Was the next Jared Loughner on my Facebook friend list?
Considering the prevalence of mental illness, once your Facebook list of friends grows to thousands of people, it is statistically inevitable that some will be nuts who love to make trouble.
As a physician, I have great empathy for mentally ill people, most of whom have less responsibility for their problems than many folks with physical diseases and conditions, which can often be traced to poor lifestyle choices. However, my empathy was quickly exhausted by two kooks I met on Facebook who reveled in being malicious.
Facebook Nut #1 (FN#1)
FN#1 began attacking one of my friends, alleging that she had a fake profile and wasn't who she purported to be, thus alleging that she was fake. I and some other friends who knew otherwise defended her, which prompted the nut to deluge us with messages that were obviously written by a deranged lunatic with an obsessive streak a mile wide. We reported him to Facebook, which promptly deleted his account, but that didn't stop him. He created new accounts and used them to harass me and other friends. Here's a note I sent to one friend targeted by FN#1:
He sent a few more messages to me yesterday. I blocked him after he recreated his account and sent another bizarre message to me. He then created a fake account to send other strange messages. If I block that account, he is threatening to create an endless number of fake accounts to continue his assault. In fact, in one message he admits that he routinely does this. He wrote, “block me all you want, but I make a dozen accounts daily that I use for marketing and advertising purposes for myself and my clients. I get suspended constantly but making new accounts takes me exactly 30 seconds.”
FN#1 is definitely odd and obviously a hypocrite. He blasted [our mutual friend] for being fake, yet he brags about creating multiple fake accounts daily to harass and spam people. It's like the pot calling the kettle black!
When I did a search of Google's cache yesterday AM to check the remnants of his old profile, I found him bellyaching about how Facebook has been taken over by spammers. This is like Obama complaining about big government!
I visited the Facebook help center and found they were exceedingly unwilling to assist users who are the targets of abuse. The take-home message seems to be: “Get help elsewhere.” Of course, in the illogical Facebook world, they sometimes delete accounts of people like me who did nothing wrong.
Like a rabid dog on a rampage, FN#1 kept sending me messages filled with rage, profanity, speaking of “a time machine,” and suggesting that his middle-aged mother is senile.
Interestingly, FN#1's profile listed his employer as Ralph Lauren, which made me wonder if they knew about the “dozen accounts daily” that he creates “for marketing and advertising purposes.” It is difficult to believe that a company as prestigious as Ralph Lauren would need fake profiles to hype their products, but other major companies (such as Sony, Ask.com, McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Comcast, and Microsoft) have created flogs (fake blogs) or otherwise engaged in astroturfing. A major far-left smear organization accused me of doing that, too, as I discussed in another article.
Facebook Nut #2 (FN#2): the next Jared Loughner?
FN#2 used a photo of a celebrity as her profile photo—but what did I care? She was married and I was on Facebook to network primarily for political purposes, not to flirt. I had no memorable exchanges with her except for a couple of brief comments exchanged back and forth about a new welder she and her husband purchased, which I thought was nifty. The couple that welds together stays together, right? :-)
A few months later, she posted that she was thinking of drinking alcohol in the middle of the day—possibly even the morning. This concerned me for several reasons, besides the obvious one that mid-day drinking suggests alcoholism. I thought (but was not 100% certain) that she posted an out-of-the-blue comment a few months ago admitting that she had a problem with booze but was giving it up.
Various friends of hers replied to her most recent comment about drinking, encouraging her to do it! Around this time she also announced that she “can't wait to be a mommy.” I didn't know if she is currently pregnant or just now contemplating it, but as a doctor, I know there is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant. Alcohol consumption while pregnant can trigger many birth defects. I therefore felt that I had an obligation as a physician and Facebook friend to intervene, so (not wanting to publicly embarrass her) I sent the following private message:
“Are you OK? Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think it was you who mentioned a few months ago about giving up alcohol. I'm not trying to pry into your personal life, but if one of my patients said what you did earlier today and what I *think* you said a few months ago, I'd wonder if some stressor was bothering you.”
