Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Degenerative brain disease causes pseudo-psychopathy

From a reader:

I found another article you might be interested in.
It's about a psychiatrist who started experiencing a degenerative brain disease (frontotemporal dementia) that eventually got him to exhibit behavior reminiscent of criminal socios.

I'm not saying that's why sociopaths are the way they are, but there might be some connection (e.g. similar brain areas being affected).

Here's the link to the article:
A Criminal Mind


  1. M.E. is very rare. A self admitted sociopath, and a sucessful one to boot.
    Thats why today's song for M.E. is "Precious And Few," by climax. (1972.)
    Do you think it would be a good idea to show sociopath's popular films
    and get their interputations of what the films mean?
    Philp Chism raped and murdered his teacher and shoved a 3ft tree branch up
    her vagina. Would such a person draw a different interpetuation of the same
    film that an empath would? It would be like a teacher assigning a book report.
    I would say: "Philip, we're doing a special test. You will get special privildges if
    you partisipate. We're going to show you a film, and we want you to describe
    what the film was about. We're going to ask you some questions about the film
    and ask whether you liked the film or not."
    They shouldn't use contemparary films. The should use films from the 1930's
    through middle 70's. They would have the violent sociopath talk into a tape
    recorder. Would the sociopath tell what he actually saw, or would he tell the
    interviewer what he THINKS the interviewer wants to hear?
    I'd love to get a socopathic view of the film "Last Summer." (1969)

  2. I apologize for this being yet another "Am I a sociopath?" because I know that people see this a lot.
    When I was a child, before things really got bad in my life, I already showed traits. According to my mother, the only true expression of emotion she had ever seen in me was anger and frustration. I also lacked empathy; for example, when my grandfather died, I never understood why people could not handle the concept of someone dying. This is when I was eight, sitting in a hospital with my mother, asking why people were reacting the way they were; this was death, a natural cycle of life, and people were going through this weird "grief" thing, why couldn't people just accept this and move on? Why do people care about morality so much? Are there really people who are genuinely nice, not just acting that way just because it would be beneficial to them at that moment?
    Fast forward, and this is when things get weird for me and my concept of my identity. I still feel things, I have some level of empathy but I can turn it off at the drop of a hat if I feel it's necessary to. Someone is sad, for a brief instant it logically clicks that this person is sad, I like this person, being sad is bad and I don't want them to feel that way. These people are the ones who manage to claw their way into my circle of caring, for whatever reason that may be, be it them being intriguing due to the sheer fact of who that person is, they do things for me, I want them or something from them, etc. I also have the tendency to become intensely infatuated with people, like a middle school crush.
    I also find that I am a people pleaser, always trying to work social situations to the advantage of having as many people like me as possible, reduce conflicts and such because I find that the more that people like you, think you're competent, intelligent, capable, generous, the more likely they'll be able to help you if you need it.
    I also suffer from a sort of anxiety from that, where I'm constantly evaluating possible outcomes of situations, especially in situations that could result in conflict, to the point that it's paralyzing and I just go back to my people-pleasing because it's just too risky to outright confront someone over something. Another thing I've recently begun to work on and overcome, but still something I find odd given the "normal" portrait of a sociopath.
    Generally I act in ways that are beneficial towards everyone, I rarely "throw people under the bus" unless I feel the consensus from the majority would agree that my decision was justified and know I won't really receive much backlash. All of this seems extremely calculated, but a lot of my decisions feel like reactions based on... feelings? I'm not sure what to call it, it's this sinking pit feeling in my chest I get every time I come upon a risky social situation, and my mind ends up racing until I come up with a response that would maximize my chances of staying on top of the pedestal I try to build for myself.
    Also, I can be prone to depression, usually manifesting in self-hatred from things such as believing myself to be inadequate, stupid, anything that goes against my self-image of competency and intelligence.
    Can anyone tell me what they think? I have other usual symptoms: I enjoy getting away with lies, manipulations, I love the exhilaration that comes from narrowly escaping a threatening situation, and I'm always striving to be better than everyone else in certain settings, such as work, or I find myself suddenly wanting to be someone's friend as soon as I find out that they're connected to someone higher up, such as that person being an important person's child. I'm young, 23, and most people in positions of authority are about twice my age, just so that statement makes some more sense.

    1. Honestly, I don't think you are. I mean it is a spectrum rather than a yes/no thing so maybe you just manifest it differently.

      When you get depressed how long does it take you to recover? I don't think any sociopath is immune to feeling upset over setbacks, but my experience and from what I've seen it's usually something shaken off rather quickly no matter how intense a feeling it was. Shallow emotional effect, like things just don't stick.

