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Responding to Violence, Suicide, Psychosis and Trauma

Validating female psychopathy subtypes: Differences in personality, antisocial and violent behavior, substance abuse, trauma, and mental health

Finally, I present this bit of research. Interesting because it unusually looks at female rather than male psychopathy.

However, you cannot understand it if you don’t not know what is understood by the terms primary and secondary psychopathy. I can only offer an abstract of the article (above) – academics can follow this up, for most practitioners it may just be food for thought.

[Journal Article]
Validating female psychopathy subtypes: Differences in personality, antisocial and violent behavior, substance abuse, trauma, and mental health.
Hicks, Brian M.; Vaidyanathan, Uma; Patrick, Christopher J.
Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, Vol 1(1), Jan 2010, 38-57. doi: 10.1037/a0018135

1. Recent empirical investigations utilizing male prisoners have begun to validate clinical conceptualizations of primary and secondary psychopathy subtypes. We extended this literature by identifying similar psychopathic subtypes in female prisoners on the basis of personality structure using model-based cluster analysis. Secondary psychopaths (n = 39) were characterized by personality traits of negative emotionality and low behavioral constraint, an early onset of antisocial and criminal behavior, greater substance use and abuse, more violent behavior and institutional misconduct, and more mental health problems, including symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and suicide attempts. Primary psychopaths (n = 31) exhibited few distinguishing personality features but were prolific criminals especially in regards to nonviolent crime, and exhibited relatively few mental health problems despite substantial exposure to traumatic events. The results support alternative etiological pathways to antisocial and criminal behavior that are evident in personality structure as well as gender similarities and differences in the manifestation of psychopathic personalities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

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Here we go, the scary word. Lets see what the angelfire website has to say:

Psychopaths cannot be understood in terms of antisocial rearing or development. They are simply morally depraved individuals who represent the “monsters” in our society. They are unstoppable and untreatable predators whose violence is planned, purposeful and emotionless. The violence continues until it reaches a plateau at age 50 or so, then tapers off. Their emotionlessness reflects a detached, fearless, and possibly dissociated state, revealing a lower autonomic nervous system and lack of anxiety. It’s difficult to say what motivates them – control and dominance possibly – since their life history will usually show no bonds with others nor much rhyme to their reason (other than the planning of violence). They tend to operate with a grandiose demeanor, an attitude of entitlement, an insatiable appetite, and a tendency toward sadism. Fearlessness is probably the prototypical (core) characteristic (the low-fear hypothesis). It’s helpful to think of them as high-speed vehicles with ineffective brakes. Certain organic (brain) disorders and hormonal imbalances mimic the state of mind of a psychopath.

There are four (4) different subtypes of psychopaths. The oldest distinction was made by Cleckley back in 1941 between primary and secondary. However, we’ll explore the other two subtypes first:

DISTEMPERED PSYCHOPATHS are the kind that seem to fly into a rage or frenzy more easily and more often than other subtypes. Their frenzy will resemble an epileptic fit. They are also usually men with incredibly strong sex drives, capable of astonishing feats of sexual energy, and seemingly obsessed by sexual urges during a large part of their waking lives. Powerful cravings also seem to characterize them, as in drug addiction, kleptomania, pedophilia, any illicit or illegal indulgence. They like the endorphin “high” or “rush” off of excitement and risk-taking. The serial-rapist-murderer known as the Boston Strangler was such a psychopath.

CHARISMATIC PSYCHOPATHS are charming, attractive liars. They are usually gifted at some talent or another, and they use it to their advantage in manipulating others. They are usually fast-talkers, and possess an almost demonic ability to persuade others out of everything they own, even their lives. Leaders of religious sects or cults, for example, might be psychopaths if they lead their followers to their deaths. This subtype often comes to believe in their own fictions. They are irresistible.

PRIMARY PSYCHOPATHS do not respond to punishment, apprehension, stress, or disapproval. They seem to be able to inhibit their antisocial impulses most of the time, not because of conscience, but because it suits their purpose at the time. Words do not seem to have the same meaning for them as they do for us. In fact, it’s unclear if they even grasp the meaning of their own words, a condition that Cleckley called “semantic aphasia.” They don’t follow any life plan, and it seems as if they are incapable of experiencing any genuine emotion.

