Apply It: Chris Benoit

 

In 1999, my husband and I shared a passion for soap operas.  My soap operas were the traditional type such as One Life to Live and All My Children, but my husband equated his favorite television show with soap operas: wrestling.  Although I eventually moved on from my soap operas, my husband has remained a passionate fan of his.  Through Derrick, I learned to recognize many of the more famous long-term wrestlers from the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).  After watching several of the wrestling matches, I found them so violent and disconcerting I stopped watching them.  However, I do remember one of the wrestlers named Chris Benoit.  When I was preparing for this apply it discussion post I asked my husband if he knew of any wrestlers who experienced issues from the physical trauma in the ring.  He mentioned the scandal involving Chris Benoit in 2007.

Chris Benoit was a very famous Canadian wrestler who had won many championships and awards.  His father reported he was “kind and gentle” and a loving parent.  However, during the course of his career Benoit’s personality changed.  He became more aggressive and angry.  In 2007, he suddenly became spiritual for the first time in his life (Sherwood, 2007).  His wife told neighbors she was afraid of Benoit.  Benoit told people he was afraid his wife was going to leave him.  Sometime between June 24 and June 26, 2007 Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son, subsequently hanging himself from a cable on his exercise equipment (“Police,” 2008).

Why and/or how did Benoit change from a “kind and gentle” person and loving father to someone who could murder his wife and child?  There are, in fact, more than a couple biological possibilities for Benoit’s changes in personality.  According to Friedman and Schustack (2012), several possible causes of personality changes include genetic mutations, illness, physical injury, drug usage, and emotional issues.  Chris Benoit suffered from at least three of these possibilities.

Benoit’s wrestling performance included a specific wrestling move known as the flying head-butt requiring Benoit to fling himself from the top rope and land head first on an opponent’s shoulder or the wrestling mat.  Benoit performed this particular move over 300 times a year for approximately 10 years.  After his death, Dr. Julian Bailes determined Benoit had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) resulting from multiple concussions; however, the condition can occur from as few as three concussions.  CTE is a severe form of brain damage caused by significant loss of and deadened neural tissue that causes mood swings, erratic behavior, and cognitive impairment.  (D.D., 2012).

Second, after his death the autopsy revealed Benoit had elevated levels of testosterone (steroids), as well as both Xanax and Hydrocodone in his bloodstream.  Xanax is an anti-anxiety medication and Hydrocodone is an addictive painkiller.  Experts have reported that steroid use can cause paranoia, depression, and violent outbursts (Bonisteel, S. 2007).  Steroid use alone could have seriously altered Benoit’s personality.  The combination of the two prescription medications with the steroids could have also created a detrimental synergistic effect whereby the chemical compounds in the steroids were further enhanced.

Lastly, as indicated before, Benoit was experiencing anxiety and concern for his marriage.  Although his emotions were likely the result of his altered personality, they could have also further contributed to his personality decline.  Depression is a powerful disorder often difficult to overcome without professional help.  The combination of the stress, paranoia, anger, and fear could have resulted in his final sense of hopelessness and despair where he felt the only option was suicide.  However, not just suicide because he could not bear the thought of leaving his loved ones behind.

 

References

Bonisteel, S. (2007).  Wrestler Chris Benoit used steroid testosterone; Son sedated before murders.  Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,289649,00.html#ixzz2XczhzrX2

D, D. (2012).  In retrospect: The Chris Benoit murder-suicide five years later.  Retrieved from http://smokingsection.uproxx.com/TSS/2012/06/in-retrospect-the-chris-benoit-murder-suicide-five-years-later#ixzz2Xcy3nHkg

Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2012).  Personality: Classic theories and modern research (5th ed.).  Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Police report: Chris Benoit thought his marriage was failing: Nancy scared.  (2008). Retrieved from http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/police-report-chris-benoit-thought-his-marriage-wa/nFBjC

Sherwood, R. (2007).  Benoit’s dad, doctors: Multiple concussions could be connected to murder-suicide.  Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/Story?id=3562665&page=1#.Uc8anfkghng

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