UK & World News

  • 12 May 2014, 17:48

Oscar Pistorius 'Suffers From Anxiety Disorder'

Oscar Pistorius has an anxiety disorder and is a "distrusting and guarded" person who is "hyper-vigilant" about security, the athlete's murder trial has heard.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr Merryl Vorster offered a rare insight into the athlete's mindset, saying he often feels "isolated and alone" and normally keeps his thoughts and feelings bottled up.

But her evidence inadvertentlyopened up the possibility of Pistorius being admitted to a psychiatric hospital for tests.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nelargued the defendant's mental health should be examined more fully - a move that could delay the trial for up to a month.

If Pistorius were found to be suffering from a mental illness, he could be held not criminally responsible for his girlfriendReeva Steenkamp's death and found not guiltyby reason of "mental illness or intellectual disability".

Dr Vorsterspoke at length about Pistorius' childhood, saying his mother was a "very anxious person" who slept with a gun under her pillow and "abused alcohol intermittently".

He views his father as an "irresponsible and mostly absent parent", the court heard, and he and his siblings - brother Carl and sister Aimee - were "reared to view the world as threatening".

The psychiatrist went on to talk about the 27-year-old's "fight or flight response", claiming he is more likely to stand up to threatening situations than to flee, as his capacity to do so is limited by his disability.

Pistoriushad both legs amputated when he was 11 months old - an operation he would have perceived as a "traumatic assault" because he would not have known what was happening, she said.

Dr Vorster also told the court the insistence of his parents that he should take part in activities his friends enjoyed would have added to his stress and anxiety.

As he became more famous, she said, the Paralympianattempted to hide his disability.

He felt anxious about attending public events and would spend "many hours preparing for them so he would not embarrass himself", she added.

Pistorius is accused of killing MsSteenkamp in a premeditated attack at his home in Pretoria, South Africa, on Valentine's Day last year.

He denies the charge and claims he shot his partner after mistaking her for an intruder.

Dr Vorster said Pistorius worries about his family's safety, especially his sister's, even when he is away training in Italy.

While in South Africa,he "worries about being followed and about the security of his home", she said.

He sleeps with his bedroom door locked and wakes often during the night, believing he has heard noises in his house, she added.

The court heard the Paralympian's increased anxiety levels mean he "perceives his surroundings as being threatening when perhaps they're not".

Dr Foster is expected to be one of the last witnesses to be called by Pistorius' defence team.

The trial was adjourned before Mr Nel could make a formal application for a psychiatric referral.

The trial continues.

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