Oscar Pistorius ‘did not suffer mental disorder’ at time of shooting

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Oscar Pistorius ‘did not suffer mental disorder’ at time of shooting

The Oscar Pistorius trial has just resumed and the big question on everybody’s mind is “what does the report say?” but it would seem that we all have to wait a little longer to get the full story.

According to www.theguardian.com, the following is a summary of what we know about the Psychiatric report.

“We have not heard extensive details from the report, with all sides (including the judge) indicating they need more time to read through its findings. But the key points from this morning:

• Pistorius was not suffering from a “mental disorder or defect” when he shot Reeva Steenkamp.

• Pistorius was not incapable of telling right from wrong, and was not incapable of acting on that understanding of right and wrong.

• Neither state nor defence objects to the conclusions of the report.

• We are yet to hear if the psychiatrists support the diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder.

Nel makes a glancing reference to the report filed this morning by the psychiatrists, and says they conclude the athlete suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.”

What this means, is that the report has ruled out Mental Defect as a defence. Oscar Pistorius cannot use Mental Illness as a defence and his mental state cannot be used as a mitigating factor in his sentencing.

If he has a diagnosis of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress DIsorder) then, according to the DSM, he would need to meet the following criteria:

A: Exposure to a traumatic event.

Traumatic events that can lead to PTSD include:

  • War
  • Natural disasters
  • Car or plane crashes
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Childhood neglect

Or any shattering event that leaves you stuck and feeling helpless and hopeless

B: Persistent re-experiencing.

Symptoms of PTSD: Re-experiencing the traumatic event

  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
  • Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
  • Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)

C: Persistent avoidance and emotional numbing.

Symptoms of PTSD: Avoidance and numbing

  • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Loss of interest in activities and life in general
  • Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
  • Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)

D: Persistent symptoms of increased arousal not present before.

Symptoms of PTSD: Increased anxiety and emotional arousal

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
  • Feeling jumpy and easily startled

E: Duration of symptoms for more than 1 month.

F: Significant impairment. The symptoms reported must lead to “clinically significant distress or impairment” of major domains of life activity, such as social relations, occupational activities, or other “important areas of functioning”.

Read more about PTSD here and here.

If he has been given the diagnosis of Depression, then it is likely that his diagnosis would be one of Major Depressive Disorder or Episode. The details of which are:

An individual diagnosed with major depressive disorder needs to meet all of the following criteria:

    • Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.
      Note: Do not include symptoms that are clearly attibutable to another medical condition.
      • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad, empty, hopeless) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). (Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.)
      • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation).
      • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. (Note: In children, consider failure to make expected weight gain.)
      • Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
      • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
      • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
      • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).
      • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others).
      • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
    • The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

See more here.

My guess is that these two disorders have in fact developed since the shooting. Reeva’s death definitely qualifies as a traumatic event. The loss and grief for Reeva as well as the loss of his individual freedom, his status and his wealth, are all stressful life events that are likely to result in depressive symptoms.

Whether or not you have sympathy for these symptoms in the accused is up to you. He is still on trial for murder.

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