Psychiatry and Crime

by Phil Hickey on January 4, 2016

In DSM-III-R, the APA defined a mental disorder as:

“…a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in a person and that is associated with present distress (a painful symptom) or disability (impairment in one or more important areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom.  In addition, this syndrome or pattern must not be merely an expectable response to a particular event, e.g., the death of a loved one.  Whatever its original cause, it must currently be considered a manifestation of a behavioral, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the person.  Neither deviant behavior, e.g., political, religious, or sexual, nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict is a symptom of a dysfunction in the person as described above.” (p xxii)

I have made the point many times that this definition can be accurately paraphrased as:  any significant problem of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving.  The definitions of a mental disorder provided in DSM-IV and DSM-5 contain slightly different wording, but are essentially the same as that in DSM-III.

It is important to note that the APA’s definition of a mental disorder/illness is entirely arbitrary, in that there is no objective reality to which it must conform.  A mental disorder is what the APA says it is, and there is no way to argue that a particular problem is not a mental disorder, because there is no reality against which this kind of labeling can be checked.  Mental illnesses, unlike real illnesses, are not discovered in nature.  Rather, they are decided by APA committees and membership votes, and are codified in successive revisions of the DSM.  If a problem is listed in the manual, then it’s a mental disorder.  And the manual is extraordinarily inclusive.  One would be hard put to name a problem of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving that is not listed in the APA’s catalog.


Obviously, habitual criminality conforms to the APA’s definition, and criminal behavior has been included in every DSM edition since DSM-I (1952).  In DSM-III-R there are indications that the drafting committee struggled slightly with this issue, and developed the individual vs. society exclusion contained in the above quote, though this has had little or no effect with regards to the inclusion of habitual criminality in the manual.  It is also worth noting that the exclusion clause is too vaguely worded to be of much practical use.

In DSM-5, the following “diagnoses” all embrace criminal activity:

conduct disorder
antisocial personality disorder
intermittent explosive disorder
voyeuristic disorder
exhibitionistic disorder
frotteuristic disorder
sexual sadism disorder
pedophilic disorder

The crimes entailed in the above “diagnoses” range in severity from relatively minor to extremely serious.  Conduct disorder, for instance, can range from threatening others to homicide.  Here are the DSM-5 criteria for conduct disorder (p 469-470):

“A.  A repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated, as manifested by the presence of at least three of the following 15 criteria in the past 12 months from any of the categories below, with at least one criterion present in the past 6 months.

Aggression to People and Animals

  1. Often bullies, threatens, or intimidates others.
  2. Often initiates physical fights.
  3. Has used a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others (e.g., a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife, gun).
  4. Has been physically cruel to people.
  5. Has been physically cruel to animals.
  6. Has stolen while confronting a victim (e.g., mugging, purse snatching, extortion, armed robbery).
  7. Has forced someone into sexual activity.

Destruction of Property

  1. Has deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention of causing serious damage.
  2. Has deliberately destroyed others’ property (other than by fire setting).

Deceitfulness or Theft

  1. Has broken into someone else’s house, building, or car.
  2. Often lies to obtain goods or favors or to avoid obligations (i.e., ‘cons’ others).
  3. Has stolen items of nontrivial value without confronting a victim (e.g., shoplifting, but without breaking and entering; forgery).

Serious Violations of Rules

  1. Often stays out at night despite parental prohibitions, beginning before age 13 years.
  2. Has run away from home overnight at least twice while living in the parental or parental surrogate home, or once without returning for a lengthy period.
  3. Is often truant from school, beginning before age 13 years.

B.  The disturbance in behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

C.  If the individual is age 18 years or older, criteria are not met for antisocial personality disorder.”

Under Diagnostic Features, P 472, it states:

“Physical violence may take the form of rape, assault, or, in rare cases, homicide.”

Note in particular that it requires only 3 items out of 15 to make the “diagnosis”.  Also note the potential range of severity.  A person has the “mental illness” conduct disorder, if he has run away from home at least twice, skipped school “often” before age 13, and has done some shoplifting.  At the other end of the scale, a person who has engaged in armed robbery, rape, and arson has the same “mental illness”.  And it’s important to recognize that the APA is not saying that a person engages in these activities because he has another “mental illness” (e.g. “schizophrenia” or “bipolar disorder”).  Rather, the contention here is that armed robbery, rape, arson, murder and the other criminal activities listed constitute a “mental illness” in and of themselves.

Within psychiatry’s spurious and comprehensive medicalization perspective, all criminal activity is a manifestation of a mental illness.  With the possible exception of politically motivated crimes like espionage, treason, etc., there is no criminal act that cannot be considered a symptom of a mental illness.  Rape, murder, torture, arson, theft, embezzlement, sexual abuse of children, burglary, cruelty to animals, etc., are all “symptoms” of one or more of psychiatry’s spurious illnesses.

