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Narcissism/Sociopathy Survivors Support Forum
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Narcissism/Sociopathy: Surviving Narcissism/Sociopathy Support Forum

Narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by extreme self-absorption, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and a need for attention and admiration from others. First identified by Havelock Ellis in 1898, the disorder is named for the mythological Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection.

In addition to an inflated self-image and addiction to fantasy, narcissism is characterized by an unusual coolness and composure, which is shaken only when the narcissistic confidence is threatened, and by the tendency to take others for granted or to exploit them.

According to Sigmund Freud, narcissism is a normal stage in children's development, but it is considered a disorder when it occurs after puberty.

The difference between sociopathy and psychopathy, according to Hare, may "reflect the users views on the origins and determinates of the disorder."[13] Most sociologists, criminologists and even some psychologists believe the disorder is caused by social conflicts, and thus prefer the term 'sociopath.' Those who believe as Hare does, that a combination of psychological, biological and genetic factors all contribute to the disorder are more likely to use the term 'psychopath'.

David T. Lykken.[14] is a major proponent that psychopathy and sociopathy are two distinct kinds of antisocial personality. He holds that psychopaths are born with temperamental differences such as impulsivity, cortical underarousal, and fearlessness that lead them to risk-seeking behavior and an inability to internalize social norms; Sociopaths, on the other hand, have relatively normal temperaments; their personality disorder being more an effect of negative sociological factors like parental neglect, delinquent peers, poverty, and low intelligence. Both personality disorders are, of course, the result of an interaction between genetic predispositions and environmental factors, but psychopathy leans towards the hereditary whereas sociopathy tends towards the environmental.[citation needed]

Antisocial personality disorder (abbreviated APD or ASPD) is a psychiatric diagnosis in the DSM-IV-TR recognizable by the disordered individual's impulsive behavior, disregard for social norms, and indifference to the rights and feelings of others. The closely related concept psychopathy, which should not be confused with psychosis, covers a generally more severe personality disorder. The World Health Organization's ICD-10 diagnostic manual uses dissocial personality disorder instead. The term sociopathy, although having no current diagnostic criteria, is also sometimes used.

Psychopathy is a term derived from the Greek psyche (soul) and pathos (suffering), and was once used to denote any form of mental illness.

Currently, psychopathy is defined in psychiatry as a condition characterised by lack of empathy or conscience, poor impulse control and manipulative behaviors.

Though in widespread use as a psychiatric term, psychopathy has no precise equivalent[1] in either the DSM-IV-TR, where it is most strongly correlated with antisocial personality disorder, or the ICD-10, where it is correlated with dissocial personality disorder. Robert Hare is working hard to have psychopathy listed in the DSM-V as a separate disorder.

In current clinical use, psychopathy is most commonly diagnosed using Robert D. Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). Hare describes psychopaths as "intraspecies predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs. Lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they cold-bloodedly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret."[2] "What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony."[3]

There are many idiosyncratic definitions of psychopathy and sociopathy in use among the laity. Some people equate psychopaths with serial killers or other violent criminals, while others compare psychopathy to the more intelligent and covertly manipulative person and sociopathy with the thug or common criminal. Others consider the psychopath to be out of touch with reality (perhaps confusing the term with psychosis) while considering sociopaths to be people lacking a conscience.

What is a psychopath?

A psychopath is defined as having no concerns for the feelings of others and a complete disregard for any sense of social obligation. They seem egocentric and lack insight and any sense of responsibility or consequence. Their emotions are thought to be superficial and shallow, if they exist at all. They are considered callous, manipulative, and incapable of forming lasting relationships, let alone of any kind of love.

Since psychopaths cause harm through their actions, it is assumed that they are not attached to the people they harm; however, according to the PCL-R Checklist, psychopaths are also careless in the way they treat themselves. They frequently fail to alter their behavior in a way that would prevent them from enduring future discomfort. Dr. Joseph Newman contends that the behavior displayed by psychopaths is the result of "an inability to process contextual cues." [2]

It is thought that any emotions which the true psychopath exhibits are the fruits of watching and mimicking other people's emotions. They show poor impulse control and a low tolerance for frustration and aggression. They have no empathy, remorse, anxiety or guilt in relation to their behavior. In short, they truly are devoid of conscience. However, they understand that society expects them to behave in a conscientious manner, and therefore they mimic this behaviour when it suits their needs.

Most studies of psychopaths have taken place among prison populations.

