Did Orlando Shooter Mateen Have Bipolar Disorder?

June 13, 2016 Natasha Tracy

It is being widely reported in the media that Orlando shooter Omar Mateen had bipolar disorder, but do we really know if Mateen had bipolar disorder (What Is Bipolar Disorder)? Where did this information come from and should we really believe it or is it just media sensationalism? After all, every mass shooter seems to be designated some mental illness; is it just bipolar’s turn?

Orlando Shooter Omar Mateen

For those of you who don’t know, it’s being reported that Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando on the morning of June 12th. The shooting is considered “one of the deadliest in recent U.S. history.”

The Accusation of ‘Bipolar’ of Omar Mateen

The accusation that Mateen had bipolar disorder actually comes from his ex-wife, Sitora YuSufi. YuSufi says Mateen was violent and says he was bipolar in this quote (regarding their marriage):

At the beginning he was a normal [human] being that cared about family, loved to joke, loved to have fun, but then a few months after we were married I saw his instability . . . I saw that he was bipolar and he would get mad out of nowhere. That’s when I started worrying about my safety.

She also says Mateen was,

. . . mentally unstable and mentally ill [and] obviously disturbed and traumatized.

YuSufi talks about how abusive Mateen was and how she left him after only four months.

Does Mateen’s Violence and Instability Equal Bipolar Disorder?

The media is saying that Orlando shooter Mateen had bipolar disorder but where is this coming from? Did Omar Mateen have mental illness bipolar disorder?But the question is not was Mateen a bad guy – it appears that he certainly was – the question is, did he actually have a mental illness? And if he did, is that actually germane to the reporting of the Orlando shooting?

Here’s the thing, information from an allegedly abused ex-wife is bound to be tainted. She has said all sorts of horrible things about him in the interviews she has done with the media. Are these things true? I have no idea. But regardless as to the fact that he may have been violent and abusive, that doesn’t mean that he had bipolar disorder. YuSufi is not a psychiatrist and, more specifically, she certainly isn’t Mateen’s psychiatrist. What qualifications does she have to say that “he was bipolar?” And why should we believe her? She never said he had a diagnosis of bipolar – i.e. was actually diagnosed by a professional – she just said he “was” bipolar, suggesting that she assessed him as such, apparently due to his abusive actions.

But this isn’t right and this isn’t fair. It’s not fair to give someone a diagnosis of a mental illness without any evidence. Violence, in and of itself, is not a symptom of bipolar disorder. Even if Mateen beat his wife, that doesn’t mean he had a mental illness – it just means that he was an abuser. Being an abuser does not equal having bipolar disorder (Narcissistic, Sociopathic or Plain Abusive?).

Why the Media Reports that Mateen Has Bipolar Disorder

Of course, when a tragedy like a mass shooting occurs, people are looking for the reason why, and, in our society’s media, that almost always means that someone is looking to blame a mental illness. In the case of Mateen, it appears he hated homosexuals – one possible reason for his actions; it also appears that Mateen felt aligned with the Islamic State and that also had to do with his motivation. And while either one of these aspects might be what drove Mateen to attack innocent people in a gay nightclub, that is never enough for the media. The media always wants to paint people with mental illness as the “bad people.” They seem to be suggesting that those with bipolar are a certain type of person and that type of person is dangerous.

We, with mental illness, are the “bad guys” and if society could just control those horrible people, then the rest of the “good people” would be safe.

And, of course, the idea of Mateen having bipolar disorder makes a great headline. It’s something the media can tout and with which they can garner eyeballs. I get it. Most are, technically, reporting it correctly by putting “bipolar” in quotation marks, but no one sees that bit. Everyone just sees that yet another crazy gunman had bipolar disorder.

Is It Right to Say that Orlando Shooter Mateen Had Bipolar Disorder?

In short, we have no idea whether Orlando shooter Mateen had bipolar disorder. The accusation of an ex-wife certainly isn’t enough to diagnose a mental illness, nor is the presence of violence.

