Online Resource for Victims of Psychopaths and Narcissists

Novels and movies portray psychopaths in extreme, stereotypical ways. They appear as cold-blooded serial killers, stalkers, sex offenders, con men and women, or the prototypical evil, manipulating villain, such as Dr. No or Hannibal Lecter. Reality, unfortunately, provides some support for this view, but the picture is somewhat more complex than this.

Years of research on prison populations bear out the criminality and violence implied by the term psychopath. We now know that both male and female psychopaths commit a greater number and variety of crimes than do other criminals. Their crimes tend to be more violent than those of other criminals, and their general behavior more controlling, aggressive, threatening, and abusive. Further, their aggression and violence tend to be predatory in nature - cold-blooded and devoid of the intense emotional upheaval that typically accompanies the violent acts of most people. This sort of aggression and violence is instrumental, simply as a means to an end, and seldom followed by anything even approaching normal concern for the pain and suffering inflicted on others. On the other hand, much of the violence of other criminals tends to be reactive - a typical response to threats or situations that generate an intense emotional state. This type of violence, which in clues what is often described as a crime of passion, typically is followed by feelings of remorse and guilt for the harm done to others.

Perhaps most dangerous of all from a public safety point of view, psychopathic criminals recidivate at a much hither rate, and do so much earlier, than do other criminals. The recidivism rate refers to the percentage of offenders that commit a new crime subsequent to release into the community. Psychopaths make up about 15 percent of the prison population. Many of the remaining 85 percent of individuals in prison might be described as sociopaths or as having antisocial personality disorder, similar, but different disorders often confused with psychopathy. Although the prevalence of psychopathy in the general population is relatively small - only about 1 percent - the social, economic, physical. and psychological damage done by individuals with this disorder is far out of proportion to their numbers. They are responsible for at least half of the persistent serious and violent crimes committed in North America. Yet, as we shall see, not all psychopaths turn of a life of crime, and not all criminals are psychopaths.

One may argue that psychopaths who live freely in society simply have not yet been caught committing a crime or engaging in socially destructive behavior. Given the psychopaths' personality features, and their inclination for breaking the rules and pushing the envelope of acceptable human behavior, there is some merit to this argument. Still, just having a psychopathic personality disorder does not make one a criminal. Some psychopaths live in society and do not technically break the law - although they may come close, with behavior that usually is very unpleasant for those around them. Some may lead seemingly normal lives, not hurting people in ways that attract attention, but causing problems nonetheless in hidden economic, psychological, and emotionally abusive ways. They do not make war mi and loving parents, children or family members. They do not make reliable friends or coworkers. Many psychopaths adopt a parasitic existence, living off the generosity or gullibility of others by taking advantage of and often abusing the trust and support of friends and family. They may move from place to place and from one source of support to another. You probably know one. You could work for, work with, or be married to someone with a psychopathic personality and no know that there is a formal psychological term for the individual who causes you so much pain and distress. He or she can be a neighbor, friend, or family member whose behavior you may find fascinating, confusing and repelling.

Next see: Psychopathy, Sociopath, and Antisocial Personality Disorder

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