Tag Archives: antisocial personality disorder

9 Common Errors Authors Make about Psychological Disorders

photo by cellar door films, from WANA Commons

photo by cellar door films, from WANA Commons

by Kassandra Lamb

Do you get as frustrated as I do when you read something in a novel or short story that you know is just plain wrong?

Today I’m over at Jami Gold’s cyber-home, talking about some common mistakes authors make about psychology. Come on over and check it out!

 

9 Common Errors Authors Make about Psychological Disorders

As a retired psychotherapist, I cringe sometimes when I read inaccurate references to psychological phenomena in fiction. But as an author, I know how hard it is to get every detail right. We can’t all be experts in every field, and I’ve certainly made some cringe-worthy errors in areas outside my own expertise.

Today, I want to correct several misconceptions about psychology and psychological disorders that I’ve seen misrepresented in fiction.

One: Schizophrenia and multiple personalities are NOT the same disorder.

This common mistake is understandable because this misconception is widespread in our society…READ MORE

 

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Are Psychopaths Born or Made?

by Kassandra Lamb

We’re getting 2015 off to a great start with a joyful post on… psychopaths! Hey, we’re mystery writers; what can we say?

This is the final installment in a three-part series on Psychopaths and Serial Killers that I began back in November. We’ve got psychopaths on the brain right now because I recently released a thriller with a serial killer antagonist. And another of our authors, Vinnie Hansen, also has a psychopath in her new release, Black Beans and Venom (see her book below).

Psychopaths are totally self-centered, thrill seekers who lack empathy, remorse and rarely feel fear. They are heavily represented amongst criminals (although not all criminals are psychopaths) and con artists, but also amongst politicians and business tycoons.

mugshot of Ponzi

A color-enhanced image of the mugshot of con artist Charles Ponzi–after whom Ponzi schemes were named.

For more about their nature see the first post, What Is A Psychopath?

They make up roughly 3% of the U.S. male population and 1% of the females. A much smaller (thank God!) subgroup of psychopaths are serial killers. To read more about what makes them tick, go to my guest post on the subject HERE.

The question I’m most frequently asked regarding psychopaths is whether they are born or made. The answer is “Yes.” They are both born and made.

Lots of research tells us there’s a genetic predisposition to antisocial behavior, i.e., behavior that goes against society, that defies the rules, breaks the law. This predisposition doesn’t usually come to fruition, however, unless the person grows up in a very unhealthy environment. Full-blown psychopaths almost always come from abusive backgrounds, with harsh and often inconsistent parenting.

But before I get into the details of how this works, let me point out that these are explanations for why certain children develop into psychopaths. They are not excuses for their psychopathic behavior once they are adults!

Here are the major characteristics of psychopaths, and what we know so far (or strongly suspect) about how genetics and environment interact in these areas:

1.   Lack of remorse: There seems to be something inherently wrong with the wiring of psychopaths’ brains with regard to the development of a conscience. Most children, by age five, are starting to feel guilty when they break the rules they’ve internalized from their environment. But not budding psychopaths. They don’t feel remorse or guilt as readily as most children do.

Combine this faulty wiring with inconsistent, too harsh or even downright abusive parenting that confuses the child as to what the rules are and why one should obey them, and you quickly have an out-of-control child.

2.   Lack of empathy: Another area where the wiring may be lacking to begin with is empathy, our natural ability to feel what others are feeling. On the mild to moderate end of the genetic predisposition continuum, the child is capable of feeling some empathy.

child covering eyes

photo by appropos CC 2.0 Flickr nonderivative

With the guidance of a patient, loving parent, this empathy can be nurtured. I’ve seen a couple real-life examples of this! But in a highly dysfunctional abusive environment, that glimmer of empathy gets snuffed out early on.

3.   Learning deficits: The vast majority of people with antisocial personality disorder (the official diagnosis for psychopaths) have learning disabilities, especially attention deficit problems. Seventy-five percent have full-blown ADHD (which is genetically transmitted). The ADHD child does not make the connection between behavior and consequences nearly as readily as children normally do (Please take my word for this so I can spare you the long, boring brain-malfunction explanation).

Children with ADHD often don’t get it that what they just did is the cause of the punishment the parent or teacher is inflicting on them. From their perspective, the adult is just being mean, for some inexplicable reason. Put a child with these learning deficits in an environment where discipline is very inconsistent and often way too harsh, and you end up with a very confused and pissed-off kid.

