Keeping Kids Safe

Inside the minds of school shooters, with general insight into adolescent mental health.

Elliot Rodger: A Psychotic Psychopath?

Elliot Rodger appears to have had a blend of the psychopathic features of Eric Harris and the psychotic traits of Dylan Klebold. Read More

Turbulent Personality Disorder

Elliot Rodger was neither psychopathic nor schizotypal.

Professor Theodore Millon described the so called EET spectrum in his book (Chapter 17).

In my opinion Elliot Rodger corresponds to the Recklessly Turbulent variant of this disorder (page 820).

In short he suffered from severe personality disorder.

It takes multiple, co-existing disorders to produce a spree-murderer

I agree with Dr. Langman's theory that it takes a combination of two or more serious mental disorders *together* to produce a spree-killer. If it was just one disorder alone, one factor alone, then we'd probably have a new horrific, tragic spree-killing incident every week.

In Elliot Rodger's case, he was diagnosed with Asperger's as a child and began seeing a psychiatrist at age 9, according to court records RE his parent's divorce and the custody of Elliot. Asperger's makes it very difficult if not impossible for a child to socialize normally with other kids, very difficult to make friends, and it can often lead to the ASP child being bullied, teased, and rejected.

Chronic bullying and rejection understandably can build up hurt, anger, rage and resentment.

Elliot also had some kind of psychotic disorder. In an interview his parents mentioned their concern that Elliot stated that he had decided to stop taking his anti-psychotic medication.

And as Dr. Langman noted, Elliot's manifesto was full of narcissistic rage and a sense of entitlement; he felt a god-like justification in inflicting the ultimate retribution, death, for all the real and perceived injustices he endured. Psychopathy is (to the best of my understanding) a combination of narcissistic pd AND antisocial pd.

Another key factor: this very seriously disturbed young man was not in supervised care. Elliot had liberty; his personal freedom to come and go was not restricted and there was no nurse or professional, trained caregiver making sure he took his medication properly and attended therapy regularly. Elliot even had a car, and money, which faciliated his ability to buy the weapons he used to kill his fellow students.

Me personally, I think this is a really key point. If someone has multiple, serious mental illnesses to the level of needing anti-psychotic medication, then that person needs to be in supervised care 24/7; such an individual isn't stable enough to be an out-patient.

With each new, horrible tragedy of spree-murder, we need to intensely study all the factors that lead to it: the perp's family history, personal history, psychiatric diagnoses, all of it. Everyone who knows the individual or has contact with him needs to be interviewed for their input, their fragment of the total picture needs to be gathered.

With enough study, enough data, hopefully the coalescing factors leading to spree-murder can eventually be recognized earlier and these "perfect storms" of human destruction can be interrupted.

no evidence of psychosis

Annie, I see that you've commented multiple times saying that Elliot had a psychotic disorder. However, there is simply no evidence of this beyond the fact that he was taking antipsychotic medication, which is prescribed for a number of things, including bipolar, depression, autism, sleep disorders, OCD, PTSD, and personality disorders.

Personally, as a person with experience with psychosis, I do not see any signs of psychosis. He was clearly not disorganized or catatonic; he didn't indicate any hallucinations, and to be honest, his grandiosity did not seem to be at a delusional level (saying he is god-like may be narcissistic, but it's not the same as saying one IS god). There are no indications that he was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder despite having had psychiatrists for years.

Please don't spread the misconception that psychotic people are violent, especially with misinformation.

Sorry, but I will have to respectfully disagree with you

I've read several articles on this incident, and some psychologists have speculated that Elliot had some form of schizophrenia.

Until or unless his parents disclose Elliot's entire psychological history I agree that its still speculation, but his grandiosity and his other delusional beliefs and his behaviors lend credibility to psychosis as a comorbidity in my opinion.

Source? I don't think people

I don't think people who have never met him and never will make very good judges. Besides, so many "experts" have thrown out vastly different diagnoses that it seems like a guessing game.
I will reiterate that the only even remotely schizophrenic symptom he shows is grandiosity, and his wasn't at a delusional level ("I am God"), it was narcissistic (I am godlike). He would need a second psychotic symptom to even get Dx'd with psychosis, and not all psychosis is schizophrenia. If thinking of yourself as godlike made you schizophrenic, then all narcissists would be.
You do not seem to know very much about schizophrenia from what you say, and the fact that you are spreading false rumors (saying he "probably" had schizophrenia is completely unfounded) and misconceptions about the case and the illness is ignorant and offensive.

