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Are all psychopaths/sociopaths criminals and are all criminals sociopaths?

When Donna and I talked with Dr. Hare last week, he addressed the question of whether or not all psychopaths are criminals. He also sent us a paper he wrote on this topic. He said that it is possible for a person to score high on the PCL-R and not have an arrest record and not to have committed felonious crimes. He insisted, though, that “antisocial behavior” is central to the disorder and is found in all people who score highly on the PCL-R. The paper he wrote has the following quote regarding Dr. Hervey Cleckley, the psychiatrist who wrote the first book describing psychopathy.

Cleckley (1976) noted that he was “in complete accord” with the description of the psychopath as “simply a(n) … antisocial individual” (p. 370). “Not only is the psychopath undependable, but also in more active ways he cheats, deserts, annoys, brawls, fails, and lies without any apparent compunction. He will commit theft, forgery, adultery, fraud, and other deeds for astonishingly small stakes, and under much greater risks of being discovered than will the ordinary scoundrel.”

If all psychopaths/sociopaths are by definition antisocial, then are all individuals who commit antisocial acts sociopaths/psychopaths? As described in the statement above, sociopaths/psychopaths are distinguished by how readily they commit antisocial acts. As the DSM puts it, a sociopath has a pervasive pattern of cheating, lying and disregarding the rights of others. Other recent scientific writers have equated “career criminals” to psychopaths, the idea being that career criminality indicates a pervasive pattern, not just a one or two poor choices.

Since many antisocial behaviors are also illegal, separating criminality from sociopathy/psychopathy is not that straight forward in practice. Where would we find a sociopath who does not engage in criminal deeds? Two groups set out to identify college students with psychopathic personality traits. They used a battery of psychological tests. On the basis of fancy statistics they identified a group of people they called “aberrant self promoters” (ISPs) These people promoted their own self-interest without regard to the rights of others.

Interestingly, as a group ISPs (like psychopaths) are characterized by the combination of narcissism and antisocial behavior. A close look at the group also revealed that they were not particularly law abiding citizens. One of the studies actually measured levels of psychopathy in aberrant self promoters. The average score for the group was 15, well below the cut off of 30 needed to diagnose “psychopathy.” It is also well below the average PCL-R score found in incarcerated criminals. This comparison indicates that many criminals are significantly psychopathic and that their levels of psychopathy exceed those of community “successful psychopaths.” The authors estimated the prevalence of ASP to be 10 percent of the non-incarcerated population. That is a lot of people who are significantly narcissistic and antisocial—but not necessarily felons.

Over the last three weeks I have discussed sociopathy as the combination of narcissistic personality traits and antisocial behavior. I can now say a few more things about psychotherapy and behavior therapy for sociopaths. Most therapy is aimed at reducing the antisocial behaviors that are so central to the disorder. Therapy has been found to be effective in reducing antisocial behaviors in people who are at the lower end of psychopathy/sociopathy. The high end folks are characterized by greater treatment resistance and more difficulty with change.

At the higher end of psychopathy, we see people who are very narcissistic and very antisocial. This combination is especially treatment resistant because grandiose people never think they have a problem.

I also heard again from one of our readers who is struggling to break away from a spouse who is psychopathic and in prison. If you are struggling to break away from a very harmful, antisocial, narcissistic person please help yourself by spending time with some loving, prosocial people. If you do not have anything to contrast the sociopath’s behavior to, it is easy to forget how abnormal they are. Even according to the most lenient criteria, psychopaths at most make up 10 percent of the population. Ask yourself if you want to spend the rest of your life with someone who is at heart, worse than an “ordinary scoundrel.”



80 Comments on "Are all psychopaths/sociopaths criminals and are all criminals sociopaths?"

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  1. henry says:

    Oxy you are so right about the internet, it is a wondewreful thing and if I hadn’t found LOVEFRAUD your skillit would be rusty. I just need to do this for a while – it’s mostly about (M) but never fear Henry will be in the house often…..



