1. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Books about psychopaths

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Poziga, Dec 17, 2014.

    Hello. :)

    The name of the thread says it all. Do you know any good books about psychopaths or psychopathy? I don't mean novels, but actual scientific books written by psychologists. :)

    Thank you. :)
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I don't know if the author is a psychologist. I don't think he is, but there is The Psychopath Test. I can't remember who the author is off the top of my head, sorry, but it's a fascinating read.
     
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  3. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Snakes in Suits by Dr. Robert Hare
     
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  4. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I haven't read it but "The Stranger Beside Me" is about Ted Bundy. I think it's safe to say he was a psychopath. Ann Rule has a good reputation as an author. Not written by a psychologist but it's considered a factual account.
     
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  7. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    A book I came accross is called The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley.
    The author is an American psychiatrist with an incredible depth of insight into the mind of a psychopath. He portrays
    the pschopath's conduct on various case studies. Very interesting read. Outstanding source of reference. It will give you a very clear idea of what such a person does, yet the answer to why reamains a mystery.
    The book can be found online in pdf.
     
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  8. mad_hatter
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    mad_hatter Active Member

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    I can't say I've read these (I didn't even know they existed until just a few moments ago!), so I don't know if they're any good or not. However, you question made me curious as to whether Robert Ressler had ever written any books. Apparently he has: LINK.

    Robert Ressler was the FBI profiler who coined the term, Serial Killer. He worked on many notable cases, so I imagine his books would be very interesting!
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've read several books dealing with psychopaths (after discovering I'd inadvertently created one as my novel's antagonist). Many of the lurid ones deal with the mass murderers and criminals we all have come to recognise as being 'abnormal' in some way. But what is interesting is ferreting out the books like "Snakes in Suits" and others that deal with psychopaths who do NOT become mass murderers, or even criminals.

    What becomes apparent is that all psychopaths have many traits in common. Only circumstances differ, and whatever it is they find interesting and choose to focus on, as individuals.

    Snakes In Suits manipulate the workplace to a) create a diversion for themselves so they don't get bored, and b) to produce gain for themselves. Your Psychopath in Love will manipulate a lover to a) create a diversion for him/herself, and b) to produce gain. In nearly all cases the psychopath is superficially very charming, even charismatic. They project a confidence which is attractive to many people, and it's easy to see why somebody like that might easily 'win' a job interview. However, it's a mistake to take this charm and confidence at face value. The charm is a ruse to get you to trust them, and the confidence comes from their total lack of fear and innate love of risk-taking.

    Psychopaths don't give a damn who they hurt. In fact, it goes beyond not caring. Psychopaths actually enjoy causing hurt and chaos, because it reinforces their feelings of superiority. They look down on the people they manipulate, and once the fun of creating misery passes, they move on. While they 'know' the difference between right and wrong, they use that knowledge only to manipulate others, not because they feel the difference themselves. They lack conscience. While they may be able to empathise, it's only to the degree that they achieve understanding of what another person is feeling so they can use that knowledge for manipulative purposes. They don't actually 'feel' what the other person feels.

    Treating a psychopath is very difficult, as their condition is hard-wired into their genes, and isn't something that can be removed. It can only be directed. Apparently the most effective way to re-direct behavior in a psychopath is to make the person see that certain types of behavior will be hurtful to THEM. In other words, if you commit a crime and get caught, you will go to prison. So it probably makes more sense not to commit the crime. A psychopath is usually smart enough to 'see' that this is true. Whether they re-direct their behaviour into something other than crime, or whether they re-direct their behaviour into not getting caught, is not predictible.

    Woe be to anybody who has to deal with a psychopath in their lives. Pretty awful. And in a way, awful for the psychopath as well, as they really aren't responsible for their condition. They will never be anything else.
     
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  10. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've got some great insights and advices here, thank you all. :)

    @jannert , it's an interesting topic, huh? Some psychopaths are one of the most cruel people one can think of, but people are still drawn to them and "fascinated" by them.
     
  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes it is. I spent some time thinking back over people I know and used to know, wondering if any of them could possibly have been psychopaths ...and my musings rather surprised me. The two I think were the most likely candidates were both women.

