December 3, 2001
MEDIA CONTACT: Trent Stockton
A Psychiatric View of Terrorism
the wake of Sept. 11, psychiatry's contribution to America's response is to
defend not against bombs, but against confusion. What is needed now more than
ever is a realistic view of what terrorists do, how they think and how to stop
them, according to Paul R. McHugh, M.D., University Distinguished Service Professor
of Psychiatry at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and formerly
psychiatrist in chief at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.
McHugh's view of terrorists - - that their ferocious passion is rooted in intense
emotional commitment to an "overvalued idea," not unlike the overvalued
ideas of the Unabomber, Adolf Hitler and even Jack Kevorkian - - is published
in the Dec. 10 issue of The Weekly Standard, which appears today.
"Terrorist actions, whether war or crimes, are all behaviors," says
McHugh. "Our job as psychiatrists is to prevent the behavior. To stop it!
That's what you do with anorexia, alcoholism, drug addiction. There's no reason
to think this doesn't apply to terrorism."
McHugh places his ideas against the backdrop of "recent confused thinking"
about terrorist behavior, including one news story describing the "two
phallic symbols" of the World Trade Center and our emotional distress over
their destruction as castration fear and anxiety, as well as "dubious debates"
over whether terrorists are "mad" or "bad." Instead, he
says, psychiatry should offer a realistic, pragmatic and commonsense depiction
of terrorism so that the behavior can be prevented.
To interview McHugh, contact Trent Stockton at 410-955-8665.
Related Web site:
The Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences: http://www.med.jhu.edu/jhhpsychiatry/master1.htm