Schizotypal vs schizophrenic

I still cheerfully but respectfully disagree with your opinion, and this is exactly the place designed to air and debate personal opinions RE the mental state of Elliot Rodger and other spree-murderers. That's what this comment section is for.

But it would seem from your responses that you feel that you are the only one who gets to have a personal opinion, or that you want to shut down discussions of the history and factors that cause mass murderers to develop, if the causes include particular mental disorders.

Now that I've re-read Dr. Langman's article, which I think is very insightful, I am more in agreement with his take on this Elliot Rodger situation: that Elliot probably had schizotypal disorder (a personality disorder) which is considered to be on a fuzzy gray *spectrum of schizophrenia* and which sometimes devolves into fully-developed schizophrenia. The symptoms/behaviors of schizotypal pd fit really well with Elliot's writings, videos and actions.

I now think that I'd like to buy his book, "Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters" and read more about his theories
RE this tragic and apparently more frequently-occuring phenomenon.

So, let the debate continue!

Nonsense, you are allowed to

Nonsense, you are allowed to have an /opinion/, but you are not allowed to present falsehoods as fact, and part of EVERYONE being entitled to an opinion is that others are allowed to call you out on things. So here's me expressing my opinion that what you're saying is offensive. Similar to if you had the opinion that black people should be slaves.

His parents claim that he was diagnosed with Aspergers. If this was in fact the case, that would automatically rule out SzPD.
Even in the unlikely case that he didn't have Aspergers and DID have SzPD.... you have been saying that he had schizophrenia/a psychotic disorder. It is incorrect to equate the two, as one is a personality disorder and one is a psychotic disorder. Psychosis involves detachment from reality, SzPD does not. Psychosis may get a criminal off on the insanity defense, SzPD would not. There are no hallucinations, delusions, or disorganization in SzPD. Not all cases of SzPD develop into psychosis. There are studies that demonstrate that SzPD and schizophrenia are two distinct disorders (
Also the symptoms you are attributing to SzPD (paranoia, grandiosity, stilted speech) could be attributed to many things, including NPD and Aspergers.

You made the claim that Rodger had a psychotic disorder. I ask you, where is the evidence?
Where is the catatonia? Obviously there was none.
Where is the disorganization? I see none, he was very organized in his killing and was able to deceive police.
Where are the hallucinations? I didn't read his entire manifesto (I got bored after a few pages) but did he mention receiving messages from God, aliens or the CIA? Did he say anything to indicate voice-hearing at all? I seriously doubt it.
Where are the delusions? There is grandiosity, but grandiosity and grandiose delusions are two different things. Grandiosity may be a symptom of personality disorders or mania; grandiose delusions are a symptom of psychosis. Does he talk about having a mission or uncovering a conspiracy? No.

So so far it seems all you have to go on as far as psychosis goes is that he was taking antipsychotics, which are prescribed for a number of things.

EDIT: I meant StPD, not SzPD.

EDIT: I meant StPD, not SzPD.

Other psychologists have mentioned schizophrenia for Elliot

Its not out of the ordinary to have more than one disorder at the same time.

Dr. Xavier Amador (who has patients with schizophrenia) in a CNN interview stated that in his opinion Elliot's writings (his "delusional screed") were indicative of a psychotic disorder, probably schizophrenia, evidenced by his "long-term, paranoid, persecutory delusions and grandiose delusions".

So, its OK for you to speculate that ER had other mental disorders, but its not OK for me to agree with psychologists and psychiatrists who speculate that he had schizophrenia? And if I do agree with them, it makes me a ...racist? Wow.

If you've got an argument with the speculative diagnosis of schizophrenia, then your argument is with the doctors who gave their opinions about it; I'm just agreeing with them.