And no matter what you think about people with bipolar disorder, believe this: we are not mass shooters. Of the millions of us that exist, most of us are just ordinary people on the violence spectrum. Sure, there are people with bipolar disorder who are violent – just like without bipolar disorder. And, yes, those with bipolar disorder who are untreated may be more inclined towards violence, but that doesn’t mean that just because a person is violent they have bipolar disorder.

Mental illness and abuse and violence are not the same thing.

Mateen may have had bipolar disorder or he may not, but his actions, even heinous ones, don’t tell us either way.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2016, June 13). Did Orlando Shooter Mateen Have Bipolar Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Dr Musli Ferati
June, 23 2016 at 1:48 pm

Unfortunately, Orlando shooter Mateen indicates also for unfoundet misunderstand and prejudice to metal illnesses, such is bipolar disorder. By me, this kind of attitude to massive shooter camouflage our ability to name these modern tragedies by their real nature. Violence and antisocial conduction is consequence of numerous psycho-social, socio-economic, socio-politic and socio-cultural contradictions. These complex and threatening breakings aren't direct and indirect outcomes of mental pathology, respectively violent people might be mentally health or mentally ill persons. But the role and importance of substantial mental health service is great on prevention and stopping of violence and humane aggression, as well. Mass media shoud write and report for great possibilities of psychiatry to ameliorate up to date humane aggressive behavior, and not to accuse by sensational way mentally ill persons for these antisocial acts worldwide. This kind of observation and judgment of violence and criminal acts didn't save us from massive shooter, like Orlando shooter Mateen. Only systematic, permanent, functional and omnipotent mental heath care system has got probabilities to low humane antisocial conduction. For these hopeful intentions it ought to support by mas media and others social subject in community such are education system, justice, government and so on. Otherwise, we will continue to be inexplicable witness of daily mass violence act all around the world.

June, 22 2016 at 8:18 am

Mateen was NOT bipolar. He had a religious disorder. I am severely bipolar, but my religion teaches me that if I commit murder or suicide, these are serious sins that would cause me to go to hell. Mateen's religion teaches that if he kills people that he will be rewarded in heaven. Mateen's problems were not psychological. Mateen's problem was his religious beliefs. Islamic Jihad is wrong and must be stopped!! We all want to go to heaven, but a religion that tells a person that they can go to heaven by murdering people in the name of Islam is dangerous to everyone.

Ron Savelo
June, 21 2016 at 9:53 am

The real question is not whether or not he was ever diagnosed with a "Mental Illness". The question is, was he on a psychotropic drug, such as one of those being taken by the vast majority of school and other mass shootings over the last 30 years.
Wake up people! Anyone who plans out and carries out the cold blooded murder of 1 or 100 people is nuts! You can give it whatever made-up name you want to give it, but the person is psychotic. And psychiatric drugs will tend to magnify that psychosis, causing homicidal and suicidal ideation (as you will find on their black box labelling right on those drugs).
So, that should be the first question, "Which psychiatric drug(s) was he on?"
And that should also be a determining factor when getting a gun permit. "Are you, or any of your immediate family, currently or recently been taking any psychiatric medications?"
This is not a radical islam, or gun or mental health issue. It's an issue of a psychotic, provoked and made more psychotic by a psychiatric drug.

June, 20 2016 at 12:51 pm

Whether or not the man had "Bipolar Disorder" is entirely relevant to discussion of violence if psych drugs are involved. If someone is diagnosed, taking psychotropic medication and there is violence, then the fact should not be ignored: some people become completely unhinged, especially starting and stopping (withdrawing from) prescribed psychotropic medications. To whom this occurs cannot be predicted. It is not because someone has "Bipolar Disorder" or is somehow weak in character, but caused by drugs that absolutely rewire the brain. People become unrecognizable. We are guinea pigs to the pharmaceutical industry and to those prescribing these brain-damaging drugs. It is yet to be proven that these drugs actually work/ correct a so-called chemical imbalance. Glad some folks find improvement on prescribed drugs, but this is far from the case for everyone.
Furthermore, when "mental illness" is a factor in mass killings and the person is on meds, TV media rarely if ever addresses the dangers of prescribed psychotropic meds, i.e. benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety/sleeping pills), SSRI's (antidepressants) and antipsychotics (neuroleptics), just chalk it up to being "mentally ill" and everyone nods their head, like "ah, yes, now I understand". Thankfully, increasingly the truth about these drugs is out there and can be found online, in newspapers and in books. It's no secret.
Here are some links:…

