The term psychopath has been used loosely and changed quite a bit over time. “In the early 1800s, doctors who worked in mental institutions began to notice that some of their patients who appeared outwardly normal had what they termed a ‘moral depravity’ or ‘moral insanity,’ in that they seemed to possess no sense of ethics or of the rights of other people. The term ‘psychopath’ was first applied to these people around 1900. The term was changed to ‘sociopath’ in the 1930s to emphasize the implications which these sorts of individuals have on society.
Currently, researchers have returned to using the term ‘psychopath.’ Some of them use that term to refer to a more serious disorder, linked to genetic traits, producing more dangerous individuals, while continuing to use ‘sociopath’ to refer to less dangerous people who are seen more as products of their environment, including their upbringing. Other researchers make a distinction between ‘primary psychopaths,’ who are thought to be genetically caused, and ‘secondary psychopaths,’ seen as more a product of their environments.”
Psychopath seems like an insult thrown loosely around by an ignorant 16-year-old talking on her cell phone in a public place. Or something you would call a deranged serial killer such as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer or potentially your mother-in-law pending the type of relationship you have with her. Instead of putting this harsh term in a box, it’s important to understand that’s it’s not as rare as you’d think but, paradoxically, not as common (thanks, CIS) either.
“About 1% of adult males in the U.S. are psychopaths, but if you do that test in prisons about 30% of prisoners are psychopaths. Psychopaths seem to commit a disproportionate percentage of crime,” says Hank Greely a Stanford professor who specializes in the ethical, legal, and social implications of new biomedical technologies, particularly those related to neuroscience, genetics, or stem cell research.
The DSM-IV definition says “antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in the local culture. There is a marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules. Individuals with this disorder are sometimes called psychopaths or sociopaths.”
With the following criteria needed:
Since the age of fifteen there has been a disregard for and violation of the right’s of others, those right’s considered normal by the local culture, as indicated by at least three of the following:
- Repeated acts that could lead to arrest.
- Conning for pleasure or profit, repeated lying, or the use of aliases.
- Failure to plan ahead or being impulsive.
- Repeated assaults on others.
- Reckless when it comes to their or other’s safety.
- Poor work behavior or failure to honor financial obligations.
- Rationalizing the pain they inflict on others.
At least eighteen years of age.
Evidence of a Conduct Disorder, with its onset before the age of fifteen.
Symptoms not due to another mental disorder. (which is very interesting, as most disorders are comorbid)
A person with an antisocial personality disorder can be your friend, co-worker or even partner. They’re likely outgoing and persuasive, they will charm and flatter you, and they will not usually give any indication to having this dark side. Think of it as playing a role to get what they want, with really no regard for you, and with only one goal of self-gratification.
There’s no one or even five determining factors to “tell” a psychopath from another person. They’re from all over, and there isn’t much evidence that even their childhood affects them. Biological or genetic factors can alter their personality at an early age and by their late teens or early adulthood, the disorder is unchangeable. The book Without Conscience by Robert Hare, says psychopaths have only a shallow range of emotions, lack guilt, see themselves as victims, and lack remorse or the ability to empathize with others. They play on the fact that most of us are trusting and forgiving people. It’s hard to see the signs because once they gain your friendship, that relationship has the ability act as a blinder.
He goes to note that psychopaths frequently lie, where others would sincerely apologize, they might say sorry, but will not stop lying. They also switch jobs frequently, as well as partners due to the fact that they do not fulfill the credentials to maintain relationships. Their performance in life and at work is erratic, with many failed commitments and misuse of resources. Seeking help is something a rational person would do if they noticed their behavior was hindering their relationships, jobs, and quality of life but the issue is that people who are psychopaths do not see a problem with their behavior so many people go untreated and undiagnosed.
“A psychopath is a chameleon who becomes ‘an image of what you haven’t done for yourself.’” So, the only way to keep yourself safe from being conned or having others detrimental behavior affect you is to know your own vulnerabilities and realize your own potential.
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