But I also think the speculation that ER had schizotypal pd is highly reasonable as well. And as I mentioned earlier, some psychiatrists view schizotypal pd as being on the "spectrum" of schizophrenia: "...Some persons with schizotypal personality disorders go on to develop schizophrenia..." per Walker, E., Kestler, L., Bollini, A. et al. (2004). "Schizophrenia: etiology and course". Annual Review of Psychology 55: 401–430. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.141950.

There are so many flaws with

There are so many flaws with what you're saying that I don't know where to begin.

1. I'm not really speculating about what he had because it doesn't really matter to me. I'm just explaining that the symptoms of schizophrenia are not present here. However, his family HAS come out and said he had Aspergers. That is not a speculation.

2. You mentioned ONE psychiatrist, who has never met Elliot. You can find individual biologists who agree with creationism, too, but the consensus is what matters. And I do not see a consensus that Elliot was psychotic.

3. Even if he had delusions (which I would say he did not) that's not enough for psychosis. At most, it would be delusional disorder. Schizophrenia requires more than one symptom. No hallucinations, no disorganization, no catatonia, NO SCHIZOPHRENIA.

I ask you again, where is the evidence of psychotic symptoms? Where are the delusions, beyond subsyndromal grandiosity and paranoia? There is none.

4. Where did I say you were racist? You need to check your reading comprehension. I think you may be a little ableist but it's a bit soon to tell.

5. You are not speculating when you state that Elliot had a psychotic disorder as a fact, which you have.

6. While genetically schizotypal personality disorder is associated with schizophrenia, the symptoms and brains of StPD and SZ patients are totally different. They are NOT the same disorder, they are not even the same class of disorders. One is a psychotic disorder, one is a personality disorder. The vast majority of people with StPD do NOT go on to develop schizophrenia, and it would only be called a psychotic disorder when the PSYCHOTIC symptoms appeared. In fact, one of the defining features of StPD is that the patient is ruled out of having schizophrenia or schizophrenic symptoms. It is just blatantly wrong so say they're the same thing.

looks like your post was deleted

Here's my response to your (Annie's) apparently deleted post:

I cannot be upset about a non-fact. Similarly, I am not afraid of the possibility that the boogeyman might come get me. I'm just trying to correct the misconceptions and falsehoods that you are spreading. Like I said, a number of the things you've said indicate that you don't know much about schizophrenia.

The doctor described Elliot in terms of psychosis, but I've already explained why the things he said were blatantly incorrect, even to an uninformed person, based on the statements Elliot made in his manifesto. Furthermore, like I said, you can always find one person to support any view-- like minority biologists who believe in creationism-- but the consensus is what matters. If Elliot were schizophrenic, why didn't his own doctors diagnose it? His family had no problem sharing his apparent AD diagnosis, so why not schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia does have traits of StPD, but not the other way around, so it's deceptive to say the symptoms "overlap". It's like the square/rectangle rule. By definition, StPD means you do NOT have the symptoms of schizophrenia.

You also state that schizophrenia is the most common psychotic disorder as though this validates your claim. However, you forget that psychosis is not only a symptom of psychotic disorders-- it's also found in mood disorders like depression and bipolar, both of which are more common than schizophrenia. So it's wrong to simplify psychosis to "most psychotic people are schizophrenic".

But this is all besides the point because Elliot did not meet the symptoms of psychosis (catatonia, disorganization, and hallucinations were absent, and the "delusions" are debatable).

Perhaps StPD is a precursor to SZ for a minority, but there is simply no evidence that Elliot was psychotic during the time he was planning and executing the murders. If you believe otherwise, feel free to back that up with evidence.

Wow, after watching the

Wow, after watching the video, I wonder if Dr. Xavier Amador even read the manifesto. He says Elliot believed not that he was godlike, but that he WAS God. Yet the manifesto does not show that. In the manifesto, Elliot talks about being "like a god", fantasizing about being a god, or wanting to be superior to others. He says he is CLOSE to being a god. But not ONCE does he say he IS god in anything but a flowery, metaphorical sense. He doesn't break with reality. He uses stilted speech and metaphor throughout the manifesto, but he does not indicate that he believes he has any supernatural powers whatsoever.

