Psychopathy and Love?

Am I Really One?

dianeThey say psychopaths are unable to love. A court-appointed psychiatrist said freshly convicted killer, Diane Downs, a psychopath, was unable to love. Then how could she have been so madly in love with her boyfriend that she shot her three children in a misguided attempt to hold on to him? The thing is that we have words for emotions and assume we are talking about the same thing when we use a word. But how do we know? The truth of the matter is that many psychopaths feel what we call “love.” How much like the “love” which NTs experience,who can say?

astonishmentI have been certain of my psychopathy ever since my best friend gave me the news when I was a teenager. She wasn’t trying to insult me. She had talked about me to some professional, not our shrink, describing my “symptoms.” Why should the opinion of another teenager with no professional expertise matter? I confess to a flash of intuition, something, in itself, very non-psychopathic of me. It just “fit.” I have been certain about this ever since. Many years later, I voluntarily got a personality assessment by professionals and got the kind of validation these people can give. I was “diagnosed” as having ASPD, the DSM version of psychopathy. No, they wouldn’t use the PCL-R, as I had requested.

athenaRecently, some of the answers on Quora from psychopaths are making me wonder if I’ve been wrong all these years. Athena Walker has informed us that she never feels euphoric. Psychopaths can’t, she said. I asked another psychopath, a friend in whom I have a lot of confidence. He agreed with Athena. It’s been obvious that I’m more emotional than he is. In fact, he once suggested I might be a borderline. Athena has also denied ever falling in love or even bonding.

What are the defining criteria for psychopathy? The PCL-R lists twenty:

hareglib/superficial charm
grandiose sense of self-worth
need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
pathological lying
lack of remorse or guilt
shallow effect
callous/lack of empathy
parasitic lifestyle
poor behavioral controls
promiscuous sexual behavior
early behavioral problems
lack of realistic long term goals
failure to accept responsibility for own actions
short term marital relationships
juvenile delinquency
revocation of conditional release
criminal versatility

meThe inability to experience euphoria or romantic love are not on the list. Aren’t there psychopaths who fall in love? Well, M.E. Thomas, author of Confessions of a Sociopath, and owner of the blog, Sociopath World, says, “Yes. Sociopaths can love with a selfish intensity that puts other love to shame.” It should be noted that, to M.E., the words “psychopathy” and “sociopathy” are interchangeable. The owner of Psychopathy Awareness concurs.

diane-downs-1Another example can be found in the annuls of crime. Meet Diane Downs who shot her three children because she saw them as an obstacle to her affair with a man she was in love with. In the course of her trial, she was examined and diagnosed by Dr. George Suckow who found the presence of three Cluster B personality disorders: narcissistic, histrionic and antisocial. Can a psychopath also be histrionic? But isn’t psychopathy about emotional blunting? Histrionics are emotionally labile. They are all over the place. But the very versatility of the emotions is also a clue to their shallowness.

Another psychiatrist, Dr. Barbara Ziv, concurs. The only professional opinion that pcl-rdisagreed was Dr. Polly Jamison, who originally called Diane Downs a “deviant sociopath” and then took it back. There is, on the subject of psychopathy, a plethora of opinions, some conflicting with one and other. The only stable standard which has a pretty good consensus is the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual and the Hare PCL-R, called the “gold standard” for psychopathy. But even these are somewhat at variance with one and other. On my psychopathy page, I listed links to the experts and many more to what psychopaths had to say about themselves. I believe there will be different opinions at large for quite some time. That might not be a bad thing as scientific consensus is sort of an oxymoron, since scientists need to be independent thinkers.

whistlerI’ll conclude with a comment by Jone Whistler on my own reply to the Quora question about psychopaths and emotions. In part, he replies, “I think the majority of psychopaths on this website are just REALLY hardcore psychopaths. Like, their prefrontal cortex would look black on a scan, but for the majority of people with a medium-high amount of psychopathic traits, they can and do experience things like fear and empathy, just very shallowly. I think for those people, their scans, although would show an abnormally low amount of activity in their prefrontal cortex, would still show some activity, therefore, enabling them to experience certain emotional states.


No Wonder

maskofsanity1No Wonder they Thought I Was Crazy

Cleckley called it The Mask of Sanity. Others have called it moral insanity and moral imbecility. But some, Kevin Dutton, for example, call it super sanity. To use an expression which I really detest, it is what it is and I am what I am.

