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Timothy McVeigh Case Study Analysis

Timothy McVeigh Case Study Analysis

Psychological Concerns

McVeigh experienced emotional neglect as a child. His father worked long shifts at a radiator factory. His parents were consistently unavailable and distant because of occupational commitments. Conceivably, emotional neglect undermined his emotional development (Hammer & Paul, 2004).

McVeigh was also a victim of child neglect. Their mother abandoned McVeigh and his sisters when he was 10 years old, leaving him to live with his father, who was equally unavailable (Hammer & Paul, 2004). Abandonment represented a form of psychological trauma.

He also experienced bullying and humiliation when he was a young boy. This experience, alongside emotional neglect and abandonment, made him emotionally vulnerable (Hammer & Paul, 2004).

Similarly, McVeigh had a substance use problem that may have potentiated his psychological trauma. As an ex-serviceman, he became addicted to crystal methamphetamine, a hallucinogen agent with mind-altering effects (Clarke, 2018).

McVeigh also had severe paranoid and persecutory delusions that may have arisen from or worsened because of substance addiction. He believed that a surveillance microchip had been implanted in his buttocks as a soldier during the Gulf War. He also believed that the federal government was “running amok”, and the Rubi Ridge and Waco incidences were the first of many similar annihilative atrocities in the future (McCann, 2006).

Furthermore, McVeigh developed emotional numbing due to his traumatic combat experiences during military deployment. He admitted that serving in the army taught him how to turn off his emotions (McCann, 2006).

McVeigh experienced depression. Failing to excel in Special Forces training and inability to secure employment after quitting the army left him disillusioned (McCann, 2006).

He also had suicidal ideations. McVeigh admitted that he considered suicide on several occasions and perceived his death as a suicide assisted by the state.

McVeigh also had an antisocial personality. He did not show any remorse for killing 168 people, including 19 children, and injuring more than 500 innocent people (Hammer & Paul, 2004).

Biological Concerns

McVeigh did not have any known biological concerns.

Social Concerns

McVeigh was exposed to guns at a young age. He started collecting guns when he was still a student. Exposure to guns at an early age drove him to develop an obsession for the weapons, and a significant interest in the gun ownership rights movement, conceivably desensitizing him to violence (Hammer & Paul, 2004).

McVeigh lacked an adequate social support network in his early and later life. In his early years, his main source of social support was his sister since his parents were unavailable. He was separated from his sister when his mother moved to Florida. As an adult, he lived far from his sister and relied on letters to communicate with her. As an adult, his closest friends, Terry Nichols, and Michael Fortier, lived in Michigan and Arizona, respectively (McCann, 2006).

He was also disillusioned by his failure to complete his training in the Special Forces, which strengthened his radical perception of the U.S. government (McCann, 2006).

Additionally, McVeigh experienced negative peer influence. His friends Terry Nichols, James Nichols, and Michael Fortier harbored similar antisocial sentiments. Terry and James were members of the militia. Furthermore, McVeigh may have been influenced to start using crystal methamphetamine by Michael Fortier (McCann, 2006).

McVeigh also experienced unemployment. He could not secure a job after leaving the army due to the struggling economy of Western New York despite excelling in federal and state civil service exams. He was compelled to return to Pendleton to live with his father (McCann, 2006).

He also lived in a poor socio-economic status neighborhood. Residents of McVeigh’s hometown in western New York experienced deteriorating socio-economic conditions due to the industrial downsizing and both white-collar and blue-collar job losses that affected industrial states. His father worked long shifts to provide for their family (McCann, 2006).

Moreover, McVeigh’s psychological disturbances were worsened by early exposure to radicalization due to the prevailing far-right political movement and the related gun ownership rights movement. Gun possession-related raids conducted by the Federal government against pro-gun ownership entities such as the Branch Davidians worsened his paranoia, delusions, and distrust of the U.S government (McCann, 2006).

Spiritual Concerns

McVeigh sympathized with survivalism. He stockpiled supplies, including food and camping equipment, in anticipation of an impending nuclear attack and destruction. He was exposed to and gradually espoused survivalist sentiments through books such as the “The Turner Diaries”. Survivalists believed that an impending doom masterminded by the government would annihilate their freedom and that members of the Black and Jewish races were inherently evil. McVeigh planned the bombing based on the two-year timeline described in the “The Turner Diaries”.

McVeigh also sympathized with the Branch Davidians, a religious and separatist sect in Waco, Texas, that was led by David Koresh. Followers of this religious sect were allegedly contemplating mass suicide.

Problem List

Psychological trauma (abandonment and bullying)

Emotional numbness

Antisocial behavior

Substance use

Anger and aggression

Paranoid and persecutory delusions


Negative transference

Coping Mechanisms

One of McVeigh’s coping mechanisms was displacement. He displaced his frustration towards the government onto Blacks and Jews who benefited from affirmative action, affecting the economic welfare of white people.

McVeigh also depended on substance use (crystal methamphetamine) to cope with his negative feelings.