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  2. OxDrover says:

    TAke care Henry,

    Just keep on the “good path” and all will be well. Check in with us when you get a chance.

    I’m like you in many ways, to heck with all the “civilization” in the world, (though I did turn on the TV for the Olympics) but now I am back to DVDs –one hour a day or less—and there is not background noise to drown out the rain and the frogs. My Best GF comes here and she says “I can’t stand the QUIET! Can’t you turn on the TV?”

    NOPE–my house, MY RULES, I just tell her to put on a music CD if she can’t stand the quiet. LOL

    Henry, I know a bit about what you mean about being by yourself after living with someone. A couple of years ago my son D was gone for 8 months, off working on an independent movie project and having a great time. I walked the house like a caged lion, from room to room and back again, just pacing, and I realized that for 40+ yrs I had never lived ALONE, without a husband and/or kids in all those years. That was the FIRST time I had actually no one to come home to, or no one to “worry” if I was late.

    He was gone for 8 weeks this summer for his summer job, but this year it didn’t seem “alone”—the only thing was I had to abide by our “safety Laws”—no climbing on a high ladder or using any kind of electric or power saws when no one is around, and I had a GF that I checked in with every evening between 9 and 10 p.m. If I didn’t call her she would “call 911” or my son D (he was only 15 miles away) But it wasn’t “lonely” this time like it was the first time he was gone so long. I’m more comfortable in my skin now I think, and I like my own company, there are always interesting things to do, I’m never bored, don’t guess I’ve been bored a day in my life. I read or do something, or build something, or “mess with” the animals. Oh, the wild barn cat just had some more kittens, I got a peep at them today and will have to “cat nap” them next week and tame them down or they will be wild and become a problem.

    Take care, Henry!



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  3. kat_o_nine_tales says:

    Henry yeah I think they do ruminate over their past “conquests”, gloating over the ones they ripped off successfully, plotting revenge on the ones that pulled off their masks and “ruined” their lives by throwing a monkey wrench into their game. But never in my wildest dreams do I think they miss us or realize what they had…unless it’s a little whiff of a ghost of a twinge of conscience once in a while, or the memory of our obliging natures when life throws them a curve ball. I can’t believe it either, but the evidence proves they do think about us, a LOT more than we would ever believe.



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  4. OxDrover says:

    Kat,

    You are right on with the rumination over their past “conquests” and the gloating over the ones they ripped off, even the ones that they got caught for and put into prison for. They still feel like they “won.”

    My P-son GLOATS over the girl he murdered even though it has put him into prison for all these years (17 so far) He gloats that it was “more horrible than even the cops know.” He said this to me (I think maybe to frighten me, but it was while he was frustrated with me and dropped his mask) then later, in a letter to his friend, the Trojan HOrse P that he sent to kill me, BRAGGING about it.

    The Trojan HOrse P while he was in our local jail was bragging to other inmates about how he screwed up our family’s life, screwed my DIL etc. What he didn’t know though, was that the local “Red Neck” bank robber knew us, and even though he was the lowest of the low too, didn’t like the “outsider” bragging about hurting local people, and having nothing to lose, he beat the crap out of the Trojan Horse P, breaking his nose etc. There is no honor among thieves, though my P son seemes to think that there is honor among his buddies and that they would never “rat him out”—they always have ratted him out. LOL

    How they place blame on others for them being in prison or jail, and yet at the same time, they glory in their crimes like it is some kind of TWISTED MERIT BADGE. They have NO GUILT, NO SHAME, BUT PLENTY OF RAGE at those that have in any way “bested” them. Some how my P-son has focused all his rancor, his rage, etc. on to me for “besting” him in this “contest of wills and brains.”