Senior citizens couple eating lunch at nursing homeI’m living in what is called an assisted living institution. It’s a place for elderly people who need help in the day-to-day business of just living their lives. I’m probably the most functional person living here. I could probably manage just fine if I had enough money. My partner took ill and had to be hospitalized. When she left the hospital, it was to come here. She had some serious problems that required this kind of serious support. The immediate impact on me was the need to move. We had been sharing the rent in our lovely, two-bedroom apartment and I couldn’t afford to pay it by myself. I considered all the options. To my consternation, I discovered that, while Monopoly-Boardwe had been living in blissful ignorance, the rents around us had skyrocketed. We had been living in a town that had rent control and, yet, every apartment cost over a thousand dollars a month. My first apartment had cost $42.00 a month. Of course, that was a long time ago. Rents have been going up steadily while income stagnated. Of course, that’s an old story I’m sure everyone is familiar with. But the difference in rents I encountered when I had to move from our apartment was another story entirely. I can only liken it to the game of Monopoly. Whoever manages to own the most expensive properties like Park Place can turn the other players into paupers rapidly. All they need to do is land on that property with hotels on it and they can be wiped out. This is the world I find myself in.

assistedliving1I am paying over a thousand dollars to live in my assisted living facility. But that includes meals, cleaning and laundry. In even the smallest studio apartment, I would pay as much as I’m paying here but also have to pay for my food and utilities. I thought of moving to some place like Florida where the cost of living is more modest. I also thought of sharing a place with someone else. But the option of moving in with my partner looked like my best bet. Here, my meals are all provided. Someone cleans our apartment and does our laundry. I have internet access and TV and kitchentelephone. The facility has an option they call independent living by which we were able to move into an apartment which doesn’t have full kitchen facilities but does have a mini-refrigerator and a microwave. Since we don’t have to make our own meals, that is enough. My partner was sufficiently recovered to be able to move with me into one of those apartments. Not only don’t I have to be responsible for full housekeeping. We also have the advantage of being connected to a community of other residents. The facility provides entertainment and some transportation. It was a big adjustment for me. I had always lived near public transportation. Now, I was living in a place that was isolated. But I learned how to get around. I became a big walker. I always had been but now it was a big part of functioning in the world around me. I learned the bus schedules too. In short, I have found a place to live. I was also able to preserve my relationship with my partner. Having each other makes a big difference. Most of the people here don’t live with a significant other. Some make relationships with other residents. And we strike up friendships.

It’s very different living here. I see it as a place we have come to live until we die. Of course, some people will change their situations before they die. But we are all waiting dementiafor death. I realize, everyone is going to die. But death is pretty remote to most people. Here it is a lot more immanent. We have seen people we know die. What is more significant, we see people’s health decline. My partner is exceptional in that her health has been steadily improving since she moved her. But the existential fact that we are living on borrowed time is a lot more obvious living here. Many of my fellow residents have dementia which is like Alzheimer’s or senility. Having spent two years in a mental hospital during my teens, I have already had the experience of living with people who were out of their minds in various ways. In the nuthouse, most of the “crazy” people had schizophrenia. Their symptoms were different from those with dementia but for someone who still has her marbles, it’s not so different.

There are a few residents who are unable to communicate. One woman I am thinking of nocommunicationhardly ever speaks. She is fat and confined to a wheel chair. One time, I saw she had wet her pants and I told a staff person so she could get changed. The woman, being unable to speak, couldn’t have asked. Once in a while, she screams at the top of her lungs. Just screams. No words. I saw this woman as someone who was living in a Hell so profound, I couldn’t imagine it. I would be screaming too. I’ve been here almost two years. I have come to understand this woman somewhat over that time. I have noticed she has some pretty cool t-shirts; shirts indicating a sense of humor. I have dyed part of my hair pink. A staff member told me that this woman wants to die her hair pink too. I don’t know how she managed to communicate this desire but I gave the staff member information about how she could do it. The point I’m making is that I now see her as a person not just a blob. It’s mind-boggling to learn what everyone was in their younger lives. We have professors, chemists, marines, union organizers, teachers, ex-bikers.