She replied by asking me if I am Doctor Phil, which I thought was funny, but a clever way to dodge the issue. Too clever.
I presumed the allusion to Dr. Phil stems from his reputation as one who bluntly confronts people with problems. I replied, “Was I correct in my assumption?”
I was careful not to call her an alcoholic; I just asked if she were OK and perhaps stressed. She responded via another private message, not denying it, but using vicious profanity. After such a crude response, I would never have contacted her again and let the matter drop. However, she tore into me on her wall, doing her histrionic best to not acknowledge her apparent problem, so she tried to convince her gullible friends that I was the one with the problem—not her. Her obsessive attack went on for days, well into the next week, making me wonder what kind of person would lie through her teeth as she did, swearing like a drunken sailor with a few screws loose.
So what kind of person would do that? The kind of person who shoots people, or at least thinks about it. Facebook heavily filters the content of News Feeds (as I discussed in an article), so their users see only a small fraction of what their friends post. When I looked back at her prior postings, I was horrified by what I saw!
She had fights with other Facebook friends that were eerily similar to my tiff with her: a minor incident would set her off, followed by profane and juvenile rages that screamed MENTAL CASE, going on and on and on, as if she were intent on erasing any doubt about her psychopathology.
She clearly enjoyed being abusive and striking first: she said that she “loves the counterpunch, but prefers to hit first.” This gravely concerned me. She spoke as if she had guns, and she wrote about shooting a specific Member of Congress who'd angered her. She also wrote about punching a United States Senator in the face and how other people should be shot. She gave advice to one of her friends on how to use a gun within city limits and not get caught. She claimed that every police officer she ever met was a professional liar, which made me wonder if she had a criminal record and was trying to vindicate or exonerate herself (at least in her mind) by blaming the police, not herself—just as she did with me.
I hope FN#2 watched the February 20th 2011 episode of 60 Minutes, which interviewed Scott Brown, the Senator she wanted to punch. Whether or not you agree with him on everything (and I don't), it is clear he is a thoughtful and intelligent man who is a wonderful father. Scott prospered and turned into a very good person after a childhood that some people would use as an excuse for lifelong antisocial behavior. For overcoming such adversity, he deserves admiration or at least respect, not a punch in the nose from a petulant know-it-all who doesn't realize that politicians are people, too—people who inherited many tough problems that can't be solved without angering someone.
She gushed one day that God “empowers the hell out of me and I love Him for it!!!” She seemed to possess an abundant love of herself, but profuse hatred of many others, including a man she called a “faggot retard.”
It wasn't always easy to discern exactly what she meant by her writing, but the overall picture clearly suggested that her abundant anger and malicious nature were warning signs that should be heeded. Her spat with me occurred shortly after Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords was shot by Jared Loughner—a time when every sane conservative, independent, and liberal in this country was sickened by his senseless violence and determined to do our part to prevent anything similar in the future. The rage that boiled out of FN#2 made me think that if she went postal, I wouldn't be surprised.
Coupled with other things she wrote, as a doctor I knew that her extreme reactions suggested that she may have the borderline personality disorder (BPD), a disorder of emotion regulation, as manifested by intense bouts of anger, impulsive aggression, drug or alcohol abuse, marked sensitivity to rejection, distortions in cognition, temperamental sensitivity, black and white thinking, and a propensity to switch between idealizing and demonizing others.
According to The National Institute of Mental Health, borderlines “may feel unfairly misunderstood or mistreated” and exhibit volatile changes in mood that leaves most ordinary people puzzled about the mercurial change, which can be from one extreme to the other. BPD patients can be overly sensitive to how they are treated, reacting strongly and often inappropriately to perceived criticism—likely explaining why she went berserk when I asked her in a private message (not wanting to publicly embarrass her) if she were OK. In her loony mind, that was sufficient justification to start a war.
