Tag Archives: psychopath

Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Other Bad Guys and Gals

by Kassandra Lamb

By far, the most popular posts on our site are those discussing psychopaths:  What Is a Psychopath?, Are Psychopaths Born or Made?, and Can Psychopaths Be Cured?

Why are we humans so fascinated by these people who are essentially evil incarnate? I don’t have a good answer for that, but I don’t think it means we like that evil. Perhaps we are so intrigued because it is hard to fathom how some people can end up that way.

Today, I’m hanging out over at Jami Gold’s cyber-home, talking about psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists and other kinds of villains. What are the differences between these labels? How do the people who merit these labels behave? And what causes these pathological patterns of behavior?

Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Other Bad Guys and Gals

One of the toughest tasks we authors face is deciding how to portray our bad guys and gals. Will we make them out to be misguided and conflicted souls, or totally evil psychopaths, or somewhere in between? And exactly what is a psychopath anyway?

Legend of Sleepy Mayfair coverThis question came up for me recently as I finished up a Halloween story in my cozy mystery series. I was tempted to go the conflicted soul route and have my antagonist be at least partially redeemed at the end, but some of the things this antagonist was destined to do, it would take a full-blown psychopath to go there. So that’s the direction I had to take.

Sometimes, like in this case, the plot dictates how evil and lacking in remorse the antagonist must be, but other times, most times really, we may want to have at least some positive traits in our bad guys.

So how to do that and still be true to human nature? (As it really is, not how it is portrayed all too often in movies and TV shows.)

What Is a Psychopath Anyway?

First, let me clarify our terminology. Sociopath and psychopath are essentially the same thing. They are two different words, coined at different points in the history of the mental health field, but referring to the same people … and neither is still officially used in the field today.

The official terminology is now antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and members of the mental health field will rarely use the terms sociopath or psychopath in any official capacity.

But saying “a person with antisocial personality disorder” is a bit cumbersome, so mental health professionals, especially in conversations with lay people, may unofficially use the word psychopath.

I will come back to the concept of sociopath in a bit.

So again, what is a psychopath exactly, i.e., someone with ASPD? They are noted for several personality traits, the most troublesome being a lack of remorse and inability to feel empathy for others. They engage in antisocial behaviors, such as aggression, stealing, lying, etc., with no concern for who they are harming. Indeed, they often get off on the sense of power that harming others gives them. They also tend to be thrill-seeking and impulsive.

What is a psychopath? A man who smiles for his mugshot.

This psychopath has just been arrested for multiple murders. He is smiling for the mugshot.

They have a very high threshold for stimulation, a fancy way of saying that it takes a lot to make them feel anything. So normal life, that would make most of us quite happy, feels incredibly boring to them. Thus the thrill-seeking. Also, their high threshold for stimulation keeps them from feeling fear in situations that most of us would find quite scary (like being arrested).

This means they will do some pretty outrageous things, either ignoring or rationalizing away the potential negative consequences for themselves. The really smart ones, however, may meticulously plan out their evil deeds, but this lack of fear can often be their downfall.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is caused by a combination of genetics and a harsh, abusive environment growing up. More on this in a moment.

Other Bad Guys and Gals

Sometimes we will want our antagonists to be basically good people who find themselves in bad situations. Maybe something pointed them down the wrong road—an event where they did something bad accidentally, or in self defense, and are now tortured by guilt about it. Maybe something extremely important to them is at risk and therefore they are willing to violate their moral code in order to protect it.

These bad guys and gals will feel guilt regarding their behavior, but they will push it aside as best they can and/or rationalize it, sometimes via displaced anger … READ MORE

And stay tuned. Next week, I will delve further into how authors develop the villains in their stories.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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

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True Crime and Criminals

daffodils

Happy First Day of Spring!!

We’re using this “off” week to announce something special for you all.

We’re in the process of gathering the most fascinating tidbits from our archived posts into topic pages.

The first of these are now live under the parent page: True Crime and Criminals.  Check them out!

Sophie Lyons, pickpocket and con woman

Sophie Lyons (1848-1924) thief, pickpocket and con woman

True Crime and Crime-fighters in History by K.B. Owen

The Making of a Psychopath by Kass Lamb

Here are the other parent pages (with some of the topic pages under each) that we will be releasing over the next few months:

Spooky Side Up (Exploring the Paranormal, True Ghost Stories)

Mental Health Musings (Stress Management, Relationships, Self-esteem, etc.)

On Writing (Tips for Writers, Where the Research Takes Us, Conferences, etc.)

On Reading (Book Reviews, Mystery Author Interviews)

So stay tuned! And also check back next week for another interesting mystery author interview with Jenna Harte.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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. 🙂 )

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/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.

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