He also used emotional numbing to deal with distressful experiences and thoughts. He coped with his traumatic combat experiences by switching off the negative emotions.

Aggression is McVeigh’s other coping mechanism. He expressed his anger and frustration towards the government by harming innocent people.

McVeigh also coped with negative feelings through rationalization. He considered the death of the 19 innocent children who perished in the bombing to be collateral damage and victims of the illegal actions of the U.S. government.

Clinical Case Analysis

McVeigh has a history of childhood psychological trauma. He experienced emotional neglect as a child because his parents were unavailable and distant. He also experienced neglect since he was also abandoned by his mother when at an early age. McVeigh also experienced bullying at school. These adverse childhood experiences undermined his emotional and personality development resulting in maladaptive patterns of emotional regulation such as aggression, thought-form disorders such as paranoid delusions, and antisocial behavior such as remorselessness. These psychological disturbances made him impressionable and susceptible to radicalization.

Experiences such as early exposure to guns and substance use disorder (crystal methamphetamine) also predisposed him to antisocial behavior due to desensitization. Psychological factors in later life, such as traumatic combat experiences during military service and negative peer influence, and social factors, such as unemployment and poor socio-economic status after military service, derailed his psychological well-being and increased his susceptibility to radicalization. Prevailing tragedies affecting socio-political minority groups, such as Branch Davidians, provided opportunities for negative transference that worsened his antisocial and radical orientation. His adverse experiences in childhood and young adulthood elicited antisocial behavior.


Post-traumatic Stress Disorder with Secondary Psychotic Features

McVeigh has clinical features of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder with Secondary Psychotic Features. This mood disorder is characterized by persistent trauma exposure characterized by re-experiencing the trauma, intrusive thoughts, avoidance, and cognitive changes. The disorder may also manifest with emotional numbness indicated by a reduced capacity for emotional response (Schuman et al., 2019). McVeigh masterminded the Oklahoma City bombing, killing and injuring several people. He was indifferent to the atrocious effects of his actions, including the death of innocent children. McVeigh has a history of childhood psychological trauma, including emotional neglect and bullying. Childhood psychological trauma is a known risk factor for PTSD in later life (Compean & Hamner, 2019). McVeigh also has a substance use disorder. Substance use disorder is an established comorbidity in PTSD. He was remorseless because he believed his actions were expedient and hoped his decision and execution would be martyrizing. The presence of paranoid and persecutory delusions suggests the presence of secondary psychotic features (Compean & Hamner, 2019).

Psychological Test for PTSD

Evaluation of Lifetime Stressors

Evaluation of Lifetime Stressors (ELS) is a structured tool for screening and assessing clients for depression. The instrument allows exposure to traumatic events to be assessed across the lifespan, making it suitable for assessing McVeigh. The instrument is a 56-item questionnaire that is administered by a qualified health provider. The respondent responds to each item on the tool using responses such as “Yes, I remember this”, and “No, this did not happen”. The instrument also enables the different dimensions of each traumatic experience to be examined, followed by an elaborate exploration of specific aspects of key traumas, including dissociation, disclosure, and management (Antony & Barlow, 2020). Since McVeigh had experienced multiple traumas, including childhood psychological trauma and military combat, ELS may provide an excellent psychological testing tool.

Impact of Violence on Wellness and Mental Health

Exposure to violence, including physical assault, sexual violence, bullying, and other forms of interpersonal violence, has several adverse mental health effects, including a greater risk of mental illnesses. Experiencing or witnessing violence increases the risk of mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Persistent stress following exposure to violence can also result in maladaptive coping strategies such as substance abuse, which may further predispose an individual to poor mental health outcomes such as substance-induced psychotic disorders (Friborg et al., 2019).

Violence results in chronic stress, which causes the chronic activation of the stress response system and its negative physiological consequences. Notably, chronic stress increases the risk of chronic medical conditions, particularly cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus. Violence can derail wellness by impairing biological functions such as sleep, which further impairs wellness. Poor well-being can also result from physical injuries sustained directly during a violent experience, occasionally resulting in physical disability (Rivara et al., 2019). Consequently, functional deterioration may occur following violent exposure.

Integrated treatment plan

Collaborative interprofessional care involves providers, including a general practitioner, psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, social worker, psychiatric nurse, and a peer support group for veterans.

Mental health screening and assessment of McVeigh by the primary mental healthcare provider using conventional instruments to assess PTSD and psychotic symptoms, such as the ELS and the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-V (CAPS-5) (Weathers et al., 2019).

Enrollment into an elaborate PTSD treatment program that includes mood-stabilizing and antipsychotic medication treatment and intensive psychotherapeutic intervention. In light of McVeigh’s atypical clinical pattern that includes emotional numbness and psychotic symptoms in underlying PTSD, he may benefit from cognitive behavior therapy to address and reverse the thought-form disorder.

Referral to a substance abuse treatment program to address crystal methamphetamine addiction. Subsequent referral into a substance recovery encounter group for hallucinogen substance addiction.

