I have been writing over on Quora for a long time, and I often get the question why do I write about psychopathy? What is my motivation? What are my end goals?
All of these are good questions. Some of them have answers, and others do not. When I first came across Quora I found a general lack of information, misinformation, or some information that would fall into the disinformation, or mal-information categories. Many of these things wouldn’t be particularly interesting to me if it was small in quantity, but that was not the case at all. The more I read, the more I noticed that psychopathy as a whole was completely broken in terms of understanding.
The main things that I found when reading were anything from this:
Psychopaths & Self Identity
Psychopaths have no self identity, they have nothing that comes from within that is authentic or genuine. This is why he/she cannot live alone, they're addiction is to literally create an identity through mirroring you and your personality, then sucking out the best of you, to leave the rest of you depleted. This is why they are often referred to as energy vampires, psychic vampires and so on. They are able to mirror you so well, become "just like you" because they also have no empathy, so it is much easier to deceive you. As quickly as they attach is as easily as they detach from you. Just like a vampire...just a like a parasite....
Or, even worse the next one, which I didn’t find on Quora, it was on a site called, “Psychopathic Writings”. Bear with it, it’s long. I would just link to the site, but apparently, it was recently taken down.
I'm a woman, and I'm a Psychopath!
I was diagnosed at the age of 18 - like our host. I'm proud of being me! Damn proud! And I'm tired of stereotypes, so guess what: I'm breaking out!
I'm going big, guys! Or I'm heading big, anyway!... And I know I've got what it takes!...
I think it's time I introduce a friend and female psychopath:
Hello everybody, I'm Zadie... But I go by the name Toxy.
- Yeah, you can call me Toxy.
I'm a woman, and I'm a psychopath....A diagnosed psychopath at that. Yep, it's all true.
I was diagnosed at the age of 18 - like him over there, your host, Zhawq. Indeed, we're two of a kind if there ever were such a thing amongst psychopaths.
The following excerpt from the book 'Snakes in Suits' by Dr. Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., and Paul Babiak, Ph.D, says it all sooo very well about female psychopaths. In a nutshell, it is a description me!
And I'll say it like it is: I'm proud of what I am, I'm proud of being me! Damn proud! And I'm tired of being strung up by stereotypes, so guess what, guys and gals: I'm breaking out! - Don't get me wrong, I can be nice as a kitten when it suits my fancy... or a good purpose - My purpose!... But it's time that we women get out there and shape a bit of what's our pie too, and I'm gonna have my piece! You better believe it!
You'll be hearing more from me, guys!...
"Why aren't there any female psychopaths," an interviewer asked one of the authors. The fact that she could ask such a question reflects a curious wrinkle on sexism: the view, held by many people, that relatively few female psychopaths exists in society--or even prisons--and that those who do exist differ in fundamental ways from their male counterparts.
The issue is clouded by sex-role biases in the diagnosis of the disorder. Thus, when a female and a male each exhibit a psychopathic pattern of core personality traits--grandiose, egocentric, selfish, irresponsible, manipulative, deceitful, emotionally shallow, callous, and lacking in empathy, remorse, and guilt--a clinician will often diagnose the male as apsychopath (or antisocial personality disorder) and the female as something else, usually histrionic or narcissistic personality disorder.
In each case the clinician's diagnosis is influenced by expectations of how psychopaths should behave. That is, the clinician expects psychopaths to be tough, dominant, and aggressive, and a woman who does not project these characteristics therefore is not a psychopath. What the clinician fails to understand is that the behaviors of male and female psychopaths, like those of most other people, are shaped by the sex-role stereotypes cultivated by society. The same underlying personality structure may find different behavioral and social expression.
Although the process of socialization fails to embed in the psyche of psychopaths the network of inner controls we refer to collectively as conscience, it nevertheless makes them aware of society's expectations about sex-roles, of what is expected of them as men and women. More than most people, they effectively use these expectations as potent tools for manipulation. So a female psychopath might make full use of the passive, warm, nurturing, and dependent sex-role stereotype in order to get what she wants out of others, just as a male psychopath might use a macho image, intimidation, and aggression to achieve satisfaction of his desires.
Female psychopaths effectively use society's expectations about female behavior to their own advantage. But, more than most women, they also are able to break out of the traditional sex-role stereotypes, to go beyond conventional boundaries. This is readily apparent among female offenders, where the prevalence of psychopaths is almost as high as it is among male offenders. The variety an severity of criminal acts performed by these women, as well as their capacity for cold-blooded violence, are similar to those committed by their male counterparts.
