News

Ilse de Lange
1 minute read
13 May 2014
8:00 am

Pistorius ‘anxious, depressed’

Ilse de Lange

Oscar Pistorius has been suffering from generalised anxiety disorder since he was a child and his growing fame as an athlete contributed to his anxiety, a forensic psychiatrist has testified.

Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius pictured in the dock during his ongoing murder trial at the high court in Pretoria, Monday, 12 May 2014. Pistorius stands trial for the murder of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013. Picture: Kim Ludbrook/EPA/Pool

He has also developed a depressive disorder since February 14 last year, when he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Merryll Vorster testified that Pistorius’s anxiety disorder started at the age of 11 months, when both of his legs were amputated below the knee.

Because he had no language at the time, his mother would not have been able to soothe him – and, with the associated pain, he would have experienced the amputation as a traumatic assault.

He was never able to allow himself to be seen as disabled and increasingly strove to conceal his disability, which rendered him less able to access the support he required to manage his vulnerability and self-esteem issues about his disability.

His parents’ divorce when he was six increased his anxiety. He was raised by a single mother who drank excessively and was unable to alleviate her children’s symptoms of anxiety.

She slept with a firearm under her pillow and frequently called the police or family members to investigate perceived threats.

Vorster testified that Pistorius was left without emotional support after his mother’s sudden death when he was 15, resulting in increased levels of anxiety.

“One way of alleviating anxiety is to become very controlling about one’s environment. Pistorius’s strict regime of training and diet would have assisted him in controlling his anxiety.”

Pistorius also described himself as lonely and isolated when he was overseas. Although he surrounded himself with friends, he would not share his innermost thoughts and fears.

“He appears to be a distrustful and guarded person,” she said.

“I think his physical vulnerability and anxiety go hand in hand. His physical vulnerability makes him more anxious.

“…When exposed to threat, he is more likely to respond with a fight reaction than a flight reaction, because his capacity to flee is limited,” she said.