One can learn a lot living here. One lesson is tolerance. There are so many kinds of dependencepeople here. We’re all in the same boat. We all have to get along. We are all more or less dependent on the staff, on Social Security, on family… Dependence was something I never took kindly to when I was younger. I was a kid who couldn’t wait to break free from my parents and do everything on my own. Even getting into the nuthouse was one way of declaring independence from my parents, although they still supported me financially and I was subject to the rules of the hospital. A few years since leaving the nuthouse, I quit high school to get a job and my own apartment. I was 17-years-old when I moved into my own place. Having someone else decide when I could be fed was an experience I have been finding difficult.

blindfoldedgaggedBeing unable to communicate is a form of sensory deprivation. Nuns and monks sometimes practice silence as a form of extreme asceticism. Prisoners, especially those who have been kidnapped, often have this imposed on them. Even when someone is allowed to speak, s/he sometimes knows better than to say what is really on hir mind. That’s why speaking truth to power is considered an act of courage.

babymeLately, I have realized that I, myself, have experienced the isolation that comes with the inability to communicate. In fact, I grew up with it. It’s not that I was unable to speak and it’s not that I was afraid to speak. I just thought nobody would understand me if I did. So I usually didn’t bother. I sensed a deep, wide divide between myself and other people. It’s almost as if they are a different species. Ever wonder what it’s like for a pet to have to live with humans? I have a pretty good idea what it’s like. The nature of members of this other species was that they were unpredictable. They just didn’t make sense. In time, I developed the ability to predict much of their behavior. It still didn’t make sense but at least I was able to control it. I knew if I did A, I would get the response of B.

ScanAdults throughout my childhood have commented on what a quiet child I was. They didn’t seem to spend much energy trying to figure out what was going on behind my silence. If someone doesn’t speak, s/he is often dismissed. I dismissed the mute woman in my residence until recently. If people don’t say anything, people assume they have nothing to say. But shrinks deal with their ignorance and lack of interest by slapping a diagnosis on the silent one. I was given the diagnosis of schizophrenia. I didn’t learn about my diagnosis until a couple of years ago. I guess if someone doesn’t communicate, they must be crazy. The nuthouse I was in between the ages of 13 and 15 also labeled me schizophrenic. I have never had so much as one psychotic episode. I was never on anti-psychotic medication. Nevertheless… A shrink I saw in more recent times explained that the diagnosis was just a sign of the times.

I still feel alienated from most people. I still don’t think they can understand me. But I awarehave been communicating for quite some time. I think my time in the nuthouse was a turning point. I had one shrink while I was there who seemed to hear and understand me. At least on many points. I also found people I could relate to among my fellow patients. These were the ones who were lucid like me. My closest friends were about my age. I remained friends with one of them until very recently. She was the first person to tell me I was a psychopath. She told me she had talked with some professional and described me. The professional made the diagnosis. I didn’t know much about psychopathy but I immediately sensed the truth of her statement. I realized I didn’t shrug2have what other people call a “conscience.” I didn’t feel this kind of emotional connection with my fellow (wo)man. I lacked any sense of obligation to others. It was good to know there was a word for what I am. I stayed in touch with this friend off and on the rest of my life until one time I asked her if she remembered telling me I was a psychopath. She didn’t remember and her reply chilled me. “I not impressed with those people,” she said. Like I was interested in impressing her? I kind of wrote her off then. I was surprised at how uncaring I felt about her. She just wasn’t relevant to me any more. She had been very upset that her mother was dying, something I couldn’t relate to. Both of my parents died and I hadn’t felt anything. However, a year or two later, I decided to make another attempt to reach her. When I tried to contact her, I found out she was dead.

704I now communicate with people on various levels depending on the person. I am close to a few of them. I have been in love a few times. I feel little or nothing about most people. I keep that to myself. I have learned how to be charming. I have a few t-shirts that say I’m a psychopath. I doubt many people believe it. I find that amusing. The internet has been instrumental in enabling me to reach out. My blog is the biggest means by which I express my real self and actually reach other minds. Growing up, I learned that I’m not as alone as I thought I was. I have found kindred souls on Facebook and the blogosphere. Living here has made my cyber-connection all the more important. I stay vital and alive here. I hate Ajit Pai who would deprive me of connection. I don’t think people will put up with that but anything that even threatens to take it away arouses my enmity.

