IntroductionPsychopathy Surely in our ever evolving society

 IntroductionPsychopathytends to be used as a label for individuals we perceive to not fit in with thenorms of society, people that we cannot understand, or take as evil andinhumane.

The justice system is constantly bearing the burden and costs ofkeeping psychopathic criminals behind bars, but should these offenders reallybe treated as prisoners, or as mentally ill? Surely in our ever evolvingsociety that is one of the most interesting topics to be discussed. I believethat being aware of the many mental disorders that are being discovered isimportant to relate to the inevitable social problems such as crime in the UK,as one in four people in the UK will be diagnosed with a mental disorder andone in thirteen people will suffer from severe mental illness such aspsychopathy. This is becoming an increasing problem as the number of peoplesuffering from mental disorders is growing, and not enough is being done toprevent it. What I will be discussing is psychopathy, which is officially knownas antisocial personality disorder (APD) according to the latest edition of theDiagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5).

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1In this essayI will discuss the biological causes of psychopathy, such as problems in partsof the brain such as the amygdala and frontal lobe, and about the disorder andits effects. In addition I will include the issues that psychopathic peoplehave with their brains in parts such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex.Furthermore, I will discuss the social factors and the environment in which aperson will develop psychopathy, such as mistreatment and abuse in youngeryears, domestic abuse, violence at home, family issues affecting them,financial problems etc. These will relate to how anti-social behaviour leads tothe gradual development of a psychopath, which will influence my arguments asto what decisions should be made for a psychopathic criminal when they are incourt for their actions.As a memberof the public in this country, it is understandable that the fact that thegeneral population of the UK is concerned with the public safety beingendangered by psychopathic criminals and often finds it difficult to accept thepossibility and opportunity that a mentally ill criminal after committing acrime could be cared for and brought back to sanity.  I have chosen this title due to the fact thatspecifically in the UK, in recent years, there has been an increase in therecognition of the rights of patients in general as well as the improvedtreatment of mentally ill individuals in our communities, which allowsquestions such as the topic of my essay to arise, making this a much debated subjectin today’s society. This issue is becoming increasingly relevant in today’ssociety as gradually overtime there are more and more people being diagnosedwith mental illnesses and struggling to deal with the detrimental consequencesit brings to their lives. In additionto the biological and social causes of psychopathy, I will also be discussingthe options that can be taken when deciding on the verdict of a psychoticcriminal in court as well as in hospitals and the psychiatric treatment givento them, as well as the role of the judge and jury in the duration of theirtrial.

I will be taking this information from the sections of the Mental HealthAct 1983 which clearly states what the options are for this type of case, andthe options include reduced sentence, or treatment for the criminal if deemedeffective enough for the individual so that they can come to a recovery.This is anongoing, debated issue of whether to treat or punish a mentally ill criminaland there are a range of conflicting opinions on the subject however there isno unambiguous solution to this debate. The options I will discuss have bothadvantages and disadvantages that need to be taken into account whenestablishing a decision for both the welfare of the patients as well as takinginto account threats this have on public safety. Eventually the offender willhave to make a return to society, and the debate is whether rehabilitating themwould be a better contribution to society than punishment. In order to reach abalanced conclusion I will therefore take into account the options of treatmentthat can be given (the treatment aspect of the situation). Also, I willinvestigate the dangers of a criminal psychopath not being educated against theircrimes, versus the beneficial contribution a psychopath can make to our societywith an effective rehabilitation programme.

The culturewe live in has set social norms by which we live our lives, and they havediffered for every generation. There are certain behaviours though, that areuniversally thought to be abnormal, solely on the basis that they breach socialnorms. An example of this in the past is that until 1985, for a century,homosexuality was viewed as a mental disorder as it deviated from social normsin the UK.

Psychopathy, also known as antisocial personality disorder, however,is a disorder that makes a person behave in a way that also deviates from whatwe believe is to be of the norm – impulsive, aggressive and irresponsible fortheir actions. Psychopathy is in fact a medically proven mental disorder thatcauses people to be unaware of their actions whilst they are carrying themout.  What is often neglected about theview on severe mental health disorders is the causes behind the disorder. Thereare biological and social factors that are responsible for the state of apsychopathic person but are not taken seriously when studying cases involving amentally ill individual. For some time now, it has been established that genesplay a significant role in the temperament of those people who are then eventuallydiagnosed with the conditions such as APD, sometimes also now termed DissocialPersonality Disorder.

