Severe Character Disorders
Severe character disorders are thankfully fairly uncommon. But they’re inherently a cause for grave concern. Therefore, it’s well worth knowing about them. The most severe form of character dysfunction is psychopathy. (Some use the term sociopathy.) And today’s article will explore this phenomenon.
For more on this topic see:
A pioneering researcher (Herve Cleckley) noticed something very unusual about certain antisocial personalities. (Antisocial Personalities are persons who repeatedly engage in antisocial, often criminal, acts.) Some of their behavior seemed pretty irrational. For instance, the way they lied. Not just ordinary, instrumental (i.e. for a rational purpose) lying. But rather, persistent and senseless (i.e. pathological) lying. They seemed to lie for the pure sake of lying. Moreover, they lied even when the truth would probably serve them better.
This kind of lying made Cleckley scratch his head. Who would lie for no good reason? It made him doubt the sanity of such folks. In fact, he believed such folks wore a “mask of sanity.” They came across as normal, rational. However, they behaved in irrational ways, and shockingly, with no apparent conscience. He viewed their seemingly senseless, callous, and remorseless, use and abuse of others as a type of “moral insanity.”
Actually, psychopaths (literally, “diseased minds”) are not insane. They’re troublingly deviously predatory, for sure. However, they’re not psychotic. They exhibit the penultimate character disturbance. Still, their character dysfunction does have some neurobiological roots. For it seems that psychopaths can’t feel like he rest of us feel. They grossly lack empathy. And some have absolutely no capacity for it. Their brains don’t work like most of our brains do. Accordingly, they lack the very things we most equate with being human: the capacity and willingness to care. They’re nature’s only known intra-species predators. And they exploit and victimize with no compunction or remorse.
- Predators among Us: The Psychopaths
- Psychopaths and Empathy
- Is Psychopathy Genetic?
- Budding Psychopaths on the Bus?
- Why Some People Lie So Much
What to Do?
Presently, there’s no treatment for severe character disorders. This is especially true when it comes to psychopaths. Moreover, there’s evidence that trying to teach empathy to those who grossly lack the capacity for it only makes them potentially more dangerous predators. But as I’ve been writing about, fortunately most disturbed characters don’t fall into this category.
Psychopaths have the most malignant and intractible form of narcissism. (See: Malignant Narcissism Goes Beyond Haughtiness.) However, that doesn’t mean that all narcissists are psychopaths. And not all people with narcissistic traits have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Because severe character disorders currently can’t be treated, our only hope is to manage them as efficiently and effectively as possible. However, that’s proven to be a most daunting challenge. How do you curtail or contain someone who is shamelessly bent on victimizing?
In the coming weeks, I’ll be talking about how to recognize someone on the psychopathy spectrum. And I’ll be talking about why some folks have trouble forming a healthy conscience.