Dr. Amador points out paranoia in the manifesto, but he can't seem to point out any actual paranoid delusions. Can you? Because I don't see any.

Also, in the video I saw, Dr. Amador does NOT say that Elliot "probably" had schizophrenia. You're either being deceptive or not listening correctly.

It puzzles me

You seem to be very upset that schizophrenia (which is the most common psychotic disorder) may be what Elliot had, and that the symptoms he displayed are consistent with both schizotypal disorder and schizophrenia (which have overlapping symptoms.) Dr. Amador was brought in to give his opinion on CNN because of his experience with assessing and treating patients with schizophrenia; I'm guessing that he didn't want to go so far as to give a diagnosis to Elliot post-mortem (possibly that would be considered a breach of professional ethics) but he did describe Elliot's behaviors in terms of schizophrenia.

I'm still leaning toward Dr. Langman's assessment of schizotypal pd (which in some cases is a precursor of full-blown schizophrenia.)

I have stated in many earlier posts at Psychology Today that I am not a psychologist, and I've noted that I am speculating, and giving my own personal opinion.

It will be very interesting to see how all this pans out; the only way we'll know for sure is if Rodger's family chooses to disclose his psychiatric history. I hope that in the cause of learning as much as possible about how spree-murder perpetrators form, they will do so.

I'm still betting on actual, full-blown schizophrenia being part of the mix; just a gut feeling: my opinion.

see above

Thought your comment was deleted but found it. My response is above.

Interesting annie

Because in every other forum (search all of Annie's posts on PT) you insist on assigning all of the violent behavior people have to Borderline personality disorder . Are you changing course here in opening up to the possibility that psychological disorders other than BPD can be violent?

Or do you think that Elliot Rodger also had BPD?

Have I got a stalker?

Cool, not everyone rates their own stalker; its kind of a status symbol. But my stalker must not be totally obsessed with me, because he or she hasn't (evidently) read all my posts at PT. Oh well.

And sure, I'm all about reading about mental illnesses, particularly learning about mental illnesses in relation to violent behaviors, whether they're self-directed or other-directed (or both): sudden explosive rage episodes; planned, calculated acts of revenge; serial murder, spree murder, etc. Apparently rage is a feature of several mental disorders, including borderline pd.

I'm curious as to what makes

I'm curious as to what makes me a stalker besides my offhand comment that you wrote multiple times on this article that Elliot has psychosis?

I don't regularly read this website or your comments so that's not really stalker behavior.

I'm sorry that you're unable to take other people's opinions seriously.

Sorry, Anonymous

Sorry Anonymous, my comment was directed at Anonymous, not you.

In his retribution video he

In his retribution video he states that killing people will make him a god.

Actually, the opposite is true

There is very clear evidence to support the conclusion of an Axis 2 diagnosis of delusional disorder, persecutory.

As noted, this certainly could have been a development from untreated schizophrenia. In fact, when you say there is no evidence of, is entirely backwards.

Behav Sci Law. 2006;24(3):313-31.

June 2008 by Juan R. Bustillo, MD

And that's just to note a few studies.

That's not misinformation. That's just you not knowing the subject matter.

I don't think you read your own sources...

The fact that you think that delusional disorder is an axis 2 diagnosis shows that you don't actually know what you're talking about. I'm not sure you even read your own sources, as the first one didn't conclude anything, the second wasn't a study, and the third confirmed that delusions don't increase violence,

The behaviors Elliot showed could indicate many things, including grandiosity and narcissism. Probably depression and anxiety, which his parents also reported. Even if they *were* delusions, that doesn't necessarily indicate a psychotic disorder, as delusions are found in plenty of disorders, including Aspergers, which Elliot had.

Diagnosing delusional disorder based on a handful of accounts is like diagnosing throat cancer based on a sore throat.


Hm, my comment doesn't seem to be posting. Here it was:

"The fact that you think that delusional disorder is an axis 2 diagnosis shows
that you don't actually know what you're talking about. I'm not sure you even
read your own sources, as the first one didn't conclude anything, the second
wasn't a study, and the third confirmed that delusions don't increase

The behaviors Elliot showed could indicate many things, including grandiosity
and narcissism. Probably depression and anxiety, which his parents also
reported. Even if they *were* delusions, that doesn't necessarily indicate a
psychotic disorder, as delusions are found in plenty of disorders, including
Aspergers, which Elliot had.

