According to court records released Friday, the shooting suspect in the Colorado theater massacre, James Holmes, was seeing a university psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia in the weeks before the July 20 attack.
Holmes, a first-year graduate student in a neuroscience Ph.D. program, was seeing Lynne Fenton, the director of student mental health services at the University of Colorado and a medical school professor.
NBC News reports that Holmes sent a package containing writings about killing people but wouldn’t go into more detail.
Dr. Raul Condemarin, a board-certified psychiatrist and clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School with formal training in psychoanalysis, says he would look for a history of trauma in order to properly diagnose Holmes.
“In his case, if you look, we don’t know much about this guy James Holmes,” says Dr. Condemarin.
Apparently, he says he was someone highly functional since he was a science student. He says what could make him act in such a violent way is a severe childhood trauma, in which he carried a lot of resentment. Also, he says influence of cocaine or amphetamines could be a possibility.
“Even people with bipolar disorder can be a little violent, and sometimes geniuses have a breakdown.” says Dr. Condemarin. “People that are bipolar or schizophrenic can be kind of normal for months or weeks, and suddenly they act very bizarre. They commit suicide, hear voices…”
He says we are seeing more diseases with this new generation.
“Kids are spending too many hours with video games, and the more violence it has seems to be better,” says Dr. Condemarin. “Everything is about death. If you put it in your mind, you reproduce. People mimic. He said he was using the same mask as in the movie.”
He remembers having a 25-year-old client years ago with a lot of anger, and he played the video game “Call of Duty” incessantly – a game where the object is to kill as many people as possible.
“Sometimes they want to do it in real life,” says Dr. Condemarin about people who sometimes play video games so much, their reality gets blurred. “They start thinking the more people you kill, the better you are.”
In addition to looking for a history of trauma, Dr. Condemarin says he believes a mood disorder or bipolar disorder is a serious possibility for Holmes.
“People with bipolar disorder are highly functional, and they take high risks,” he says. “They can lose everything or make a fortune.”
Dr. Condemarin hypothesizes that he could be bipolar with a manic episode, which would explain his shocked expression at his first court appearance.
“For me, he sounds more bipolar because he was highly functional, or it could be late onset of schizophrenia,” he says, as schizophrenics usually breakdown around age 18 or 20, but it sometimes can be later. “In medical students it’s also common to use stimulants – amphetamines – Ritalin, Adderall. A dosage that is too high creates hearing voices, and psychotic behavior.”
In the end, though, experts like Condemarin say it is not easy to find answers in cases like this. “We don’t know what went on in his mind.”