To view the original article - click here
THE Oscar Pistorius trial has some sufferers of generalised anxiety disorder and their families fearing that they could become violent or harm loved ones. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group has called for calm after it was, it said, inundated with calls. The group said the chances of a sufferer shooting their partner or harming them as a result of the condition were very slim. The mental illness became a buzz word after forensic psychiatrist Dr Merryll Vorster told the court at Pistorius's trial that the Paralympian suffered from the disorder. Pistorius, who has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, is undergoing psychiatric evaluation at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria. Pistorius claims he accidentally shot Steenkamp through a toilet door on Valentine's Day last year, mistaking her for an intruder while he was in a state of panic. Since Vorster took the stand, the group said, it had received "hundreds of calls" from concerned sufferers of the disorder and people who suspected they might be suffering from the "Oscar sickness". A director of the group, Cassey Chambers, said callers asked whether the disorder could lead to "unpredictable, unstable and violent" behaviour. "We have had people asking if their loved ones with GAD need to be hospitalised immediately," said Chambers. The disorder is characterised by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry. According to a stress health study, 8.1% of South Africans have an anxiety disorder. "Many people have become nervous about telling others that they have GAD in case people also to start to think that they are dangerous or violent," said Chambers. The group, which has been dealing with disorders such as anxiety for 20 years, said sufferers feared they would be discriminated against. "I don't think GAD had gone unnoticed before the trial. It's always been around, but I think because the trial is so high profile it's a very hot topic," said Chambers. In one case, an anxiety disorder sufferer contacted the group saying she was worried she may harm her partner. More women than men are diagnosed with the disorder, which has its roots in childhood trauma, chronic illness, stress and genetics. "It causes people to be hyperaware of possible dangers, like illness, personal security and possible natural disasters, and see things as more serious or dangerous than they actually are," said Johannesburg psychologist Kevin Bolon. He said although the disorder was a "very uncomfortable and stressful' condition, it was not dangerous. "Anxiety is an introspective issue and sufferers of GAD are highly unlikely to be dangerous to others." For help and advice call 0800212-223 from Sam to 8pm daily.