On a regular basis, I am asked about a character that some author or writer has decided is a psychopath. Are they accurate, is this how I think, how I acted as a child, are they similar at all to psychopathy? No. Not a single one that I have been asked about is psychopathic. You might think that this isn’t really an issue, author’s are creating a fictional world, so their idea of psychopathy shouldn’t matter.
This is incorrect for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the establishment in people’s minds as to what psychopathy is. I regularly deal with people that are insistent that they know what psychopathy is because of what they assume, and what they assume often comes from what they see, and what they read. An excellent example of this came from a recent comment exchange that I had:
Here's one I'm a schizophrenic, however, I feel emphaty and more when I am normal, take my medication away and I become extremely dangerous and have absolutely no fear or emphaty at all, zero.
I believe that eating people would give me strength and power because they are draining mine from being around me.
So, I have asked this many times to my psychologist, is schizophrenia a more severe form of what a psychopath feels, She found my question quite interesting, but felt that one has control and the other doesn't.
Nothing that you describe is reflective of psychopathy aside from the lack of fear and empathy. Psychopaths do not want to eat people, they don’t think that doing so would be beneficial to them in any way, and they have no interest in killing anyone.
Hmmm, I don't think you really understand psychopathy then. Ted Bundy had a lot to say about it, in fact he acted on it as did Jeffrey Dahlmer, A lot of killers are pyschopaths and that's a fact right there.. scientific fact.
Dr Harold shipman, psychopath, killed over 200 people.
Some use it for success others use it for killing.
Psychopathic schizophrenia is also a thing.
You need to do your research, Richard Ramirez, another pyschopath. Don't pick me up as being mean, I just think you misunderstand the extent of a pyschopath.
You have no idea what you are talking about.
Shipman was an addict. Psychopaths cannot be addicted to anything. Our brain structure prevents that. Not a psychopath.
Dahmer is not a psychopath. He had borderline personality disorder and psychosis. Neither of which can ever be comorbid with psychopathy.
Rameriez was absolutely not a psychopath. He had several traumatic brain injuries and epilepsy. He was also schizoid, another thing that can never be comorbid with psychopathy.
Ted Bundy was not a psychopath. He was a malignant narcissist. Another thing that can never be comorbid with psychopathy.
You seem to think serial killing has anything to do with psychopathy. It doesn’t. There are some serial killers that are psychopathic, none of which you named, but most serial killers are neurotypical.
You have no idea what psychopathy is. That’s unfortunate, but everything that you stated shows a profound lack of knowledge about it. You trade in myths and assumptions. Not facts. You can learn factual information, or you can continue living in cognitive dissonance, that’s your choice.
I addressed all the serial killers that you listed aside from Shipman, as no one considers him psychopathic, here:
*Shipman was an addict. Psychopaths cannot be addicted to anything. Our brain structure prevents that. Not a psychopath*
That's not true at all.. in fact psychopaths have a higher tendency to suffer polysubstance abuse.
I was addicted to heroin and crack for years, I know what addiction is from the inside out, and that statement of yours is way off the mark.
Study has also shown they use drugs at a younger age compared to non pyschopaths.
And I take your response as wrong because pyschopaths are still pyschopaths even if they have other underlying issues, the pyschopath in them makes them more likely to be more vicious.
The MU, KAPA, DELTA receptors have absolutely no change in pyschopaths same as the GABA receptors, each is associated with addiction to opioids and sedatives.
· 1h ago
You are not a psychopath, so your addiction means nothing to the conversation. You also apparently are not aware of the research into the brain structure and processing of psychopaths in how it may be of assistance to addicts because of our lack of ability to be addicted to anything.
You do not know what psychopathy is. You have no idea what you are talking about. Your knowledge about it is about as accurate as me stating, people with schizophrenia have multiple personalities. It is that outdated and wrong. You are conflating serial killing and antisocial personality disorder with psychopathy. All of which is incorrect.
I have no idea why you are so insistent that you know what you are talking about, but your abject lack of information, but insistence that you have information is exactly why I write on this site. To put down the ridiculous myths like those you stated. However, unlike you, I have always backed up my answers and claims with research citations and facts. It is not conjecture that I write with.