SECONDARY PSYCHOPATHS are risk-takers, but are also more likely to be stress-reactive, worriers, and guilt-prone. They expose themselves to more stress than the average person, but they are as vulnerable to stress as the average person. They are daring, adventurous, unconventional people who began playing by their own rules early in life. They are strongly driven by a desire to escape or avoid pain, but are unable to resist temptation. As their anxiety increases toward some forbidden object, so does their attraction to it. They live their lives by the lure of temptation.

Blimey! This reads a bit like description of people I have come across in the past and really didn’t like. The trouble with these labels, like slogans, is that they highlight one aspect of a person and encourage you to see everything else as irrelevant.

I have met many people who are undoubtedlly struggling with schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and somatic disorders. Yet while I might want to label people I don’t like, or who do terrible things as “psychopaths” – actually I have only encountered one person who accurately fits the description. Let him be called BOB!

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The Sociopath

Is this not the same as someone with APD? The general understanding is that a person wth little or no regard to social or legal rules. But that can’t be right otherwise we might have to describe Nelson Mandela as a sociopath. Obviously I have never met the man, but while I could describe many politicians as having sociopathic tendencies – Nelson has always come across as a thoroughly decent human being – – may be I’m wrong. Let’s see the official version:

So what is a sociopath? You won’t find criteria in the DSM IV or official psychiatric nomenclature, but the construct refers to the largest subgroup of APDs. Most are males, but an increasing number are female. They have otherwise normal temperaments (as opposed to psychopaths who have abnormal temperaments). Some are aggressive, fearless sensation seekers, and others are Machiavellian manipulators. A Machiavellian is a personality type who is a cross between an antisocial personality and a narcissist, and someone who also has an extremely high sense of entitlement. The one thing that all sociopaths have in common is that they are “too much” to handle for their parents or anyone else. It’s common to refer to them as unsocialized, but the dyssocial sociopath does socialize to the mores and values of a dyssocial outgroup, like a gang. Let’s explore the four (4) subtypes of sociopaths:

COMMON SOCIOPATHS are the largest subtype and have a weak or unelaborated conscience. They are not ashamed by the same things as you or I would be ashamed of. They are like feral children grown up, taking pleasures and gratifying impulses at every opportunity or temptation. They especially enjoy and take pride in bending or breaking the rules. As teenagers, they are often runaways. As adults, they are often geographically mobile, living in shelters, or taking advantage of welfare systems. They are experienced shoplifters. They have quite active sex lives. They are usually of average intelligence, but don’t do well in school and never seem to break out of low-paying dead-end jobs. Nevertheless, they seem genuinely happy with their lives, unburdened by any sense of negative self-worth or the fact that they have not been a functional, contributing member of society.

> ALIENATED SOCIOPATHS have never developed the ability to love, empathize, or affiliate in real life with another person. They will show more emotion toward their pet or a personal artifact than toward a person. Or, they may hate animals and live out their emotional life by watching TV (identification with soap opera characters is a common pattern). Dating and marriage relationships will be very barren and empty. They won’t get along with the neighbors. They live in a shell. They have a cold, callous attitude toward human suffering or any social problem in the society they live in. They just don’t care because it’s outside their range of empathy. Most will believe they are justified in this because they feel they were cheated in some way themselves by society, and a few will be more than happy to rant and rave about it to anyone who listens. They are chronic complainers, and underneath it all, they would like to see nothing better than all of society destroyed.

AGGRESSIVE SOCIOPATHS derive strong, yet nonperverse gratification from harming others. They like to hurt, frighten, tyrannize, bully, and manipulate. They do it for a sense of power and control, and will often only drop subtle hints about what they are up to. They polish their aggressive, domineering manner in such a way to disguise any intimidation others might feel. They seek out positions of power, such as parent, teacher, bureaucrat, supervisor, or police officer. Their style is one of passive aggression as they systematically go about sabotaging the ideas of others to get their ideas in place. In their spare time, they like to hunt or occasionally do sadistic things like find stray dogs and cut them up. They are usually effective at getting their way, and are especially vindictive if resisted or crossed. They don’t follow the social norm of reciprocity like others do.

DYSSOCIAL SOCIOPATHS identify and hold an allegiance with a dyssocial, outcast, or predatory subculture. Any subculture will do, as long as it runs counter to established authority. They are capable of intense loyalty, and even a feeling of guilt and shame, within such limited circles. They seem to continually fall upon bad luck and bad companions, however. While they will constantly complain that none of this is their fault, behind it all is a kind of self-defeating mechanism in the poor choices they made themselves.

