Monday, March 31, 2014

Psycho vs. psychotic (part 1)

I had an interesting discussion with a reader on the relationship between the psychopathic and psychotic. I was expecting to see almost no relationship, but was surprised to see at least a few parallels, particularly in that we both experience the world in a way so different than neurotypicals and consequently are treated differently for it (unless we're pretty expert at hiding it):

I greatly enjoyed and admired your book. So much that I’d be reckless enough to call it important, given how it counters the standard model of the sociopath and gives a voice to others like you. 

Thanks to your book, I’ve concluded that I am not a sociopath. The question has long been there, and maybe - were I to go into detail about my life - my conclusion could challenged. 

Some years ago I was given the diagnosis which saved my life: ‘Bipolar Affective Disorder with Cyclothymic Tendencies” and a prescription for lithium carbonate. After a whole life of depression, violent outbursts, alcohol abuse, self-harm and one potent suicide attempt; I finally had something approaching an explanation. 

I’m grateful to be high-functioning (social workers have expressed surprise at this), and to be carving niches in life and work. I’m more focussed and hugely confident (with an ego my younger self would’ve been affronted by); though increasingly analytical, cold and emotionally detached. I work in retail and relish being able to alter my environment and personality, in order to sway my superiors (or indeed by-pass them altogether) as well as manipulating the buying decisions of customers. In my somewhat kaleidoscopic wetware I love the idea of “bending their will to my own.”  

In my head I maintain an almost comic book sense of personal mythology and continuity. My life and experiences cast in the light of my “emerging powers.” The fear and doubt and servility that characterised me is long dead, and now my concerns centre wholly upon increasing my own sense of achievement, in demonstrating (to myself I must stress) how much I can do, how much I can handle and how well I continue to evolve. 

I exist in a near perpetual state of hypomania (occasionally peaking into irrational ranting/noises inside my head) entwined with a calm, centred “mixed state” where cutting out an eye or slicing open my arms will quell some internal conflict/pain or simply because...reasons. [Un]logic I call it. 

It seems to me that some of what I describe could be considered sociopathic in nature. The difference between sociopathy and sociopathic traits is intriguing to me, because I now wonder if my continued evolution is in part down to adopting (consciously or not) such characteristics. Having to step back, take longer to assess what’s happening, increase the emotional distance. Forcing myself into calculated risks and being willing to follow my gut when boundaries become too much. 

I appreciate how unconcerned you seem with justifying or seeking sympathy for your sociopathy. How it is not a disorder needing a cure.  Perhaps another reader would raise an eyebrow about now, but I can only stutter from where I stand. 

He concluded with two questions: "How thin do you consider the line between psychopathic and psychotic can be? What can the “coping strategies” of one offer to the other and vice versa?" To which I replied:

I have myself often wondered about the beneficial aspects of sociopathic behaviors, particularly evolutionarily or as defense tactics against a hostile world. A lot of people that visit my site are from eastern europe. Is it because they've had to become gradually less emotional in dealing with harsh circumstances? I actually don't know that much about psychotics. So you would consider yourself a psychotic? You would probably be a better person to ask then, what is the difference?


  1. There's a phenomon where a person can appear totally
    rational during their daytime job, and completely psychotic in their
    off hours. And some of these folks are much admired and weld
    much responsibility during their day jobs.
    It's SOMETHING akin to a sociopathic front, but it's not bonifide
    The person might be a D.A., or the head of public health and they
    might issue crank telephone calls, disguise their voice, talk in
    gibberish, or make up fictional stories. What would these people
    qualify as?
    This is why mental designations are so "fluid." Like the pendulem
    of a clock, a person could be what society terms "normal" or,
    they can be "abnormal," like the "respectable" Nurse and
    Attorney, that would burst into my friend's room at 2:00 AM, and
    administer abuse.

    1. Domestic violence perpetrators definitely fall into this category.

    2. I don't want to contradict anonymous, but I would want to say that in my view of things people are surprisingly fluent and various in general. Generalizing and categorizing people is almost a need for people to understand theyr world, but is propably one of the biggest fallacies around.

      A criminal may have the IQ to be a scientist, even if his crimes are petty. A murderer might never be caught and live amongst people like the best of people, just to be caught decades later, creating shock and disbelief in his local community. The most goodhearted mother might nurse her children, bake cakes and read stories, but in reality the most cold hearted empathy depriven psychopath who relates in no way to other people but through manipulation and constant lies. These were the dark sides compared to good sides, then theres everything else and everything in between that.