Where do you suppose that this individual got the idea that psychopathy had anything to do with cannibalism, serial killing, and addiction? From reading books about serial killers written by authors that have no idea what the term “psychopathy” actually means, but instead are presenting psychopathy and serial killing as one and the same thing. This lack of education and investigation is surprisingly standard for nonfiction writers, but even more standard for those writing fictional works, such as movies, TV, and novels.
Neurotypical authors have a habit of thinking that psychopathy is an excellent plot device and stand-in for them doing their job, and actually writing a character. They also take inspiration from other authors that have made an equally large mess of a so-called “psychopathic character”, and regurgitate that nonsense into a reimagined version of exactly the same thing.
Let me see all the tropes that I deal with on a daily basis.
We Need To Talk About Kevin
No Country For Old Men
Any of the “femme fatales”
Light Yagami from Death Note
“L” from the same series
Sherlock Holmes (he’s not a sociopath either by the way)
I could keep listing characters, but really there is no point in doing so. There is a point in stating definitively that there has not been an accurate representation of psychopathy in any of those characters. Interestingly several of them were specifically stated to not be psychopathic, but people don’t care and insist that they are anyway, regardless of the author or character creator’s intent.
It is rare that someone actually manages to construct a psychopathic character without royally screwing it up. In the rare instances that I have seen it done successfully, the author never states that the character is a psychopath. This is wise because it gives them room to move and not mess up with a construct that few actually understand. If they write a flawless psychopathic character, but along the way the storyline insists that this character falls in love, so long as psychopathy was never stated, they are free to make this character do whatever it is that they want.
However, those that have psychopaths as characters invariably screw it up. Sometimes the mess-ups are smaller in scale, but glaringly obvious, other times the mess-ups are so ridiculous that the notion the character is a psychopath becomes so far-fetched that it’s laughable. Then there are the dreadful so-called “psychopaths” that even the experts feel the need to weigh in on and give credibility to characters that are so far off the mark it’s absurd.
This is one of the most egregious when it comes to that:
That dude was not a psychopath. He wasn’t even a good character. In fact, I think that he was dreadful incarnate, but a psychopath he was not. I often get asked why I make this statement so steadfastly when the “experts” insist that he was the “best psychopath in film”. That’s simple. Because anyone that thinks that he was remotely psychopathic is insane. Someone having alphabet soup after their name does not change how absurd this claim is.
This is the “study” that they did:
The authors investigated the relationship between cinema and psychopathy to describe and analyze the portrayal of fictional psychopathic characters in popular films and over cinematic history. From 400 films (1915–2010), 126 fictional psychopathic characters (21 female and 105 male) were selected based on the realism and clinical accuracy of their profiles. Movies were then analyzed by senior forensic psychiatrists and cinema critics. Secondary (71%) and manipulative (48%) subtypes were the most common in the female group, while secondary (51%) and prototypical (34%) were the most common in the male group. Corresponding to the increased understanding of clinical psychopathy by professional mental health providers over time, the clinical description of and epidemiological data on fictional psychopaths in popular films have become more realistic. Realistic fictional psychopaths remain in the minority but are very important for didactic purposes in Academic facilities, as “teaching Movies.”
Their reasoning for calling Chigurh a psychopath?
Javier Bardem's character in "No Country for Old Men" is a classic psychopath, Leistedt and his colleagues concluded in their report.
Chigurh approaches murder with an uncanny sense of normalcy, perfectly happy to empty his trademark bolt pistol without so much as a wince.
"He seems to be effectively invulnerable and resistant to any form of emotion or humanity," the researchers wrote.
Really? Because he kills people without caring? That is pretty common. You definitely don’t need to be a psychopath to do this. That is a pretty short reasoning list for why he’s a psychopath. What is my reasoning that he is not?
He was completely illogical and intentionally strange. Psychopaths want to blend in, and we are also very calculating. No psychopath is going to act so strangely and look so strange, that people cannot help but notice and remember him if they are a hitman.
Charm, or at least something about him other than weird would be necessary to get him hired in the first place. Something has to make you believe that your hitter is going to do the job and not murder a cafeteria full of first graders. He comes across much more like the latter, than the former.
I would never hire that guy, I would be just as likely to shoot him myself. As a crime boss, someone like that, that strange, that has seen my face, nope. Too much a loose end and a risk. That dude would have to go.