Well … now I can pathologise all the people I really don’t like – with ever greater exactitude! In fact my next door neighbours now merit a label a label of alienated/aggressive sociopaths! The trouble is, while I might feel really smug now, I am no further down the line in knowing how to deal with them.

But let’s go on … the next posting

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Antisocial Personality Disorder

Personally I find this term unhelpful as it suggests that it refers to something rather more grandiose than it really is. Again I quote angelfire website:

“Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) is practically synonymous with criminal behavior. It’s so synonymous, in fact, that practically all convicted criminals (65-75%) have it, with criminologists often referring to it as a “wastebasket” category. Psychologists consider it an adult version of juvenile conduct disorder. The main characteristic of it is a complete and utter disregard for the rights of others and the rules of society. They seldom show anxiety and don’t feel guilt. There’s really no effective treatment for them other than locking them up in a secure facility with such rigid rules that they cannot talk their way out.”

Sounds like a crook and a wide boy to me rather than a “disorder”. Isn’t it just like some people are like that – just blike some people are really caring, are really funny/humourless, gloomy/optimistic etc. If we are to pathologist criminals, we should also pathologise really, really honest folk, not normal).

But we need a language to summarise our thoughts – so let’s continue with our explorations Next posting

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Antisocial Personality, Sociopathy, and Psychopathy

I’m aware that although I use these terms on various courses (“Difficult, Disturbing and Dangerous Behaviour” and “Working with Violent Perpetrators” there is considerable confusion and media hype about the use of the above terms. So I thought I woulkd put together a series of postings (for the most part lifted from the literature) to sort out what we are talking about. This has been prompted by a very interesting study that I recently came across “Validating female psychopathy subtypes: Differences in personality, antisocial and violent behavior, substance abuse, trauma, and mental health” – unfortunately to interpret the study would, for many of us, be like a new language.

A very helpful article in this respect can be found at I will take some quotes directly from that site:

People who cannot contain their urges to harm (or kill) people repeatedly for no apparent reason are assumed to suffer from some mental illness. However, they may be more cruel than crazy, they may be choosing not to control their urges, they know right from wrong, they know exactly what they’re doing, and they are definitely NOT insane, at least according to the consensus of most scholars (Samenow 2004). In such cases, they usually fall into one of three types that are typically considered aggravating circumstances in addition to their legal guilt — antisocial personality disorder (APD), sociopath, or psychopath — none of which are the same as insanity or psychosis. APD is the most common type, afflicting about 4% of the general population. Sociopaths are the second most common type, with the American Psychiatric Association estimating that 3% of all males in our society are sociopaths. Psychopaths are rare, found in perhaps 1% of the population.

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Bullying linked to child suicides

Nearly half of suicides among 10 to 14-year-olds are due to bullying, according to research.

Charity Beatbullying said of 59 cases of child suicide reported in the national media between 2000 and 2008, 26 were definitely connected to bullying.

But research suggested up to 78 out of the 176 official total of suicides in the age range were actually victims of bullying.

Official data also recorded 1,769 suicides of 15 to 19-year-olds between 2000 and 2008, Beatbullying said, which indicated that the total number of bullying-related adolescent suicides could be in the hundreds. The charity found that that every child suicide case related to bullying cited school as the main place of persecution.

Of these, four cases also cited cyber bullying – where bullying takes place online, by email and on social networking sites – as a contributory factor. Beatbullying’s report was published to mark the second anniversary of the death of 13-year-old Sam Leeson, who hanged himself after being bullied physically and over the internet.

Chief executive Emma-Jane Cross said: “The connection between bullying and child suicide is undeniably clear and the lack of clarity and research in this area is unacceptable – we need action and we need it now. Government need to take a long, hard look at the issue to understand why children as young as ten are taking their own lives.

“It’s a distressing subject but one which must be investigated as a matter of urgency if we’re to help our young people and prevent them taking such desperate action – suicide should never feel like the only option for any child or young person.”

Sam Leeson’s mother, Sally Cope said: “Two years ago my 13-year-old son Sam took the tragic decision to take his own life as a result of bullying, so I know from personal experience just how devastating the consequences of bullying can be, and the void Sam’s death has left in my family.

“I urge the government to take action to fund anti bullying work in schools and make the information regarding child suicides available so that organisations such as Beatbullying can work alongside them to prevent further deaths.”

Beatbullying’s research indicated a higher tendency of bully-related suicide among girls aged between 10 and 14, with 65% of such deaths coming girls. Its research was independently verified by Dr Benjamin Richardson at Warwick University.

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