We are only here for a brief time. My time approaches. I’m in my 70’s. I wish the world well. I hope folks can get things to work better. But I’m glad I don’t have it all ahead. I’m biding my time, finding fun and constructive things to do with that time and always discovering things about myself and the world around me.


Antisocial Personality Disorder

aspdbuttonASPD is DSM-speak for Psychopathy/Sociopathy. They think it sounds more scientific or something. And it is focused on behavior more than on the inner psyche. Very Behaviorist of them. Psychologists like Robert Hare and Kevin Dutton discuss Psychopathy independently of whatever the American Psychiatric Association is up to. When I wanted to be assessed with the PCL-R, I was told that’s only used for prison populations.

Psychopath Night was shown on English TV. It’s a generally fine and balanced documentary. They made a few regrettable, what I would call errors. But, for the most part, it is excellent, not only informative but entertaining. One disagreement I have is that Psychopath Night never should have started their countdown with Hitchcock’s Psycho. As they admit, Norman Bates isn’t a psychopath but they say Hitchcock got it wrong. Hello! Hitchcock never said his movie was about a psychopath. It’s about a “psycho,” short for psychotic.


Histrionic Personality


Histrionic Personality Disorder

histrionicbuttonThis is one I can relate to. Can a psychopath also be histrionic? Look at Diane Downs. My histrionic traits come to the fore especially when I have a problem on the computer that I can’t fix. I hate having to depend on other people, especially on the phone, especially technical support. They always start with 20 questions. Boring questions. What is my name? How do I spell that? I have spelled my damn name so many times that I HATE it already. What is the serial number of my computer/printer/or whatever? Oh, it’s located way in the back and well hidden. They make me feel stupid for not knowing histronic_pdand having to put down the phone to do whatever they insist I do. They they suggest solutions I have already tried. I try to stay polite but I end up having a shit fit. Another histrionic characteristic is dressing to attract attention. Like wearing provocative t-shirts, such as my Psychopath one. Most people don’t notice or show that they notice but others react. Usually, they tell me they love me. One guy told me he trusted people like me more than “normal” ones. One man thanked me for giving him a laugh. “Are you sure it’s a joke?” He looked startled and he said, “Well thanks for the warning.” I also like to look my best in really great makeup by 100% Pure. No, I’m not getting a kick-back for the plug.



narcbuttonNarcissistic Personality Disorder

Of course, narcissism goes without saying. After all, I am the best. You most likely won’t believe that but I don’t care. That only shows me how deficient you are in insight. I don’t usually say this because it is so true, that it’s offensive and I hide the offensive side of me most of the time. I take lots of selfies and post them because why hide my light under a bushel? Whether this is my “false self” or my mask. It is there to protect both of us.




Borderline Personality Disorder

borderlinebuttonBorderline has been the subject of much confusion as it originally meant someone on the edge between sanity and psychosis. As one of the Cluster B personality disorders, it is less about psychosis and more about an emotional rollercoaster which inhabitants of this disorder must ride. They have a deep fear of abandonment. But they also dislike engulfment. They are the most emotional of the Bs. Some therapists call Borderline the most curable of the personality disorders. But others question that it’s curable at all. It is just as stigmatized as the rest of the Bs. Borderlines are said to be difficult people to have relationships with. Yet I haven’t heard anyone claim to have been victimized by a Borderline.


Blogs That I Follow



Wolfe Attack

davidwolfeI love a surprise and I just got one from The Psychopathic Times. To those who don’t know, this is a daily blog/enewsletter which I subscribe to. The surprise was an article by David (Avocado) Wolfe who is best known for his advocacy of the raw, vegan diet. I have been on this diet several times in my lifetime. The longest stretch of time was six years. I have, therefore, been quite aware of Mr. Wolfe. Some of you may remember him from the TV reality series, Mad Mad House on the SciFi channel. In short, five people representing alternative lifestyles judge ten contestants for their ability to deal with their unusual madhouseways of life. David Wolfe, known on this show as Avocado, was called a “Naturalist.” He basically represented his diet which the guests were required to try. During the time I’ve known about this man, I had no idea that he had any thoughts or opinions about psychopathy. Yet, here is his article. As most articles about psychopathy, his is of the hostile variety. The title, 8 Ways Psychopaths Try to Control You. {sigh} Such a mundane, such a “normal” approach coming from an “alt.”