    In all the letters he has written that I have read since communication was cut off from the family (READ: no more commisary money) he blames me for “poisoning” the family against him. He does not realize that HE POISONED the well from which he “drank.” Not me. I TRIED to poison it by letting them know that he was EVIL but only when HIS EVIL BECAME APPARENT to his brother in his complicity in condoning the affair between his brother’s wife and the Trojan Horse P, did the message get through to his brother. It wasn’t from ME, it was from his own words, the letters her wrote to her condoning it, and even trying to “appear” philosophical about it and saying that you could “love too people at the same time” just like you loved both your parents, and that “lighting a candle from another candle doesn’t “diminish the flame of the first one.” PUKE! Then in the same letter, told her that she should “work on her relationship” with her husband. DUH!?!

    They don’t seem to realize that it is pretty impossible “to work on the relationship” with your husband when you are screwing the brains out of a “friend” of his. Even taking photographs of the acts to send to him so he can participate vicariously. How sick is that!?!

    My P-son’s “best friend” from prison, who I have decided is a psychopath as well, got out and for a while lived a “normal” life, working and got married to a former girlfriend. I met him and his wife, and thought he was going to do okay. However, after three years out, he was BORED with “normal” life and wanted more excitement—so went back to his criminal ways and doing drugs. He went back to prison for robberies that were so stupidly and ill planned that he might as well signed his confession and left it at the scene of the crimes.

    I read a book years ago called “The Felon” which was a researched book on the sociological and psychological mind sets of prisoners, and what they “dream” about how they will live when they get out, and how they will have a great job, and a great car, and a Playboy Bunny for a girlfriend. This of course is not realistic and the “great job” is at McDonald’s or at manual labor, and the car is a clunker, and the girlfriend is sure not “Play Boy material” and they become dissatisfied with “real life” and since their only friends are apt to be other ex-felons, they go back to their life of “excitement” and back to prison.

    I had hoped that this young man wouldn’t follow that pattern, but he did. The Trojan HOrse-P also followed that pattern, going immediately into criminal activity and planning more. I have almost come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as an EX felon, at least not where the bigger and more violent crimes are concerned. Where they go to prison and live most or all of their adult life so that their “fantasy” world of what the real world is like becomes “real” to them, and when they get out, and realize it isn’t “real” that they will never live up to this “fantasy” they revert back to type and go back into criminal activity. With the Ps, it is almost a given, but even with the ones who are not Ps (if there is such a thing) they have lived too long in this “fantasy” of “Eden” on the outside and when it doesn’t materialize they revert to what they KNOW will give them a “thrill”—at least for a while.

    Maybe those people who have had somewhat of an “adult” life on the outside, whose crime is not so violent and psychopathic, can “rehabilitate”–but with such a recidivisim rate as we have now, I don’t think there are “many” who do make it completely crime free on the outside. I think my DIL who wasn’t arrested til she was 40 will probably stay on the sunny side of the law, I think her jail time (she also got beaten up) was enough to make her not want to go back. But I do think she is personality disordered, probably more BPD than PPD, but she will still live a disosrdered life, just not a criminal one.

    For “my money” I think I can pretty well say that as far as I am concerned, there are NO EX-felons, only felons.



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  5. Wini says:

    I’ve said it before in my writings and I’ll repeat it in this writing … E. Tolle’s book “A New Earth” discusses how to quiet the mind by going into the “now”. We “caring, loving, considerate people” can learn his techniques easily because we already know how to be and live a humble life – not trending on the harmony of others. Those living in their BIG egos, believing what their minds are telling them, not believing in God and God’s virtues (hence, not living humbly)… need to be incarcerated (restrained) and spoon fed (like the infants that they are maturity wise) the theories of Tolle’s. Chaos is what they are all about as they age because they are not in touch with their emotions to feel the devastation they cause … so they need to see bigger and better chaotic states they cause to the rest of us (aka assessing the damage done). This is visual effects for them because they can’t feel the chaos they create because their egos are in the way.

    Of everything I’ve read on the subject, I believe Tolle is on to something concrete for the rest of society to use when an anti-social is incarcerated.