    Both were women who targetted a man who was unavailable, made him putty in her hands, and then proceded to make his life a misery by doing the hot/cold bit, undermining his confidence, making him jump through hoops to 'please' her, which never quite worked. In both cases these women strung the guys along, giving them just enough of the good stuff to keep them hanging in there, hoping things would change, and that she was just 'moody' and fascinating. Both of these women had cruel streaks as well, usually aimed at people who were quite vulnerable. But then they'd both step back from the carnage, smirking a bit, giving out the 'oh, dear, I didn't mean that...you've misunderstood me' crap.

    Both were very socially forward and 'the life and soul' of the party. However, I had a bad BAD feeling about both of them, and I discovered later on that lots of my friends, both male and female, felt the same way.

    In one instance the woman targetted a boss of mine ...somebody whom I didn't much like. In the other instance, the other woman targetted a guy who was—and still is—a very dear friend of mine. While I was protective of my friend, I was not protective of my boss. Yet the way the two women operated was SO similar. Both seemed to be chasing the guy because she could, and she used her power to destroy his self confidence ...and in the case of my boss, his marriage as well. Once he left his wife for her, she decided she 'just didn't love him any more,' and left town! In the case of my friend, she stole him from her roommate, then left him because he 'hadn't evolved.' In other words, both of them got bored once the challenge of getting the guy had passed. In both cases, once the guy (and his previous relationship) had been reduced to a wreck ...the women moved on.

    VERY nasty pieces of work, both of them. And in retrospect, I think they both may well have been psychopaths. There was lots of behaviour outwith their treatment of these men that pointed to it. And try as I could, I just could NOT work my way into liking either one of them. There was something really chilling about them. They really seemed to enjoy the chaos and misery they created.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2014
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  12. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Nice, summarizing probe. The truth is that once you have read several case studies, you develop a sense for detecting them. I agree about all the points you've made. Added to this should be their inability to attach emotionally or value a marriage bond properly (re-marrying, multiple lovers, etc.)

    Also, as regards imprisonment, they tend to be highly adroit at getting away with crimes, they are true tricksters, conmen.
    And, if imprisoned, they usually end up in a mental institution, where they can not be classified properly and are usually
    classed "sane" which is a feigned pose on their side.

    Another thing I read is that they are very skilled at "posing an emotional" or "stance" mirror, that is, one moment a person wants to talk business with them and they can appear perfectly serious -- even self-reflective -- with an insight hardly any external observer would come up with. The other moment they act contrary to that self-reflection (promise of behaviour improvement) in all points. It's like words are just clusters of sounds entailing no emotions in them.

    Reminds me of this:
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2014
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  13. Kingtype
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    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    Hahahahahahah XD.....woe....woe.....my brother is ONE!!!!!

    Sorry to laugh and to quote that all but my brother actually displays various sociopathic tendencies or at least thinks he does but certainly sociopathic traits XD. So every time conversation starts up about psychopathy and sociopathy I always get a kick out of how similar some of the traits are to him.

    Though I do wonder what he really has......

    But yeah displays sociopathic tendencies of sorts and my dad might have a narcissistic personality disorder as well.
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Here is an excellent link which explains the differences and similarities between sociopaths and psychopaths. Makes interesting reading:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wicked-deeds/201401/how-tell-sociopath-psychopath

    Key points from the article (underlining is mine) quoted below ...but there is a lot more in the article. Well worth a read.

    Obviously this is intended for the lay reader ...but as a resource for a writer who creates characters with some of these traits, this is an excellent article. In general, a sociopath acts in what we'd call a 'crazy' or hotly unpredictible and impulsive way. They are the kind of people you walk on eggshells with, for fear of 'setting them off.' A psychopath, on the other hand, is the sort you'd describe as cold, ruthless, and probably cruel, once they've shown their hand.

    ......................