Nevertheless, for the past fifty years, while psychiatrists have been busy expanding and promoting their services with regards to other life problems, they have been peculiarly silent with regards to the fact that their taxonomy also includes criminal activity.  They have vigorously promoted the notion that depression, anxiety, shyness, painful memories, childhood temper tantrums, inattention, etc., are all “treatable mental illnesses”, but have not promoted the notion that crimes are also “mental illnesses”, that are cataloged and codified in their manual.

I have always assumed that this uncharacteristic reticence on psychiatry’s part reflected a recognition that promoting the notion that crime is an illness might stimulate some resistance from the general public, and might precipitate a questioning and scrutiny of psychiatry’s more fundamental falsehood, that all significant problems of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving are illnesses.

But whatever the reason for the reticence, there are indications that it is fading.  I have come across several articles in recent months in which psychiatrists are promoting the notion that particular crimes should be conceptualized as mental illnesses, or symptoms of mental illnesses.  The notion, for instance, that road rage and wife battering should be conceptualized as symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder is being promoted vigorously.


Here’s a quote from a press release that was issued on December 18, 2013 by the University of Chicago Medical Center.  The release is titled Markers of inflammation in the blood linked to aggressive behaviors

“Intermittent explosive disorder (IED), a disorder of impulsive aggression (which includes ‘road rage’), can disrupt the lives of those with the disorder, as well as the lives of their family, friends and colleagues. People with IED overreact to stressful situations, often with uncontrollable anger and rage.” [Emphasis added]

Note in particular the spurious leap from the fact that a person didn’t control his anger to the conclusion that he couldn’t control his anger (“uncontrollable rage”).  This is a recurrent theme in psychiatry.  The child who doesn’t pay attention in school, can’t pay attention; the depressed person who doesn’t pursue normal activities, can’t pursue normal activities; etc…  The disempowering implications of these unwarranted conclusions are obvious.  Also note the bland assertion that this so-called illness “includes road rage”.  So road rage, the crime, becomes, by psychiatric edict, an illness.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here are the DSM-5 criteria for intermittent explosive disorder (p 466):

      • “A.  Recurrent behavioral outbursts representing a failure to control aggressive impulses as manifested by either of the following: 
        1. Verbal aggression (e.g., temper tantrums, tirades, verbal arguments or fights) or physical aggression toward property, animals, or other individuals, occurring twice weekly, on average, for a period of 3 months. The physical aggression does not result in damage or destruction of property and does not result in physical injury to animals or other individuals.
        1. Three behavioral outbursts involving damage or destruction of property and/or physical assault involving physical injury against animals or other individuals occurring within a 12-month period.
      • B.  The magnitude of aggressiveness expressed during the recurrent outbursts is grossly out of proportion to the provocation or to any precipitating psychosocial stressors.
      • C.  The recurrent aggressive outbursts are not premeditated (i.e., they are impulsive and/or anger-based) and are not committed to achieve some tangible objective (e.g., money, power, intimidation).
      • D.  The recurrent aggressive outbursts cause either marked distress in the individual or impairment in occupational or interpersonal functioning, or are associated with financial or legal consequences.
      • E.  Chronological age is at least 6 years (or equivalent developmental level).
      • F.  The recurrent aggressive outbursts are not better explained by another mental disorder…and are not attributable to another medical condition…or to the physiological effects of a substance…For children ages 6-18 years, aggressive behavior that occurs as part of an adjustment disorder should not be considered for this diagnosis.” [Emphasis added]

There are several noteworthy features to this definition of intermittent explosive disorder.  Firstly, the frequency/duration specifications included in section A, 1 and 2 (twice weekly; for a period of 3 months; within a 12-month period) are entirely arbitrary. Secondly, there is no way that a psychiatrist, or anyone else for that matter, can discern whether an outburst of rage was perpetrated with the purpose of intimidating a victim.  Thirdly, chronological age is at least 6 years!  So a six-year-old child throwing a verbal temper tantrum twice weekly on average for a period of three months has a “psychiatric illness” for which he presumably needs psychiatric treatment.  If the duration is only two months, however, he does not have an illness.  He needs to keep it up for another month, then he’ll have an illness!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here’s another quote from the same University of Chicago Medical Center press release:

“IED outbursts are out of proportion to the social stressors triggering them. Such blow-ups may at first be written off by friends as ‘simple bad behavior,’ [Dr. Emil] Coccaro said, ‘but intermittent explosive disorder goes beyond that. It has strong genetic and biomedical underpinnings. This is a serious mental health condition that can and should be treated.'”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here’s a quote from an article in Pacific Standard, January 28, 2014: The Psychology and Biology of Road Rage:

“Emil Coccaro, a professor and psychiatrist at the University of Chicago, has studied Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) for many years. People with this disorder repeatedly respond with violent or verbally aggressive outbursts, disproportionate to any given situation. (Not all road-ragers have IED, but road rage can be a symptom of it.)”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dr. Coccaro has been developing and promoting this notion since at least 2006.  Here are three quotes from a USA Today article, ‘Road rage’ disease affects as many as 16 million Americans, study says (June 2006):

“To you, that angry, horn-blasting tailgater is suffering from road rage. But doctors have another name for it — intermittent explosive disorder — and a new study suggests it is far more common than they realized, affecting up to 16 million Americans.”

