Many questions still remain about the circumstances surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, and some of the most sought-after information surrounds the mental health of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza. While no official diagnosis has been reported, there has been a lot of speculation about Lanza's condition(s) ... Particularly after Richard Novia -- who was the advisor to Newtown High School's technology club, an organization to which Lanza belonged -- said he had meetings with Lanza's mother, Nancy, and school administrators about ensuring Lanza's safety, considering his apparent inability to feel pain. He told AP reporter Adam Geller, "If that boy would've burned himself, he would not have known it or felt it physically."
But what does that mean exactly?
According to TheAtlanticWire.com, Novia's statements seem to match up with a condition known as congenital insensitivity to pain (CIPA), a rare neuropathic disorder that makes people unable to register painful stimuli. People with the disorder have problems with self-inflicted injuries. For instance, children often have oral cavity damage both in and around their mouths, i.e. having bitten off the tip of their tongue, or fractures to bones. They may also not notice infections or more severe diseases other kids would respond more readily to. And they can struggle with emotional regulation.
As you might imagine, CIPA sufferers can have difficulty empathizing with those of us who have normal pain thresholds. But definitely not always -- just look at recently publicized CIPA patient, 12-year-old Ashlyn Blocker, who is said to be a "bright and friendly child." It also bears noting that, "About half of people with CIPA show signs of hyperactivity or emotional instability, and many affected individuals have intellectual disability," according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
However, there's another piece of the puzzle here: UCLA psychologist Elizabeth Laugeson explains that autism spectrum disorders can sometimes correspond with a reduced sensitivity to pain. This may serve to back up the recollections of Lanza's classmates and the Lanzas' marriage therapist Paula Levy who say they were told Adam Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.
These details definitely offer a smidge more insight into what may have been going on behind the scenes with the disturbed young man who would take many innocent lives ... It's still unclear what Lanza's specific mental and physical health challenges were and where, perhaps, his support system fell short. But hopefully, with further investigation, we'll soon have more concrete answers, which could only serve to help us do better going forward.
Here's a video on more speculation and news on Adam Lanza's history and mental health ...
What are your thoughts on the shooter's potential diagnosis?