Psychopathy is a personality disorder and has been described to have significant social implications. A person who has been diagnosed as a psychopath take what they want, do what they want, violate any social norms, and don’t experience the slightest sense of guilt or regret for what they have done.
Psychopaths are responsible for a considerable amount of the serious crimes committed, both violent and non-violent, and social distress to society. One frightening aspect is that not all psychopaths are incarcerated or in forensic psychiatric facilities, they can be intermingled into our communities in the business and corporate world. It makes them harder to distinguish or identify because we don’t see them because they hide behind a mask of normalcy.
In psychopathy, The DSM-II (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has outlined 7 characteristics, ICD-9 (International Classification of Disease) has outlined 5 characteristics, and Cleckley’s criteria have outlined 16 characteristics.
What does all this really mean?
Basically, there isn’t any “universally” acceptable definition of psychopathy and diagnosing a psychopathic individual. There are similarities that most would agree with of the many characteristics. It’s interesting that since psychopathic individuals seem to be typical with their behavioral patterns, they are more difficult to effectively diagnose because of these same characteristics. Among patients that are psychopaths, they generally exhibit persistent criminal behavior and violence, which is clearly evident to diagnose.
Are psychopaths treatable and can they be cured?
This question can be debated until the next millennium. Some forensic psychiatrists have stated that it would take 20 years with therapy and drugs that might be effective.
Others have stated similar answers. “Psychotherapy offers a little hope, but not assurance of success…” from Cleckley’s book The Mask of Sanity.
In a study according to Robert D. Hare author of Without Conscience (highly recommend), it states that therapy can actually make them worse. A study showed that psychopaths were four times more likely to commit a violent offense after release from a therapeutic community program than other patients.
Psychopaths aren’t delicately minded individuals, they are strong and set in their ways. The behavior is the direct result of their own choice that is freely exercised.
I would hope there would be new studies into the minds of psychopaths that might help to shed more light into this area of the criminal mind. The most challenging part of the study process is hoping that the psychopathic individuals will tell you the truth or give a psychologist some “real” insight into their minds.
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In my latest fiction/thriller Dark Mind, I’ve created a psychopathic serial killer that blends into society and only allows for others to see what he wants them to see. All of the motivations, insecurities, compulsions, and fears make this individual come alive with terror to unsuspecting victims. For the heroine Emily Stone, it makes it next to impossible to unmask the killer before it’s too late.