The concept of psychopathy as well as sociopath has beenaround for a long time, they do not get recognised as a biological disorder bymajority of people, even if it is officially confirmed as one. Rather, it isconsidered as a type of behaviour which is morally wrong and people do not goas far as the origins that shift the blame onto science instead of the moralsof the person affected themselves. Biologicaland social causes of psychopathyIn the several years that have passed, therehave been studies carried out on the activity of the brain in certainindividuals which had previously met the criteria for psychopathy, as well asthe hormonal dysfunctions in a person.

Psychopaths were viewed by Hare (1970),one of the background sources used, as suffering from dysfunctions in the limbicsystem of the brain which in turn affects the psychopaths’ ability to disrupttheir behaviour2.As a result, this would lead to the psychopathic individual not knowing how toinhibit their actions which they will eventually be punished for, sopsychopaths will constantly act with their own preferred responses, regardlessof the consequences. Studies that have been carried out have therefore generatedsome innovative discoveries, as CAT scans revealed that with psychopathicpeople, the areas of the brain associated with emotion as well as theinvolvement of other emotional mental constructs, do not operate in the same waythat a person with a normally functioning brain does. To put this into context,say if a study was carried out in which a photo was shown to a mixed group ofindividuals to monitor the type of activity their brain produced whilstprocessing the image, the ‘normal population’ would be experiencing activity inboth areas of the brain involved in emotion as well as the parts where thebrain processes information, for example the photo could portray sentiment suchas a wedding, which provokes the sentiment emotion.

However showing the same image to apsychopath would result in the area of their brain recognising the image beingactive, however the amygdala (which is responsible for emotional responses) will appear to be inactive.  Functional imaging studies have shown thatadults with the disorder present who have a reduced activation of the amygdalahave shown impaired emotional response. As well asthe amygdala of the brain, there is also reduced functioning of the frontal lobe.The frontal lobe is located at the front of the brain and it is one of the fourmajor lobes of the cerebral cortex in the brain.3Frontal lobe dysfunction plays a role in causing psychopathy as people whosuffer from this are presented to have a heightened risk of aggression,especially in adulthood. The orbital and ventrolateral cortex work to regulatethe neural in the brain that facilitate one’s response to when a threat isposed to you, so when there are lesions here, then this provokes a more violent,antagonistic approach to it. Many other studies carried out testing emotionalresponses from psychopathic people have resulted in the same abnormal findings,thus these dysfunctions disorder the ability of one to think rationally inorder to achieve their goals, and becomes antisocial.

This shows that theseindividuals are biologically incapable of being in control of their wrongdoingsas it is merely to do with the complications in their genetics, therefore theyshould not be entirely held morally responsible for their actions. The imagebelow is a scan of a normal brain shown on top and a scientist named Jim Fallon’sbrain shown on the bottom. Jim Fallon, who I will be discussing more aboutbelow, is a scientist who was researching and studying the scans of brains ofdozens of people believed to be psychopaths, and to his surprise discoveredthat he could be one himself. Looking at this scan, you can notice that the scanof the normal brain displays more activity in the lower frontal lobe than Jim’sscan, which displays much more reduced activity. The same can be said aboutJim’s orbital cortex and amygdala compared to the control. This scan is crucialin showing that he has very large gaps in emotional activity and areas thatcontrol mood, which makes him susceptible to feelings such as egocentrism andlack of empathy for others. 4In additionto the genetic aspect to this, people also develop psychopathy from theirlives’ circumstances either during their adulthood or from childhood, whichdevelops personality disorders within them and eventually progresses intopsychopathy. There is a wide range of factors contributing to the amount ofstress caused to a person, such as unemployment, financial burdens, debts etc.

however these factors are not as significant as those that children experienceat a young age. For example, children who consequently grow up to becomepsychopathic criminals experience mistreatment and abuse in younger years, suchas domestic abuse or disputing families and broken homes. Majority of the time,children who experience this kind of mistreatment grow up to join gangs, orobtain disorders like the antisocial personality disorder (APD), merely due totheir unfortunate upbringing as young children. Research was carried out regardingpoor parent-child relations, and it was found that they were associated withaggressive and covert conduct disorders. One of the most common causes inchildren is childhood trauma. Childhood trauma is where there has been an unexpected,event that the child has the inability to cope with.5This type of trauma could be either long or short term depending on how severethe event was.