Diagnosing delusional disorder based on a handful of accounts is like
diagnosing throat cancer based on a sore throat."

Sooo yeah. I'm not going to debate with someone who cites things without reading them and doesn't know that axis 2 diagnoses have all been moved to axis 1, much less that they only included personality disorders and learning disabilities, not psychotic/schizophrenia-spectrum disorders like delusional disorder.

It's like that quote about playing chess with a pigeon. "it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory."

So with that, I am disabling these comments and all this foolishness!

Elliott Rodger

I think Elliott Rodger's development was thwarted very early by overindulgent caretakers who did everything for him and that he never learned to take the initiative for anything other than learning to skateboard so he could impress others.

Moreover, if anyone in his life tried to guide him in a moral and spiritual direction about what is really important and necessary for leading a happy life, I saw no evidence of that by reading his manifesto.

He seems to have been indulged in continuing his bad habits rather than guided toward classes or lessons for something that might have promoted some kind of development.

His psychological development seems to me to have been twisted and arrested at a very early age.


I'm not condoning what he has done, but most men can agree that in his manifesto he mentioned some issues about women that fuel misoginy, and discussion about this sad event without mentioning these issues is not complete

They are actually irrelevant

They are actually irrelevant to this conversation. This is not a broad statement about ideology but about one person psychology.

I don't believe that Rodger

I don't believe that Rodger "exaggerated his pain". Based on his auto-bio and videos, his pain was very real and severe. He described himself as "tortured", and experienced crying spells that lasted for hours. Sometimes these spells would occur in front of friends and family, suggesting a pain so intense it couldn't be contained in even potentially embarrassing situations. Rodger's suffering was constant and intense, and it just might be that his mental anguish skewed his thinking and pushed him toward his violent end. There is evidence of emotional abuse (mostly from his stepmom with endorsement from his Dad), neglect, and misunderstanding - and also many false moves in trying to help him. SBU was a party school, a horrible place to throw someone with severe social anxiety. Trips abroad were arranged hastily as Rodger was swung from one demanding environment to the next. Robust intervention was needed, not bandaid "social counseling". It's a sad story.

There is a lid for every pot,

There is a lid for every pot, but he did not want just any old lid. Because he felt he was the "best", he wanted no less. When children have autism or Asperger's (or any other problem), most caring parents want to help. They go out of their way to engage these children, maybe dote on them too much, especially the first-born. Perhaps this led to his narcissistic tendencies.

But I just bet there's more to this family situation (and no family is perfect). His father has been married three times? That's got to be hard on the child. Did they instill the wrong belief system on him, as in valuing superficial things: cars, houses, good-looking girls, flash and no substance? I'm certain if the mom and dad are looked at closely, you will see that this is the case. Status over depth.

If that is the case, then this boy would feel like a failure inside, as he is not living up to what he was taught. Had he been able to see that what he was taught was all wrong, perhaps he would have directed his anger at his parents and not at strangers, and seen himself not as a failure, but as someone who is looking in the wrong direction. Maybe they spent time with him in all the wrong ways, like buying him a shiny, new BMW, more XBox games?

Speaking from experience here.

After reading his manifesto,

After reading his manifesto, I believe he suffered from a Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder coupled with a Social Anxiety Disorder.


Didn't you learn not to diagnose someone you haven't personally evaluated? It is unethical to do so, and most especially just to get your own personal recognition.

an article by another Dr., bravely discussing this issue despite the "Goldwater Rule"

The public's right to at least minimal safety from attack in public places is being seriously impacted by spree-murderers with increasing frequency, so in my opinion its time to discuss this issue openly in public venues like Psychology Today.

I think that like Dr. Langman, Dr. Steinberg has a valid and resonable point to make RE the factor of mental illness in relation to spree-murderers, in his article that appeared in the NY Times after the Adam Lanza incident:

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Dr. Peter Langman is the author of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters and trains professionals in law enforcement, education, and mental health on preventing school shootings. more...

Subscribe to Keeping Kids Safe

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.