Monday, August 5, 2013

Psychiatrists Report Their Experiences of Being Stalked

Stalking is not just a handy plot device in movies or a problem that affects celebrities, data reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law show. David Reiss, M.D., a consultant forensic psychiatrist with the West London Mental Health Trust, and colleagues attempted to survey all psychiatrists in the United Kingdom about whether they had ever been stalked, how the stalking affected them, and how they coped with it. Some 2,600 psychiatrists (about 25 percent of all U.K. psychiatrists) responded.

Results showed that stalking is by no means a rare experience for psychiatrists, with 21% of respondents reporting that they had been stalked at some point and 11% reporting experiencing harassing behavior that met stringent research criteria for stalking. A patient was the stalker in 64% of the cases. Furthermore, 15 of the psychiatrists reported that they developed major depressive disorder, panic attacks, or posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms as a result. Hypervigilance was the most common response to being stalked and was a major source of stress. (As for the general population, between 17% and 30% of women and 4% to 12% of men report being stalked at some time in their lives, depending on how studies defined stalking.)

Yet other psychiatrists who had been stalked reported that they had been able to cope well with it by using humor, distancing themselves by taking a professional perspective on the stalker, and removing information about their private lives from sources to which stalkers might have access, such as social media, voter rolls, or the motor vehicle administration.

More information about mental health aspects of stalking can be found in Psychiatric News and in the American Psychiatric Publishing book Homicide: A Psychiatric Perspective, Second Edition.

(Image: Im Perfect Lazybones/


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