Calling Out: Amy Barnhorst MD & Psychologytoday

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Hate Is Not a Mental Illness is the title of an article written by Amy Barnhorst MD in

Amy writes,

Most mass shooters, though, didn’t have a diagnosis of a serious mental illness before their attack. Having ”mental health issues” like getting in fights at school, beating your spouse, or being a loner who spends too much time on Internet hate sites is different from having a mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Consider a medical corollary: a man in his mid-forties who lives a sedentary lifestyle. He eats a lot of fast food and takeout, usually in front of his television, and washes it down with a few beers until he falls asleep on the couch. He’s a good fifty pounds overweight, and his only source of exercise is walking outside for his regular smoke breaks.

You don’t have to go to medical school to know that this guy is never going to make the cover of a Men’s Health magazine. But when he goes to his doctor for a checkup, she doesn’t find any evidence of diabetes, emphysema, high blood pressure, or other diseases. She doesn’t see the need to start any medications or admit him to a hospital, because he is not medically ill (not yet, anyway). He’s just really unhealthy.

This distinction applies to mental health, too. There are lots of angry and embittered people in the world who have it out for others. They get fired from jobs, fight with their partners, perpetrate road rage, harbor grudges, and plot revenge. We certainly wouldn’t describe them as psychologically healthy, but, like the couch-dweller, they don’t necessarily have a diagnosable illness. And, unless they are motivated to make a lot of changes in their own lives, they are very difficult for mental health professionals to treat.

These entitled, rage-filled people can be extremely dangerous. Imagine what happens when you take someone with those personality traits and immerse them in an online culture that provides validation and fuel for their hatred, and steers it towards a specific target: African-Americans, women, immigrants, Jews. Throw in access to assault weapons, and you have a uniquely American tragedy waiting to happen.


In the Middle East and in many parts of the world, a woman is made to live a similar unhealthy lifestyle. It would be nice if one of them committed a mass shooting.

Hence, in saying, “When someone robs a liquor store or assaults their girlfriend, we don’t automatically assume they are mentally ill. Even people who murder neighbors, rivals, or family members don’t garner such diagnostic speculation. ” ——-It is called “culture” sometimes…that is why. 

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Liliyan Hassan

Liliyan Hassan

Founder: Go for Women

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