      Most of what you said seems like socio material, especially the first couple paragraphs. No empathy, no grief, an inner circle of people you care about (do you think of them as possessions?). Seems pretty typical.

      So I don't know, maybe it's a language issue. Or maybe you're something else. How would that make you feel?

    2. I think you're a balanced human being who experiences what the "norm of society" experiences , maybe dipping into the lower extremes of aspd, possibly bpd, heck, I still believe I'm both. Many will contridict that these disorders are at the opposite extremes but I believe where more alike than different. Remember these are " normal traits" amplified. So you're normal and wise for such a young age to be this observant. Get to know your cycles and just manage them -- as you readily are. Good luck and enjoy your personality. :)

    3. @ Scarlet
      The depression goes in cycles, very intense, typically narcissistic cycles followed by periods of numbness and I guess I get more cynical at that point, but lately I've been balancing out mood-wise because I've been trying really hard to learn the lesson that whatever feelings I do have, they are just still fleeting thoughts and physical sensations, just a bodily reaction, so in a way I feel the socio-typical traits in me are... maturing, I guess? Like transitioning from a low-functioning to high-functioning or something.

      @ Superchick
      Totally agree actually. I was just talking to my borderline friend tonight and I was like "I know we're so different but on a very core level we understand each other, we're not that different in the ways that count."

    4. @OP... All this concern with what other people think and wanting to stay on top of the shit heap sounds more narcissistic than sociopathic to me.

      I agree with Scarlet that sociopathy is a spectrum. I dont know if I'm a clinical case- but I'm definitely on the scale- and I have no absolutely no social anxiety. Furthermore, I rather enjoy confrontation. That said, I am very manipulative insofar as making sure that I retain a balance of power in most social scenarios. I'm a strategic thinker, but I am also rather impatient and impulsive. I rarely, if ever, spend hours deliberating over details. I tend to trust my gut instincts, as I am very good at detecting strengths, and especially weakness, in others. Then again, the majority of my "socializing" takes place in my work environment, where I'm the boss, so yeah. I don't know.Maybe that is just a personality thing, as opposed to a "sociopathic" one. Are you INTJ, by any chance?

    5. Here is an example of what A wrote above. I believe that it encompasses all of the clear points delineated by A. It is not about narcissism or foolish opposition at all.

      The spirit of a fighter shines, and this is how it's done:

    6. @ A

      The anxiety only really forms around conflict scenarios. That being said, that doesn't apply to every scenario. As a manager, for example, I have no problem whatsoever doing, saying or directing people to do things they may not like but need to be done, and I easily overrule people's decisions if I know for a fact they're talking and thinking out of their ass. But when it comes to that carefully constructed web of trying to make sure everyone views me positively, I rarely do anything to that web unless I can safely cut off one thread without damaging the whole - even better if it improves its structural integrity. The anxiety has lessened recently, most likely since I've been more exposed to people and I'm learning how their thought processes work, so maybe it was all just due to inexperience dealing with others. Also, often I find out that my best friends tend to be sociopaths or borderline, with only one of them being an empath who, interestingly enough, was probably much moreso than "normal" people.

      I bounce between INTP and INTJ depending on whenever I take that kind of test.

      I think most of my "issues" came from inexperience, I find that as time goes on the more I grow into certain sociopathic traits, the only issue I have is my massive concern for that metaphorical web of mine, especially when it involves people I do end up actually "caring" about, the best way I can anyway. I'm not sure - I mean in the end I do accept that I am who I am and a label isn't important - it's just something I've been trying to figure out for the longest time. I know I'm different, I just want to know in what way. I'm either a narcissist or a sociopath. My one hangup on being a narcissist is the heavy amount of self-awareness I have for who and what I am, and how I act, constantly trying to modify it day by day. From my understanding, narcissists simply... are, and aren't concerned with that kind of thing. I suppose maybe there could be exceptions to that rule and I could be one of them. I'd like to see if I could get diagnosed but having it written down somewhere I have a personality disorder would be detrimental towards future career development, I'd imagine. But that's modern psychology and the stigmas attached to it - pretty ridiculous.

      Which again all of this just brings me back to, maybe I'm just a late blooming socio? Is that even a thing? I'd really like to know about if and how people transform from low-functioning to high-functioning in detail.