Note the extraordinary phrase:  “suffering from  road rage”.  In reality, it is other road users who suffer from the road ragers’ petulant, and sometimes violent, outbursts.  Note also that this “disorder” is “far more common” than had been previously realized.  What’s not mentioned is that the criteria for this so-called illness have been progressively relaxed since DSM-III (1980), as is the case in many other psychiatric “illnesses”.  I have discussed the progressive easing of the “intermittent explosive disorder” criteria in detail in an earlier post.

“‘People think it’s bad behavior and that you just need an attitude adjustment, but what they don’t know … is that there’s a biology and cognitive science to this,’ said Dr. Emil Coccaro, chairman of psychiatry at the University of Chicago’s medical school.

Road rage, temper outbursts that involve throwing or breaking objects and even spousal abuse can sometimes be attributed to the disorder, though not everyone who does those things is afflicted.” [Emphasis added]

The phrase “be attributed to” is logically equivalent to “be caused by”.  So some wife batterers are “afflicted” by an illness which causes them to batter their partners.  The clear implication being that there is nothing they can do about this except, presumably, seek psychiatric treatment.  Psychiatry’s track record in other areas would not inspire great confidence in this field, but at least the “knowledge” that their abusive partners are “afflicted” by an illness should be a great comfort to battered women everywhere.

“Coccaro said the disorder involves inadequate production or functioning of serotonin, a mood-regulating and behavior-inhibiting brain chemical.”

This, of course, is the famous neurochemical imbalance theory.  In his more recent writings, Dr. Coccaro stresses the importance of plasma inflammation markers as correlates of this “illness”, but the serotonin hypothesis is still alive and well.

Mayo Clinic (2015): “There may be differences in the way serotonin, an important chemical messenger in the brain, works in people with intermittent explosive disorder.”

Valley Behavioral Health Systems (2015):  “Research has suggested that intermittent explosive disorder may occur as the result of abnormalities in the areas of the brain that regulate arousal and inhibition. Impulsive aggression may be related to abnormal mechanisms in the part of the brain that inhibits or prohibits muscular activity through the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin, which works to send chemical messages throughout the brain, may be composed differently in people with intermittent explosive disorder.”

Harvard Medical School (2011):  “Several studies suggest that the disorder [intermittent explosive disorder] is associated with abnormal activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin in parts of the brain that play a role in regulating, even inhibiting, aggressive behavior. Impulsive aggression in general is associated with low serotonin activity as well as damage to the prefrontal cortex, a center of judgment and self-control.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

As recently as August 2015 (Intermittent explosive disorder in adults:  Treatment and prognosis), Dr. Coccaro has stressed the putative uncontrollability of the aggressive impulses:

“Patients with intermittent explosive disorder are periodically unable to restrain impulses that result in verbal or physical aggression.” [Emphasis added]

In other words, if a person’s temper tantrums cross arbitrary and vaguely-defined thresholds of severity, frequency, duration, and disproportionality, then they constitute an illness, and the tantrums pass, by psychiatric alchemy, out of the sphere of ordinary voluntary behavior for which we are all considered to be answerable, into the looking-glass sphere of mental illness, over which people have no control, and therefore should, presumably, not be held answerable.

And, incidentally, Dr. Coccaro, Psychiatry Chair at University of Chicago, consults for, and owns equity in Azevan Pharmaceuticals.  Here’s a quote from Azevan’s website:

“Azevan Pharmaceuticals is a clinical stage, small molecule drug development company developing novel therapeutics to treat disorders of stress, mood, and behavior. The Company’s first clinical compounds selectively block the effects of arginine vasopressin, a peptide neurohormone involved in the pathophysiology of Intermittent Explosive Disorder, neuropsychiatric symptoms in neurodegenerative diseases, PTSD, and other affective disorders. Vasopressin 1a receptor antagonists represent a novel mechanism of action for addressing these indications.

A 12 week Phase II Clinical Trial with SRX246 for the treatment of Intermittent Explosive Disorder launched in Q2 2014.”

This trial is scheduled for completion in December 2016 ( site)


The expansion in recent years of psychiatry’s involvement in the criminal justice sphere should come as no surprise.  Expansion has been an ever-present part of psychiatry’s agenda since at least the early 50’s, and it is clear that these efforts, fuelled by pharma dollars, have been very successful.  In the 1950’s, “mental illness” was considered extremely rare, and very few people ever came within the orbit of a psychiatrist or a mental institution of any kind.  Today, psychiatry assures us that about one fifth to one quarter of the population experiences a mental illness each year, and that the life-time prevalence is about 50%.  And these numbers are widely accepted by government, healthcare agencies, the media, and the general public.  But I doubt that it is widely appreciated that virtually all criminal activity is included in these numbers.

