Jared Loughner's Diagnosis

I thought there would be a range of opinions -- but one mental illness seems to be the most common diagnosis for Loughner.
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And the verdict is... schizophrenia.

I thought it would be interesting to survey the various diagnoses to see what experts and others were saying. And I thought there would be a range of opinions, which might point up the futility of such an exercise, but also be a good starting point for comparative analysis. (Keeping in mind that snap judgement blogging isn't always the best place to start serious inquiries).

But so far schizophrenia seems to be the most common diagnosis for Loughner, who stands accused of targeting injured Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six others Saturday. The New York Times had this:

"I'd say the chances are 99 percent that he [Loughner] has schizophrenia," said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, the founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va., which advocates stronger laws to require treatment for people with severe mental illnesses. "He was together enough to take courses, and people with untreated schizophrenia can function very well for periods. But when you see these rambling, incoherent writings and comments, there is almost no other disorder where this is a prominent symptom."

In a piece on PBS.org, Sal Gentile said:

"Without interviewing Loughner or reviewing his past, several clinical psychiatrists have acknowledged in interviews that the college dropout's strange behavior in the last several years suggests that he may have suffered from what mental health professionals call 'severe mental illness,' such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. For example, Loughner was entranced by nonsensical syllogisms -- about currency and 'mind control' -- and obsessed with a philosophy of 'nihilism.'"

Even the responses to a comment by HuffPost user KillgoreTrout43 came to a schizophrenia consensus:

"It will be schizophrenia of some sort. This many symptoms alltogether don't belong to a lot of other diagnoses," wrote Gin1234.

But amid this seeming consensus there were also cautions. On PBS.org Gentile cited research indicating, "diagnoses like schizophrenia only minimally increase the chances that a person might be violent."

And the Times noted that, "studies suggest that a small subset of those with untreated, paranoid psychosis are two to three times as likely as people without mental disorders to get into physical altercations, researchers say. 'Certainly not all paranoids are mass murderers' by a long shot, said Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist in New York, 'but almost all mass murderers are paranoid.'"

Certainly, it will be interesting to see the conclusions of whoever is allowed to examine Loughner. In my interviews, mental health professionals always caution against diagnosing someone without examining them. It's like covering the Tucson shooting from Los Angeles: You can get some good information by phone, television, and the web, but it's certainly not the same as being on the ground.

Of course, in the case of the Columbine killers, the ability to diagnose them firsthand and after the fact was lost forever when they killed themselves. Shooter Eric Harris' psychologist has never spoken - at least publicly.

And while a lot of thoughtful analysis has gone into profiling the two Columbine killers, some of which I recount in my book Columbine: A True Crime Story, differences of opinion remain.

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