Psychiatry on trial: the Norway 2011 massacre

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2014 Mar;202(3):181-5. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000109.


On July 22, 2011, Anders Breivik, a Norwegian citizen, detonated a fertilizer bomb near government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people, and then proceeded to a nearby island where the Labor Party was holding a youth camp. There, he killed 69 people before being arrested. Just before these events, he posted a "compendium" on the Web explaining his actions and encouraging others to do likewise. Much of the ensuing media coverage and trial focused on whether he was sane and whether he had a psychiatric diagnosis. One team of court-appointed psychiatrists found him to be psychotic with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and legally insane. A second team found him neither psychotic nor schizophrenic and, thus, legally sane. Their contrary opinions were not reconciled by observing his behavior in court. We discuss why experienced psychiatrists reached such fundamentally opposing diagnostic conclusions about a "home-grown" terrorist holding extreme political views.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Forensic Psychiatry / history*
  • Forensic Psychiatry / trends
  • History, 21st Century
  • Homicide / history*
  • Humans
  • Insanity Defense / history
  • Norway
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychotic Disorders / history*
  • Schizophrenia, Paranoid / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia, Paranoid / history*
  • Terrorism / history*
  • Terrorism / trends