For example, children who experience abuse or are living in thecentre of a chaotic family life go to residential treatment centres or carehomes, which is not a choice they can make for themselves. As a result, they donot get as much attention a young child should get in a loving familyenvironment, as it is replaced by insecurity and fear. Furthermore, anotherfactor that contributes to the lack of confidence and low self-esteem of thechild is bullying, either cyberbullying, or long/short term bullying by theirpeers. This does not always result in disorders such as psychopathy but itgives the child unneeded stress that they should not be having to deal with. Therefore,this type of trauma is ingrained into them since childhood and can thereforeinterfere with the development of certain emotions lacking in psychopathicindividuals, such as empathy for people around them. This detachment of emotionis caused by the constant disturbance in the child’s life, like moving familyto family looking for new foster parents, or being peer pressured to do thingsagainst their will. They lose the capability to form bonds and consequentlylearn to live by putting up a guard to whoever attempts so show them anyaffection. Unfortunately, this is what leads to children growing up andbecoming antisocial by the time they are an adolescent, which makes them onlypartially guilty for the crimes they may commit in the future.

 What thelaw says about dealing with mentally ill criminals: Mental health act 1983So, thequestion that always arises with a case involving a psychopathic offender is:should psychopathic criminals be given treatment for their disorder, or jailedfor their crimes? First of all, every person accused of crime is presumed saneuntil that is proved wrong. When the defendant is sent for trial, and is stillsuffering from the mental disability they were during the crime, then the lawsays this may render them unfit to be tried, and mental disability at the timeof the alleged offence can give them the ‘defence of insanity’ (known as the mental disorder defence is used to argue thatdefendant should not be held responsible for their actions due to a psychiatricillness). The mentalhealth act 1983 under these circumstances could give a hospital order insteadof the normal type of sentence being imposed. When there is an urgent need for treatment, the mental health actsection 48 states that ‘where a person has been remanded in custody pendingtrial, the secretary of state may order his detention in a mental hospital fortreatment without trial’6.In simpler terms, if the criminal is in fact mentally ill and not fit to betried in court, then they should be sent away for effective treatment byspecialists in hospital. However, for this to be possible, there was anamendment made to section 48 and was in full force by 2007, stating that it isobligatory that the claim that the person is in fact psychologically ill shouldbe supported by at least two medical reports which approve of the fact thatthey are mentally impaired to a degree which they can be appropriately be keptin treatment, and they will be returned to prison when they no longer requireit.

Since then, there have been a significant increase in the number of peoplebeing transferred, for example from 44 in 1987 to 494 people in 1997.If thedefendant whose mental condition did not suit the criteria of beingtransferred, they may be deemed ‘unfit to plead’. This means that the person’scondition prevents them from being able to understand the charge, is unable tochallenge the opinion of the jury, or cannot give evidence, they are seen asnot able to make a proper defence making the trial unfair on their behalf asthey cannot communicate properly with their lawyer. Unlike criminals who sufferfrom general mental disorders, psychopathic criminals have exaggerated traitswhich drive them to carry out an action they would not necessarily do if theywere normal people, but they are aware of their actions.

This makes it highlydebateable whether a psychopath should be punished or treated. Psychopathiccriminals should not be punished for their actionsIt is rightto say that no one should wish revenge upon people for their actions,especially in the case of psychopaths who are not morally responsible for theiractions. What is significant to know is that a vast majority of people with amental illness are not dangerous, and types of offences carried out by thosewho are largely similar to those committed by the ‘normal population’.

Also,people diagnosed with severe mental disorders are no more likely to offend thanadults generally unless they are provoked, as important intervening factorssuch as the de-institutionalisation of the mentally ill in recent decades whichcould encourage violence in some situations. ‘Not all psychopaths are criminals’Thisstatement is also a much debated topic, and I believe this is in fact true. Thegeneral statistic is that one in one hundred people are psychopaths, however 4%of CEOs and business managers have psychopathy. Psychopathic traits arerewarded in the business industry such as lack of empathy for others,manipulation and overconfidence. As a result, shockingly, you are four times aslikely to find psychopaths working on higher posts being in control as you doin the general public. Imagine all the psychopathic criminals that are caughtand imprisoned for their offences, what if they were educated and giveneffective psychiatric treatment for their condition?  It is proven that they can benefit societywith their traits, so rather than using them for harm, this energy could bechannelled into a much more advantageous activity that will positively benefitsociety.

As well as business, it can be argued thatpeople who suffer from certain mental disorders such as psychopathy view theworld in a different way to normal people. This could be a great advantage asthis could help them make scientific break-throughs and make changes to theresearch we have made. An interesting example of this is one person mentionedearlier – Jim Fallon, the neuroscientist who self-diagnosed himself as apsychopath whilst carrying out research on the brains of many others thought tobe one.


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