Psychopathy or Antisocial Personality Disorder in Adults

05 Apr 2018

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Forensic Assessment of Adults II

Psychopathy or Antisocial Personality Disorder

  • Explain the relevance of assessing for psychopathy or antisocial personality disorder in an adult forensic population, as well as the reasons for assessing for psychopathy or antisocial personality disorder.

According to the FBI, 1% of the general population in male prisons, 1/3% of male offenders are considered having an antisocial personality disorder, and 10-20% of male offenders are psychopaths (Hare, Ph.D. FBI, & et al., 2012). It is believed that psychopathy may be the result of genetics and how the person was raised. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has no diagnosis for psychopathy, yet it is one of five items that define an antisocial personality disorder (Hare, Ph.D. FBI, & et al., 2012). Dr. Robert Hare and the FBI believe that psychopathy is the “most dangerous of any personality disorder (Hare, Ph.D. FBI, & et al., 2012)”. Not all psychopaths are criminals or commit criminal acts, and are not violent (Hare, Ph.D. FBI, & et al., 2012).

One of the reasons for the importance of assessing and diagnosing psychopathy are the symptoms. Psychopaths, also known as sociopaths, are charming, manipulative, have a lack of remorse and a lack of empathy towards others, and have no conscience. They are known to commit violent and serious crimes in a callous remorseless manner. They are selfish, self-centered, feel entitled, do not accept responsibility for the actions, and have an inflated sense of self-worth. They are conniving and won’t hesitate to lie for their own benefit, since they are pathological liars to begin with. They are predatory by nature, have an inflated ego and need to have power and control in all situations. Psychopaths that kill usually plan and calculate the crime in order to maintain their sense of power and control, and the killer usually feels no emotion or remorse. When caught, they blame the victim for the reason they were killed.

Drs. Porter, ten Brinke, Wilson, and the FBI state that:

“Psychopathic sex offenders are 2.43 times more likely to be released than their non-psychopathic counterparts, while psychopathic offenders charged with other crimes are 2.79 times more likely to be released.Their acting ability can enable them to frequently manipulate and persuade members of a parole board to release them approximately 2.5 times faster than other offenders up for parole, despite their longer list of offenses and elevated risk (Porter, ten Brinke, Wilson & FBI)”.

Yet the severity of a psychopath’s condition can vary from other psychopaths. Clinical psychologists have found that psychopathology ranges from those with a lot of psychopathic traits (a full cluster of traits) to those who have less psychopathic traits (milder cluster of traits). They base this by looking at the patients behavioral patterns within their lifetime.

Another reason for the importance of assessing psychopathy is to gain a better understanding of psychopathy and in gaining that understanding, it allows forensic psychologists to create treatment strategies for psychopaths. Since psychopaths are skilled manipulators and pathological liars, getting true and accurate information from them can be difficult and frustrating, and by better understanding them, forensic psychologists can also create a specific questioning strategy for law enforcement when they are questioning a psychopath. Law enforcement and forensic psychologists must fully understand psychopaths, identify them, understand the harm and damage they do, and what can be done to treat them effectively.

  • Describe when and where in the adjudicative process assessment for psychopathy or antisocial personality disorder may be used, using specific examples.

As juveniles, psychopathic traits become visible, especially during an adjudicative assessment. These include poor control of behavior and early behavior problems, juvenile delinquency, committing a variety of different crimes, impulsive actions, irresponsibility, lack of guilt, no remorse, have no realistic goals to accomplish, and a need for more and more stimulating action within their lives. Assessments to diagnose psychopathy in juveniles are commonly used when the juvenile defendants have a history of mental illness. The sooner juveniles are assessed and diagnosed the better mental health services, community services, and long-term treatment programs they can receive. Even with adults, assessment and diagnosis of psychopathy can help to identify their needs and how to treat them, and can help with future screening and intake in prisons.

  • Explain how assessing for psychopathy or antisocial personality disorder may influence a case outcome, using specific examples.

Psychopathological patients with a fuller cluster of traits put society at risk due to their ability to skillfully manipulate others, including authorities. Many psychopaths have manipulated the court and have gotten reduced sentences, and if they were unsuccessful in that endeavor, they have skillfully manipulated to have their sentences appealed in high courts of law (Häkkänen-Nyholm, H., PhD. & Hare, R.D., PhD, 2009).

Some famous psychopathic killers are: Theodore “Ted” Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jr., Edward “Ed” Theodore Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert Fish, Andrei Chikatilo, Richard Ramirez, Albert DeSalvo, Joel Rifkin, Edmund Kemper, Gary Ridgeway (Green River Killer), Arthur Shawcross, and Robert Pickton. Many of these men appeared normal, but had psychopathic traits that were diagnosed only after they had become killers. For Example, John Wayne Gacy, Jr., had been married and divorced twice, had two children (a boy & a girl), had his own business, was a community leader and vice-president of the Springfield, Illinois Jaycees, and often performed as a clown for many community children functions—yet he killed 33 men and boys, burying many under the floors of his home he shared with his mother. Ted Bundy went to law school, studied Chinese, worked for the Republican National Convention, worked on GovernorDaniel J. Evans's reelection campaign, and volunteered on a suicide hotline in Seattle—yet he killed 26-38 (possibly more) women, and was convicted and sentenced to death in Florida for killing 5 women and 1 young girl. As Dr. Martha Stout, PhD., pointed out in her book “The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us (2005), Sociopaths look like everyone else—they can be your neighbor, family member, friend, or someone famous, and you would never even know it (Stout, 2005).

The MacDonald Triad, also known as the Homicidal Triad or the Triad of Sociopathy, are three behavioral traits (arson, bedwetting and cruelty to animals) that together or two of the traits combined are believed to be indicators of potential future violence or a psychopathic personality/antisocial personality disorder. While the MacDonald Triad has not been subsequently validated by psychologists and researchers, it is often used by law enforcement and taught in schools, and remains an influential theory of crime.

The Psychopathy Checklist- Revised (PCL-R) was developed using a 20 item list, a 3 point scale and the results rate the full extent of a person’s psychopathic tendencies, and it helps to assess what the risks or harming other people are due to the patients psychopathic PCL-R results. It is often used in court cases to assess the defendants’ mental health. Yet despite everything, there has yet to be found a way to effectively treat those who are psychopaths.

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