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The Psychology of Hasan: The Ft. Hood Shooter

Others have suggested motives and behaviors of Hasan that they could not have any direct knowledge of (for instance, how he worked with his patients he saw as a psychiatrist). I’ll leave such speculation where it belongs. Dr. Peter Breggin makes the ridiculous assertion that psychotherapists don’t get burned out, so one of the reasons that led to Hasan’s irrational actions was the fact that he was just another pill-prescribing, uncaring psychiatrist:

The psychiatrists [at Walter Reed] had no interest in anything except medicating their patients.

Modern psychiatry is not about counseling and empowering people. It’s about controlling and suppressing them, and that’s a dismal affair for patients and doctors alike. The armed forces have been taken in by the false claims of modern psychiatry.

By contrast, it’s not depressing to do psychotherapy or counseling. As therapists, it’s inspiring when people entrust their feelings and their life stories to us. There is no burn out when therapists feel concern and empathy for their patients and help them to find the strength and direction to reclaim their lives.

I’m not sure where Dr. Breggin is getting his information, but The New York Times noted that Hasan’s primary duty at Ft. Hood was the assessment of soldiers before deployment. In other words, Hasan wasn’t prescribing many medications. He was trying to determine the psychological fitness of soldiers before they left for combat duty. I find it a little unseemly to use a tragedy such as this to push one’s anti-psychiatry agenda (no matter how well-intended).

Hasan’s Steady Escalation Toward Action

In hindsight, the progression seems to make sense as he appeared to step up his religious observation and public objections to the war. One might say that the Internet postings attributed to him, if authenticated, were really cries for help and to be heard — “Look at me, I hate your war and am a loaded pistol just waiting to go off. Let me out of the service.” But investigators hadn’t progressed very far in examining whether to take the postings seriously and if they were even made by Major Hasan.

Between the on-base harassment for his religion, his denial of a request to be released from military service early (although it’s unclear he ever actually formally tried to do this), and his upcoming deployment to the theater of operations in the Middle East, combined with his own anti-war views and unapologetic religious beliefs all seemed to have led to this man committing the most tragic and irrational act imaginable.

As I’ve argued previously, such acts can never be fully understood or explained because at the core of it, they are irrational acts. Many people object to the war, but virtually none of us kill others to make that point. Many people, when they feel like they have no way out of their life and have lost all hope, turn to suicide. But for some reason, a very tiny percentage of people take that inward anger (depression) and turn it outward, against others, in an act like this one.

This isn’t to apologize for Major Hasan’s actions or try to minimize their impact. Indeed, what Hasan has done is to likely change the very way the military looks at its own base security and how it handles soldiers internally who seem to have significant issues that are not being successfully resolved. And perhaps — just maybe — it will again reinforce to the heads of our armed services, the vital impact mental health plays in soldiers’ lives. While it’s possible nothing could have changed the outcome of this particular tragedy, perhaps there are things we can learn to help prevent future such tragedies occurring.

Read more at: Fort Hood Gunman Gave Signals Before His Rampage

Read more at: The Fort Hood Shooter: A Different Psychiatric Perspective

The Psychology of Hasan: The Ft. Hood Shooter

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). The Psychology of Hasan: The Ft. Hood Shooter. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 9 Nov 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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