    Here is another VERY useful link (for writers) detailing what a psychopath actually does feel. It's a mistake to think they don't experience any emotions. They do. But the emotions are wired entirely differently from the emotions non-psychopathic people experience. Reading through this, you can see how fascinating it will be to create a psychopath as a character:

    http://psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/the-psychopaths-emotions-what-does-he-feel/
     
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  15. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Robert Hare, drafter of the Revised Hare Psychopathy Checklist, makes the distinction that

    Psychopaths own brains are largely incapable of processing emotions like guilt, shame, sadness, or remorse, so biologically they have no more empathy for us than for lawn gnomes, whereas sociopaths were simply raised in a dog-eat-dog environment and learned to survive rather than escape.

    Basically, psychopaths ("bad mind") are mostly nature and sociopaths ("bad environment") are mostly nurture.
     
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  16. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you are in the UK then Channel 4 (might still be available on 4od) had a night about psychopaths that was quite interesting.
    One of the more interesting parts was an interview with David James the England goalkeeper, who is a psychopath. He was talking about winning a cup (I can't remember when, which club or which league), and the crowd and his team mates were going wild and doing laps of honour and celebrating, but he just felt nothing and walked off the pitch.

    It is also interesting that the percentage of psychopaths in the upper echelons of business is far higher than the average.
     
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  17. James Random
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    I hate to have to disagree with you, but I disagree with you. The brain of a psychopath is as capable of processing emotions as yours or mine, it's simply that their environment has always precluded such stimuli. Let me be clear when I say that there is no evidence for genetics behind psychopathy. Genes, to a degree, can generate propensity toward certain kinds of behaviour, but they cannot give you a value system, that always has to come from the environment no matter what. Psychopaths are always made, they're never born.

    A classic case is Albert Fish. Who used to cut off the genitals of young boys and kill them. People considered him a psychopath and that he was 'born that way' and was sentenced to death. A psychologist who took the time to study Fish, however, found that he hadn't been 'born' that way at all.

    What had happened is that, as a child, his mother had caught him masturbating. She had told him that if he did that again, he would go to Hell and burn eternally. She was a devout catholic.

    This scared the young Fish so much that he started sticking needles into his genitals to try and repent: he didn't want to go to hell. This behaviour was never seen by anyone and so was never negatively reinforced.

    And so the behaviour mutated into his serial killings. In Fish's view he wasn't murdering the children, he was saving them from Hell.

    This is one example, but there are millions of others.
     
  18. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    What I noticed from movies or series is that in most cases psychopathic killers have a pattern that is based on their childhood experience. For example I saw an episode of "Lie to me" where a psychopath left her sister to drown, as a young boy. His pattern of killing was that he kidnapped women and drowned them. Then he revived them, drowned them again... He did that a couple of times. This seems somewhat similar to your example @James Random , but yours is real life...

    My character was bullied a lot when he was little, and there was also an incident which caused him to become a psychopath. In his adult age, he kidnaps and kills children of his former bullies, to "prevent their seed to spread". I think that is quite plausible, what do you think? Plus, he thinks his work is really spot-on, so he manipulates his son to become, by @Simpson17866 's definition, a sociopath who would continue his work.

    Thanks for the links @jannert :agreed:
     
  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The case you cited sounds like a misdiagnosis, and was probably another psychological disorder altogether. A psychopath would never try to repent. He would only pretend to repent in order to get his mother off his back. Psychopaths see themselves as superior, and don't feel the need to conform to anybody else's standards of behaviour.

    I think it's a huge mistake to label anybody who commits a horrible crime as a psychopath. Somebody who hears voices in his head purportedly coming from God and murders an entire village will have committed a horrific crime and is obviously mentally disturbed ...but that person isn't a psychopath. A psychopath is cold, cunning and ruthless, and commits crimes 'because they can.' A person who has undergone trauma in childhood then mutilates children to save them from hell is severely disturbed ...but not a psychopath. If Fish had been a psychopath, he would have enjoyed murdering the children because they were 'stupid,' or because hurting them would hurt their parents. Or simply because he enjoyed doing it, and enjoyed upsetting the police and detectives who had to try to solve the case.

    Many psychopaths don't commit crimes at all. They can often be thought to be pillars of society, because they can be charismatic and clever. However, they will seek to dominate and manipulate others for their own enjoyment. Once they succeed, they move on. They are very easily bored.