Cleckley defined psychopathy thus:[7]

Superficial charm and average intelligence.
Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.
Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations.
Untruthfulness and insincerity.
Lack of remorse or shame.
Antisocial behavior without apparent compunction.
Poor judgement and failure to learn from experience.
Pathological egocentricity and incapacity to love.
General poverty in major affective reactions.
Specific loss of insight.
Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations.
Fantastic and uninviting behavior with drink, and sometimes without.
Suicide threats rarely carried out.
Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated.
Failure to follow any life plan.
It has been shown that punishment and behavior modification techniques do not improve the behavior of a psychopath. They have been regularly observed to respond to both by becoming more cunning and hiding their behavior better. It has been suggested that traditional therapeutic approaches actually make them, if not worse, then far more adept at manipulating others and concealing their behavior. They are generally considered to be not only incurable but also untreatable.

Psychopaths also have a markedly distorted sense of the potential consequences of their actions, not only for others, but also for themselves. They do not, for example, deeply recognize the risk of being caught, disbelieved or injured as a result of their behaviour.

Legal definitions
Psychopathy has quite separate legal and judicial definitions that should not be confused with the medical definition. Various states and nations have at various times enacted laws specific to dealing with psychopathic offenders, and many of these laws are active, on statute, today:

Washington State Legislature[8] defines a "Psychopathic personality" to mean "the existence in any person of such hereditary, congenital or acquired condition affecting the emotional or volitional rather than the intellectual field and manifested by anomalies of such character as to render satisfactory social adjustment of such person difficult or impossible".

In 1939, California enacted a psychopathic offender law [9] that defined a psychopath solely in terms of offenders with a predisposition "to the commission of sexual offenses against children." A 1941 law [10] attempted to further clarify this to the point where anyone examined and found to be psychopathic was to be committed to a state hospital and anyone else was to be sentenced by the courts.

"Psychopathic Disorder" is legally defined in the The Mental Health Act (uk) [11] as, "a persistent disorder or disability of mind (whether or not including significant impairment of intelligence) which results in abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on the part of the person concerned."

Diagnostic Criteria, The PCL-R Test
Main article: Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)
The PCL-R has allowed for a differentiation of individuals with psychopathy and APD.

In contemporary research and clinical practice, psychopathy is most commonly assessed with the Hare, which is a clinical rating scale with 20 items. Each of the items in the PCL-R is scored on a three-point (0, 1, 2) scale according to two factors. PCL-R Factor 2 is associated with reactive anger, anxiety, increased risk of suicide, criminality, and impulsive violence. PCL-R Factor 1, in contrast, is associated with extroversion and positive affect. Factor 1, the so-called core personality traits of psychopathy, may even be beneficial for the psychopath (in terms of nondeviant social functioning). A psychopath will score high on both factors, whereas someone with APD will score high only on Factor 2.[12]

Both case history and a semi-structured interview are used in the analysis.

Psychopathy's Relationship with other Mental Health Disorders

Psychopathy, as measured on the PCL-R, is negatively correlated with all DSM-IV Axis I disorders except substance abuse disorders. Psychopathy is most strongly correlated with DSM-IV antisocial personality disorder. PCL-R Factor 1 is correlated with narcissistic personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder. PCL-R Factor 2 is particularly strongly correlated to antisocial personality disorder and criminality.

PCL-R Factor 2 is associated with reactive anger, anxiety, increased risk of suicide, criminality, and impulsive violence. PCL-R Factor 1, in contrast, is associated with extroversion and positive affect.

The official stance of the American Psychiatric Association as presented in the DSM-IV-TR is that psychopathy and sociopathy are obsolete synonyms for antisocial personality disorder. The World Health Organization takes a similar stance in its ICD-10 by referring to psychopathy, sociopathy, antisocial personality, asocial personality, and amoral personality as synonyms for dissocial personality disorder.

Among laypersons and professionals, there is much confusion about the meanings and differences between psychopathy, sociopathy, antisocial personality disorder, and dissocial personality disorder.

Antisocial personality disorder
Main article: Antisocial personality disorder
Comparing psychopathy to antisocial personality disorder is a continuing source of debate within the psychological community. The official stance of the American Psychiatric Association as presented in the DSM-IV-TR is that psychopathy and sociopathy are obsolete synonyms for antisocial personality disorder or APD. The World Health Organization takes a similar stance in its ICD-10 by referring to psychopathy, sociopathy, antisocial personality, asocial personality, and amoral personality as synonyms for dissocial personality disorder.

