Sunday, May 25, 2014

What was wrong with Elliot Rodger?

Elliot Rodger spoke at length on a YouTube video about his plan to enter a sorority house and execute a mass murder, retribution for peer rejection. Blonds would be special targets, but everyone would die. He killed seven people on Friday, including himself, wounding another twenty-two.

Watching the video, it is clear he suffered from depression. He speaks of his loneliness and peer rejection, and at first we wonder if perhaps he had a high functioning autism, what used to be called Asperger's disorder. We wonder, like we did with Adam Lanza, who entered an elementary school and killed 20 children, 6 adults (Sandy Hook, Connecticut), if the social correlates of Aspergers depressed him beyond rational thought, drove him to violence. Children reject other children who don't have social skills, who can't follow social cues, as is the case with Aspergers.

But a teacher interviewed speaks of a whiny complainer, an unlikable young man who thought he deserved more (mainly from blonds). Neighbors call him polite and courteous. He'd been arrested three times, prior to his final act, and police didn't feel he needed to be held in custody.

So we know he knew how to talk to people. That, or the police spoke with parents who convinced them to let him go. He was in all types of therapy, although never hospitalized.

Neighbors of his parents say they never heard any shouting in the home. His family was in the process of moving to Santa Barbara to be close to their son.

All of his weapons were registered. On the gun owner registration there is a question: "Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective?" Elliot could say no, never having been hospitalized.
So one lesson we can take from this (and this is a correction from a previous draft of this post):
We have to take what people say seriously. When someone vocalizes plans to commit violence, someone should take steps to see that it never happens, whether the threat is a public proclamation on a blog, a vlog, on YouTube, or at a coffee shop.
Those steps should include an evaluation by a professional, and hospital emergency rooms should be considered, seriously. Medical professionals won't admit anyone involuntarily for merely joking or venting. Involuntary admissions to hospitals are exceedingly difficult, because frankly, we have rights in democratic countries.
But as a community, we shouldn't rely on hope that a potentially violent situation will just go away. Bring a child, a friend, to the hospital when in doubt. Let the professionals do what they do best. Help.
The conceit expressed in Elliot's selfie-video is typical of the conceit of someone with narcissistic personality disorder. But it is an antisocial act, unfeeling mass murder, more likely to be a function of an antisocial personality. Antisocial people (ironic, since his most sincere desire had been to connect, sexually, with women) are also narcissistic. They can be depressed, too.

And yet, here it is:

Antisocial Personality Disorder 301.7 (F60.2) is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of other people. A diagnosis requires only three of the following features:

1    A failure to conform to social norms and the law
2    Repeatedly lying and conning for personal profit or pleasure
3    Impulsivity and failure to plan
4    Irritability, aggression in the form of physical fighting
5    Little regard for the safety of others or self
6    Failure to consistently work or honor financial obligations, irresponsibility
 Lacking remorse, rationalizing behavior that hurts others.

8    The individual must be at least 18 years old

This type of conduct is evident under the age of fifteen, although not diagnosed as such. To meet the diagnosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder must be ruled out.

My first guess, even though Elliot Rodger suffered paranoia and features of a narcissistic personality disorder, too, is that he had a co-occurring antisocial personality disorder. It is always a compelling diagnosis, and we don't usually recognize it until a deed is done, until someone steals our life savings, or sets off a bomb. 

Regardless of the trigger, the supposed reason for disregarding the feelings of others, the lives of others, this is a tough one to treat. And most of us, frankly, are uncomfortable, just being in the same room, with those who have it. 

They are scary, the stuff, the creatures of movies and video games. It is sad and ironic that Elliot's father, Peter Roger, is in the film industry, worked as an assistant director of The Hunger Games, among other accomplishments.

This can't be easy for him or his wife. Their son's disorder has biological underpinnings. It isn't their fault (see Adrian Raines' book, The Anatomy of Violence). Despite the fact that he may have had blurred boundaries, identified with movie characters, or watched too many video games, this behavior is likely not a consequence of that.

We're sure to find out much more about his parents and his childhood. The downside of the media, the downside of fame, is that unlike the privacy the Rodger family might have been assured, had Eliot been hospitalized, the gloves will be off.

But maybe that's a good thing. We have to promote awareness, and one thing Elliot has now, if he never had enough before, is that.