Referral to a support group for military veterans to provide a social support network. Referral to social service programs for veterans, specifically, an employment assistance program for veterans.

Secondary Prevention

Following discharge from the military, McVeigh would have benefited from early evaluation to detect the predisposing factors for PTSD, such as childhood psychological trauma (op den Buijs, 2016). Early identification would have prompted the timely initiation of intervention to prevent the development of PTSD.

He would also have benefited from brief psychotherapy, such as counseling and cognitive behavior therapy. In the presence of risk factors for PTSD, early medication treatment with anxiolytic and antidepressant agents would have been beneficial (Linares et al., 2017).

Similarly, McVeigh would have benefited from early referral to a veteran’s support group in order to access a social support system (Linares et al., 2017). A support system would have been crucial in promoting positive coping strategies.

Furthermore, prompt transition into another occupation or social skills and employment training during the early post-deployment period would have prevented the emergence of PTSD by minimizing exposure to socio-economic stressors such as unemployment.


McVeigh’s military background may provide an opportunity for positive countertransference. One of my uncles is a military veteran. He similarly experienced PTSD after his retirement and developed an alcohol use disorder. He enrolled for Alcoholics Anonymous and has remained sober for more than 9 years. However, in light of my disapproval of the atrocities perpetrated by domestic terrorists in recent years, my ability to maintain unconditional positive regard and maintain a therapeutic bond when caring for McVeigh may be significantly impaired.


Antony, M. M., & Barlow, D. H. (Eds.). (2020). Handbook of assessment and treatment planning for psychological disorders. Guilford Publications.

Clarke, J. W. (2018). Defining Danger: American Assassins and the New Domestic Terrorists. Routledge.

Compean, E., & Hamner, M. (2019). Posttraumatic stress disorder with secondary psychotic features (PTSD-SP): Diagnostic and treatment challenges. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry88, 265-275.

Friborg, O., Emaus, N., Rosenvinge, J. H., Bilden, U., Olsen, J. A., & Pettersen, G. (2019). Correction: Violence affects physical and mental health differently: the general population based Tromsø study. PLoS one14(1), e0210822.

Hammer, D. P., & Paul, J. W. (2004). Secrets Worth Dying for: Timothy James McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. AuthorHouse.

Linares, I. M., Corchs, F. D. A. F., Chagas, M. H. N., Zuardi, A. W., Martin-Santos, R., & Crippa, J. A. S. (2017). Early interventions for the prevention of PTSD in adults: a systematic literature review. Archives of Clinical Psychiatry (São Paulo)44(1), 23-29

McCann, J. T. (2006). Terrorism on American soil: A concise history of plots and perpetrators from the famous to the forgotten. Sentient Publications.

op den Buijs, T. (2016). Can Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Be Prevented?. In NL ARMS Netherlands Annual Review of Military Studies 2016 (pp. 163-184). TMC Asser Press, The Hague.

Rivara, F., Adhia, A., Lyons, V., Massey, A., Mills, B., Morgan, E., & Rowhani-Rahbar, A. (2019). The effects of violence on health. Health Affairs38(10), 1622-1629.

Schuman, D. L., Bricout, J., Peterson, H. L., & Barnhart, S. (2019). A systematic review of the psychosocial impact of emotional numbing in US combat veterans. Journal of clinical psychology75(4), 644-663.

Weathers, F. W., Bovin, M. J., Lee, D. J., Sloan, D. M., Schnurr, P. P., Kaloupek, D. G., Marx, B. P. (2017). The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5): Development and Initial Evaluation in Military Veterans. Psychological Assessment, 30(3), 383-395.


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Timothy McVeigh Case Study Analysis

Rubric for Case Assignments

Timothy McVeigh

This assignment is an integrated case analysis written in a report format that is due week 15. Students will complete a forensic assessment that will include background information on the client, problem list (identify acute vs. chronic illness), bio-psych-social analysis, identify what would be helpful from a prevention perspective and diagnosis (s) with an integrated treatment plan (integrated intervention approach). This assessment should be six to eight pages in content (does not include cover page). Students are required to use at least 7 references, APA guideline and headings.

Timothy McVeigh Case Study Analysis

Timothy McVeigh Case Study Analysis

  • Developmental perspective lens connecting childhood to adulthood
  • Discuss psychological concerns on this case
  • Discuss health related illnesses (biological) concerns in this case
  • Discuss social (interpersonal and environment) concerns in this case
  • Discuss spiritual concerns in this case
  • List problems in the case and coping mechanisms used by client
  • Discuss and provide a clinical case analysis-overall comprehensive perspective
  • Discuss diagnosis(es) and provide supportive information for the diagnosis
  • Discuss what should be used to confirm or rule-out diagnosis
  • Discuss impact of violence on wellness (mind, body, social and spiritual)
  • Create and discuss an integrated treatment plan to include referrals
  • Discuss what would have been helpful for client following his discharge from the military
  • Discuss information regarding counter-transference. Please note some students may not experience a counter transference and this also an acceptable response but please explain or discuss why

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