The explanation for the carnage in Las Vegas may be as mundane as this: Stephen Paddock may have had Asperger’s Disorder—part of the spectrum of autistic disorders.
Now, please note the fact that the vast, vast majority of people who suffer with autism spectrum disorders do not harm anyone. They are brave victims of mental illness and perpetrators of nothing. Also, I did not, of course, examine Mr. Paddock.
Stephen Paddock displayed, however, many signs of Asperger’s Disorder.
He was reported by his neighbors to lack usual social graces. A wave or hello to him might well not be returned.
He was reportedly gifted with numbers, and this gift allowed him to profit as a gambler. Such gifts are, inexplicably, often part of Asperger’s Disorder.
He moved near Las Vegas to play video games. It doesn’t much matter that the video games were video poker and that he was a gambler. Fascination with video games is very common amongst those with autism spectrum disorder.
He had two relatively short marriages, potentially because his partners realized that Mr. Paddock displayed the inflexibility and obsessive thinking typical of Asperger’s Disorder.
He was fascinated with firearms and collected them to an extraordinary extent—another obsessive preoccupation.
Many patients with Asperger’s Disorder become progressively more enraged as they note their tendency to fail in relationships, to lose employment and to lack the ability for joy. And, sometimes, that feeling of being on the outside of everything makes them want to destroy everything.
I know this from my 25 years practicing forensic psychiatry, including my treating many people with Asperger’s. Some of these people shared with me thoughts of harming many others, and I took the proper precautions to prevent that.
Asperger’s Disorder or other disorders on the autism spectrum have, in fact, clearly been implicated in mass murders such as Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Aurora, Colorado.
Of course, those with Asperger’s are ideal recruits for organizations like Isis that offer an instant sense of belonging, lots of rules and an outlet for underlying feelings of violent rage.
If the FBI knows of no other conspiracy, one to consider might be this: Many people around Mr. Paddock may have profited from his genius with numbers—including family members and his girlfriend. Celebrating his gift and receiving lots of gifts from him may have led them to willingly ignore, or may have blinded them to, his underlying suffering and growing desire to destroy others.
It may not be politically correct to say it, but saving lives demands that I state this very clearly: Despite the fact that the vast, vast majority of those with autism spectrum disorders would never hurt anyone, the mental health community must begin asking all those with autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger’s Disorder, whether they have any underlying desire to harm others or any plan to do so. It is probably also the case that those with Asperger’s Disorder who own firearms should be screened repeatedly and far, far more carefully for any underlying violent intent.
Keith Ablow, MD