Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I have always been very interested in physchology and various disorders and diseases that people possess. The human mind is entirely fascinating, as is behavior and studying why we behave the way we do.

Recently, I read an article in The New Yorker called "Suffering Souls" by John Seabrook that discusses Dr. Kent Kiehl's research on psychopathy. The article was fascinating because it gives readers an eye into the research on psychopathy, which I had never really looked into before.

Here are some facts and ideas from the article in psychopathy:

-Psychopathy effects between 15 to 25% of the North American prison population.

-Psychologists believe that psychopathy exists in 1% of the North American male population. (This comes to about 1 million males)

-Female psychopaths are believed to be much rarer cases than males.

-"Pscyhopaths don't exhibit the manias, hysterias, and neuroses that are present in other types of mental illness. The main defect, which psychologists call 'severe emotional detachment'--a total lack of empathy and remorse--is concealed, and harder to describe than the symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder."

-Psychopathy is not identified as a disoder in The Diagnostic and Statical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Assosiaction's canon. It is known as APD, antisocial personality disorder.

-There is no evidence as to what causes psychopathy, but research leads to genetic factors.

-Enviornmentally, psychopaths are more likely to come from neglectful families than loving, caring ones.

-Psychopathy is extremely difficult to treat. Dr. Kiehl believes that if you taregeted the part of the brain where psychopathic tendencies and behavior stems from and could find a drug to treat that region, then there could be a treatment. That kind of drug could earn a man a Nobel Prize.

-To identify a psychopath, Dr. Kiehl uses the Psychopathy Checklist or PCL-R, a twenty-item diagnostic instrument. "The interviewer scores the subject on each of the twenty items--parasitic lifestyle, pathological lying, conning, proneness to boredom, shallow emotions, lack of empathy, poor impulse control, promiscuity, irresponsibility, record of juvenile delinquency, and criminal versatility, among other tendencies--with zero, one or two depending on how pronounced the trait is." Some who scores a thirty five or higher is considered to be a psychopath.

-Early names for psychopathy:
-1801: French surgeon Phillipe Pinel coins the term "mania without delirium.
-Early 19th century: American surgeon Benjamin Rush coins the term "moral derangement."
-Mid-nineteenth century: "Moral insanity" becomes popular and is widely used in the US and England for violent criminals.
-1880s: "Pyschopath," literally meaning "suffering soul," was coined in Germany.
-1920s: "Constitutional psychopathic inferiority" becomes the catchall phrase psychiatrists use.

I would like to believe that this kind of behavior is genetic, not enviornmentally caused. I bet that it is, but it just so hard to prove. Anyway, I thought the information was interesting, to say the least.

A very interesting point and idea to muse on: Dr Kiehl says, "Think about it. Crime is a trillion-dollar-a-year problem. The average psychopath will be convicted of four violent crimes by the age of forty. And yet hardly anyone is funding research into the science. Schizophrenia, which causes much less crime, has a hundred times more research money devoted to it [...] Schizophrenics are seen as victims, and psychopaths are seen as predators. The former we feel empathy for, the latter we lock up."

So, what do you think about any of the above points or psychopathy in general?

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