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PSYCHOPATH

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PSYCHOPATH

Postby Slava » Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:12 pm

Here's today's AWOL GWotD:

Dr. Goodword wrote:

• psychopath •


Pronunciation: sai-kê-pæth • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: No, a psychopath is not the road to insanity; rather, it is a person who is already dangerously psychotic, a person with an aggressively antisocial personality, who shows no remorse.

Notes: This noun has a small family, only an adjective, psychopathic, and an adverb, psycopathically. At one time we had a word psycopathist, which simply meant "psychologist", but this word has long since fallen by the wayside. The study of psychopaths falls under the umbrella of psychopathology "abnormal psychology". But this term extends to all forms of abnormal behavior, whether aggressive or not. Psycho is a shortening of psychopath.

In Play: Usually psychopaths commit more gruesome crimes than this: "Some psychopath stole my car and ran it through the front door of McDonald's." However, if we care to use hyperbole, today's word is a useful word in any hyperbolical toolkit: "That dumb Barton Oaks is a psychopath when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. If you ever say a word criticizing them, run for your life."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a compound composed of psyche "soul, spirit" + path "suffering, sickness". Latin psyche was borrowed from Greek psykhe "soul, mind, spirit." This word is the erstwhile daughter of the verb psykhein "to breathe, to blow", from the ancient belief that your breath as can be seen on a mirror is your soul or spirit. When it can be no longer detected there, you're dead. Path, as in pathology, comes from Greek pathos "sick, suffering". We see the same root in English sympathy, originally "co-suffering, suffering with (someone)", also borrowed from the Greek. When we put these two together, psycho + path, we get something like "spirit-sick" or "soul-suffering", not far from what the word actually means. (Unless we wish our souls to suffer, we should offer a word of gratitude to Chris Berry for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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Re: PSYCHOPATH

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:51 pm

Because this WOD came up late, I posted the following on the question about sociopath to which you may want to refer because of the responses.

Well, psychopath doesn't sem to be up for the Agora yet, so I'll post here. The Doc's definition seems to be a more popular usage, perhaps influenced by mystery and adventur fiction. The clinical definition is somewhat different.

The medical profession would not classify a psychopath as psychotic, although a few individuals might be both. Psychotics are detached from reality and live in an very altered word. Neurotics have priblems associated with anxiety. Psychopaths fall into a third classification called anti-social personality disorders. All these categories are ruled by the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual V, which gets revised every decade or so, and there is much lively discussion among professionals when they change.

Psychopath is defined as a persistent behavior pattern characterized by lack of empathy and manipulation. These people either have no conscience or effectively ignore it. They do know the difference between right and wrong, and they also know society's rules. They use these along with understanding others enough to manipulate them, often effectively. One professor of mine said that when you feel your heart strings twang, that's a psychopath. These are con men. They may offer to asphalt your driveway or run the latest Ponzi scheme. Some are career criminals, others function ok in society.

Many criminologists and sociologists prefer the term sociopath for much the same people, emphasizing their social backgrounds. Often these people were abused or neglected as children and repeat that societal behavior as adults. One use of sociopath refers to teens who may run with a gang for several years, since that is their society, but their personality characteristics don't otherwise fit.

Doc's definition is fine for everyday use. But in our society that raises questions about related clinical words, I thought discussion from this viewpoint might be helpful. I may copy and paste when the original column shows up on the board.
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Re: PSYCHOPATH

Postby MTC » Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:23 pm

Thanks for your helpful comments, Perry. The Doc's definition is ,unfortunately, way off the mark in referring to a psychopath as "a dangerous psychotic," as you point out. The term "psychopath" itself is dated. Here is the DSM IV clinical definition of "Antisocial Personality Disorder" which includes "sociopath" and "psychopath:"

DSM-IV Definition

Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in the local culture. There is a marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules. Individuals with this disorder are sometimes called psychopaths or sociopaths.

Diagnostic Criteria (DSM-IV)

1. Since the age of fifteen there has been a disregard for and violation of the right's of others, those right's considered normal by the local culture, as indicated by at least three of the following:
    A. Repeated acts that could lead to arrest.
    B. Conning for pleasure or profit, repeated lying, or the use of aliases.
    C. Failure to plan ahead or being impulsive.
    D. Repeated assaults on others.
    E. Reckless when it comes to their or others safety.
    F. Poor work behavior or failure to honor financial obligations.
    G. Rationalizing the pain they inflict on others.

2. At least eighteen years in age.

3. Evidence of a Conduct Disorder, with its onset before the age of fifteen.

4. Symptoms not due to another mental disorder.

Con man, billionaire, and now inmate Bernie Madoff probably fits some of the diagnostic criteria.
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Re: PSYCHOPATH

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:40 pm

I suspect Hannibal Lecter influenced the popular inference of psychotic. Similar is the pop definition of schitzophrenia as split personality. The split is from reality, not into two personalities.
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Re: PSYCHOPATH

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:26 pm

Excellent article in today's NYT on the subject. Comments are as good or better than the article.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/27/healt ... h_20121127
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