Hare and others take the stance that psychopathy as a syndrome should be considered distinct from the DSM-IV's antisocial personality disorder construct.[15] even though APD and psychopathy were intended to be equivalent in the DSM-IV. However, those who created the DSM-IV felt that there was too much room for subjectivity on the part of clinicians when identifying things like remorse and guilt; therefore, the DSM-IV panel decided to stick to observable behaviour, namely socially deviant behaviours. As a result, the diagnosis of APD is something that the "majority of criminals easily meet."[16] Hare goes further to say that the percentage of incarcerated criminals that meet the requirements of APD is somewhere between 80 to 85%, whereas only about 20% of these criminals would qualify for a diagnosis of psychopath. This twenty percent, according to Hare, accounts for 50% of all the most serious crimes committed, including half of all serial and repeat rapists. According to FBI reports 44% of all police officer murders in 1992 were committed by psychopaths.[17]

One study found that only 20 percent of those diagnosed with APD qualified as psychopath on the PCL-R.[18]

Another study using the PCL-R to examine the relationship between antisocial behaviour and suicide found that suicide history was strongly correlated to PCL-R Factor 2 (reflecting antisocial deviance) and was not correlated to PCL-R factor 1 (reflecting affective functioning). Given that APD relates to Factor 2, whereas psychopathy relates to both factors, this would confirm Hervey Cleckley's assertion that psychopaths are relatively immune to suicide. Sufferers of APD, on the other hand, have a relatively high suicide rate.[19]

Pseudopsychopathic personality disorder
It has been suggested that people can suffer apparently psychopathic personality changes from lesions or damage of the brain's frontal lobe. This is sometimes called Pseudopsychopathic personality disorder or Frontal lobe disorder.

One well-known and dramatic case was that of Phineas Gage, a railroad work supervisor. According to Renato M. E. Sabbatini, an explosive charge was set. When it detonated, a steel rod was accidentally driven through Gage's skull from his left cheek to above the right brow.[20]

Incredibly, he survived for many years. According to the common account, his personality changed completely. He became abusive, aggressive, deceitful, irresponsible and incapable of insight and planning (a poor sense of consequence). Computerised reconstruction of the possible brain damage suggest that, from his known injuries he seemed likely to have had a lesion on the ventromedial frontal cortex.

However, Malcolm Macmillian's recent research into the Gage case[21] shows evidence that many of the so-called "psychopathic" features were never documented by physician John Harlow, the primary source, or the Harvard physicians who examined him intensively in Boston. No police records or newspaper accounts can be found for Gage's alleged, drunken behavior or violence, nor any record of his mother complaining to Dr. Harlow, despite being in contact for years.

Macmillan suggests that claims of deceitfulness, social coarsening and loutish behavior, in Harlow's report to the medical society, lack justification. His research also showed that Gage was able to hold steady work in two locations. His drifting from job to job happened at the end of his life when he developed seizures, eventually succumbing to status epilepticus in front of his family. Macmillan concluded that, at worst, Gage was probably guileless and lacked social skills. A hotel guest, basically a stranger, convinced him to travel to Chile and manage a Concord stagecoach, a difficult cognitive-motor task, which he apparently mastered.

[edit] Childhood precursors
Psychopathy is not normally diagnosed in children or adolescents, and some jurisdictions explicitly forbid diagnosing psychopathy and similar personality disorders in minors. Psychopathic tendencies can sometimes be recognized in childhood or early adolescence and, if recognised, are diagnosed as Conduct disorder. It must be stressed that not all children diagnosed with conduct disorder grow up to be psychopaths, or even disordered at all, but these childhood signs are found in significantly higher proportions in psychopaths than in the general population. Conduct disorder, as well as its two other overlapping subcategories Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, can sometimes develop into adult psychopathy. However, conduct disorder "fails to capture the emotional, cognitive and interpersonality traits - egocentricity, lack of remorse, empathy or guilt - that are so important in the diagnosis of psychopathy."[22]

Children showing strong psychopathic precursors often appear immune to punishment; nothing seems to modify their undesirable behavior. Consequently parents usually give up, and the behavior worsens.[23]

The following childhood indicators are to be interpreted not as to the type of behavior, but as to its relentless and unvarying occurrence. Not all must be present concurrently, but at least a number of them need to be present over a period of years:

An extended period of bedwetting past the preschool years that is not due to any medical problem.
Cruelty to animals beyond an angry outburst.
Firesetting and other vandalism. Not to be confused with playing with matches, which is not uncommon for preschoolers. This is the deliberate setting of destructive fires with utter disregard for the property and lives of others.
Lying, often without discernible objectives, extending beyond a child's normal impulse to not be punished. Lies are so extensive that it is often impossible to know lies from truth.
Theft and Truancy.
Aggression to peers, not necessarily physical, which can include getting others into trouble or a campaign of psychological torment.
The three indicators bedwetting, cruelty to animals and firestarting, known as the MacDonald triad were first described by J.M. MacDonald as indicators of psychopathy[24]. Though the relevance of these indicators to serial murder etiology has since been called into question, they are considered relevant to psychopathy.

The question of whether young children with early indicators of psychopathy respond poorly to intervention compared to conduct disordered children without these traits has only recently been examined in controlled clinical research. The findings from this research are consistent with broader evidence - pointing to poor treatment outcomes. [25]

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