Borderlines tend to view the world as dangerous and malevolent, and they may exhibit transient, stress-related paranoid ideation and delusions. They are deliberately manipulative, often perceived as being “difficult”—so difficult that some psychologists and psychiatrists refuse to work with them.
The “Emotionally unstable personality disorder” defined in the World Health Organization's ICD-10 manual is similar to BPD and includes two subtypes. F60.30, the Impulsive type, is suggested when at least three of the following are present, one of which must be #2:
- Marked tendency to act unexpectedly and without consideration of the consequences;
- Marked tendency to quarrelsome behavior and to conflicts with others, especially when impulsive acts are thwarted or criticized;
- Liability to outbursts of anger or violence, with inability to control the resulting behavioral explosions;
- Difficulty in maintaining any course of action that offers no immediate reward;
- Unstable and capricious mood.
FN#2 was obsessive, emotionally sadistic, and seemed to be a ticking time-bomb. In my career as an ER doctor, various patients said things I think most doctors would have glossed over, but they struck me as being sufficiently odd so I posed follow-up questions, which in every case ferreted out criminal behavior, including murder or attempted murder. Thus I am inclined to trust my instincts and figuratively suspect fire when I smell smoke.
I didn't know what other rages may be brewing in FN#2's mind, but her unstable moods, impulsive aggressiveness, and repeated references to using guns as tools of revenge suggested she posed a threat that should not be ignored. She may be one of the many mentally ill people who simmer forever without boiling over, but she exhibited enough red flags to warrant a closer look.
FN#2 seemed to possess an above-average intellect, but her marked impulsivity clouded her judgment, leading her to make rash decisions. If I publicized all the dirt I had on her, substituting her real name for FN#2, her husband might find himself unsuccessfully looking for a new job when his employer didn't want someone at the company picnic who spoke of shooting a Congressman, not once but three times. Jared Loughner and other Martians would be proud, but the rest of us would not.
A bit of free medical advice to FN#2's husband: If you are smart enough to attend the London School of Economics, you should be smart enough to realize that your wife needs help. Badly. She seems to love booze, launches into prolonged profane rages at the drop of a hat, thinks that guns are a nifty way to settle disagreements, reeks of narcissism, and breaks laws left and right. Yup, she's a keeper.
Inexplicably, Facebook let FN#2 rant on month after month, even though she repeatedly and egregiously violated their user agreement, angering some people so much they immediately blocked her after reading her strangely out of the blue profane statements. Facebook tolerated her but booted me off for no apparent reason, except that I wrote articles discussing some of the many Facebook flaws. In the upside-down world of Facebook, that's evidently a greater sin than writing about shooting a member of Congress with a specific number of bullets in a specific spot. What more do you want? Another Congressman clinging to life in a hospital while innocent bystanders go to their graves?
UPDATE to illustrate the high price of being hypersensitive: I met someone who obviously thinks very highly of herself. I saw her business website and concluded that she is likely making a serious legal error that could ruin her financially. I considered warning her about the problem, but I recalled how FN#2 reacted. Like FN#2, this woman is beautiful and likely isn't used to others doing anything except worshipping her, so while I am committed to helping others, I won't risk offering unsolicited advice. I've learned to be wary of “one strike and you're out” people who need to be treated with kid gloves 24/7/365.
- Prenatal Exposure to Alcohol Disrupts Brain Circuitry: No Safe Level of Drinking During Pregnancy, Neuroscientist Says based on Prenatal Ethanol Exposure Disrupts Intraneocortical Circuitry, Cortical Gene Expression, and Behavior in a Mouse Model of FASD (FASD = Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders)
- Alcohol in Pregnancy Causes Children to Have Impaired Social Skills
- Understanding drinking behaviors among women with unwanted pregnancies
- Facebook Profile May Expose Mental Illness
- Borderline personality traits linked to lowered empathy
- The author of a book on empathy (entitled Zero Degrees of Empathy in Britain and The Science of Evil in the U.S.) said that people with borderline personality disorder, along with psychopaths and narcissists, have “zero degrees of empathy.”
