Understanding and Treatment
Mental health disorders are among the most complex disorders to understand. Persons with these types of disorders are not commonly accepted into society. Psychopaths are among some of the most difficult disorders to treat. These persons most often come from a background lacking structure and continuity. Proper treatment is heavily debated.
It is a popular belief that psychopaths are considered to be individuals that are as brilliantly charming as they are morally insane. However, the tendency to refer to the psychopathic behavior as “morally insane” is a misconception. Regardless of scientific discoveries, psychopathy is a disease which results in a physiological deficiency.
The brain of psychopaths is believed to fail in generation of proper wave activity. Waves emitted are generally slower in individuals suffering from psychopathic behavior. This fundamental incompetence is responsible for a lower degree of arousal when these persons face a threatening situation. Their lack of anxiety and consequent careless behavior in any situation is commonly referred to as lack of conscience. These individuals lack the plethora of emotions that arise in the “normal” individual; that is, the ability to feel, to anticipate the breaking of the law, or to feel sorry when they break these laws. They are deprived of a conscience which organizes the moral notions of good and bad. In normal behavior, acts are constrained by external laws at work in society. The conscience of average individuals are able to anticipate any destructive action which could obstruct the law. Psychopaths don’t have such a capacity. They are leading a life which ignores external impediments. This fundamental unawareness is directly related to a slower activity of waves at work in the brain. This abnormality blocks the entire process of learning.
The lower waves produce a decreased response of anxiety which causes the psychopaths to not be anxious or afraid of punishment when they perform a reprehensible action. According to Cleckley’ s definition of psychopathic behavior in the Mask of Sanity , (1988) when one of them breaks the law, he or she does not experience a sense of shame or guilt. When psychopaths are faced with any form of punishment – it could be physical pain or punishment regardless of the deliberate breaking of laws- they do not react with as much anticipation as the average individual. This is because they lack a part of the neurological process which allows them to avoid pain; that is, the adequate rise in palmar sweat gland activity which generates the adequate stimulus. Therefore, the psychopath will reproduce the same harmful actions again and again. In 1954, Ellington’ s experiments showed that between 31 % and 58 % of psychopaths showed some form of electroencephalogram abnormality located in the temporal lobes of the cerebral hemispheres. Another experience regarding the lack of anxiety in psychopaths was lead in 1965 by Robert Hare. In that experience, psychopathic and non-psychopathic subjects were told that each time they would see the number eight in a series of number from one to twelve, they would receive an electric shock. Non-psychopathic individuals showed higher rates of anxiety when they knew the number eight was about to come. On the contrary, psychopathic individuals remain perfectly calm at the sight of the feared number. These results are important since they show that it is a physiological deficiency rather than deliberate insanity that is responsible for the psychopath’s criminal behavior.
Another perception largely spread among the population concerns the traditional representation of the psychopath who is figured out as a habitual pleasure seeker, constantly searching for the next big thrill.
In the movie the Silence of the Lambs, such a personality is embodied in Hannibal Lector, a frightening psychopath who, by his compelling need of strong...
References: American Psychiatric Association (1994) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edn) (DSM-IV) .
Cleckley, H. (1982). The mask of sanity (mosby medical library). St.louis: Plume.
Hare, R. D. (2003) The Hare Psychopathy Checklist - Revised (2nd edn). Multi-Health Systems.
P. Lawrence and N. Nohria, Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices, 2002, Jossey- Bass, San Francisco, CA.
P. Lawrence, “The Biological Basis of Morality?,” Business, Science, and Ethics, E. Freeman and P. Werhane, Editors, 2004, Society for Business Ethics, Charlottesville, VA.
Wong, S. C. P. & Hare, R. D. (2005) Guidelines for a Psychopathy Treatment Program. Multi- Health Systems.
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