Does Generalised Anxiety Disorder make you ” a danger to society”? Psychiatrist says “Yes”.

14/5/2014

Have you  been following the trail of Oscar Pistorius,  a double amputee athlete, who fired four shots through a locked bathroom door and killed his girlfriend, 29  year old lawyer and model, Reeva Steenkamp?

 

If you have, you are probably aware that a psychiatrist for the defence, Dr. Vorster, has stated that Oscar has had an “anxiety disorder” since childhood because his mother was a very anxious individual who was so afraid of intruders she slept with a gun under her pillow and his father  was a mostly absent figure.

 

According to BBC News Africa 12 May 2015, the psychiatrist for the defence says Pistorius has generalised anxiety disorder and she believes his anxiety is relevant to the court case. When the psychiatrist, Ms Vortser, was asked by the State prosecutor whether someone with an anxiety disorder would be “a danger to society”, she replied “Yes”.

 

Really , it is a silly question because anybody, given the right circumstances, might be a danger to society and people with little knowledge of mental health  could wrongly get the impression  that anxious people are a threat. There is enough stigma attached to mental health issues, without people adding to it.

 

Was it murder or did he shoot her by accident, believing she was an intruder? The defence is pushing the line that (1)  Pistorius felt vulnerable as both his legs were amputated below the knee ( He has testified he was without his prosthetics when he fired the shots) and he would have difficult fleeing from perceived danger and (2) he had a particularly high level of anxiety about intruders because of his upbringing.

 

However, the prosecution case paints him as a, to quote the New York Times, 12th May 2014, “self-centred, trigger- happy, quick-tempered and jealous man”.

The stakes are high as if Pistorius is convicted of premeditated murder, he will incur at least a 25 year jail sentence.  If he is acquitted of murder he may be charged with culpable homicide and end up facing 15 years in jail. Maybe a diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder will help him to be acquitted of murder and get the lighter sentence.

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