Psychiatric Assessment of Individuals Charged with Terrorism and Those at Risk of Engaging in Acts of Terrorism

Terrorism is a multi-faceted phenomenon that entails a strategic and instrumental use of violence to achieve ideological or political goals. Despite decades of research in the field, empirical data to guide clinical practice is lacking, and controversies surround the role of psychiatrists in assessing terror subjects. Our paper provides an overview of the social, psychological, and political-cultural risk factors for radicalization to terrorism; the assumed link between mental illness and terrorism; the relevant legal issues; and the threat assessment and management tools. In the absence evidence-based clinical guidelines, a thorough understanding of these issues helps inform psychiatric assessments of individuals charged with terrorism or those at risk of engaging in acts of terrorism.

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The Psychiatric Aspects of Terrorism: Prevention and Rehabilitation

Preventing terrorism has thus far been in the domain of national security and law enforcement agencies. The expectation that psychiatry has a primary role to play in the rehabilitation of those involved in terrorism remains controversial, although the significance of certain mental disorders has been highlighted among lone-actor terrorists. This paper provides an overview of the motivating factors for radicalization to terrorism at both community and individual levels, as well as preventive and rehabilitative approaches to terrorism. We argue that psychiatry may have a role to play in these approaches with the goal of preventing violence in select cases.

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