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Can Psychopathy Be Treated?

Many people believe that individuals labeled ‘psychopaths’ are incapable of change, destined to remain stuck in their patterns of criminality, manipulation, and lack of empathy. But is this really true? In this article, we will explore what psychopathy truly is and whether treatment can be effective in helping those with this condition. Understanding more about psychopathy can help to reduce the stigma and increase compassion for those who live with this mental health disorder.

For more articles and information about psychopathy, visit https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychopathy/.

Understanding Psychopathy

“Psychopath” is a popular term that describes someone who has what is known as antisocial personality disorder. This mental health condition is characterized by patterns of disregard for the rights of others. According to the DSM-5, common signs and symptoms of antisocial personality disorder include:

  • Consistently breaking the law
  • Patterns of deceiving or manipulating others for personal gain
  • Aggressiveness which may manifest in physical outbursts
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Displaying disregard for the safety of others
  • Inability to carry out responsibilities (employment, finances, etc.)
  • Showing lack of remorse or guilt for hurting others

An individual has to be at least eighteen years old to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. Those who are younger may be diagnosed with conduct disorder, which shares similar characteristics.

It’s important to note that despite widespread belief, not everyone with antisocial personality disorder is violent. However, their lack of empathy towards others and manipulative behavior can make it difficult for them to form and sustain authentic relationships with others. Instead, they are more likely to form superficial connections with people they can manipulate to fulfill their personal goals.

Researchers have come to believe that biological factors play a significant role in the development of psychopathy. They have found that psychopathy may emerge due to a genetic predisposition or brain differences. Studies have shown that psychopaths have certain regions of the brain that are underdeveloped, such as those responsible for regulating emotions and impulses.

Though both are forms of antisocial personality disorder, there is a significant difference between the terms “psychopathy” and “sociopathy.” One of the main differences is that psychopaths are thought to be born, while sociopaths are thought to be a product of their environment. It is believed that sociopathy may occur as a result of childhood trauma or ongoing abuse. Sociopaths also tend to be more erratic and impulsive in their behavior. On the other hand, psychopaths are often more deliberate in planning their actions to avoid getting caught. They also are more likely to dissociate while committing a crime.

Can Psychopathy Be Treated?

While psychopathy was once believed to be untreatable, recent research has revealed that this is not the case. Experts continue to explore the potential effect of cognitive therapy techniques on mending the brain pathways of those with antisocial personality disorder.

One study aimed to assess the role of positive reinforcement among youth with severe psychopathic tendencies. In a juvenile treatment center, each youth received a reward for positive behavior, ranging from candy to permission to play video games. This intervention targeted their brains’ reward system, as psychopaths are very motivated by seeking rewards.

This study indicated that those who received positive reinforcement were less likely to commit a violent crime and had a significantly lower rate of returning to jail than those who did not have the same intervention. These findings hold great promise, as they show that reward systems are likely more effective than punishment in moving psychopaths closer to desired behavior. They tend not to be phased by punishment, as it does not deter them from continuing to break the law and potentially harming others.

These findings also point to the importance of focusing on helping those with antisocial disorder to make healthier decisions and live meaningful lives, not eliminate their symptoms entirely. While the youths in the juvenile center who received positive reinforcement still had high scores when assessing their level of psychopathy, they also displayed lower rates of violent criminal activity and recidivism. This finding supports the goal of not trying to cure psychopathy but focusing on managing the condition through therapy and behavior training.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author:

This blog post was developed in collaboration with BetterHelp.

BetterHelp is an online portal that provides direct-to-consumer access to mental health services. The online counseling and therapy services are provided through web-based interaction as well as phone and text communication.

May Is Mental Health Month 2022

“Back to Basics”

May is Mental Health Month, a time to spread public awareness and education about mental health disorders and reflect on the impact of mental illness on individuals and their families.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Month is “Back to Basics.” The goal this May is to provide foundational knowledge about mental health and mental health conditions and spread information about what people can do if their mental health is a cause for concern.

It is also a time to recognize and commit to changing the racial and economic inequities in our health care system, particularly with respect to mental health.

www.rtor.org and Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice, and to making mental health services accessible to all.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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1 thoughts on “Can Psychopathy Be Treated?

  1. CmB says:

    I have my doubts about the validity of the reward program. Psychopaths are all about getting rewards but I don’t see it necessarily meaning they are going to behave positively when there is no reward nor necessarily meaning it would curb them from negative behavior.

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