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Freeman, L. (1983). Pontius, A. (New York). ‘Stimuli triggering violence in psychoses’. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 26; 1, pp. 123-128 (1981).. J. Anal. Psychol., 28(3):275-276.

(1983). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 28(3):275-276

Pontius, A. (New York). ‘Stimuli triggering violence in psychoses’. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 26; 1, pp. 123-128 (1981).

Review by:
Linda Freeman

Edited by:
Andrew Samuels

This paper uses two case studies to show a pattern of specific relationships between traumatic experiences in youth and a later trigger stimulus that released homicidal action. Both men were institutionalised at an early age by parents; one was sexually molested at the age of six; both were on antipsychotic drugs, and one was also on amphetamines. Both had stopped all medication several weeks before the homicides. Pontius feels that until a refined classification system and neurophysiological understanding of sudden aggression can be achieved, forensic psychiatrists should be aware of the psychotic trigger reaction within a clinical psychiatric model.

She examines four existing differential diagnoses: impulsive acting out, episodic behaviour disorder, schizophrenia (paranoid type) and monomania. Pontius concludes that each of the above is deficient in explaining the specific trigger reactions. She suggests a new diagnostic category—psychotic trigger reaction (PTR). She suggests that PTR shows promise for clarifying some specific neurophysiological disfunctions. She discusses the outstanding features of PTR within the context of behavioural models known from other fields.

The first model is innate releasing mechanisms (IRMs) known from ethology, which she argues must be modified to be called acquired releasing mechanisms (ARM). The second model is a neuropharmacological one, in which she discusses the effects of amphetamine on reactions to traumatic stimulus in the subjects.

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