The expansion of psychiatry’s concepts and practices into the criminal justice arena is also entirely consistent with psychiatry’s definition of “mental illness”, as embracing every significant problem of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving.  According to psychiatry, crime – any crime – is a symptom of a mental illness, with all its implications of powerlessness and non-accountability.

In recent years, psychiatry has come under a good deal of scrutiny and criticism.  Its long-touted chemical imbalance hoax has been exposed, as has the ineffectiveness of its “treatments” and the fraudulent nature of most of its research. But there has been virtually no critical self-appraisal or apology from psychiatry.  They continue to promote their invented illnesses and their destructive treatments with ever-increasing vigor, and, as in the case of crime, to extend their conceptual framework of false powerlessness into new arenas.

Psychiatry has not been entirely successful in their efforts to infiltrate the criminal justice system, and there is still a measure of skepticism among judges and prosecutors on these matters.  Here’s a quote from

“Courts are generally skeptical of claims of insanity based on various impulse control disorders such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), Pyromania and Pathological Gambling.”

But psychiatry and its pharmaceutical allies have long known the value of patience.  In the business of conceptual shifts, seeds planted today bear fruit years, if not decades, hence. But psychiatry’s seeds have definitely taken root in the criminal justice field.


Jason Bohn, 35, a New York attorney, was charged last year with the torture/murder of his 27-year-old girlfriend.  The murder and the events leading up to the murder were recorded on the victim’s cell phone, unbeknownst to Mr. Bohn.  On the basis of this recording and an earlier call to the police by the victim, prosecutors were able to provide a timeline demonstrating that the torture/murder lasted at least 60 minutes.  Nevertheless, part of Mr. Bohn’s defense was that he was suffering from “intermittent explosive disorder”, and that this should mitigate his culpability to a lesser charge, e.g., manslaughter.

After the trial, CBS reported Troy Roberts produced a 45-minute account for 48 Hours.  A modified transcript of the program can be found here.  Here are some quotes from this transcript:

“Dr. Alexander Sasha Bardey is a Harvard-educated forensic psychiatrist and a consultant for the TV show ‘Law & Order: SVU’.

‘I spent a total of about 6 or 7 hours with him [Jason Bohn]… over the course of three different sessions,’ Bardey told ’48 Hours’.

Now working for the defense, he spoke with Bohn and others who know him.

‘What conclusion did you reach?’ Roberts asked.

‘I concluded that Jason was suffering from … intermittent explosive disorder,’ Bardey replied. ‘It’s a mental illness … characterized by bouts of loss of control and bouts of anger and bouts of violence.'”

Note the phrase “suffering from”.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

“Prosecutors Patrick O’Connor and Marilyn Filingeri still can’t quite believe it. They know Jason Bohn brutally beat Danielle Thomas to death. But Bohn’s defense is claiming he’s mentally ill — his anger stemming from his mother abandoning him almost three decades ago.

‘It’s ridiculous and it makes a mockery of the judicial system. This is why people … have a problem, with science, psychology, with psychiatry, because they come up with these concepts which are meant to excuse us from taking responsibility for our actions,’ said O’Connor.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

” ‘At some point in the process of him killing her … her phone was activated,’ said O’Connor.

And a recording of Jason killing Danielle was made.

‘He speaks in a very calm voice at several times throughout the tape saying, ‘Listen, Danielle, you have to listen to me. You don’t have a lot of time,’ ‘ said O’Connor.

It’s extraordinarily graphic, so ’48 Hours’ decided just to share a small portion of it:

Jason Bohn: You have 5 seconds. I’m gonna let you up and then you need to answer quickly or else you die.

‘Danielle on this tape is begging for her life … she’s being strangled repeatedly … and at various points, she is saying that she can’t breathe. She repeatedly claims that she loves him,’ said O’Connor.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

“Defense attorney Todd Greenberg concedes that Danielle Thomas’ pocket-dialed voice mail is chilling.

‘It’s never, never a pleasant, pleasant experience when you have to dig into these type of facts,’ said Greenberg. But he hears a different story in that recording. ‘When I heard that tape, I heard howling.

I heard shrieking from Jason. …it’s almost like somebody else coming out of him.’

At trial, Greenberg hopes to persuade jurors that when Jason Bohn was beating and strangling Danielle, he was overwhelmed by his emotions.

‘Jason has never denied the act of killing Danielle Thomas. It has been the defense’s position that he did so when he was suffering from a mental illness and under extreme emotional disturbance,’ Greenberg said. ‘Jason Bohn is a classic case of intermittent explosive disorder.’ “

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

” ‘It’s a viable psychiatric illness that people suffer from,’ said Psychiatrist Alexander Sasha Bardey, who is a key defense witness.”

