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Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who opened fire on a Connecticut elementary school last Friday, could literally not feel physical pain, Adam Geller of the AP reports. In an interview with the news wire, Richard Novia, the advisor for Newtown High School’s technology club said of Lanza’s condition: “If that boy would’ve burned himself, he would not have known it or felt it physically.”
An official has also said that the young gunman suffered from a mild form of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome, which Geller notes could be related to Lanza’s reduced sensitivity to pain.
“People with Asperger’s can be overly sensitive to things like touch, noise and pain, or sometimes under-sensitive,” psychologist Elizabeth Laugeson of the University of California, Los Angeles told Geller.
The Atlantic Wire’s David Wagner says that Lanza’s inability to feel pain suggests he had a rare condition known as congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, or CIPA.
“Certain studies suggest that people who can’t feel pain may empathise with others differently than people with normal pain thresholds, ” writes Wagner.
In other words, if you can’t feel pain, it it is harder to internalize how others feel when they are exposed to pain, and in turn, express emotional empathy toward their painful predicament.
If Lanza did have Asperger’s, it’s important to note that in the wake of this tragedy, experts have stated that there is NO known link between the disorder and violent behaviour.
Lanza has repeatedly been described by the media as an extremely clever, but socially awkward student. He was quiet, did not have many friends, and was known to go through bouts of social withdrawal.
Lanza was clearly troubled, but we still don’t know exactly what led the young man to murder his mother and then kill 26 people, including 20 children, in the second-deadliest school shooting in history.