4.   Hard to arouse nervous system: Another genetic piece, and this is the biggie for those of us who write and read mysteries and thrillers, is that people with antisocial personality disorder (i.e., psychopaths) inherit a nervous system that is not easily stimulated. It takes a huge amount of stimulation for them to feel excitement, or much feeling at all for that matter.

a bungee jumper

Bungee jumper–not that I’m saying all bungee jumpers are psychopaths (photo by Ellywa from nl CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia)

So psychopaths are constantly looking for a thrill that will make them feel something. They may find it in a variety of activities–dangerous sports, reckless driving, drinking and drugging, gaining power over others in their family or in the workplace, stealing, pulling off a con or getting away with other criminal behavior, physical violence, sexual aggression… You get the picture.

5.  Impulsivity: Another factor that is strongly influenced by genetics is a high tendency to be impulsive. This personality trait is roughly 60% inherited and 40% influenced by environment. A child who inherits a high tendency for impulsivity is going to be a challenge for the best of parents. If that child grows up in a very dysfunctional, abusive environment where little effort is made to teach self-control, he or she is going to be extremely impulsive.

Impulsive reactions is a definite characteristic of the psychopathic antagonist in Vinnie’s new release, Black Beans and Venom. I have read this story and it is a real page-turner. The book came out in ebook just before Christmas, and is now available in paperback as well.

Please check it out below, and then talk to me in the comments. Does this make sense to you how nature and nurture (or the lack thereof in this case) come together to create these monsters? Have you known any people who qualified as psychopaths? Did they have this kind of history?

book cover Black Beans and Venom, A Carol Sabala Mystery

No one wants P.I. Carol Sabala to take the case. Her boss is apprehensive about an illegal investigation in Cuba. Carol’s boyfriend worries about her physical safety. But the client is rolling in dough, the office has unpaid bills, and Carol chafes under the mundane tasks assigned to her.

In Old Havana, Carol sets off to track down Megan, the client’s missing daughter, who is battling metastasizing cancer and running from a sociopathic boyfriend. Struggling in the exotic world of the island, Carol races to find Megan, before the disease or her ex-boyfriend kills her.

Available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Sometimes Truth is Stranger than Fantasy

by Kassandra Lamb

Today, I’m over at Marcy Kennedy’s cyber-home, talking about how Truth is sometimes stranger than any fantasy an author can make up. Check it out!

Picture of serial killer, Yed Bundy

Serial killer, Ted Bundy, SMILING as he leaves the Leon County, Fla. Courthouse where he was just convicted of  murder, 1979 (from The Florida Memory Project–CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

When Marcy graciously invited me to guest post on her blog (thanks so much, Marcy!), I wondered what the heck I would write about since I write traditional mysteries and thrillers, not fantasy or sci-fi like she does.

Then I asked myself, why is it that I don’t write fantasy? (BTW, I talk to myself a lot.) The answer came back that it’s because I’ve seen so much weird, surreal stuff on this planet during my years as a psychotherapist. In my newly released thriller, I explore one of the most surreal phenomena on the Earth plane–the serial killer.

A few weeks ago I posted about psychopaths. They are totally self-centered thrill seekers who feel little or no empathy, remorse or fear. Pretty scary folks!

Unfortunately, psychopaths (i.e. those who have antisocial personality disorder–the official diagnosis) make up 3% of males and 1% of females in the U.S. and at least 1.7% of the Canadian population. Fortunately, only a very small percentage of psychopaths become serial killers.

An FBI Symposium in 2008 attempted to come up with a simple definition of serial murder…  READ MORE

This Thursday, 12/4, I’m over at Jen Jensen’s place, talking about The Story Behind the Story

Next Tuesday, 12/9, I wind up my blog tour back here at home with Are Psychopaths Born or Made?

Don’t forget to enter my CONTEST to celebrate the release of my new book, Fatal Forty-Eight:

silver charmYou can enter multiple times.

Win a $20 Amazon gift card, a silver charm or key chain (winner’s choice) and a signed paperback copy of any of the Kate Huntington full-length novels (again, winner’s choice).

key chainThe contest runs through December 5th! The winner will be announced the following week. (If the winner is outside the U.S./Canada, a gift card of comparable value may be substituted.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

What Is a Psychopath? (plus a New Release & Giveaway)

by Kassandra Lamb

Today is Veterans Day–a day set aside to honor those who have served in the military to protect our country. I don’t think there are enough words in the English language to express how grateful we should be to military personnel today.

female soldier saluting

They are facing a new breed of enemy that may very well be the most evil our world has produced to date. When I watch the news reports about ISIS and other groups like them, I shudder.

These are not religious fanatics. These are psychopaths using religion to justify their sick actions. They exhibit all the signs of psychopaths. Indeed, they are on the extreme end of the continuum and have many things in common with serial killers.

Here are some of the characteristics of psychopaths:

Psychopaths lack empathy for their fellow human beings. The smarter ones may become quite skilled at reading people’s emotions for the purpose of manipulating them, but they feel little or no concern or sympathy for others.