To which Troy Roberts responded:

” ‘You hear him strangling her and then stopping. Asking her questions … telling her she’s gonna die in five seconds. It sounds like someone who is in control to me,’

‘Being out of control doesn’t mean you’re just screaming gibberish and – and — and waving your arms and flailing around,’ he replied. ‘You’re just doing something that you really shouldn’t be doing, that you don’t wanna do that your rational reason tells you not to do, but you can’t help yourself.’ “

Note the extraordinary degree of obfuscation.  Mr. Bohn’s defense was that during the 60 minutes that he was torturing and murdering his girlfriend, he was, because of rage, not in control of his actions.  Troy Roberts makes the point that in the taped conversation, he sounds very much in control.  To which Dr. Bardey replies that being out of control just means that one does something that one shouldn’t do.  The “symptom lists” given in the DSM are inherently vague, and lend themselves to a very wide range of interpretation.

And, incidentally, Dr. Bardey is a very eminent psychiatrist, currently employed as Director of Forensic Psychiatry for Nassau County Department of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency, and Developmental Disabilities.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ultimately, the jury rejected Mr. Bohn’s defense and convicted him of torture/murder.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 


In May, 2009, Davis Bradley Waldroup was tried in Benton, Tennessee with the attempted murder of his ex-wife, Penny, and the murder of her female friend Leslie Bradshaw.  NRP did a segment on the trial on July 1, 2010, and there is a transcript on their website.  Here are some quotes from the transcript:

“New discoveries about the brain are raising the question: Can your genes make you kill? Already, neuroscience has been presented as evidence in more than 1,200 cases. It’s being called neuro-law, and it played a role in a murder trial in Tennessee last year. That trial is one of the first where jurors heard evidence from neuroscience to help them decide guilt or innocence.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“When the police arrived at Bradley Waldroup’s trailer home in the mountains of Tennessee, they found a war zone. Assistant District Attorney Drew Robinson says there was blood on the walls, blood on the carpet, blood on the truck outside.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Waldroup shot his wife’s friend, Leslie Bradshaw, eight times, and sliced her head open with a sharp object. Prosecutor Cynthia Lecroy-Schemel says when Waldroup was finished, he chased after his wife, Penny, with a machete, chopping off her finger and cutting her over and over.”

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Prosecutors charged Waldroup with the felony murder of Leslie Bradshaw, which carries the death penalty, and attempted first-degree murder of his wife, Penny. It seemed clear to them that Waldroup’s actions were intentional and premeditated.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Ms. LECROY-SCHEMEL [prosecutor]: One of them was, he told his children to come tell your mama goodbye, because he was going to kill her. And he had the gun, and he had the machete.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Richardson [defense attorney Wylie Richardson] went to forensic psychiatrist William Bernet of Vanderbilt University, and asked him to give Waldroup a psychiatric evaluation. Bernet also took a blood sample and brought it to Vanderbilt’s molecular genetics laboratory.”

Dr. Bernet is a Professor Emeritus at Vanderbilt, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the APA and the AACAP.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Bernet cited scientific studies over the past decade that have found that the combination of the genes and child abuse increases one’s chances of being convicted of a violent offense by more than 400 percent. Other studies have not found such a connection, but Bernet thought the jury should know about the gene.”

The gene in question is a variant of the MAO-A gene.  It is sometimes referred to as “the warrior gene”.  There’s a Wikipedia article on the subject here.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“The genetic testing was only one piece of Waldroup’s defense. His attorneys also argued that he was depressed, suffered from intermittent explosive disorder, and acted in the heat of passion.” [Emphasis added]

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“After 11 hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Waldroup of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Leslie Bradshaw, and attempted second-degree murder of his wife.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Another juror, Debbie Beaty, says the science helped persuade her that Waldroup was not entirely in control of his actions.

Ms. DEBBIE BEATY (Juror): A diagnosis is a diagnosis. You know, it’s there. A bad gene is a bad gene.”

A diagnosis is a diagnosis!  The blandly expressed, but chilling acceptance, of the great psychiatric hoax.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Prosecutor Drew Robinson was stunned.

Mr. ROBINSON: I was just flabbergasted. I did not know how to react to it.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Nor did fellow prosecutor Cynthia Lecroy-Schemel. She worries that this sort of defense is the wave of the future.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Scientists and legal experts expect to see more cases like this as neuroscience makes inroads into the courtroom – and presents guilt and innocence not in terms of black and white, but in shades of gray.”

But, of course, this isn’t neuroscience entering the courtroom.  This is psychiatric neuroscience – the same hodge-podge of unsubstantiated assertions that has convinced an entire generation that depression is an illness caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.  It bears as much resemblance to genuine neuroscience as astrology does to astronomy.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Defense lawyers are charged with the responsibility of defending their clients with as much vigor and creativity as they can bring to bear.  They are beginning to recognize the value of “intermittent explosive disorder” in this area.