Sex-role stereotypes about the behavior of women are changing rapidly. In a sense, the public is just catching up with a reality that long has been recognized by writers and those in the entertainment business. Female psychopaths frequently are well portrayed in fiction, true-crime books, television, and movies.
This all sums me up perfectly. So perfectly in fact, that when I read it I went: "Damn!", and "YES!!, That's how it is!! Strange as it may sound that someone like myself would find it nice to see myself outed like that, it is how I felt. It was a good moment. It was a moment of receiving recognition for being me, and I wouldn't want to be anyone else. I'm very fine with being who and what I am, and I'm good at it!
In a way it's funny, for I've never had problems getting recognized for my existence, as a psychopath, or as anything else I wanted to be recognized for! ... I have been recognized for being 'all that' and more, I can be sexy, soft, playful, supportive and oh, so loving. In fact that's what I am a lot of the time, and I have the looks to go with it too.
But I want more. I'm ready for more, and I'm gonna GET more! Others can come along for the ride if you're up to it, there's plenty of room for allies, because I'm heading for something more than just the scraps this time!
I'm going big, guys! Or I'm heading big, anyway!... And I know I've got what it takes, the question is more if any of you out there has what it takes to hang and keep up with me!?
It's not a problem though. There're always someone or somebody who can see when someone's got the goods, which Zhawq and me certainly do!...
If there're other female psychopaths out there, who know that's what you are, and you have the greed and the motivation, send me a line! I'll be glad to hear from ye, there's a world out there waiting for us, ripe for the taking!...
Oh, and yeah: If there're guys who're with me on the idea that women get a few kicks in too, you're more than welcome to send me one as well.
Email address redacted
Hear from you soon!...
Still with me, or did your brain melt? It’s absolutely dreadful, but that is how psychopathy was thought of. Either ridiculous ideas about psychopaths being “energy vampires: (cue eye-rolling), or such fanciful and obnoxious writing that no one could possibly take it seriously… right?
So many people were in one of these camps. Add to this the notion that psychopathy in females was borderline personality disorder, that all psychopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are psychopaths, and of course the serial killer thing.
If you read my last post you know that I was no better informed when I was diagnosed. However, it did seem like psychopathy was a free-for-all when it came to how people talked about it. Either psychopaths were extremely evil, or they were amazing spectacular things that were better than neurotypicals. Neither position seemed reasonable to me.
On the one side, it was a bevy of people that diagnosed their exes. The amount of hatred and vitriol I saw in those posts was unreal, and the more I wrote, the more often they would comment on my answers telling me that I was the epitome of evil, and deserved death. Psychopaths aren’t human after all.
On the other side, it was people living in an absolute fantasy world. When I first came to the site there was a guy that stopped writing maybe three months before I arrived. At first glance, his posts seemed reasonable, if not off from my experience. Perhaps this could be accounted for in the fact that he was a male, and I, a female. However, the more I read, the more I saw that this individual while being able to present a fairly convincing front, in fact, was not psychopathic at all. Not only was he not psychopathic, he was putting on this facade with at least three fake profiles, and was not a male at all.
He spent copious amounts of time in his comment section “diagnosing” teenagers, and they would then adopt his stances, and parrot them. This drove an incredible amount of misinformation, and that misinformation was then, of course, applied to me, as this person was considered an “authority”.
Back then, a fair amount of why I continued writing had to do with it was interesting, and continues to be to this day. Writing has always been something that I am good at, and the question and answer format gave me things to think about and consider that I had previously never had. However, another motivating factor was the above misinformation. It seemed to be such a quagmire of bad information, terrible opinions, and even more dreadful role-playing, that I figured the very thing that entertained me, could also be useful.
So, I wrote, and did so a fair amount. I also spent a fair amount of time conversing with professionals in both psychology and neuroscience and gained a lot of new information. The more I learned, the more interesting things I understood about psychopathy, and specific things about me moved from the realm of interesting personality or individual quirk, to actually explainable aspects related directly to psychopathy. That made it even more entertaining.
The more I dug into studies, and began to understand the behind-the-scenes about research, the motivations in the research, and the almost predetermined outcomes, I started to have significant doubts about the professional conclusions about psychopathy. I went through a fair amount of that in the posts regarding Robert Hare. You can find them at the bottom if you haven’t previously read them.
