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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Psychopathy


 

What do you envision?

 

When you hear the terms “psychopath,” “psychopathy,” “sociopath,” and “sociopathy,” what comes to mind? Do you think of a movie villain that maniacally tortures or murders innocent people without just cause for his actions?

 

Perhaps you envision a cold, calculating individual that meets a prescribed physical anesthetic and is a slave to his deranged desires. Or is it possible that you hear these terms and think about someone represented by the artificial intelligence-generated image above?

 

If your initial thoughts about these terms reflected males (boys and men), I don’t blame you. There was once a time when I was also led to believe that females (girls and women) were virtually immune from the experience of abnormality concerning human behavior.

 

In the interest of psychoeducation, I will explore psychopathy and sociopathy as a means of destigmatizing the bias apparently attributed to this topic. While I make no effort to disparage any member of a particular sex or gender, I approach this matter in the interest of equality.

 

Females are fallible human beings, as are we males. Herein, I’ll provide a number of real-life examples to support this claim. As you read, keep in mind that all people referenced herein are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

 

Likewise, nothing expressed herein is intended to defame, bully, or harass any person. Moreover, this post isn’t intended to serve as clinical diagnosis of anyone alluded to herein. Unique disclaimer out of the way, allow me to define terms relevant to this blogpost.

 

Defining terms

 

In common parlance, “psychopath” may be defined as a person affected by a chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior, or an unstable and aggressive person. As such, “psychopathy” is understood to be the condition experienced by a psychopath.

 

Likewise, “sociopath” colloquially describes a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior, and who lacks a conscience. Therefore, “sociopathy” is understood to be the condition experienced by a sociopath.

 

In a blogpost entitled Button-Pushing, I referenced how the “outdated terms ‘sociopath’ (detached, emotionless, and remorseless) or ‘psychopath’ (lack of empathy, impulsive, and taking pleasure in the act of harming others)” are generally conceptualized by members of the public.

 

Have you heard people labeling other individuals as “psychopaths” for behavior as frivolous as refusing to remain committed to an intimate partner relationship? “He’s a psychopath for having cheated on her,” one may say.

 

Perhaps you’ve heard similar ad homonym attacks against people who identify as socio-politically conservative. “Anyone who doesn’t support a robust welfare program is a sociopath, because you’re heartless if you don’t care about other people,” one may declare.

 

One obvious problem with psychological terms being misused in this way relates to concept creep which one source describes as “the process by which harm-related topics experience semantic expansion to include topics which would not have originally been envisaged to be included under that label.”

 

As one who maintains that the words we use matter, and to apply appropriate definitional standards to psychopathy and sociopathy, I now turn to the American Psychological Association (APA). This main professional organization for psychologists in the United States (U.S.) defines the following terms thusly:

 

·  Psychopath – noun – a former name for an individual with antisocial personality disorder. – psychopathic (adjective)

 

·  Psychopathy – noun – 1. a synonym for antisocial personality disorder. 2. formerly, any psychological disorder or mental disease. – psychopathic (adjective)

 

·  Sociopath – noun – a former name for an individual with an antisocial personality disorder.

 

·  Sociopathy – noun – a former name for antisocial personality disorder.

 

Understand that only two of these dated terms have current relevance to psychological practice. Nevertheless, each relate to former descriptions of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) which one source suggests:

 

ASPD is a deeply ingrained and dysfunctional thought process that focuses on social exploitive, delinquent, and criminal behavior most commonly known due to the affected individual’s lack of remorse for these behaviors. ASPD falls into 1 of 4 cluster-B personality disorders within the DSM V [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition].

 

Further clouding the definitional waters, a Psychology Today source defines sadism as “the tendency to derive pleasure from the pain or suffering of others,” and adds, “Some people with sadistic personalities may inflict pain on others, while other sadists merely witness and enjoy it vicariously.”

 

Expanding upon the correlation between psychopathy and sadism, one source states that “both the interpersonal/affective component of psychopathy and the antisocial behavior component of psychopathy are associated with sadism.” Females aren’t excluded from this cohort of individuals.

 

That individual who cheated on that one person? Infidelity does not a psychopath make. That conservative who doesn’t support welfare programs? Fiscally responsible principles do not a sociopath make.

 

Likewise, that dominatrix, lover, or mother who enjoys inflicting pain upon others? She may be a sadist, which is associated with psychopathy. Clarifying the distinction between psychopathy and sociopathy, one source states:

 

[…] “psychopath” is a term used to refer to someone who presents psychopathy, or psychopathic traits. “Sociopath,” “sociopathy,” and “sociopathic” are not true clinical terms, meaning they are not terms that are endorsed by either the American Psychiatric Association or another widely established, research-focused mental health professional.

 

This distinction acknowledges that psychopathy is indicated when a cluster of traits correlate with one’s personality and behavior. As well, the information supports the training I received when undergoing a three-day personality disorders course for the advanced diagnosis, treatment, and management of these conditions.

 

In fact, the trainer referenced psychopathy as a valid measure when assessing ASPD, in particular the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL). Also, the manual I received during the training process addressed psychopathic traits inherent in a person with ASPD as follows:

 

An Antisocial Personality Disordered person is one who does not care what is right or wrong, has no regard for consequence, does not learn from experience, is indifferent to what happens to other people, and is willing to do anything in order to get what they want and will harm anyone who interferes with them.

 

Noteworthy, the “harm” element of psychopathy isn’t strictly one related to violence. Moreover, there is some degree of overlap between psychopathic traits and other mental illnesses and conditions. For example, one APA resource states:

 

[I]t is common to have some degree of psychopathic tendencies, if not the condition itself: According to PsychopathyIs, as much as 30% of the population displays some degree of reduced empathy, risk-taking, and overly high self-regard, though the percentage of people with high degrees of these traits is much smaller. In this sense, [Abigail] Marsh believes that autism holds a useful parallel, because there are greater and lesser degrees of autistic traits and because early intervention can make a big difference in later outcomes. (Not everyone in the mental health community agrees that psychopathy is a spectrum-based disorder.)

 

One major insight I learned from the aforementioned personality disorder training was that the presenter said on average people with ASPD commit between 50 and 200 crimes per year. When the term “psychopath” is used so casually, I suspect recipients of this title don’t actually qualify for the label.

 

The degree to which psychopathy is misunderstood within the field of psychology is somewhat profound. As a matter of self-disclosure, consider a personal anecdote.

 

Personally, I don’t believe empathy, as it’s commonly understood, is an actual experience. I maintain that it’s impossible to literally feel what another person feels. We can imagine or interpret this experience, though not actually feel exact emotions in this regard.

 

Likewise, from quite an early age, I exhibited traits related to the concept of psychopathy. Traits in and of themselves have yet to result in my continual interaction with law enforcement, since having learned about mental health and how to treat or manage my symptoms.

 

Consequently, people can use caution when flagrantly branding others as “psychopaths.” Likewise, as referenced herein, the term “sociopath” has no meaningful use.

 

Therefore, we may conclude that while “sociopathy” is often referred to in common parlance this term is essentially meaningless and alludes to ASPD traits. Likewise, “psychopathy” refers to ASPD and serves as a pragmatic term which is applicable to research and clinical practice.

 

Psychopathy and females

 

According to a 2022 APA source, “About 1.2% of U.S. adult men and 0.3% to 0.7% of U.S. adult women are considered to have clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits. Those numbers rise exponentially in prison, where 15% to 25% of inmates show these characteristics.”

 

Statistics such as these once informed my worldview about psychopathy. I was told over and over again that males were more violent and predatory than females. Even when females expressed similar behavior, their actions were generally dismissed through some form of rationalization.

 

From a young age, I understood my own capacity for violence. Through adolescence, my propensity to harm others was also observed by others. Therefore, I had plenty validation to suggest that statistical data were plausibly true for all males.

 

However, I left behind what others may’ve attributed to psychopathic traits in late adolescence and early adulthood. In fact, I went on to serve in the U.S. Marines with military police (MP) job designation.

 

While working in the field of law enforcement, I encountered objective data which contravened my worldview of the violent and predatory male hypothesis. As an MP, I realized that females were capable of physical and sexual violence, behaving as fallibly as men.

 

As an example, one source reports that “over 50% of gay men and almost 75% of lesbian women reported that they were victims of psychological” intimate partner violence (IPV). A separate source claims that 61% of bisexual women and 44% of lesbian women reported some type of IPV compared to 35% of straight women.

 

Regarding the latter statistic, one source clarifies that “43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women.”

 

I find it astounding how so few people seem to understand that women are capable of perpetrating IPV. And yes, this includes rape, as well. This crime isn’t solely related to male behavior. Therefore a “teach boys and men not to rape” approach to psychopathy is impractical.

 

After the military, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Education degree with a focus on justice administration (’09). I went on to earn a Master of Arts in Counseling degree (’11) and a Master of Science in Social Work degree (’14).

 

Throughout the course of my studies, I observed a broken peer review system. Without claiming to know the perverse incentives which polluted statistical data, I suspected that tightly-held narratives which once influenced my perspective on psychopathy were deliberately confusing.

 

For instance, one academic journal source begins examination of psychopathy by stating, “Research on sex differences in psychopathy indicates that men generally exhibit higher psychopathy scores than women,” without providing evidence to support its claim.

 

One is uncertain as to the intentionality of a poisoning the well effect regarding such “research,” a technique that one source describes as “a type of informal fallacy where adverse information about a target is preemptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing something that the target person is about to say.”

 

What remains questionable is the notion of psychopathy somehow being a uniquely male experience—as this well appears to have been poisoned. Despite what the APA suggested in the aforementioned 2022 source, one 2024 Neuroscience News source now reports:

 

Researchers provide novel insights into female psychopathy, challenging the conventional 6:1 male-to-female psychopath ratio with new evidence suggesting a closer 1.2:1 ratio.

 

The research indicates that societal gender biases have obscured the true nature and prevalence of female psychopaths, who often employ manipulation and seduction rather than violence to achieve their goals. This revelation not only calls for a reassessment of psychopathy across genders but also signals significant implications for criminal justice and corporate leadership.

 

Although I retain a healthy degree of skepticism regarding “research,” anecdotally, the Neurosciences News suggestion makes sense to me. Regardless of whether or not violence, manipulation, or seduction is a means to an end, I suspect female psychopathy is more predominate than many people realize—even if not on parity with males.

 

Evidence in the open

 

Admittedly, my lived experience isn’t an accurate measure of female psychopathy. Likewise, as expressed herein, I remain critical of academic research pertaining to this matter.

 

Nonetheless, and although my skepticism isn’t necessarily unwarranted, I’ll provide a number of real-life examples to support the claim that females are fallible human beings, as are we males, and thus capable of exhibiting psychopathic traits. Evidence of my proposal is in the open.

 

Keeping in mind that legacy and missing link media sources don’t often report matters which challenge accepted narratives, I turn to some nonconventional sources which detail these issues. You are welcome to cross-reference these sources with other resources available to you:

 

·  One 47-year-old female judge reportedly recused herself from a child custody case after the mother of the minor apparently claimed the judge tried to woo her on a swingers app with messages saying she loved ‘thick girls’ and men ‘somewhat endowed.’

 

·  One female two-term Democrat and former state attorney reportedly faces up to 40 years in prison after apparently being convicted of using a bogus COVID hardship claim to tap into her retirement funds to buy a luxury condo on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

 

·  One 50-year-old female realtor reportedly tricked a 90-year-old man with dementia into thinking they were in a romantic relationship so she could apparently scam him out of $638 thousand to buy an RV and pay her gambling debts.

 

·  One 57-year-old female reportedly scammed the Army out of $100 million and apparently used cash to buy 31 homes as well as 78 luxury cars.

 

·  Two women, 22- and 32-years-old, along with one man, were reportedly arrested after having apparently blown fentanyl smoke into the face of 19-day-old baby to stop her crying.

 

·  One 44-year-old female Army commander was reportedly relieved of her command for apparently kissing male soldiers in a forceful manner and having allegedly committed sexual harassment.

 

·  One 46-year-old female educator reportedly had sex with 17-year-old female student, though apparently avoided prison after former pupils allegedly sent letters to the judge in support of the teacher.

 

·  One 33-year-old female educator reportedly had sex with a male high school senior 20 to 30 times – including on a class trip to Washington DC.

 

·  One 29-year-old female educator for children enrolled in special education (disability) services reportedly had sex with a male student, apparently for a year and a half.

 

·  Although 62 employees were either fired or resigned in relation to the incident, more than 30 employees at a Kentucky Department of Corrections prison reportedly had sex with inmates, which included female employees of varying ages who apparently abused their authority.

 

·  One 57-year-old female judge reportedly judge shot her estranged boyfriend in the head, apparently leaving him blind in one eye, while he slept – then allegedly claimed that he did it to himself.

 

·  One 36-year-old female reportedly used her seven-year-old son as a human shield when apparently conducting a mass shooting inside a megachurch facility.

 

·  One 27-year-old female reportedly punished her seven-year-old son by apparently making him walk home from school – then she allegedly ran him over with her car.

 

·  One 31-year-old female driver reportedly went on a rampage, hitting five random people with her car and stabbing three others in 90-minutes of apparent carnage.

 

·  One 27-year-old female who reportedly stabbed her boyfriend to death is said to have then threatened to burn down the house of a separate 18-year-old male who apparently refused her advances.

 

·  One 28-year-old female reportedly murdered her mother for a $1.6 million inheritance and stuffed her mom’s body in luggage.

 

·  One 27-year-old female reportedly hacked her own parents, 49- and 57-years-old, to death with a machete after apparently posting online videos and calling herself ‘Satan’s doll.’

 

·  One 38-year-old female reportedly strangled her four-year-old daughter to death, as family members apparently alleged that the woman may have driven the daughter’s body around for days afterwards.

 

·  One 35-year-old woman reportedly fled the U.S. after allegedly murdering her children, as an autopsy apparently revealed her son and daughter were drugged with sleep medication and shot in the head.

 

·  One 36-year-old female reportedly tortured her five children, including once trying to put her three-year-old daughter in a hot oven, as well as having apparently beaten her husband.

 

·  One 32-year-old female reportedly left her 16-month-old baby alone in playpen for 10 days, as the infant is said to have died, so that the mother could apparently go on vacation.

 

·  One 26-year-old female reportedly has been charged with baking her newborn baby daughter to death in an oven after apparently mistaking the kitchen appliance for her infant’s crib, leaving the tortured girl’s clothes melted to her diaper.

 

·  One 22-year-old female reportedly cut out the hearts of her victims in Mexico as part of bloodthirsty rituals to the Santa Muerte (Holy Death) saint, having apparently participated in five murders.

 

All of these examples are from 2024 reports. Noteworthy, I don’t label the alleged actions of these accused individuals as that pertaining to “evil.” Moralistic rhetoric of this sort is as helpful to me as endorsing misuse of the term “sociopath.”

 

Rather, I advocate treatment and management of symptoms related to psychopathy—as much as treatment may be possible. My stance is the same irrespective of whether or not a male or female exhibits psychopathic traits.

 

Although evidence is in the open to support the claim that females are capable of experiencing psychopathic traits—even though I make no attempt to brand or diagnose any entity alluded to herein of such traits—I suspect some people may instinctively or reactively dismiss female behavior referenced herein.