Also, no psychopath with a single firing brain cell would use something so identifiable in his murders. Where’s the logic there? He would get nailed for one, and all of them would be put on him because it is pretty easy to say, he’s the only idiot killing in this manner. Once they identify what makes that wound, they link all the murders to the guy with the cattle gun. A not very easy to lug around or conceal weapon either.
There was nothing about him that was charming, there was nothing about him that was reasonable, there was nothing about him that was realistic. They could have slapped a hockey mask on him and called him Jason for all the Hollywood stereotypes they plugged into him. The fact that professionals think that he is remotely accurate makes me laugh and wonder how they manage to put their pants on in the morning, let alone tie their own shoes.
A psychopathic hitman has to have two brain cells to rub together, which Chigurh did not. He was an excellent example of a writer getting in their own way. This is a common issue with people writing “psychopathic” characters. They are hedging on people not knowing enough about psychopathy to not call them out, and they are also depending on the separation of psychopaths from the notion of human, so people will just accept whatever crazy things they put out there about them.
Let’s Talk about Kevin was probably one of the more egregious versions of this. The movie itself is terrible. The mother that you follow the entire time is self-centered, unlikable, and totally unwilling to see where she was responsible for the way her son turned out. A real-life version of this was the Paris Bennet case. This kid murdered his little sister, and even though he is far too young to be considered psychopathic, you had best believe that he has already been labeled as one.
Here’s the thing about the real-life version, and the movie version. In both cases, it was the mother the messed up her kid. In the real-life version, it was the entire family dynamic that created the end result. How? The mother, Charity Lee, had a terrible relationship with her own mother. She was an addict whose mother was accused of murdering her father when Lee was six. She relapsed on drugs, which angered Bennet, and the existence of the little sister meant that his mother’s attention, which previously had been entirely focused on him was at best split. At worst, she focused more on the daughter than she did her son, which fostered further resentment.
Bennet outright said he murdered his sister to punish his mother, he cried on the phone when he turned himself in, and was also addicted to porn. All of which would have removed him from being considered psychopathic. Psychopathy is not created through upbringing, and murdering out of jealousy is not something that a psychopath is going to do. No oxytocin means no jealousy.
In the movie version, it was also the relationship with the mother that created the problems with Kevin. In the movie, however, she was distant and unapproachable. Interestingly, in actual serial killer cases, the relationship with the mother is often a deep part of why they do what they do.
Psychopathy becomes in many people’s minds an excuse that they can hide behind, such as calling Bennet a psychopath, or it becomes a substitution for creating a character that is compelling on their own. They will use the same narratives over and over, all based on bad information that has been perpetuated by those that come before. They will lean into things like the MacDonald Triad. They will make the character with no emotions whatsoever, but also somehow the desire to murder everyone that they come across. They make them sadists, they make them cannibals., they make them obsessive stalkers, and almost without fail, they make them wildly intelligent.
They then take this character that they cannot understand because their empathy is limited to people like them, likable to neurotypical readers without understanding a thing about what makes actual psychopaths likable.
There is a consistent need to bend psychopathy to fit whatever story the author is trying to tell, and in doing so they completely tread all over things that are core to psychopathy.
If you are trying to create a character that you first have no concept of how they might think, but also applying myths and tropes to that character, and then try to use aspects of a neurotypical that would be absent in that character in order to make that character relatable, you have failed. What’s more, you are feeding the already well-chummed waters with misinformation which ends up being considered fact for people that don’t know any better. Unfortunately, researchers are not immune to this kind of nonsense.
The fact that psychiatrists actually think that Chigurh or Lecter were good representations of psychopaths is just disappointing. I would say that I expect better of them, but we all remember the Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology who said:
“You don’t want to have these people in positions where they can cause a lot of harm,” said Wallisch. “We need a tool to identify them without their cooperation or consent.”
“The beauty of this idea is you can use it as a screening test without consent, cooperation or maybe even the knowledge of the people involved,” Wallisch said. “The ethics of this are very hairy, but so is having a psychopath as a boss, and so is having a psychopath in any position of power.” Fortunately for ethicists, the possibility is some way off yet. “This work is very preliminary,” Wallisch added. “This is not the end of an investigation, it is the very beginning.”