The Gage Law Firm is, according to their own website:

“…a premier criminal defense and estate planning law firm serving metropolitan Atlanta…”

Here’s a quote from their website:

“The Gage Law Firm is skilled in handling criminal cases involving:

Paranoid Schizophrenia
Schizoaffective Disorder
Major Depression and Major Depressive Disorder
Bipolar Disorder
Manic Depression
Intermittent Explosive Disorder
Asperger’s Syndrome

In many criminal cases involving mental illness, including felony cases, securing treatment for one’s mental illness can help in avoiding criminal prosecution altogether. In other cases such treatment can offer significant mitigation. The Gage Law Firm can help set up low-cost treatment in the community and often negotiate a more desirable outcome with prosecutors. [Emphasis added]

Those who suffer from mental illness aren’t criminals.”

But in fact, violent defendants “suffering from intermittent explosive disorder” are criminals.  That’s what this “diagnostic label” means.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Forbess Law Firm in Jacksonville, Florida, has a website called Jacksonville Crime Attorney Blog.  On November 18, 2012, they published a post on intermittent explosive disorder.  In the article they describe a case in which a person, diagnosed with this so-called disorder, shot four of his co-workers, killing two.  The article also sets out the “symptoms for IED”.  Then there’s this:

“Many times, people go through with actions that they would not normally ever think of doing because of altered states of mental acuity. When this happens, things said, acts done, and effects rendered can leave the accused what seems like a very rough position with no way out. However, if one obtains an experienced Jacksonville felony violent crimes defense attorney to fight for one’s case, one can ensure one’s rights will be known and protected and that one will be able to receive the treatment one needs to improve one’s life in the future.

The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today.” [Emphasis added]


In the evolutionary timeframe, it is but yesterday since our ancestors were a feral species hunting and foraging in small groups in the plains and forests of Africa.  In that dangerous, adversarial, and competitive context, anger and aggression, nature’s antidotes to fear, were adaptive traits that served our forebears well, and undoubtedly contributed to their survival.

And the species did not shed its wildness en masse when the first ploughshare turned soil, or when the first animal was captured and domesticated, or the first towns built.  The civilization of the human species was not a one-time historical event, but is rather a continuous responsibility vested in each successive generation of parents:  the responsibility to train their children to a level of anger control that is appropriate to the culture and norms of our present-day, highly organized, over-crowded living conditions.

Every child is born with his/her anger apparatus intact and ready to develop.  When we see an adult routinely displaying outbursts of rage, the relevant question is not:  why does he do that?, but rather:  why doesn’t everybody do that?  And the answer to this latter question is:  because they were trained not to.  Until about 30 years ago, parents understood and accepted that this training was an integral part of their responsibility.  Today, thanks to psychiatry, an habitually angry, petulant, bad-tempered child “has an illness”, and parents are being actively urged, and in some cases coerced, to seek psychiatric “treatment” for this “illness”.  In general, psychiatry’s success in this area has been abysmal, and these children routinely grow up to be habitually angry, petulant, bad-tempered, and sometimes viciously violent, adults.

Jason Bohn, whose murder conviction was discussed above, at age 14, had reportedly punched a pregnant 18-year-old woman in the abdomen, causing her to miscarry.  He was never charged with this offense.

“No charges were brought in the first killing [the miscarriage]— Bohn was already under psychiatric care and authorities made certain that the care was continued.” New York Post, February 21, 2014.

The fact is that habitual outbursts of violent rage, such as wife-battering and road rage are not illnesses, and are not amenable to medical treatment.  What we’re dealing with here is simply another example of psychiatry self-servingly expanding its drug-peddling activities regardless of considerations of validity, efficacy, or ethical integrity.

The hoax goes on.

  • S Randolph Kretchmar

    This is one of your best ever, Phil! Thank you for your work.

    Incidentally, I tangled with Emil Cocarro in a legal case in 2002. He was pushing the same anti-human prattle at least that early.

  • Phil_Hickey



    Yes. He has become something of the “authority” on “intermittent explosive

  • Sweet63

    I wish the public in general would be more skeptical of these excuses. Instead, most people actually want to use mental illness as an explanation for acts they don’t understand (unless the victim is one of their own family, of course). For some reason, people don’t want to accept that perps will do these things, just to do them.

    Fortunately, my state at least has a higher standard for mental illness and it is not allowed as a defense. Criminal law in general does not accept you would not have committed a heinous act unless you were mentally ill, but sadly that seem to be the public perception.

    And it doesn’t help that my political party has glommed on to this narrative to deflect from gun control advocacy. It’s a red herring IMO but it sounds “constructive” rather than merely oppositional.

  • Phil_Hickey


    Nice to hear from you.

    “For some reason, people don’t want to accept that perps will do these things, just to do them.”

