Oscar Pistorius weeps in the dock during his trial at the High Court in Pretoria. File picture: Chris Collingridge

Pretoria - On Tuesday, Oscar Pistorius will hear details of the psychiatric observation he must undergo following a statement by a psychiatrist in his murder trial that he was suffering from general anxiety disorder (GAD).

Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that Pistorius undergo psychiatric evaluation to determine whether GAD played a role when he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp on February 14 last year.

Psychiatrist Dr Merryl Vorster testified that Pistorius was hyper-vigilant and constantly scanned his surroundings for threats. His anxiety levels plus his physical vulnerability could have contributed to his firing through the toilet door, killing Steenkamp.

In the wake of the court’s ruling, there has been an increase in interest but also misinformation about mental illnesses such as GAD.

“Sufferers are becoming scared of stigma, and concerned they or a loved one are potentially dangerous,” said SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) operations director Cassey Chambers.

“GAD is a persistent, intense and excessive worrying of such severity that it interferes with someone’s functioning,” says Joburg psychologist Kevin Bolon. “GAD causes people to be hyper-aware of possible dangers like illness and personal security.”

It can also lead to or worsen depression, insomnia, substance abuse, headaches, and stomach pain.

Criteria to be diagnosed with GAD include excessive anxiety and worry most days of the week for at least six months, difficulty controlling feelings of worry, and anxiety that causes distress or interferes with daily life.

Patients also feel restless, fatigued, can’t concentrate, have muscle tension or problems sleeping. Call Sadag at 080 021 2223.

Pretoria News