Medicated misery: Germanwings’ Andreas Lubitz

The Australian
by Theodore Dalrymple 3/29/2015

Medicated misery vs Melancholia &/or terror
The crash was not an accident but an act of mass homicide, as well as of suicide.

According to author Theodore Dalrymple: There was an element of grandiosity about it.  As with other mass killers, Andreas Lubitz wanted not to slip away unnoticed but to make a grand exit, one that no one would forget in a hurry. In the majority of such cases, the killer was mad.  His depression was more of the kind, once called misery or unhappiness, caused by an interaction of personality and circumstances vs melancholia which he believes would have been easily recognized.  Anyone nowadays, he claims, who presents to a doctor in such a state of unhappiness is prescribed antidepressants (one-tenth of the population now takes them), as was Andreas Lubitz; and these drugs have been suspected of provoking extremely violent outbursts in a few of those who take them.

What is little in doubt to the author is the inefficacy of these drugs in making most people who take them any the happier.
It seems to him likely that the co-pilot’s act of homicide and suicide was one of wounded narcissism.

According to Dr. Harold Levinson, the author may have only been 1/2 right about the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz.  He was obviously psychotic and delusional and so lost sight of reality. Although psychological triggers may have been present, there may have also been a physical predisposition present such as bipolar disorder.  And though antidepressants may be over-prescribed, they can make a world of difference when properly prescribed, monitored and taken.  Needless to say, investigators have lots more digging to do. They may even find a terror connection or influence.  And with the co-pilots death, we may be left without his “psychological black box.” Thus guessing may be significantly in error.
However, there is a vital lesson or two to be learned:  Have we gone too far in preserving a patient’s rights by not reporting and even hospitalizing individuals such as Andreas Lubitz?  Obviously so! And though we may learn a great deal about this individual retrospectively, we must recognize the severe limitations of speculating “in the dark.” We must also examine the objectivity of the writer.  His explanations or assumptions are especially hampered by highly incomplete data and the absence of verification of hypotheses. And his disparaging comments about the value of antidepressants are statistically “dead wrong.”  You can’t judge the rule by its exceptions. For example, we don’t even know if this individual took the medicine as prescribed or other toxic substances.

About Dr. Harold Levinson

Formerly Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York University Medical Center, Dr. Harold Levinson is currently Director of the Levinson Medical Center for Learning Disabilities in Long Island, New York. He is a well-known neuropsychiatrist, clinical researcher and author. For more information, call 1(800)334-7323 or visit:


Theodore Dalrymple is the author of Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality (Encounter Books).

Image Courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon/

Comments are closed.