    There’s a very nice description of this in BPDTransformation’s comment on this article on Mad in America.

    Best wishes.

  • bulbous1

    Whilst I am not a thoroughgoing determinist, believing that individuals do indeed have a degree of latitude wherein they can freely choose between different courses of action and can sometimes contain their feelings within limits, I do also believe that human beings are largely and for the most part determined, especially in their passions and desires, whether they well up spontaneously or are brought uppermost by experiences and circumstances ripe for their emergence.

    Voluntarists will claim – usually whilst only making minimal concessions to the intractable conditions of human life – that life is what you make of it, and accordingly their explanation of the protean responses of individuals to the same trials is to judge harshly reactions thereto falling short of their expectations, which I would concede will sometimes be fair.

    And sometimes it isn’t. So, for example, an often invidious comparison is made between the respective responses of two individuals subjected to traumatizing treatment when young, one of whom went on to become, say, a successful entrepreneur, and the other a “mental patient”, based usually on a vast simplification that focuses on one continuity between two lives to the exclusion of all discontinuities therebetween, discontinuities that might explain the differential lines along which they have developed. The assumption is basically made that the individual who became a “mental patient”, for example, is to blame.

    In some respects this might be the case; often I would say it is unduly harsh. Life is not just simply what you make of it, but also what it makes of you.

    We don’t really know why people become what they are, no matter how much we may try to bridge the gulf separating ourselves from another person through some explanatory model, or by acting as if we were the god-like narrators on human life, situated at some Olympian remove from the world, allowing the eye to range freely over the entire landscape of human experience, to penetrate into the innermost secrets of a human life with gimlet-eyed precision, and vesting in us the authority to sit in judgment on others.

    Such is the extremity of hubris to which our hatred of uncertainty and our need to judge compels us, a need which impresses itself upon us as if with the urgency of (what are euphemistically described as) natural bodily functions – and all the more so when personal animosity is at work – leaving little room for acknowledgement of the epistemological limitations that often inhere in the analyses upon which our judgements rest and that ultimately hedge in our understanding of the world.

    None of this to say that criminals shouldn’t be judged when there appear to be no extenuating circumstances, because whilst everyone, as Jean Renoir said, has their reasons, people often do make choices, though the inclination to do evil, by force of nature, habit or circumstance, may be very strong. It is no doubt imperative to judge some of the time.

    Where this becomes much more problematic is when we judge people for their suffering. This is especially harsh in the case of certain tragic specimens taking an anal pounding from life, cluster-bummed by fate, fortune, man and circumstance alike, their bottoms the unfortunate recipients of a temporal gang-bang in which all the years of their life lustfully participate, who understandably buckle under a burden of adversity sometimes so cumbersome it stretches the sinews of a man’s resilience beyond breaking point, and who often must wade through life’s shite on their own, abandoned by a providence that seemingly discriminates in its dispensations and by nature, with which men vie in their cruel indifference, often dismissing such people as weak, malingerers, failures, losers, licking imaginary wounds.

    True, sometimes people bring suffering upon themselves through the “bad” choices they make, but, alas, we often learn what is the right choice when it is too late, and with hindsight what reveals itself to be a bad choice seemed understandably good at the time, and of course it is easy for men to judge others, just like it is easy for us to judge our former selves, living a life far removed from the kind of pressures other people or you yourself once faced, but which the passage of time allows only a vague recollection of.

    Everyone has their burdens to push up life’s intolerably steep incline, yet many are the things that variegate its dimensions. Up to a certain extent any increase therein can be a blessing in disguise, for the individual must exert himself proportionately all the more so the greater his burden, perhaps becoming better and stronger for it. Yet sometimes life tests one beyond one’s limits, and the misfortunes and frustrations of life accumulate out of all proportion to a man’s powers of endurance.

    For example, a man breaks down in tears after some setback that seems manageable, or a man might spew spleen over some seemingly trivial incident, and the tendency is to judge them as weak and lacking self-control respectively, and whilst there is sometimes some truth in this, often we are just prejudging people in the light of our own prejudices and without sufficient knowledge of that person’s backstory.

    So judging others can certainly problematic.

  • Rob Bishop

    You’re right, when people don’t have an explanation for a behavior, it’s often viewed as a mental illness. Hoarding is a good example. Since it’s difficult to imagine an explanation for this behavior, many people assume it’s a symptom of mental illness.

  • Rob Bishop

    The APA’s “definition” of a mental disorder doesn’t include a method for measuring someone’s distress or disturbance. Since everyone experiences thinking and feeling disturbances, there would need to be a way to measure this, in order to diagnose patients. I guess the testing / measuring “method” being used is, “If you check at least four of the nine boxes, you have disorder X”….”If so, we will send your prescription to the pharmacy.”