simpson_aspdMr. Wolfe explains that it’s all about control. Everyone wants it but “most of us accept that other people have rights and feelings just like our own. It’s a trait known as empathy, and it’s what stops us from controlling others against their will, for fear of hurting them.” Why don’t psychopaths feel empathy? “[t]he psychopath’s brain works a bit differently; they don’t feel empathy or the remorse that comes along with harming others.” Because we lack empathy and, therefore, no remorse, we employ eight methods by which we seek to control the unsuspecting normal folk. The Wolfe explains each and every one of them.

stare1First on his list is the psychopathic stare. “Psychopaths possess a very striking stare that tends to make people uncomfortable. Why? Well, it lacks in humanity.” Why does our stare “lack in humanity?” Well, David quotes my good friend, Lucky Otter who explains, “the stare makes it seem as though the psychopath has nothing inside them except a vast and endless void.” I have discussed this in another post which I called The Eyes Have It. As one of those people who live behind “the stare,” I explained what is really going on in our minds. It has more to do with interest than with malevolent intent. In a lighthearted stare2mood, I once posted a quote from Kubla Khan by Coleridge referring to the sublimity of our stare. But David says, “It’s not that the psychopath doesn’t know their stare makes people uncomfortable – in fact, they use it for that very reason; to exert control over another person’s emotions.” Well, I’ll admit I have used it that way when I was dealing with a hostile person. The ability to stare someone down can enhance one’s power. But we don’t usually “use” our “stare” to make folks uncomfortable. Why would we? If we are really trying to manipulate someone to gain control, I hardly think “making them uncomfortable” is the way to go. We are more commonly accused to using our charm to make people like and trust us.

paranoid-21The second method of control on David’s list is gaslighting which means making someone doubt his sanity or sense of reality. But such simple statements as “you are taking this too seriously” or “I was only joking” are often called “gaslighting.” David disposes of this subject in a few lines. I had a lot more to say about gaslighting.

The next item is called brainwashing. How this differs from gaslighting, I’m not clear. But brainwashing is nothing more than an attempt to persuade others that our worldview is correct. “They want you to think their worldview is correct.” So I guess this blog is a form of brainwashing since that’s what it’s really about. What’s wrong with trying to win others over to one’s worldview? The problem is “their worldview is completely abnormal and, in many regards, inhumane,” which is, after all, a matter of opinion.

bullying-cartoon01-webMoving right along, the next one is bullying. He provides a link to an article called The Hidden Suffering of Psychopaths (reproduced here on my blog for easier access). Strange that this article is given as evidence for bullying. It does explain why some psychopaths become serial killers but it doesn’t really discuss bullying by psychopaths as such. Usually, if we bully at all, it is in order to get our way. But we’d rather persuade (what others call manipulate) than bully just as a psychopathic man would rather seduce than rape. The velvet glove is better than the iron fist. Of course, according to David Wolfe, those who have known us have become victims needing psychotherapy to recovery. He makes this point with a link to a site calling itself “a non-profit organization providing information and support for victims of psychopathy.” Mew! Mew!

gossipThe next item is gossip. It seems we have a propensity to turn people against our “victims.” This seems like something more characteristic of narcissists. The web is full of “victims'” sites that seem more concerned about narcs than ‘paths but are pretty sour on both. I wrote A Psychopath’s Guide to Haters which goes into the pathology these people who are busily defaming us. And yet we are accused to defaming or gossiping about them. Well, “hippies create cops/cops create hippies.”

Pretended-11-09-12-400x400Next comes baiting. We are just too damned nice to our “victims” and lure them in with “attention, kind words and gifts. That’s how they trap you in their world.” How nasty of us. It’s a “red flag.”

Next is the tight leash. We keep our victims close and isolate them to keep — you guessed it: control.

