Don’t blame PTSD for Thousand Oaks shooting, say experts (Barbara Olasov Rothbaum, Emory University)



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Don’t blame PTSD for Thousand Oaks shooting, say experts

Authorities said the Marine Corps veteran accused of gunning down 12 people in California Wednesday had previously exhibited erratic behavior suggestive of post-traumatic stress disorder,

experts say his actions should not be blamed on PTSD.

“It’s not PTSD,” said Barbara Olasov Rothbaum, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory University School of Medicine. “This is whatever else, what other pathology would cause someone to do this.”

Long was a machine gunner who deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and was stationed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, when he left the military in 2011, the Marine Corps said. During his service, he received a Marine Good Conduct Medal and three Navy commendations.

Rothbaum said in cases where veterans are suffering from PTSD, there can be “irritability and aggression” but nothing that would account for murder.

“I get upset when people get scared of veterans with PTSD because they think they are going to be violent and they’re not,” she said.

“There is already so much stigma involved in PTSD in general – and certainly in veterans and military service members – that anything else that adds to the stigma would do them a disservice.”

The authorities said they suspected that he might have had post traumatic stress after a deployment in Afghanistan but was ultimately determined to have posed no threat.

But it isn’t clear if the science is all there when it comes to PTSD. There are some huge gaps in diagnosing PTSD and figuring out if someone who shows signs of PTSD is a threat to self or others.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s office said that after a disturbance at the house in April, mental health specialists had talked to Mr. Long, discussing his service in the Marine Corps and whether he had PTSD.

They determined that he was not an immediate danger to himself or others and that he could not be involuntarily taken to a mental hospital.

A 2008 study of adult psychiatric inpatients in South Africa found that PTSD was missed by clinicians about 90 percent of the time. A 2010 paper studied two treatment programs for children and adolescents in Pennsylvania and also found that PTSD was missed by clinicians about 90 percent of the time, as well.

It seems justified to conclude that there is no longer a question of whether diagnoses are missed.  The better question is how to address the problem.

What are your thoughts? How should we think about PTSD now, after the Thousand Oaks shooting?

Sources:

USA TODAY: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/11/08/thousand-oaks-shooter-experts-caution-against-blaming-ptsd-military-mass-shooting/1934942002/
NY TIMES: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/08/us/ian-david-long-california-shooter.html
PSYCHOLOGY TODAY: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stress-relief/201811/how-not-miss-ptsd-diagnosis

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