June, 20 2016 at 3:27 am

whether he has bipolar or not, he was influenced by isis. so don't go giving him an excuse for killing all those innocent people. ISIS is cunning and they are infiltrating America, so don't think this is an isolated incident stop using excuses and the government needs to do something about this or we are all doomed.

June, 19 2016 at 5:49 am

I have a 26 year old son who has been diagnosed bipolar with psychosis. He was hospitalised and was overly medicated and didn't stay on meds. He is struggling with this everday and doesn't trust the medical system. He does not have insurance now with us since he is over 26. It really upsets me when people label any kind of mental illness as bipolar as they did with this guy. We take everday one day at a time hoping the day will come when my son accepts his illness and asks for help since we forced him into the system when he first had symptoms. I get upset also when people judge a person with bipolar if they aren't on meds. It is time for people to understand and have compassion for the ones who suffer daily from this sterotyped disease.

June, 15 2016 at 11:48 pm

Spot on. Whether he has an illness or not is irrelevant to his choice to use violence. Media reporting is irresponsible. No wonder the vast majority of people remain ignorant.

Joel Sax
June, 15 2016 at 6:16 am

I tend to think there was a good chance that he was mentally impaired. His first wife mentioned bipolar disorder. I would like more information here -- did he have an actual diagnosis or did she herself see mood swings that ran from elated to depressed? Some of his behavior sounds delusional and his rages were epic, quite unlike cold-blooded mass killers like Dylan Roof.
In response to the reader who used her husband as the proof that people living with bipolar disorder aren't violent, her reason is fallacious because she generalizes from one case to the whole population. Studies show that 3% of people with serious mental illness are violent. This of course means that 97% of us aren't violent, of course. But someone has to be the three percent.
Full disclosure : I live with bipolar disorder so I have no ax to grind with other people who have the disease.

June, 15 2016 at 5:19 am

Coming from a medical background, i agree with the article, it is faulty to diagnose someone with this devastating illness by second hand knowledge of a "tainted" statement from a non professional.
Regarding the argument of violence and bipolar disorder : longitudinal studies shows that that the odds of homicidal behavior is 1,3 more with bipolar people than the normal control,i.e. general population.
However a dramatic 6,4 in odds can be seen in bipolar with substance abuse issue, making it the single most important predictor of violent behavior in bipolar people.
reference : table 3 in

Martha Morales Hernandez
June, 15 2016 at 4:19 am

It amazes me how the media tends to use mental illness as the culprit of all this GUN violence. All the media is doing is placing all this labels in our mind, like all Muslims are terrorists, all people with mental illness are dangerous, etc...
Why not focus on how easy it is to buy guns big enough to kill so many people at once!

June, 14 2016 at 1:36 pm

fact: modern reporting reflects the mentality of the masses - gone are the days when people would check their facts before casting aspersions. And in today's Internet Age, word travels so quickly, hype blows ridiculously out of proportion and ignorance is spread like wildfire.
And let's not kid ourselves, there were a few complex factors involved with this situation - bipolar is probably far from the top of the list with regards contributing factors to this week's atrocity. Unless someone is willing to step forward with some stats that show a history of bipolar-related massacres ...
Let's base our opinions on FACT and not on mere non-authoritative aspersions.

Franco Breotti
June, 14 2016 at 6:19 am

I refuse to believe he was "bipolar" , my fiancé is bipolar 1. Never in his life did he or will he get to a breaking point of killing 49 people. he has the highest level of bipolar. We been living together since we met, NEVER did he have such cruel intentions, behavior or action. This is just a way to not justify his actions. He should be sentenced for life. Death penalty is an easy way out.

June, 13 2016 at 6:09 pm

Excellent article. Thank you

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