Finally, the one I like the best: Self-Sabotage. “Psychopaths will throw themselves into the depths of despair if it means someone will follow them there. It’s one of the ways they prey on those who possess sympathy and empathy.” So we will harm ourselves in order to lure our victims to harm. Yeah. Right. wisdompsyThe link above is to Psychopath Research. The article, written by Jenna Lynn, is How Psychopaths Sabotage Themselves. According to the article, we have intelligence without wisdom. (Kevin Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths, would disagree.) What is wisdom? “Wisdom is defined as ‘the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight; the quality of being prudent and sensible.'” Defined by whom? “Common sense and insight?” That’s totally subjective as is “prudent and sensible.” We are also woefully lacking in spirituality. “They also seem to lack true spiritual intelligence, which is described as ‘having deep values, acting from principles and beliefs, having a sense of compassion and deep empathy for the well being of others, having one’s own convictions, having a sense of belonging and connection to others, and learning from mistakes, and having a sense of vocation: the desire to serve mankind and to give back, to make the world a better place.'” Again I ask. Described by whom? “Deep values?” Which are what? “Having a sense of compassion and deep empathy?” So, since we, by definition, lack empathy, we can never be spiritual. Jenna has “never seen this type of intelligence in a psychopath.” I wonder how many she has known.

one-step-ahead-of-despairBut where did David Wolfe get this business of throwing ourselves into the depths of despair if it means someone will follow us there? I couldn’t find that in the article he linked to. I see despair as an enemy I am on guard against it. Empaths also need to watch out for despair. Psychopaths fight it with optimism and detachment. What weapons do empaths have? I wouldn’t know but I would hardly accuse empaths of lacking the ability to be spiritual. What good would it do me to drag an empath into despair? People in despair aren’t much fun. They are boring.

David ends his piece with a video featuring Sam Vaknin telling people how to “deal with 196184_5_psychopaths.” Interesting person, Sam Vaknin. A self-proclaimed narcissist, he has been marketing himself as a healer of “victims” of people like himself. I’m sure he’s doing very well.  But what possessed David Wolfe to become a spokesman for those needing protection from psychopaths?

I have been doing some research and I find that Wolfe is now neither raw nor vegan. He is offering a recipe for Paleo cookies. Well, we all move on. I gave up the raw, vegan lifestyle when the food got too boring.  Interesting to run into him where we’ve both traveled the world of ideas, health and now psychology.

The Hidden Suffering of the Psychopath

This article was published in The Psychiatric Times but the second page of the article is restricted so I managed to get the whole thing here. It’s the same article.

The Hidden Suffering of the Psychopath

Psychopathy is characterized by diagnostic features such as superficial charm, high intelligence, poor judgment and failure to learn from experience, pathological egocentricity and incapacity for love, lack of remorse or shame, impulsivity, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, manipulative behavior, poor self-control, promiscuous sexual behavior, juvenile delinquency, and criminal versatility, among others.1,2 As a consequence of these criteria, the image of the psychopath is that of a cold, heartless, inhuman being. But do all psychopaths show a complete lack of normal emotional capacities and empathy?

Like healthy people, many psychopaths love their parents, spouse, children, and pets in their own way, but they have difficulty in loving and trusting the rest of the world. Furthermore, psychopaths suffer emotionally as a consequence of separation, divorce, death of a beloved person, or dissatisfaction with their own deviant behavior.3

Sources of sadness

Psychopaths can suffer emotional pain for a variety of reasons. As with anyone else, psychopaths have a deep wish to be loved and cared for. This desire remains frequently unfulfilled, however, because it is obviously not easy for another person to get close to someone with such repellent personality characteristics. Psychopaths are at least periodically aware of the effects of their behavior on others and can be genuinely saddened by their inability to control it. The lives of most psychopaths are devoid of a stable social network or warm, close bonds.

The life histories of psychopaths are often characterized by a chaotic family life, lack of parental attention and guidance, parental substance abuse and antisocial behavior, poor relationships, divorce, and adverse neighborhoods.4 These persons may feel that they are prisoners of their own etiological determination and believe that they had, in comparison with normal people, fewer opportunities or advantages in life.

Despite their outward arrogance, psychopaths feel inferior to others and know they are stigmatized by their own behavior. Some psychopaths are superficially adapted to their environment and are even popular, but they feel they must carefully hide their true nature because it will not be acceptable to others. This leaves psychopaths with a difficult choice: adapt and participate in an empty, unreal life, or do not adapt and live a lonely life isolated from the social community. They see the love and friendship others share and feel dejected knowing they will never be part of it.