    Apparently the condition IS physical and affects the part of the brain that processes emotion. It has one unrelated marker that I found interesting. Apparently many psychopaths cannot distinguish odors. They can smell an odor, but find it very difficult to identify what the odor is. They might be offered the scent of a rose, for example, but think it's the smell of bacon. The source I read a long time ago, when I first delved into this subject, mentioned this as part of the tests for psychopathy that are employed for diagnosis.

    Of course here on this forum we're not trying to diagnose psychopathy. We're learning about the personalities these people exhibit, in order to create characters. It's a horrifying, but fascinating condition. And apparently incurable.
     
  20. James Random
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    He didn't become a 'psychopath' until much later into his life.

    But let's look at the behaviour with @Poziga

    People who become psychopathic tend to be very withdrawn. They may become fascinated with certain things like guts and gore and seeing what happens to various things when they're killed in certain ways, such as cats on the railway lines, etc.

    They generally tend to not form connections very well and so, generally, tend to be loners.

    If your character is going to be a psychopath, he generally must have some sort of incident in his life that traumatised him. This doesn't have to be abusive, maybe he witnessed a gory accident or something? There always seems to be some sort of catalyst.
     
  21. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I know there has to be some moment that traumatizes my character and I'm still thinking about what could it be. Maybe he had a sister/brother and those bullies hurt her/him really bad, resulting in making my character a psychopath with disgust towards bullies...

    These things happen.. Just now, some bullies in my countries beat up an immigrant for being poor and from different country.
     
  22. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @James Random I think you're confusing "psychopath" with "future serial killer." 85% of serial killers are psychopathic, but the vast majority of psychopaths never kill anybody.

    A psychopath who's not going to be a serial killer might be more fascinated by shell games and card scams then by blood and guts, and a serial killer who's not a psychopath might have a handful of friends that he genuinely keeps on a "don't kill" list.

    As for them being "loners," psychopaths can be introverts or extraverts just like anybody else, it's just that extraverted psychopaths are cold-blooded in their numerous relationships while introverted psychopaths are cold-blooded in their few relationships.

    Also, 4% of the American population are estimated to be psychopaths. They are parasites who don't have a problem with hurting others, but most of them haven't been hurt themselves any more than any of us have been.
     
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  23. jannert
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    Yes. This. A very important thing to note. Psychopaths are NOT products of a bad environment, or reacting to some childhood trauma. They can be anybody, from any background whatsoever. They don't 'become' psychopaths; they ARE psychopaths. That's what makes them so dangerous to know.

    That doesn't mean they all become murderers. They often find other ways to alleviate their boredom and their need to control others.

    They can be the fair-weather friend who is all over you like a rash, taking your attention, your hospitality, your financial support and your affection, but who leaves you instantly high and dry the moment you need them to do the same in return—and maybe laughs at you because you expected more from them.

    They can be the lover who pushes into your life, convinces you that they are your 'soul mate,' then once they've hooked you, they start behaving strangely, going hot and cold, testing your boundaries, pushing you beyond your limits, withholding affection when you need it most, demanding sex from you when you are tired or sad, cheating on you constantly and lying about it, criticizing the way you look, making you feel unsure of yourself, etc.

    They are usually fairly—or very—intelligent, and can mask their condition well, if they choose to do so. Their matter-of-fact attitude towards life can be a marker, if other aspects are present as well. They may fake emotions quite convincingly—excitement, sympathy, grief, love—because it makes them 'blend in,' and reinforces their ability to fool and manipulate others.

    These are the kinds of people who make interesting characters, because of the emotional pain and confusion they cause to their unsuspecting friends, lovers, relatives and colleagues.
     
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  24. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, but isn't also that some people become psychopaths because of childhood trauma? That's also the explanation I heard the most.
    But then again, Ted Bundy had a nice childhood....
     
  25. Chinspinner
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    I have heard that it is genetic (there is a particular gene associated with it which is found in psychopaths); but also due to chemical imbalances (lack of serotonin and too much testosterone).

    I believe there have been some studies into environmental factors which found a correlation between (for example) a bad childhood and psychopathy, but did not show a causal link.

    As I understand it, most psychopaths live normal lives albeit they may be manipulative or lack empathy.
     
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