Anonymous said...

"So one lesson we can take from this: We have to make sure that people who threaten violence are admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with a severe disorder. No white-washing. Admit your child, see to the admission of your friend. At least once."

WHOA! I totally disagree with THAT! People often say things out of their mouth that they do not mean whatsoever. "Oh I could just smack the piss out of him (or her)" and never ever actually have intentions on doing it and never would. THAT would be enough to be admitted to a hospital, DIAGNOSED WITH A SEVERE MENTAL DISORDER, held against your will and they poke and prode at you mentally and emotionally for saying something you didn't mean and ANY response will be jotted down, picked apart and used against you! Moehills will be turned into mountains over ANYTHING you say and if you laugh, thats wrong. Stay quiet, thats wrong. Become sarcastic, thats wrong. Finally are fed up, oh thats definetly wrong to them! Total catch 22. A double edged sword. Once you're there, they oontinue to find reasons to keep you and now, over something so petty, something you didn't mean whatsoever, and do not have any history of violence at all, now you have a folder with a dockett number that says lord knows what about you! It's a multimulillion dollar business. It follows you forever because THAT would be considered "a threat of violence".

Totally 100% disagree with that. Horrible horrible idea. Just vile be to held like that by the gestapo. Shame on you!

Windy said...

The point of the at least once commitment for a truly worrisome relative or friend is to keep them from have legal access to guns. And I agree.

therapydoc said...

Anon, you took me way out of context. I'll correct the text to address your concern. But for now, "Oh I could just smack the piss out of him (or her)" is not anything close to what young Mr. Rodger had been talking about.

And yeah, this is all about the gun thing. Thanks Windy. Although Dr. Phil is correct, knives work, too.

arthur H said...

Thank you for your article and blog. I agree with him having ASPD. We posted an article on Theravive asking the question "why did therapy fail?" He was seen by several therapists, for a long time, and yet this happened. It raises good questions that at least deserve to be pondered, even if there are no simple answers.

Anonymous said...

It's time to stop saying there is no link between autism and violence.

While the vast majority of autistic people aren't violent (like NT folks), a tiny minority of them ARE horrifically violent, like Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza! Mass murderers!

Somebody needs to investigate this. Somebody, somewehre needs to prevent this from happening again.

Because it's entirely possible there is some evil, awful, horrible autistic kids prepareing to blow up the WORLD!

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Mound Builder said...

I had been out of town and didn't know of this mass killing until late yesterday afternoon. So very sad that this has happened, that things like this will happen again. Part of it is, surely, mental illness. Part of it is access to firearms, too. I keep thinking that most of the mass shootings have a common thread, committed by young white males who've got some form of mental illness and who come from enough affluence that they can apparently afford guns and other weapons.

I watched one of the videos Rodger had on youtube. One thing that struck me was that it almost seemed as if he were a bad actor playing a part. And it also strikes me that every time there has been a mass shooting, involving only guns, that the NRA lobby/second amendment folks will counter saying that knives kill people, too, and that cars can also be a deadly weapon and it's as if Rodger decided to use all three of those methods to make some additional point. I keep thinking that affluence is a part of whatever it is that drives these mass killings, not in the sense that affluence causes violence but that affluence gives access to money that makes it possible to buy guns, ammunition, knives, and even to have a car.

The odd and very mannered laughs in the video were disturbing.

How does someone so young end up hating women so much?

I feel for the families of the victims for sure. I also feel for everyone who knew Rodger and had some inkling that he was capable of trying to harm others and may have tried to speak up.

Anonymous said...

Your little lesson about taking the threats seriously and reporting them did not work here.

The parents and therapist reported Rodger to law enforcement and they thought he was fine.

Wanna try again?

Moune Builder said...

An additional thought... People do use phrases like "I could have killed him/her..." or "I wanted to strangle him/her..." or similar phrases and they don't mean it literally. Still, it is a form of expression that is quite graphically violent and I think it would be just as well if people worked to eliminate that kind of language from their ways of expressing themselves. I think it is quite possible to express frustration, even extreme frustration, without using phrases that are violent.

therapydoc said...

Thanks MB, great points.
Anon, sorry, the point is to push an involuntary hospitalization, and it wouldn't have been hard. But they didn't.

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