Is There Hope For The Psychopath


Is There Hope For The Psychopath Essay, Research Paper

In a world full of fears, perhaps the worst one a human being should have is that to be afraid of his fellow man. The human that should be most feared is possibly he who has Anti-Social Personality Disorder, or in layman’s terms, the psychopath. The psychopath has probably the most deviant mind that exists, and treatment is not very successful because there is not a cure or drug to control it.

The sociopath has a combination of other mental illnesses that are incurred in childhood as a result of heredity, trauma and the lack of emotional development. The lack of moral or emotional development which gives a sociopath a lack of understanding for other people’s feelings enables them to be deceitful without feeling bad about whatever they do. The underdeveloped emotional system of the sociopath is “emotionally retarded” . The sociopathic behavior problems that start as a child have links to heredity, families with a pre-disposition to perform crimes, alcoholic parents that perform crimes, irresponsible behavior that persists, and parents that do not discipline. The child that will eventually be a sociopath exhibits certain feelings inside that they are inadequate and shamed, and because of that, they are teased and made fun of.

One of the major characteristics of a future sociopath includes being incapable of following rules. The youngster may skip school, bully, steal, torment animals and/or run away from home.The child is likely to develop Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. At an earlier age than their peer group, the child may smoke, drink, do drugs, and become sexually active. The diagnoses of Anti-Social Personality Disorder is not used for people under the age of 18.

A sociopath gets great gratification in the act of hurting someone for absolutely no reason. The behavior of a sociopath is so close to normal that it is extremely hard to diagnose. A sociopath is a person that acts against society, and their sole purpose it seems is to act against the laws of the given society. The sociopath will in most cases become violent and abuse drugs and alcohol to facilitate the violent behavior. The violence in many cases is the result of sub-concious decisions that might lead to murdering or assaulting someone for no reason. When a sociopath is attacking someone they will inflict more pain if the victim fights back.

The lack of moral development lets the person feel no guilt or pain for what they did and quite possibly feel satisfaction regarding their actions. A sociopath has little self regard and pays little attention to their own personal safety when picking fights. Quite often they will be outsized and get hurt. Some sociopaths are non-violent and stay out of prison by doing small crimes like swindling and insurance fraud. It is possible that a sociopath will come from a “normal” home, but there is a greater percentage that do not. A sociopath has the opposite morals of society and by doing things like beating up people that are stronger than them, they feel like they did something positive. A psychopath is very reactive and will blow their cool because of little things. They will quite often assault the person they are reacting to. There is a possibility that serotonin, a chemical that is linked to behavior, has something to do with the disorder, but is not the major cause.

Characteristic List of sociopaths:

*glib or superficial

*has a grandiose self image

*deceitful or manipulative

*lack of remorse

*lack of empathy



*easily angered or frustrated

*has had serious problems as a child or teenager

*shows callous unconcern regarding other’s feelings

*disregard social norms or the rights of other people

*unable to maintain enduring relationships

*incapable of experiencing guilt

*blame others or rationalize antisocial behavior

*constantly irritable

The antisocial tends to have short lasting relationships, if they are capable of having a relationship. The psychopath is incapable of having long lasting, close, warm and responsible relationships with people. The adult will habitually lie and cannot hold a job for long. The sociopath can seem charming in superficial social interactions, but may repeatedly hurt, anger, exploit, cheat, rob, harass or injure others. The actions a psychopath, no matter what laws they break, whoever they hurt, whatever trouble they have to deal with, they do not feel bad. When a sociopath is punished, they have no feeling of regret because no matter how cruel or selfish the behavior is, they feel it is justified. Society gives the sociopath little sympathy because they hurt people so badly, but their illness is recognized as somewhat of an explanation of why they do it. The idea of the disorder is no excuse for their behavior that results from it.

The sociopath is often very intelligent and knows how to manipulate people into thinking they are normal, and that is when they work their magic. Beneath the mask of sanity, a sociopath is full of tension, hostility, irritability, rage, emptiness and sadness. When they hurt a person, a sociopath might think “he had it coming,” or “I’m watching out for number one.” Those sociopaths with children often neglect them and do not keep them safe. As a spouse, the sociopath can be glib, superficial, manipulative, dishonest, abusive and unfaithful. The sociopath tends to borrow, squander and not repay the money they owe. Many sociopaths never settle down for any period of time, they will travel without aim looking for jobs or whatever they need, and get it by doing anything. A sociopath may look tough and resilient, but is very fragile and can erupt very easily.

The diagnoses of a sociopath or psychopath is very difficult and has to meet several criteria in order to get that diagnoses. Diagnoses as explained in Caring for the Mind is based on ” a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since the age of fifteen, as indicated by at least three of the following,

1. failure to conform to the social norms for lawful behavior, as indicated by repeatedly performing illegal acts that are grounds

for arrest

2. deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure

3. impulsivity failure to plan ahead

4. irritability and aggressive , as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults

5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others

6. consistent irresponsibility as indicated by failure to keep a job or honor financial obligations

7. lack of remorse, as indicated by indifference or rationalizations for having hurt , mistreated or stolen from others”

must be older than 18 to be diagnosed with it

must be evidence of a conduct disorder before the age of 15

antisocial behavior doesn’t occur only during the course of schizophrenia or manic episodes of bipolar illness

Anti-Social Personality Disorder is found in as much as 75% of the prison population. Alcohol is a contributing cause or consequence of being antisocial. People that are both antisocial and alcoholic are prone to violent behavior. Not every antisocial becomes a criminal. An antisocial person’s disorder peaks between the ages of 24 and 44 and drops off sharply after that.