Seeing the poor construction of studies was fairly annoying. They were making sweeping statements about what a psychopath can and cannot do, and their conclusions were based on almost no information. In a previous post about psychopathy and sadism I included this paragraph from an article:
In another new study aimed at elucidating the workings of the psychopathic brain, researchers at King’s College London explored the differences between people with psychopathy and those with another dangerous personality type: antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, views psychopathy as basically the most extreme type of ASPD, but increasingly, research suggests that they are separate. **“Nobody had ever done [a brain-imaging] study contrasting people with ASPD and psychopathy,” says lead author Nigel Blackwood.
to which I responded:
**Did you see that bolded part? The part where they have done no studies to compare and contrast ASPD and psychopathy? Granted, this article is from 2012, so ten years ago, but the conclusions about what makes up the idea of psychopathy, specifically the notions that the PCL-R has put in place, are far older than that. Most studies since then have been built on the understanding that ASPD and psychopathy are the same things. Not doing the work to demonstrate the difference, brain scans comparing and contrasting them, is a huge part of the body of misinformation. This is going to be a part of a larger post I think.
Seriously? They can’t be bothered to look at the very definition of what they are studying before drawing conclusions? How can you draw any conclusions? That is like saying, well, we have these dogs over here… and we have these cats that like to play fetch… clearly they are the same thing.
I spent the time, and I tracked down the study. It was dreadful. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is a study that should be done, but the cohort alone makes it worthless. Check it out:
The researchers used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of 44 violent adult male offenders diagnosed with Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD). Crimes committed included murder, rape, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm. Of these, 17 met the diagnosis for psychopathy (ASPD+P) and 27 did not (ASPD-P). They also scanned the brains of 22 healthy non-offenders.
The study found that ASPD+P offenders displayed significantly reduced grey matter volumes in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex and temporal poles compared to ASPD-P offenders and healthy non-offenders. These areas are important in understanding other people’s emotions and intentions and are activated when people think about moral behaviour. Damage to these areas is associated with impaired empathising with other people, poor response to fear and distress and a lack of ‘self-conscious’ emotions such as guilt or embarrassment.
First of all… seventeen people. Seventeen? *head on desk*, you can’t draw conclusions from seventeen people regarding anything. It’s a laughable number.
Next, all of them are violent offenders. This should have been a disqualifier, not something to use as an inclusive basis. Violent people have violent encounters, and violent encounters tend to result in head injuries. Many people that have head injuries will have reduced grey matter as a result. It also can make them violent. Also there is this:
According to jail and prison studies, 25-87% of inmates report having experienced a head injury or TBI 17-19 as compared to 8.5% in a general population reporting a history of TBI.20
Inmates who reported head injuries are more likely to have disciplinary problems during incarceration.21
Inmates with head injuries may have seizures19 or mental health problems such as anxiety22 or suicidal thoughts and/or attempts.22,23
Studies of inmates’ self-reported health indicated that inmates with one or more head injuries have significantly higher levels of alcohol and/or drug use during the year preceding their current incarceration.22
The U.S. Department of Justice has reported that 52% of female and 41% of male offenders were under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both at the time of their arrest,24 and that 64% of male arrestees tested positive for at least one of five illicit drugs (cocaine, opioids, marijuana, methamphetamines, or PCP).25
Although more than half of prison inmates have a lifetime history of drug use disorders,26 fewer than 15% receive substance abuse treatment services while in prison.27
Believe me, I get it. Finding psychopaths to study is hard, but if you are going to do it, at least do it right. If not, seriously, what is the point? They used seventeen people, with violent histories, as a cohort to draw conclusions about how psychopathic brains look.
You might wonder what this has to do with why I write about psychopathy. Well, for starters it is to illustrate the absolutely terrible job the professionals are doing when studying it. This matters. If they throw everything in a pot, have no clear and reasonable parameters, and draw conclusions on a barely present sample study, nothing that they state has any merit. That is a problem.
Psychopathy is a real thing, and it can be looked at and studied in a manner that is constructive and informative. However, to do that, it first has to be acknowledged that the way that it has been done so far is garbage. I was recently reading something about how cohorts are constructed for drug and vaccine trials. They have many different groups that they construct and study. Women, men, different ages, children, different health conditions, and their cohorts are thousands of people often. Even with all of that data that they collect, they don’t draw definitive conclusions, they say consistent with, or the study provides further information, or this study supports previous data.
