Psychopathy a Concealed Personality Defect Thesis

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Psychopathy is described as a mental disorder, characterized by affective interpersonal and behavioral abnormalities (Crime and Justice Vol 3, 2009). Persons with psychopathy, or psychopaths, show an incapacity for empathy and guilt and are impulsive, egocentric and chronic violators of social, moral and legal norms (Crime and Justice). In his book, "The Mask of Sanity," Hervey Cleckley (1941) wrote that the psychopathic personality is a psychosis. But unlike other psychoses, psychopathy is "not technically demonstrable." It is well concealed and escapes normal detection because of its intact function. It manifests only in behavior. It is not a mere major mental disorder but a defect in personality, complemented by defenses woven around the defect. The defenses relate most of all with the social aspect of the human personality. The psychopath is either an asocial or antisocial person who has never developed into an affable, compliant average man or woman. He or she lacks the normal socio-emotional responsiveness, remorse, and close relationships and is egocentric (Cleckley).Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Thesis on Psychopathy a Concealed Personality Defect Psychopathy Is Assignment

A psychopath differs strikingly from other psychotics (Cleckley, 1941). Psychotics, the mentally defective, the ordinary criminals, delinquents, sexual deviants, erratic geniuses, hedonists, clinical alcoholics and malingerers display detectable technical behavior. But the psychopath has none of these technical signs. He has no recognizable defects in theoretical reasoning. He functions with the normal awareness of consequences and without a show of delusions. His personality appears intact and not distorted. He escapes detection by most because of his superficial charm and "good" intelligence. He does not think irrationally. He is neither nervous nor irritable. But the rest of his behavior becomes detectable to the trained mind. He is untruthful and insincere and does not feel remorse or shame. He is inadequately motivated and exercises poor judgment. He fails to learn from experience like ordinary mortals. He is incapable of love, has poor insight and unresponsive in general interpersonal relations. He relishes fantasies and unruly behavior but does not resort to suicide. His sex life is impersonal, trivial and poorly integrated. And he fails to follow up any life plan (Cleckley).

Where It Starts

Evidence exists that psychopathy begins an early age (Rutter, 2005). They are often violent and resistant to therapy. Recognizing the need, experts developed instruments to measure psychopathic traits in children and adolescents. The instruments showed that the measurements used on adults may be used on adolescents. All concepts on personality disorder, including psychopathy, assume that they originate from childhood. This, then, warranted the measurement of psychopathic features in adolescents and even in children. All the instruments concluded that psychopathy consists of a group of traits, which reflect a general mode of personality functioning (Rutter).

This position was supported by more evidence that personality disorders originate in the early years of life (De Clercq and De Fruyt, 2007). Current diagnostic systems recognize early trait pathology at late adolescence. Only a few studies specifically address the early causes of adult personality dysfunction. Previous studies revealed that specific behavioral or emotional symptoms of psychopathology could be risk factors for adult personality disorder in childhood. These include conduct disorder, which could develop into an antisocial personality disorder; conduct problems and hyperactivity-impulsivity-attention problems into psychopathy; and self-mutilation for borderline personality disorder in adulthood. In addition, biological abnormalities were also linked to personality disorders. These abnormalities include abnormal rain maturation and neuro-cognitive impairments in children with persistent antisocial disorder. Psychopathy and obsessive-compulsive disorders may have a genetic basis to explain impulsivity and affective instability. Environmental influences also play a part in psychological disorders. These include harmful or improper care-giving, emotional and physical maltreatment, sexual abuse and parental loss or divorce (De Clercq & De Fruyt).

Child psychologists and psychiatrists have long resisted acknowledging that personality disorders start from the early years of life, but there has been a shift of interest in the 21st century (De Clercq & De Fruyt, 2007). Both child and environmental characteristics are now considered significant in the development of the disorders in adulthood. The infusion of the new notion will not establish a pessimistic view of human development or on outcome of children with disorder features. It is intended to encourage research, which will focus on the causality of the risk factors. It will also identify the genetic and social transmission effects, which will explain why some children develop psychopathology and some do not. The information will be quite valuable to every child psychologist and psychiatrist who must come to the aid of children in this predicament (De Clercq & De Fruyt).

On to Adolescence

A multi-site longitudinal study was recently conducted 164 Caucasian male and 144 Caucasian female 16-year-olds who displayed disruptive behavior (Vitale et al. 2005). It used the Antisocial Process Screening Device. As hypothesized, the study yielded evidence that at their age, they were more vulnerable to poor socialization and ineffective self-regulation. The study also establishes the connection between the interpersonal, affective, and impulsivity traits and psychopathy. It thus shows that traits of psychopathy are found among adolescents before they develop severe behavior problems found in incarcerated adults. Adolescents are less likely to reconsider their developing behavior problems, much less change them. Their ability to learn from experience is likewise decreased. Failure to stop, rethink and learn from corrective experience at this stage could adversely affect socialization. And blending with other personal and environmental factors, this overall failure could increase the risk and incline them to develop adult psychopathy (Vitale et al.).

Treatment and Control of the Psychopath

The really effective treatment and control of the psychopath present two difficulties (Cleckley, 1941). One is his apparent or relative immunity and the other is his lack of response to any kind of psychiatric treatment. This has been the situation for decades and it has remained unchanged today. The psychopath is seldom considered legally incompetent. Even when he is committed as such, he cannot be kept very long under medical supervision. He is able to avoid the restraints, which can be eventually imposed. Even if imprisoned for life, he tends to be more able to obtain parole than others incarcerated and continue his career of crime. His "intact" personality can successfully project moral rebirth, salvation, absolute reform or something more admirable and get away with it (Cleckley).

The other difficulty is that a psychopath is likelier than others with behavioral problems to convince and deceive his therapist that treatment has been effective (Cleckley, 1941). He can well act out that he has developed a changed insight, which will now make him deserving of parole and no longer a risk to society. Many daily newspaper reports of armed robberies, rapes, and murders are results of optimistic but wrong estimates of therapeutic success. An over-estimation of that success rather contributes to tragic events, such as those reported in the media. No evidence at present demonstrates that psychiatry or the law can deal effectively with psychopaths. However, some psychiatrists have ventured into some promising therapeutic possibilities with a new approach. Drawing from the similarity between a psychopath and a spoiled child, they endeavor to devise a really effective control. It aims at making the patient to regularly, promptly and persistently experience the outcome of socially acceptable conduct and irresponsible and damaging conduct (Cleckley).

Psychotherapist F.C. Thorne offered a similar approach in dealing with a psychopath's maladaptive lifestyle (Cleckley, 1941). The therapist should have complete control the person's financial resources, such as being assigned as trustee of his accounts. All his relatives and other involved parties must agree not to help him in his problems. They must agree to let him confront the consequences of his behavior. The therapist must persist in making the psychopath to control his own behavior. The therapist should not protect the psychopath from social and legal sanctions. The therapist should make the psychopath realize that he is understood, knows… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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