  • bulbous1

    As for the belief that the solution to some of the problems Phil’s lists lies in training, alas, as Mencken said, for every problem there is a solution; simple, clean and wrong. Some men possess a nature of such a coarse grain that it is recalcitrant to all that would reform it, for which and other reasons some men, I would surmise, will not be pressed into the Procrustean straitjacket of civilized society to which some are ill-fitted.

    True, by setting beside the motive to behave in a certain way a stronger one to desist therefrom, you can control people to some extent, but the separate branches of government are as largely powerless in this regards as those to whom the responsibility devolves of inculcating the values and principles by which men are expected to abide in modern society.

    Some men don’t respond well to training, and like bars of soap, they slip from the hands of those who endeavor to control and manipulate them the firmer they are grasped, either because they simply do not recognize the authority of the controller, nor the validity of the principles he so endeavors to inculcate, or because the inclination to transgress, by force of nature or experience, is often found to feed upon frustration.

    And no amount of good training is insurance against the contingency that one will find oneself thrown back on to one’s most primitive drives and reflexes, say, by an unfortunate concatenation of circumstances, or by the worldly situations which theretofore chance had shielded one against.

    And this latter point is as important as it is inconvenient, for without an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of chance in human affairs we view men only through a glass darkly. Men are the playthings of chance, upon which even the success of our training is contingent, for even then there are all sorts of factors which a man’s training cannot control.

    The lives of men, the lines along which they proceed morally and mentally, are as often at the mercy of things we cannot control as is a man’s lot. Training is only one part of the puzzle.

    “In that dangerous, adversarial, and competitive context, anger and aggression, nature’s antidotes to fear, were adaptive traits that served our forebears well…”

    And they still serve people well in the environments in which many are nurtured. When the fox is surrounded by hounds, it bares its teeth, and now, given the nature of the modern environment, the proliferation of persons therein to a frankly intolerable extent, the threats to some are many.

    Many of the people in modern society given to such habitual ebullitions of rage, viewed through both a psychiatric and a behaviorist framework, are liable to be discriminated against assuming such an outburst is precipitated by actual or perceived mistreatment.

    I take issue with that sentence quoted previously because there seems to be no acknowledgement that the environment is still a very dangerous, competitive, and adversarial place for many people.

    Irrespective of their training, for some people feelings of anger are reinforced by the environment, like feelings of despair, like feelings of hatred, like feelings of depression, worthlessness, anxiety, which feelings often develop into habits.

    Rene Girard once said;

    “Our countless professors of compassion deplore the lack of polite speech that our speaker victims use regarding their lynchers.”

    The outbursts of spleen of people being victimized by others, and the verbal sewage they brought cascading forth thereby, comes in for a disproportionate amount of criticism. Lube up, and take the pounding your butt is about to receive gladly, or it is you who will be judged. That’s the message society delivers to some.

    The man who rightly takes umbrage having had someone jump ahead of him in the queue, triggering feelings of humiliation and disempowerment whose roots no doubt extend far back into his personal history, gives vent to his indignation, and gets judged for it.

    The victim of psychiatric violence is criticized (as is the case on MIA) for failing to contain his emotions regarding those who perpetrate it and their rationalizations thereof (which I, for example, can now do, something not so easy when you retain a not so vague recollection as that which I retain now).

    The man who is ganged up on, subjected to the humiliating laughter and verbal abuse of others, often finds himself harshly judged for it.

    Likewise the victim of bullying.

    And I’m not just making these up; I’ve experienced them myself, be it by being on the wrong end of them, or by observing them.

    Michael Haneke, in his film, “Code Unknown”, shows a black man being arrested and hounded by onlookers after angrily confronting a teenager who throws a wrapper into the face of a beggar. All turn against the black man, whilst the kid walks off scot-free. In this case, the man is discriminated against because of the color of his skin. Yet in its broad outlines – though obviously not in the finer details – such a scene is enacted daily all across the world, and often on the basis of justifiable anger and hatred.

    Phil’s answer to the question, “why doesn’t everyone respond like that?”, I’m afraid, is facile in the extreme. Some of the angriest people in society are not simply ill-trained brats. Maybe he is aware of this but either his choice of words or my interpretation doesn’t reflect that.

    One thing is for sure; much more goes into making a man what he is than the training he receives from the relevant authorities.

    Some people judge others for lacking self-control, and sometimes they are right. Yet the temperaments, emotions, passions, experiences, and memories with which the self is burdened varies from person to person.

    It is easy for men whose burden is not so great to judge those whose is. Very, very, very easy, and that’s in part why we see so much of it.

    (Though when men talk of self-control, and preen themselves thereupon, they are not talking about such things as the tendency to judge others and to boast, and other such things that men feel in nowise compelled to control, perhaps because we can’t).

    Hence La Rochefoucauld;

    “Every man has the strength and courage to endure the misfortunes of others.”

  • all too easy

    Whilst LOL! What a Boob!

  • doppelganger

    Apparently, Cledwyn speaks the Queen’s English, unlike a certain inarticulate psychia-trolling boob, i.e. you.

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