After the age of 30, the sociopath fights less and performs less crime, but the illness can persist into the ages of between 60 and 70. After 30, they are less likely to be in trouble with the law. A sociopath in their thirties will continue to have problems such as unstable relationships, substance abuse, impulsiveness, poor temper control, and failure to honor financial obligations.

In our population, 3% of men have Anti-Social Personality Disorder, and 1% of women in the overall population have it. The ratio of men to women is 4 to 1. Identical twins are several times more likely to have a personality disorder compared to fraternal twins. A genetic link, strongest in anti-social disorder, has a pattern of irresponsible behavior 5 times more common amongst close relatives of anti-social men than in the general population. Some people with a genetic link to alcoholism have a genetic link to Anti-Social Personality Disorder too. Male relatives of people with Somatization Disorder have a higher incidence of Anti-Social Personality Disorder ( somatization – begins in the teens to twenties and consists of chronic physical problems and complaints).

Sociopaths with a history of substance abuse and criminal behavior fit Manchausen Syndrome ( Manchausen is the extreme type of factitious disorder of which symptoms include lying, falsification, and pathological lying). Sociopaths also have a tendency to have a non -psychiatric condition that is called malingering. This is the production of grossly exaggerated symptoms for a

specific illness or problem in order to win legal action or do things like committing insurance fraud or basically anything they have to lie to get. The sociopath has a bundle of problems that could come from any part of life, and they are very difficult to handle.

Anti-Social Personality Disorder is very hard to treat and there is no cure for the associated behavior. Because the disorder remits in the thirties, it tends to be less obvious. Those that are forced into psychotherapy often cannot tolerate the intimacy of the required therapy.The therapist has to focus on enhancing strength and channeling the sensation of seeking actions on people into more positive socially responsible behaviors, and to teach practical ways in dealing with every day frustration. Medications are not recommended in the treatment of sociopaths, but drugs can diminish the violent episodes. People with Anti-Social Personality Disorder may also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for which stimulants are used to treat, such as Ritalin. There are no long term studies of this approach of using stimulants, but they should not be prescribed unless

the person is specifically diagnosed with ADHD and has not responded to other medication. The use of drugs cannot be abused and should be closely monitored. Those that are convicted of crimes are usually incarcerated. Some sociopaths may be able to, instead of a jail term, choose a residential facility that has counseling, but there is a high drop out rate in those facilities.

Another alternative to jail for the adolescents with delinquent behavior, and who are in trouble with the law include wilderness programs that are designed to provide difficult and dangerous challenges that would keep their minds busy. The success of the wilderness camps is not quite clear. There is a disorder called Borderline that is often misdiagnosed as Anti-Social Personality Disorder which is quite similar to it. Borderline Disorder is a little bit more aggressive than Antisocial.

Characteristics of Borderline Disorder include:

Violating the rights of others and age appropriate societal norms or rules with at least three of the following in the past 6 months:

1. often bullying, threatening, or intimidating others

2. often iniating fights

3. use of a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others (bat ,brick , broken bottle, gun, knife )

4. physical cruelty to people and animals

5. stealing in a confrontation with victim ( mugging, purse snatching, extortion, armed robbery )

6. forcing someone into sexual activity

7. Destruction of Property – such as deliberate fire setting with intention to cause serious damage

8. deliberate destruction of other’s property in other ways

9. Deceitfulness or Theft- breaking into someone’s house, car, building

10. frequent lying to get goods, favors and avoid obligations

11. stealing items of non – trivial value without confronting the victim

forgery, shoplifting

12. Serious Violation of the Rules- such as often staying out all night despite parental rules that begin before the age of 13

13. running away from home at least twice (once not returning for a lengthy period)

14. frequent truancy from school

significant impairment in functioning socially at school or work

The diagnoses of a sociopath is extremely difficult because they have so many mental problems to contend with that the complete diagnoses might not occur. The possibility of being diagnosed with something similar to sociopathic disorder is quite great and this point should be stressed with relationship between Borderline and Anti-Social Disorder.

Hopefully the near future will provide some solutions and helpful treatments for this dehumanizig disorder. Until then, all we can do is hope and try to determine and diagnose patients early so that they can get help.


Hales, Dianne. (1995). Caring for the Mind. New York: Bantam Books.

Hare Ph.D., Robert. (1994). Predators: The disturbing world of psychopaths around us. Psychology Today, 27(1), 54.

Myers, Mark. (1998). Progression from conduct disorder to antisocial personality disorder following treatment for adolescent substance abuse. The American Journal of Psychology,155(4), 479-485.

Carlson, Neil R. (1997). Psychology. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon. 579-583.

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