Psychopaths have no conscience. They intellectually understand what the rules are but have no qualms about breaking them. They don’t feel remorse or guilt.

Psychopaths are constantly seeking thrills. They have a very high arousal threshold, i.e., they inherit a nervous system that is not easily stimulated. It takes a huge amount of stimulation for them to feel excitement, or any feeling at all. Everyday life, that most of us find quite satisfying, bores them and leaves them feeling dead inside.

So while the rest of us are seeking ways to relax from the stress of daily life, they are constantly engaging in extremely stimulating activities just to feel alive. They drive recklessly, drink heavily and use drugs, seek power over others, commit crimes and are violent and sexually aggressive.

Gerard John Schaefer (note that he is smiling in a mug shot!) boasted privately of murdering over 30 women and girls. He was a deputy sheriff at the time of his arrest.

Gerard John Schaefer (note that he is smiling in a mug shot!) boasted privately of murdering over 30 women and girls. He was a deputy sheriff at the time of his arrest.

Psychopaths feel little or no fear. Since it takes a tremendous amount of stimulation for them to feel anything, they don’t feel afraid when the rest of us would. The situation’s got to be pretty damn terrifying before they feel even a flicker of fear.

So they don’t fear going to jail, or even dying. Indeed, some view dying as the ultimate thrill! And they can pass lie-detector tests with flying colors, while lying through their teeth. Those tests are based on the premise that people are anxious when they lie. Not psychopaths! They’re not afraid of getting caught in a lie, because they’re not afraid of much of anything.

You see why I’m equating them with ISIS. *shudder*

Later this month, I’ll explore the origins of this pathology in a post here, and on December 2nd I’ll be talking more about serial killers on Marcy Kennedy’s blog.

Today, I want to dispel several myths about psychopaths.

One is that they are often brilliant. Nope. They run the gamut from stupid to brilliant, just like the rest of us. The dumb ones engage in high risk behaviors and criminal activities early on. They either get killed or get caught and spend a lot of time in jail (although not all criminals are psychopaths, by any stretch).

The smarter ones become politicians, business executives, lawyers, cops, and con artists. They may be very successful in their chosen professions because they are quite ruthless; it doesn’t bother them a bit to climb over others to get to the top. Not all politicians and business executives are psychopaths, and definitely the vast majority of lawyers and police officers are not! But psychopaths can be attracted to law enforcement because of the power involved.

Another myth about psychopaths is that they are obvious monsters or highly dysfunctional loners. Some are the latter. Most are neither. They look like everybody else on the surface. They get married, hold down jobs, may even be civic or church leaders! They figure out how to fit in, but behind closed doors they are seeking those thrills, often in twisted ways.

 The BTK killer, Dennis Rader, killed ten victims in and around Wichita, Kansas. He sent sixteen written communications to the news media over a thirty-year period, taunting the police and the public. He was married with two children, was a Boy Scout leader, served honorably in the U.S. Air Force, was employed as a local government official, and was president of his church. –July, 2008, FBI symposium report on Serial Murder.

As mentioned before, the degree of psychopathic tendencies exists on a continuum. On the milder end, we have those who get their thrills through dangerous sports, drinking and using recreational drugs, and controlling their families. In the moderate range, we have more heavy-duty drug abuse, more violent behavior and more of a tendency to engage in criminal activity. Many rapists and a fair number of those more ruthless politicians and business executives are in this group.

On the severe end of the continuum, you have the very violent criminals (including more sadistic rapists), the totally ruthless business executives and politicians, and serial killers.

Psychopaths make up 3% of the male population and 1.8% of the females in this country. That’s three men out of every hundred, so you have probably known a few of them!

Why am I so obsessed with psychopaths these days, beyond the fact that they are gathering in the Middle East right now under the ISIS flag? My protagonist Kate Huntington is pitted against one in my new thriller, in which a serial killer kidnaps her friend and former boss, Sally Ford.

Please check out my new release, and then talk to me in the comments. Do you realize now that you’ve known some real psychopaths in your lifetime?  Oh, and be sure to enter the contest below as well!

book cover FATAL FORTY-EIGHT, A Kate Huntington Mystery

Celebration turns to nightmare when psychotherapist Kate Huntington’s guest of honor disappears en route to her own retirement party. Kate’s former boss, Sally Ford, has been kidnapped by a serial killer who holds his victims exactly forty-eight hours before killing them.

With time ticking away, the police allow Kate and her P.I. husband to help with the investigation. The FBI agents involved in the case have mixed reactions to the “civilian consultants.” The senior agent welcomes Kate’s assistance as he fine-tunes his psychological profile. His voluptuous, young partner is more by the book. While she locks horns out in the field with Kate’s husband, misunderstandings abound back at headquarters.

But they can ill afford these distractions. Sally’s time is about to expire.