Psychopaths are known for needing excessive stimulation, but most foolhardy adventures only end in disillusionment because of conflicts with others and unrealistic expectations. Furthermore, many psychopaths are disheartened by their inability to control their sensation-seeking and are repeatedly confronted with their weaknesses. Although they may attempt to change, low fear response and associated inability to learn from experiences lead to repeated negative, frustrating, and depressing confrontations, including trouble with the justice system.

As psychopaths age, they are not able to continue their energy-consuming lifestyle and become burned-out and depressed while they look back on their restless life full of interpersonal discontentment. Their health deteriorates as the effects of their recklessness accumulate.

Violent psychopaths
  • Ultimately they reach a point of no return, where they feel they have cut through the last thin connection with the normal world
Risk factors
  • Hidden suffering, loneliness, and lack of self-esteem are risk factors for violent, criminal behavior in psychopaths

Emotional pain and violence

Social isolation, loneliness, and associated emotional pain in psychopaths may precede violent criminal acts.5 They believe that the whole world is against them and eventually become convinced that they deserve special privileges or rights to satisfy their desires. As psychopathic serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilsen expressed, violent psychopaths ultimately reach a point of no return, where they feel they have cut through the last thin connection with the normal world. Subsequently, their sadness and suffering increase, and their crimes become more and more bizarre.6

Dahmer and Nilsen have stated that they killed simply for company.5 Both men had no friends and their only social contacts were occasional encounters in homosexual bars. Nilsen watched television and talked for hours with the dead bodies of his victims; Dahmer consumed parts of his victims’ bodies in order to become one with them: he believed that in this way his victims lived further in his body.6

For the rest of us, it is unimaginable that these men were so lonely—yet they describe their loneliness and social failures as unbearably painful. Each created his own sadistic universe to avenge his experiences of rejection, abuse, humiliation, neglect, and emotional suffering.

Dahmer and Nilsen claimed that they did not enjoy the killing act itself. Dahmer tried to make zombies of his victims by injecting acid into their brains after he had numbed them with sleeping pills. He wanted complete control over his victims, but when that failed, he killed them. Nilsen felt much more comfortable with dead bodies than with living people—the dead could not leave him. He wrote poems and spoke tender words to the dead bodies, using them as long as possible for company. In other violent psychopaths, a relationship has been found between the intensity of sadness and loneliness and the degree of violence, recklessness, and impulsivity.5,


Violent psychopaths are at high risk for targeting their aggression toward themselves as much as toward others. A considerable number of psychopaths die a violent death a relatively short time after discharge from forensic psychiatric treatment as a result of their own behavior (for instance, as a consequence of risky driving or involvement in dangerous situations).7 Psychopaths may feel that all life is worthless, including their own.3,5,6


In the past decade, neurobiological explanations have become available for many of the traits of psychopathy. For example, impulsivity, recklessness/irresponsibility, hostility, and aggressiveness may be determined by abnormal levels of neurochemicals, including monoamine oxidase (MAO), serotonin and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, triiodothyronine, free thyroxine, testosterone, cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and hormones of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axes.8

Other features, such as sensation-seeking and an incapacity to learn from experiences, might be linked to cortical underarousal.4 Sensation-seeking could also be related to low levels of MAO and cortisol and high concentrations of gonadal hormones, as well as reduced prefrontal gray matter volume.9 Many psychopaths can thus be considered, at least to some degree, victims of neurobiologically determined behavioral abnormalities that, in turn, create a fixed gulf between them and the rest of the world.

It may be possible to diminish traits such as sensation-seeking, impulsivity, aggression, and related emotional pain with the help of psychotherapy, psychopharmacotherapy, and/or neurofeedback. Long-term psychotherapy (at least 5 years) seems effective in some categories of psychopaths, in so far as psychopathic personality traits may diminish.10-12

Psychotherapy alone may be insufficient to improve symptoms. Psychopharmacotherapy may help normalize neurobiological functions and related behavior/personality traits.13 Lithium is impressive in treating antisocial, aggressive, and assaultive behavior.14 Hollander15 found that mood stabilizers, such as divalproex, SSRIs, MAOIs, and neuroleptics, have documented efficacy in treating aggression and affective instability in impulsive patients. There have been no controlled studies of psychopharmacotherapy for other core features of psychopathy.

