice. In this magnificent story,….”

And so begins the autobiographical, self proclaimed manifesto of Elliot Rodger,  the alleged gunman who opened fire last Friday on the campus of UCSB

This is not really a manifesto at all but rather a tragic story of an individual's slow descent into the psychotic realm. A lost child unable to find an authentic sense of self and who clings desperately to a idealized false self. The author describes, chronologically, in great detail his  gradual decline from a somewhat unremarkable childhood into his adult “twisted” world.  Upon reading through his journal it is hard to put your finger on any one event that could have been the “trigger” to cause the diabolical transformation from wounded child/adult to homicidal maniac.

What was wrong with Elliot Rodger.  From a psychological point of view we might have tried to rule out (or rule in)  Narcissistic Personality Disorder as described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM V).  To match this diagnosis an individual would need to exhibit at least 5 out of the 9 criteria.
  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. believes they are "special" and unique which separates them from others.
  4. often a need for excessive admiration. 
  5. a strong sense of entitlement.
  6. is interpersonally exploitative, that is they tend to take advantage of others vis-à-vis manipulations.
  7. lacks empathy
  8. is often envious of others
  9. is often arrogant   
From his own words and writings, it appears that Elliot Rodger matches 8 of the 9 criteria of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.   That is certainly a compelling argument for NPD.

Does NPD alone turn a person into a killer.  The short answer is no.   NPD, however, if left untreated and perhaps if it is co-morbid with other disorders certainly can set the stage for extreme and unpredictable behavior. 

Something went wrong here.   Our system failed Elliot Rodger and more importantly, the victims of his actions.  According to numerous news reports Rodger was being treated by multiple counselors over the years.  It's not clear if they had experience in treating disorders such as NPD.   One thing is certain,  if one of the "therapists" who treated Rodger  had pick up the DSM (a mental health professional's equivalent to the bible) they would have had to work hard to not see the glaring evidence that would suggest Rodger  was suffering from NPD and should have ordered further psychological assessments. 

Symptom criteria summarized from:
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. 
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

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