Forensic Psychiatrist Mark I. Levy MD was interviewed on July 20, 2016 for the following television news story:
By KTVU Reporter Tom Vacar
There are reports that the man who killed three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers told friends he was suffering from PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. So, I spoke with two of the Bay Area’s top PTSD physicians about the implications of this yet, unconfirmed claim.
Baton Rouge killer Gavin Long, apparently told some of his friends that he was suffering from the stress disorder known as PTSD. Reports also say that Long had filled a prescription for the stress relieving drug Ativan as well as Valium and Lunesta, a sleep enhancer. “Those particular medications are not identified as treating post traumatic stress disorder,” says Dr. Stephen Raffle, a forensic psychiatrist for 42 years including several years of practice in the military. He adds, “They are more for general anxiety.”
While used sometimes, usually far more specific and powerful drugs are used to treat true cases of PTSD on an outpatient basis along with psychiatric therapies. What is also not clear is if Long, despite his claim, had ever been diagnosed with or treated for PTSD, presumably based on his Middle East military service. “PTSD is real. But all that claims to be PTSD is not really PTSD, ” says Dr. Mark Levy, a practicing physician and Professor of Medicine at UCSF Medical School who adds, “Just because it was a big, bad experience, doesn’t mean it caused PTSD. And, even some really traumatic experiences, for some people, don’t cause PTSD.”
The doctors say reaction of a PTSD patient to a flashback is reliving the event while simultaneously trying to avoid the place and circumstances of the trauma. And, say the doctors, people with PTSD are rarely mass murders unless they have other dangerous mental illness such paranoia, schizophrenia or delusions. “Patients with post traumatic stress disorder, who have concurrent depression have a higher risk for suicide,” Says Dr. Raffle. “Statistically, the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people are less dangerous than the population at large,” says Dr. Levy. And, consider this. “In the Baton Rouge case, this appears to have been very premeditated. This is not diagnostics of a posttraumatic stress disorder event. This is a bad person acting badly,” says Dr. Raffle. 70% of soldiers who were actual combat never develop any level of PTSD.
One more point: “The general populations thinks of people, particularly if they seem crazy, to be dangerous. Painting with the brush of violence and dangerousness anybody who has PTSD from serving in the military or from natural disaster or man made disaster, is very unfair and, more importantly, it’s very inaccurate,” says Dr. Levy.