- A superb article about empathy.
- An excerpt from The Sociopath Next Door in an interesting discussion of sociopaths: “Most invigorating of all is to bring down people who are smarter or more accomplished than you, or perhaps classier, more attractive or popular or morally admirable. [...] Guiltlessness [resulting from the missing conscience that is a hallmark of sociopathy] was in fact the first personality disorder to be recognized by psychiatry, and terms that have been used at times over the past century include . . . moral insanity, and moral imbecility.”
- Learn how to spot a sociopath.
- Is Fear Deficit a Harbinger of Future Psychopaths? FN#2 appears to possess some characteristics of psychopaths (a.k.a., sociopaths). Circumspection makes people afraid to publicly reveal their desire to shoot a Member of Congress or others, should they possess such an extreme impulse, but the lack of fear in psychopaths gives them an imprudent freedom to express such nutty ideas because in their twisted minds, hurting others is perfectly normal.
- Impulsivity May Especially Vex Alcoholics With Antisocial And Borderline Personality Disorders
- Borderline Personality Disorder: The 'Perfect Storm' of Emotion Dysregulation
- One of my friends has a theory about why Facebook hasn't yet (and seemingly won't) delete FN#2: because she makes conservatives look bad. Many people suspect that Facebook leaders favor liberals, and I've seen evidence to substantiate that supposition.
- The Serotonin System in Women's Brains Is Damaged More Readily by Alcohol Than That in Men’s Brains
Excerpt: “After only four years of problem drinking, a significant decrease in the function of the serotonin system in women's brains can be seen. This is the system that regulates such functions as impulse control and mood.”
- Research pinpoints devastating impacts of fetal alcohol syndrome
Excerpt: “Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are affected by a range of problems, including anxiety, depression, aggression, delinquency and diminished learning capacity a new review of evidence reveals.”
- Over 400 conditions co-occur with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, study finds
- Imaging Study Sheds New Light On Alcohol-Related Birth Defects
Excerpt: “Maternal alcohol use is the leading known and preventable cause of birth defects and mental disability in the United States. … Alcohol's effects can cause a range of cognitive, developmental and behavioral problems that typically become evident during childhood, and last a lifetime.”
- Fetal Alcohol-Related Defects: A Life Sentence
- Adolescent Offspring of Women Who Drank Alcohol During First Trimester More Likely to Develop Conduct Disorder based on Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Is Associated With Conduct Disorder in Adolescence: Findings From a Birth Cohort
- Maternal Alcohol Drinking During Pregnancy Associated With Risk For Childhood Conduct Problems
- Alcohol in Pregnancy Linked to Child Behavior Problems based on Evidence of a complex association between dose, pattern and timing of prenatal alcohol exposure and child behaviour problems
- Prenatal alcohol exposure alters development of brain function: Neural basis for symptoms of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- Sociability May Depend Upon Brain Cells Generated in Adolescence
Excerpt: “Mice become profoundly anti-social when the creation of new brain cells is interrupted in adolescence.”
- Cognitive Changes May Be Only Sign of Fetal Alcohol Exposure based on A Prospective Cohort Study of the Prevalence of Growth, Facial, and Central Nervous System Abnormalities in Children with Heavy Prenatal Alcohol Exposure
- Maternal Drinking During Pregnancy Can Damage the Earliest Fetal Learning based on Fetal Brain Function in Response to Maternal Alcohol Consumption: Early Evidence of Damage
- Even Moderate Drinking in Pregnancy Can Affect a Child's IQ based on Fetal Alcohol Exposure and IQ at Age 8: Evidence from a Population-Based Birth-Cohort Study
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Impacts Brain Development Throughout Childhood and Adolescence Not Just at Birth
- Alcohol Exposure In The Womb Affects 'Teenage' Booze Behavior
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders prevalence in U.S. revealed by study
- Schema Therapy for personality disorders proven more effective than other major treatments
- Treatment associated with changes in brain activity in borderline personality disorder