Half price thru tomorrow ~ just $1.99 on  AMAZON   BARNES & NOBLE   KOBO   APPLE

And now for the contest:

silver charm

Are you feeling lucky? Sign up here to win a  prize! You can enter multiple times.

Win a $20 Amazon gift card, a silver charm or key chain (winner’s choice) and a signed paperback copy of any of the Kate Huntington full-length novels (again, winner’s choice).

key chain(If the winner is outside the U.S./Canada, a gift card of comparable value may be substituted.)

The contest runs through December 5th! The winner will be announced the following week.

Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Can Psychopaths Be Cured?

I’ve written a couple guest posts for my friend and colleague, Stacy Green, over at Get Twisted on the topic of psychopaths. In those posts, I talked about how they develop and how they are different from narcissists.

Another question people often ask is how treatable psychopaths are. Can they be cured?

The short answer is ‘No.’  But have you all ever known me to settle for a short answer. 🙂

The official diagnosis given to a psychopath is antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Personality disorders in general are hard to treat for two reasons. One, they are so ingrained in the person’s make-up. The person has grown up in an environment (and in the case of ASPD, with a genetic predisposition) that has shaped their personality in a warped way. So when treating personality disorders, one is truly trying to change the leopard’s spots!

leopard

Go ahead, try to change my spots. I dare you!

Two, with many personality disorders the person with the disorder thinks they are okay and the rest of the world is crazy or stupid. To their thinking, being extremely rigid or paranoid or emotionally reactive or egocentric (these are the hallmark symptoms of four different personality disorders) is normal. Or they view their personalities as an acceptable alternative to normal; they just march to a different drummer.  They don’t get it that their behaviors and ways of thinking are maladaptive.

With the other personality disorders, there is some hope, however. If you can show the person how their behavior is causing problems in their lives and/or hurting the people they care about, you may be able to get them motivated to try to change. It will still be an uphill battle because the symptoms are so ingrained, but it’s worth a try.

For ASPD, the hallmark symptoms are egocentrism, thrill-seeking, lack of remorse, lack of empathy for others and lack of fear of consequences for their behavior.

The three “lack of’s” are a major problem when trying to get a psychopath to change. They have no motivation to do so. If you feel no guilt for your behavior, don’t really care how you’re hurting others, and don’t care what negative consequences you may suffer for your behavior, well, why would you want to change?

bungee jumper

photo by Ellywa from nl (CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported Wikimedia Commons)

Fighting the thrill-seeking is equivalent to fighting a hard-core addiction. They are addicted to the adrenaline rush. And again, they have no motivation to give it up since they experience little or no fear of consequences (see The Making of a Psychopath for an explanation of why they are thrill-seeking and feel so little fear).

Usually the only way to make any inroads toward change in psychopaths is to play on their ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude. The therapeutic approach with them is tough love, minus the love. You get in their faces and show them what a dumbf**k they are for doing what they’re doing.

Don’t try this at home! This approach is used mainly when they are in jail, i.e. when they are locked up in a cage and cannot follow you home and kill you for dissing them.

IF you can show them that it is in their own self-interest to change, then they MIGHT be motivated to do so. But you’re still up against that deeply ingrained issue.

Two caveats here. First, ASPD, like all psychological disorders, exists on a continuum. People with milder cases are easier to reach than those in the middle or toward the more hard-core end of that continuum.

Second, kids with Oppositional Deviant Disorder and/or Conduct Disorder (the childhood precursors to ASPD) can possibly be reached if the intervention is early enough and the right kind of approach (see The Making of A Psychopath for an example of this).

But once an adult is showing blatant signs of full-blown ASPD, don’t hold your breath that they are ever likely to change all that much.

Have you ever known anyone that you suspect may be a psychopath? Did you see any motivation in them to change? In the case of criminals with this disorder, do you think this diagnosis should play into sentencing and parole decisions?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press on Tuesdays, sometimes about serious topics, and sometimes just for fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Are Psychopaths/Serial Killers Born or Raised? Yes, All of the Above.

Sorry, no post here because I am the guest of Stacy Green today over at Turning the Page, talking about The Making of a Psychopath–the Ultimate Thrill Seeker–how psychopaths and serial killers are both born and raised. Guaranteed to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck!

But before you hop over there, check out the contest below if you haven’t already entered. And I’ve got a Fun Friday post planned for this week on Christmas shopping–Are you a Pro-crastinator or a Pre-crastinator?

THE Celebrity Status (Book 4 in the Kate Huntington Mystery series) CONTEST!

Win a $30 gift card and more (everyone who enters gets a FREE e-book copy of Multiple Motives, the first book in the series) HERE!

This book is also available in paperback. Good luck to everyone who enters!

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

 

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us (by filling in your e-mail address toward the top of the column on the right) so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!