    Also, many anti-social personalities have made their way to the top of the heap in all walks of society … politics, business, school systems, churches etc. Giving us all lip service and ensuring they put the wrenches in the wheels of progression. Yes, send our young folks off to war and fight the terrorists … this way, they won’t be here on our grounds to fight the terrorists destroying our country.

    Think about it. I was just one small soldier fighting this fight on my own against anti-social personalities in positions of power. Everyone that pretended to be on my side – were not … and they all systematically destroyed my life as I knew it smiling to my face, giving me lip service. They still have their jobs, my attorney got a nice city job with all the bennies and perks … and the saga continues. They just switched positions and posts and they are still in power giving lip service (smokescreens) to everyone.

    So, our government doesn’t work for the people, our utilities keep going up with less service, our social services for the poor is cut or has ended, there are more homeless people out on the streets than ever in history, our animals are thrown to the wilderness to fend for themselves … and the anti-socials keep getting richer and more powerful … day by day, their mistresses and bimbos are on the payrolls causing all pricing to go through the roof, there is no middle class any more in this country only the haves and have nots… should I continue, or do you get the message that the anti-socials are the terrorists in our country… and one last thing before I sign off – if you have morals or ethics that’s a big joke to the anti-socials of the world … as they wiped God out of our schools … and insult our preachers and rabies and clergy … Remember, they took the weapons from the Polish people a year before they marched into Poland … the Poles fought the invading soldiers with rocks and slingshots as they hid in trees while their tanks and machine guns slaughtered them in the streets.

    Peace.



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  6. Beverly says:

    Hiya Wini, I always like your understanding of anti socials. Underneath the bravo, there is a frightened person there. And you are right, they dont know, and dont want to know the chaos they create because their inflated ego ‘protects’ them. We, on the other hand are left to deal with fall out!!



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  7. Stargazer says:

    OMG, Henry, you are going to CO Springs on August 28? Stay away from a tall guy named Vernon who is in the army. He is the sociopath I dated and he lives there!

    Thanks for all the great posts here. It has helped me a lot. I don’t know whether Vernon has gone on to meet someone new yet. It has been 6 weeks since we split. It was so bizarre the way it happened that I was left scratching my head, going “what just happened?” It took me a few weeks to figure it out. He claimed to have fallen in love with me and wanted to move to Denver to be with me. But he had all of these obstacles involving his “ex” wife (as he called her) and his medical discharge. He told me his divorce and medical discharge had been filed and would come through any day. Just when I believed we would really be together, he stood me up with no call. Then I saw him posting on our mutual website as if nothing happened! When I asked him for an explanation, he blew me off. Days later he said he wanted to “work things out.” But it was too late for me. Not long after that, I found evidence that he’d been lying about his marriage (no divorce pending) and that he was faking a medical injury to get out of the army.

    Though I have not spoken to him in 6 weeks, I did see him out of the corner of my eye at a reptile show on August 2. He followed my friend and me from vendor to vendor and stood right beside me without saying anything. I pretended he wasn’t there. At one point he leaned very close to me (like he was trying to smell my hair). My friend jabbed him in the crotch with a snake hook, and he went away. We are still laughing about that to this day.

    For a long time, I felt encouraged (I’m ashamed to say) when he followed me at the show that maybe he still had feelings for me. But I realized it was just a power play. He wanted to assert himself into my life so he could have some sort of power over me. It didn’t work that time. But the fact that he still posts regularly on my snake website just makes my blood boil. The only way to totally have no contact with him is to leave the site, which I may have to do.



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  8. Jen2008 says:

    I agree they may not commit the more serious felonies, like murder. But I personally believe everyone of them commits criminal acts, including chargeable felonies, but they just don’t all come to the attention of law enforcement in order to be arrested, thus not having the criminal arrest record. Just because they don’t have a record doesn’t mean they haven’t committed the crime. I personally believe they just charm, con, manipulate in order to cover up their crimes or intimindate and threatened to the extent that most of their crimes simply don’t get reported to the police.



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