That is not the case with psychopathy. Instead, it’s:
Psychopathic criminals can switch empathy off and on, research suggests
'Psychopaths' have an impaired sense of smell, study suggests
Psychopaths Feel Fear But See No Danger
Nope. None of these are correct, but people believe them. Part of why I write is to show people not to simply take the word of an article detailing something in research. Take that empathy switch article. The study didn’t even remotely demonstrate that. Instead, they stated:
With these limitations in mind, our results shed new light on the neural basis of psychopathy in two ways. First, they point to reduced vicarious activity in regions involved in performing actions, feeling touch and experiencing emotions, that are considered functional markers of empathy, as a possible neural basis for the reduced empathy and antisocial behaviour, central to psychopathy.
For most of us, seeing someone get hurt triggers vicarious activity in pain areas. This vicarious pain gives us an ‘egoistic’ reason to refrain from antisocial behaviour; do not hurt others because it (vicariously) hurts you (Miller and Eisenberg, 1988). In psychopathy, reduced somatosensory, insula and anterior cingulate vicarious activations could disinhibit antisocial behaviour. Because we found these deficits to be independent of video type, they suggest reduced empathy even for the pleasure of others.
They literally found the opposite of what the articles claimed. However, no one reads the study, they don’t even read the article even though it’s wrong. They just read the title and think that they know what they are talking about. I’m not blind to the fact that most people do not want to read, and often do not know how to read a study. That is not in their wheelhouse, and frankly, it is boring to a lot of people.
I do read the studies, however, and then I try to make that information accessible to people that do not. That another part of why I write outside of it entertains me. Part of my motivation is to drag this stuff out into the light of day and call attention to it. Otherwise, the narrative stays the same, and I very much dislike misinformation.
Well now, what are my goals you might wonder?
Sorry to inform you all, but I really don’t have any. That is part of being psychopathic. I have never planned any of this. Not one aspect has been planned. You know that interview with Jeremy Vine that I did? I blew him off for four months because I assumed he was just another fake trying to get me to give them my contact information. If you guys ever want that story, let me know. It was kind of fun. Not for him, I think he found it very confusing, but it was for me, and that’s all that matters.
There is work on a book, but I haven’t done a whole lot of it lately. The idea originally was to make it a compilation of my Quora answers, and that still may be what happens. However, I have thousands of them, and a lot of them are repeat answers because I get asked the same questions like clockwork, and Quora’s merge policy is ridiculous. That means I have to go through them and sort them. I have to weed out all the duplicates, all the ones that have nothing to do with psychopathy, all the ones that I answered later on, but answered more clearly and concisely than the original. All of which is going to take a while, and finding the willingness to do the work is not the easiest thing for me.
If I really took the time to think about what I would like my writing to do, outside of entertaining me, maybe get the younger generation going into research more of a critical eye on study construction, and the conclusions drawn. Frankly, I don’t see research in psychopathy changing a great deal until two things happen.
Robert Hare is no longer around. I am not wishing harm on the man, but his influence is overtly constricting the research into psychopathy, and it is clear that will not change until he no longer has the ability to stop or slow it as he has in the past.
They stop studying it in prisons. By all means, study psychopaths that are criminals, but don’t draw the conclusion that they are criminals because they are psychopathic. That’s ridiculous. If that were true, are we going to start pointing to other immutable characteristics of a person and say that is why they are a criminal? I certainly hope not.
Psychopathy being studied in prisons, and the way that the studies are constructed has to be overhauled. The bolded section of that article that spoke about the brain differences in ASPD versus psychopathy having never been studied? That was from 2012. A lot of conclusions about psychopathy predate that time period and still stand not only unchallenged to this day, but still believed to be accurate information regarding psychopathy even though the people put into the studies likely were not. Until 2012 they hadn’t even tried to separate ASPD and psychopathy in terms of brain scans, but they are wildly different.
If those two things are resolved, perhaps there is information in my writing that will give some clarity on what not to do going forward.
It also seems to be necessary for there to be more understanding of psychopathy in general, and that only comes about by directly challenging the assumptions. People still want psychopaths to carry the brunt of being the evilest villain imaginable, but that isn’t sustainable if people use their critical thinking to really consider that. Hopefully, my writing provides some insight into what psychopathy is, and what it is not. Otherwise, I enjoy doing it, and finding things that entertain me is fairly important.
Here are the links to the series on Robert Hare for those of you that have not seen it, but are interested: