Psychopathy | The Incurable Illness

The unique feature of psychopathy is in its relative rarity as well as in the interest and fear that the subject seems to spark in society. Research has shown that psychopathic traits are observed in about 1% of the population and are more prevalent in men than women.

The modern concept of psychopathy has its origins in the work of American psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley. He postulated the existence of a self-control deficit that when coupled with callousness is central to criminal and non-criminal conceptions of psychopathy.

Cleckley found that the psychopath’s indifference to the truth is remarkable. They remain forever indifferent to their obligations and to the consequences of their actions. According to the British Journal of Psychiatry, psychopathy–as a personality disorder–is largely unchanging. These traits can be observed in childhood and continue to manifest throughout the course of a psychopath’s life.

The Incurable Disease

Psychopathy has often been considered untreatable. Its unique characteristics makes it among the most unmanageable of personality disorders. It is part a class of mental illnesses that were traditionally considered difficult to treat.

The reasons, which may vary from individual to individual, still possess certain common denominators. People who have psychopathic traits are generally unmotivated to seek treatment for their condition and can be uncooperative during therapy.

Attempts to treat psychopathy have been disappointing. There is currently little evidence to that there is a cure or effective treatment for psychopathy as yet.

While no pharmacological therapies have been trialed for alleviating the emotional, interpersonal and moral deficits of psychopathy; it has been found that patients with psychopathy who undergo therapy may even gain the skills necessary to become more adept at the manipulation and deception of others and are more likely to commit crime.

Studies have found that punishment and behaviour modification techniques are ineffective at modifying the behaviour of psychopathic individuals due to the insensitivity they exhibit to punishment as well as threats.

These failures have led to a pessimistic view regarding any possible cure or treatment possibilities. Furthermore, the lack of research into psychopathy–and the high percentage of prison inmates with these traits–makes it more difficult to gain the necessary understanding of this condition in order to develop effective therapy treatments and any possible rehabilitation.


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