For the first time, we know what "severe mental disease or defect" Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl may have been suffering from when he decided to walk away from an Army base in Afghanistan in 2009, the Washington Post reports. The condition is known as schizotypal personality disorder. It's similar to schizophrenia, but less severe. According to Military.com, symptoms include "paranoia, incorrect perception of and interpretation of events, magical thinking, eccentric dress and speech, and extreme social anxiety." It can also include delusions and hallucinations, though unlike with schizophrenia, the person with the condition can be made to understand the difference between those and reality. An episode of the podcast Serial released on Friday reveals Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder by an Army forensics psychiatrist last year.
People with schizotypal personality disorder are prone to psychotic episodes, especially while stressed. Bergdahl claims he believed his commander was going to send his platoon on a suicide mission to purposefully get them killed when he left the base unarmed in the middle of the night. He says he planned to walk to another base and report his commander. Instead, he was captured by militants and held for five years before being freed in a prisoner swap. He's been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Prior to enlisting in the Army, Bergdahl had failed in the Coast Guard because of his inability to "adjust." One psychologist who met with him after he was freed tells Military.com "the ball was dropped" in allowing Bergdahl to enlist in the Army. His court-martial is scheduled for August.