A tool from physics helps link patterns of psychiatric patients’ symptoms and the likelihood they will commit violent acts
Predicting whether patients with mental disorders will become violent is a dicey business, and one the legal system has thrust upon mental-health workers. A new study encouragingly suggests that swift swings in the intensity of symptoms can often peg which psychiatric patients are on the verge of threatening or hurting others.
Employing a statistical technique called dynamic systems modeling, the new work shows that among psychiatric patients with documented histories of committing violent acts, those whose symptoms of emotional distress rapidly and repeatedly fluctuated from mild to severe during a 26-week period were particularly apt to assault others or to threaten them with a weapon, say psychologist Candice Odgers of the University of California, Irvine and her colleagues.
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