    3. I found entertainment value in thinking about this. To make things more extreme, a prostitute might leave her promiscuous ways, find a well respected man who knows nothing of her previous business, marry him, have his kids and live happily ever after without even looking at another man and letting her husband believe she is the purest thing on earth.

      We also like to make stories about who we are based on who we are related to. Another generalization that holds roots in truth but hides the most decisive factor, the importance of free will and the focus of the human mind. Think about the prostitute in the last example, how many children in the wirld have or have had mothers who are or were prostitutes? Propably more then you would want to admit. Does it make these liable to prostitution? Propably not. What about everything else you are related to? You are made up of thousands of years of evolution. the number of individuals before your birth is enourmous. Most of us are most likely directly related to anything that you might find in an horror movie, or anything else. What does that make us? In a way we are all part murderers, retards, prostitutes, psychopaths, empaths, rapists, and whatnot.

    4. Sociopathy is like as psychosis strongly controlled. Psychosis is a stage to non-empathy world as to be a introverted bipolar with extraverted periods during their euphoria cicles.
      Psychosis increase paranoia or over ideacionalization. Sociopaths is always 'working' with this idealized personal persecution. Psychosis self controlled is a way of survive for sociopaths, my thoughts.


  2. If I remember my psychology classes correctly, psychological disorders are classified into two distinct categories(I have no idea if that has changed since then, these classes were taken 16 years ago). These two classifications are neurosis and psychosis. The latter is a state where the person is out of contact with reality, and can no longer see the difference between fantasy and what is real. That is, being delutional. Neurosis is mental destress without loss of the ability to see the difference between reality and fantasy.

    I had a friend that was psychotic at times. The problem was not how he viewed the world, the problem was that his thoughts about the world was delutional. He could believe that anti-matter was here to destroy the world, so he called all the scientists in the country to get them to act. He got a job at a pizza restaurant when he was younger, and by time he really believed he was in the Italian mafia and that they had employed him via this pzaa restaurant in secrecy. There were numerous other incidents like that.

    Personality disorders the way I see them, are not psychosis. You do not have to be psychotic to have a personality disorder. A personality disorder is a condition that severely impacts the way you are in a certain direction so that the impressions of the outside world are skewed by these extreme traits.

    All perceptions are personal and vary naturally between individuals without psychosis being a part of the picture. For instance; two people go to the same party. The one guy meets the other the next day, and he'll say that that party was great. He met so many positive people, it was a great event. While the other guy might say the opposite; there were only negative arrogant assholes there. What is the difference? It was the same party, and the same people in the party. Numerous things can affect theur perceptions of it; how they interact with the party, how they react to the local culture, and simply just how theyr brains work and what set of mentality the perceiving person is having. No psychosis involved.

    I guess these topics are advanced, and to discuss them fully one would need good knowledge in psychology and experiments conducted that are related to this topic.

    1. Well stated-
      The way I see it, a psychotic person's delusion overwhelms their capacity to control their choices. They are completely at the mercy of the internal noise. Someone with a personality disorder is still able to make choices, even if their beliefs are so out of touch with reality that the effect is pretty much the same as a psychotic persons' choices. That being said- I bet very few psychotic people commit premeditated murder...

  3. Interesting that you mention Eastern Europe. Being a Lithuanian speaker in Canada I have often noticed the disproportionate amount of ruthless psychopathic tendencies in those with a Lithuanian bloodline. And what was with Lithuania having been the suicide capital of the world? Don't non psychopaths travel?

  4. I feel like I would fall into both categories. I've been treated with anti-psychotics although I don't think they are meant for people like me. I think I am more psychopathic.. but its hard to tell what I am. I am taking anti-depressants now (I never knew or thought of the fact that I may be depressed I just know that I lack emotion/compassion/empathy).. so some of it is coming up as rage. Not sure I have emotion. These things are all kindof like new but like old at the same time its weird.

  5. The psychotic is the hollow persons opposite? But both are "cracked", mentally ill, that´s their common ground?

  6. Sociopaths do that all the time, appear normal during the day, and their 'other side' comes out more out of sight of their 'day time persona'. This is not unusual at all. This is common sociopathic behavior.

  7. psychopath,psychotic,hum,similar spelling? The path may have more control at times, but, truth is, sometimes they loose all control too.

  8. The distinction is pretty significant I think. Psychotic disorders are state disorders while psychopathy is a trait disorder. I don't know how familiar you are with the clinical terminology but there is a pretty big distinction between the two. Not really for better or worse in either case. But still the difference is there.

  9. can we talk more about this eastern euro trend? if it is a trend?

  10. I feel like I would fall into both categories. I've been treated with anti-psychotics although I don't think they are meant for people like me

    may in ma vach


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