 

Conclusion

 

If you can recall, what did you envision when initially prompted to think about the terms “psychopath,” “psychopathy,” “sociopath,” and “sociopathy”? Did you imagine that a woman may fit the depiction of these terms?

 

Presuming you read this blogpost in its entirety; do you now understand the distinction between terms regarding psychopaths and sociopaths? The former is useful for clinical practice and research while the latter retains little meaning in this regard.

 

Also, do you have a clearer understanding about ASPD after having read this entry? Moreover, do you comprehend that both males and females are equally fallible in this regard—even if not on parity with rates of predominance?

 

What did you think, and how did you feel, when discovering evidence of psychopathy in females which is out in the open for discovery if you know where to look? Did you find yourself dismissing any of the reports, perhaps excusing the alleged behavior of the females?

 

If so, do you apply similar logic and reason when encountering reported male psychopathic traits and behavior? If not, why do you think this may be the case? Were you even aware of the high prevalence of IPV perpetrated by females?

 

How about the fact that women are capable of—and indeed do actually partake in—the criminal act of rape? If for instance a female educator rapes her minor-aged students, do you merely dismiss her behavior as mildly annoying though socially acceptable? If so, then why?

 

Are you willing to concede that while female psychopathy may be largely misunderstood within society, it makes little difference about violence, manipulation, or seduction regarding psychopathic behavior? It all correlates with traits of psychopathy, regardless of sex or gender.

 

My intention with this post is to approach this matter in the interest of equality. Men are fallible human beings, as are women. One who exhibits traits and behavior pertaining to psychopathy isn’t necessarily “evil,” though the individual is imperfect.

 

Regarding my personal life, I’ve associated with people who’ve met the diagnostic criteria for ASPD. Additionally, in my clinical practice, I’ve worked with people who retain this diagnosis. Although admittedly anecdotal, my experience has involved both males and females.

 

I hope that one day society shifts from disparaging people with ASPD to understanding this cohort of individuals. Perhaps then our society can approach treatment and management of these people—to whatever degree treatment is even possible—rather than merely demonizing them.

 

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

 

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

 

 

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW

 

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Porter, W. (2024, February 16). Pennsylvania judge Sonya McKnight charged with attempted murder ‘after shooting estranged boyfriend in the head, leaving him blind in one eye, while he slept - then claiming he did it to himself.’ Daily Mail. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13093051/Pennsylvania-judge-McKnight-charged-shooting-boyfriend-slept.html

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Sexton, B. (2024, February 3). NYC judge recuses herself from child custody case after mom claims she tried to woo her on swingers app with messages saying she loves ‘thick girls’ and men ‘somewhat endowed.’ Daily Mail. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13041501/nyc-judge-recuse-child-custody-swingers-app.html

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Torres, A. (2024, February 21). Female gang boss, 22, is captured in Texas after cutting out the hearts of victims in Mexico as part of bloodthirsty rituals to the Holy Death saint. Daily Mail. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13109961/Gang-boss-mexico-homicide-arrested-michelle-pineda.html

White, C. (2024, January 26). ‘Suitcase killer’ Heather Mack’s family say ‘a weight has been lifted’ after she gets 26 years in prison for murdering her mother for $1.6m inheritance and stuffing her body in luggage. Daily Mail. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13010911/Suitcase-killer-Heather-Mack-uncle-Bill-Wiese-relief-murder-Bali.html

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Wright, E. (2024, March 4). Devil-worshipper, 27, ‘hacks her own parents, 49 and 57, to death with a machete’ after posting sinister online videos calling herself ‘Satan’s doll.’ Daily Mail. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13155419/Devil-worshipper-hacks-parents-49-57-death-machete-posting-sinister-online-videos-calling-Satans-doll.html

Yeatman, D. (2024, February 28). Female Wisconsin special education teacher, 29, resigns from private school after being charged with sexually assaulting student. Daily Mail. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13134385/Kelbel-special-needs-richardson-madison-abuse-wisconsin.html

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