Cortical underarousal and low autonomic activity-reactivity can be substantially reduced with the help of adaptive neurofeedback techniques.16,17


Norman was raised by his aunt; his parents were divorced and neither was capable of or interested in caring for him. As a child and adolescent, he had numerous encounters with law enforcement for joyriding, theft, burglary, fraud, and assault and battery. He was sent to reform school twice. When he was 21, he was convicted of armed robbery and served 1½ years in jail. His only close friend was another violent criminal; he had many short-term relationships with girlfriends. At 29, he killed two strangers in a bar who had insulted him and was sentenced to forensic psychiatric treatment. The diagnosis was psychopathy, according to Hare’s psychopathy checklist.2

Norman showed little improvement over the course of 7 years of behavioral psychotherapy and became less and less motivated. The staff of the forensic psychiatric hospital considered him untreatable and intended to stop all treatment attempts. Norman’s lawyer arranged for an examination by a forensic neurologist, who subsequently found that Norman suffered from severe cortical underarousal, serotonin and MAO abnormalities, and concentration problems.

Treatment with D,L-fenfluramine, a serotonin-releasing drug, was started. (Fenfluramine was voluntarily withdrawn from the US market in 1997.) Acute challenge doses (0.2 mg/kg to 0.4 mg/kg) produced significant dose-dependent decreases in impulsive and aggressive responses. After 1 month, an MAOI (pargyline, 10 mg/kg) and psychodynamic psychotherapy were added. Pargyline produced some normalization of his EEG pattern and was titrated to 20 mg/kg over 5 months. Neurofeedback was started after 2 months and continued for 15 months. His EEG pattern gradually normalized, and his capacity for concentration and attention increased.

Norman continued to receive D,L-fenfluramine and psychotherapy for 2 years, at which point he was discharged from forensic treatment. He voluntarily continued psychotherapy for an additional 3 years and, in the 4 years since his release, has not reoffended.



It is extremely important to recognize hidden suffering, loneliness, and lack of self-esteem as risk factors for violent, criminal behavior in psychopaths. Studying the statements of violent criminal psychopaths sheds light on their striking and specific vulnerability and emotional pain. More experimental psychopharmacotherapy, neurofeedback, and combined psychotherapy research is needed to prevent and treat psychopathic behavior.

The current picture of the psychopath is incomplete because emotional suffering and loneliness are ignored. When these aspects are considered, our conception of the psychopath goes beyond the heartless and becomes more human.




A Useless Guide


Of all the French cultural exports over the last 150 years or so, ‘pataphysics—the science of imaginary solutions and the laws governing exceptions—has proven to be one of the most durable. Originating in the wild imagination of French poet and playwright Alfred Jarry and his schoolmates, resisting clear definition, purposefully useless, and almost impossible to understand, ‘pataphysics nevertheless lies around the roots of Absurdism, Dada, futurism, surrealism, situationism, and other key cultural developments of the twentieth century. In this account of the evolution and influence of ‘pataphysics, Andrew Hugill offers an informed exposition of a rich and difficult territory, staying aloft on a tightrope stretched between the twin dangers of oversimplifying a serious subject and taking a joke too seriously.

Drawing on more than twenty-five years’ research, Hugill maps the ‘pataphysical presence (partly conscious and acknowledged but largely unconscious and unacknowledged) in literature, theater, music, the visual arts, and the culture at large, and even detects ‘pataphysical influence in the social sciences and the sciences. He offers many substantial excerpts (in English translation) from primary sources, intercalated with a thorough explication of key themes and events of ‘pataphysical history. In a Jarryesque touch, he provides these in reverse chronological order, beginning with a survey of ‘pataphysics in the digital age and working backward to Jarry and beyond. He looks specifically at the work of Jean Baudrillard, Georges Perec, Italo Calvino, J. G. Ballard, Asger Jorn, Gilles Deleuze, Roger Shattuck, Jacques Prévert, Antonin Artaud, René Clair, the Marx Brothers, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, James Joyce, Flann O’Brien, Raymond Roussel, Jean-Pierre Brisset, and many others.

About the Author

Andrew Hugill is a Professor at Bath Spa University. He is also a Commandeur Requis of the Ordre de la Grande Guidouille in the Collège de ‘Pataphysique.