    7. Like sociopathy, narcissism is a spectrum. Being self-aware will not negate your innate propensity towards the manifestation of traits associated with a personality disorder. If such the case, I would no longer have to contend with poor impulse control, and instead magically cultivate the capacity for empathy, and transformative remorse. It ain't happening. :P

      Upon re-reading your description, you sound to me like a young person with a lot of innate potential, who has spent the majority of his life paralyzed by insecurity. Due to your intensely analytical nature, I would posit that you were never very popular. You were probably a loner. While this is partially due to your introversion, it is also because of your immense and crippling self-doubt. Your concern with that "web of people" reveals a preoccupation with your reputation above your relationships. This in itself is a source of anxiety for you.

      Your timidity and conflict -adverse nature are clear signals to me that you are not particularly antisocial. I think you are a late-blooming young person, finally beginning to stretch his own wings. You are shedding your insecurities, gaining confidence, and growing into your potential, but you are still grasping for the security of a label in order to forge an identity.

      You say that "labels are not important"- but you betray your desire to want to cultivate "sociopathic" traits by revealing that you have a "hang-up"- and thus a fixation with- not being a narcissist, a "concern" that you might "care" about your entourage- with the caveat that it isn't genuine, because you admit to caring primarily the narcissistic supply they feed you. You are incredibly concerned with impression management. All of this just screams "narc", to me.

  3. That was a nice and relevant piece.

    Am I right that ppl have more sympathy for this guy than someone who is born this way and acts this way their whole life? this guy might have started out a bit psychopathic/narc (eg his tv commercials) and then lost his impulse control due to lesions.

    this is my biggest concern about getting old. i already constantly use slurs and do antisocial things (which i seem to hide from others, so it doesn't hurt me). but if i Get more sloppy and reckless, i could really pay the price later. i have been practicing meditation to try to develop more impulse control - as prophylaxis.

  4. As we learn more and more about the world (science) and about ourselves as individuals and groups (psychology, anthropology, sociology, etc.), we are reaching a very strange part of our history as a species. All animals are the product of evolution. Humans are the only creatures we know of (there may be similar in other star systems) who are fully self aware. This puts us in a very strange position. First, each of us is aware that the rest of us share this awareness, though we never know exactly what the others are thinking or what makes us who we are. Second, we are the only creatures that are truly aware of our mortality. As strange as it may be to call a species “insane,” perhaps the term fits human beings.

    With our increasing knowledge of science and of the functioning of the brain, we are approaching a point where we can design our own “evolution,” and perhaps turn ourselves into a new species. There have always been people such as Joel Dreyer; in the past the solutions were limited. Lock them up in prison and throw away the key. Throw them into the insane asylum and throw away the key. Once in a while psychopaths and “don't fit neatly into the psychological and judicial slots” people (such as Dreyer) game fame or power. Famous crazy people include examples such as science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and the famous “Beat Generation” writer, William S. Burroughs. Sometimes psychopaths and crazy people take over whole countries – Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and so on.

    A very difficult decision we will have to face as a society will be whether we are going to start diagnosing talented and brilliant but dangerously psychopathic and crazy people even before they start to really harm the rest of us and then try to “brainwash” them into conforming with what we consider “normal” and constructive.

  5. Well, it's a rather long read - sort of an interesting case study.

    It does sound like the author has a bit of bias - the biological basis of personality to excuse behavior. I would have liked to hear more about what the guy is like now - what are his processes now. What is given sounds like an impulsive bully now, but there isn't much on how he sees the world (sex-capades not withstanding).

    It does sound to me, again, given the limited information in the article, that he was somewhat of a benign narc - got off on the praise and money for helping others. Nothing really wrong with that as far as I'm concerned. The suspected brain damage does seem to fit other patterns - though those are still controversial assessments near as I can tell.

    But the real question around all this is that of free will and how does society deal with people that have been or can be dangerous? Do we accept that we have little control over ourselves and simply treat it as a public health problem? The author seems to want to make the case that the guy isn't fully responsible for his actions - but then are any of us?

    From the narrative, the author makes it sounds like he probably had those impulses but was able to keep them under control until that part of his brain "died." How do you cope with someone like that.

    I have a friend that had a stroke and is now aphasic (can't speak coherently). Having worked with him, I know he is a talented engineer - one of the few that I was really looking forward to working with. But now that he can't speak clearly, he's unable to do that job. We've spoken about what it like and it's quite frustrating for him - he's still in there, but he can't express himself because a part of his brain died.

    We accept that he can't speak and he has cards that he carries so he isn't arrested for loitering or the like to cope. He's not particularly a dangerous guy (he can take care of himself, but isn't particularly aggressive) and so his brain damage isn't a real problem for society. The guy in the article isn't so fortunate - or the people he hurt.

    So what do we do with them?

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