Volume 45, Issue 1 (January 2000)
Familicide, Depression and Catathymic Process
A case of familicide by a 36-year-old male is reported. After years of stable marriage, exemplary military service, and steady employment, the subject developed his first episode of depression triggered, in part, by his inability to solve a problem associated with completion of a home improvement project. As the depression intensified, and dormant conflicts regarding his competency and self-esteem were rekindled, he experienced pronounced feelings of failure. After an extended period of agonizing about his problem, the idea suddenly emerged that his only recourse was to kill his family and himself, in order to spare everyone the humiliation of his perceived inadequacy. Such a fixed idea, along with a mounting pressure to act, is characteristic of the (chronic) catathymic process, in which a subject, without apparent motive, resorts to extreme violence directed at someone close to him. A detailed discussion of this case within the framework of catathymic process adds to our knowledge of family mass murder and refines the profile of potentially familicidal men.