Liane Leedom, M.D.

Helping children overcome genetic risk for externalizing disorders


Liane_SSSP_crop copyBy Liane J. Leedom, M.D.

Imagine loving someone, having children with that person, and then realizing that you’ve gotten yourself involved in an abusive relationship.

Imagine suspecting that your partner, the mother or father of your children, has a personality disorder — and then hearing that personality disorders are highly genetic.

If you’re a therapist, imagine this person is your client. What do you do?

I believe we can and should intervene in the lives of children who are at risk of developing externalizing disorders, such as ADHD, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and substance use disorders. If we do, we may be able to prevent these children from developing personality disorders as adults.

When we study large numbers of people affected by externalizing disorders, and personality disorders in particular, we see that about 50 percent of the risk for these disorders is genetic. That means the environment children grow up in, including their interactions with parents, siblings and peers, also strongly influences the development of disorder.

Specific parenting strategies may help children at risk for developing personality disorders

Many Lovefraud readers have loved  someone, had children with that person, and then realized that you’ve gotten yourself involved in an abusive relationship.

You suspect that your partner, the mother or father of your children, has a personality disorder — and then you hear that personality disorders are highly genetic.

What do you do? And if you’re a therapist, how do you help a client in this situation?

Starting September 14, Dr. Liane Leedom will present a four-part webinar series called Overcoming Children’s Genetic Risk for Externalizing Disorders. It is designed for mental health professionals and offers continuing education credits, but parents can benefit from the information as well.

Psychiatrist explains how prison employee may have been “groomed” to help inmates escape

Joyce Mitchell

Prison employee Joyce Mitchell allegedly helped two inmates escape.

In an interview on CNN today, Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner spoke of the female prison employee, Joyce Mitchell, who is alleged to have helped the two New York inmates escape.

Lovefraud readers might find healing in what he had to say. He said that there may not be any particular vulnerability in a victim of what he terms “emotional hacking.” He states the greatest risk factors are “access and time.”

“We need to appreciate the vulnerability with prison employees the way we do our children with pedophiles,”  Welner says. He points out that, “We all see what we need to see in other people.” Prison workers need to regard the humanity of inmates, he says, and this regard makes them vulnerable.

“Did He Ever Love Me?” A Qualitative Study of Life With a Psychopathic Husband

Just Like His Father? (available through this site) was released in October, 2006. At that time I fantasized that the audience for the book would be single parents or grandparents raising the children of personality disordered individuals. I thought that most of the disordered parents would have abandoned the family and want nothing to do with the kids. While we still do not know what percentage of personality disordered parents abandon their kids, I have come to believe that that those who do not are a much bigger social problem.

Within 6 months of the release of the book, people who were trying to co-parent with severely disordered former partners began to write me. At first I did not believe the stories because they so contradicted common sense and my clinical training. What sane person would believe that the family courts would grant unsupervised access or even custody to severely personality disordered abusive parents? Well I discovered that is just what they do, and since that discovery have been working obsessively to change things.

Connecticut shooting: It is time for “people control”

President Bush designated the 1990s as the Decade of the Brain: “to enhance public awareness of the benefits to be derived from brain research” through “appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.” Thirteen years after the decade of the brain, the public is now aware that brain function is impaired in mental illness (including psychopathy) and addiction. Research has uncovered the brain regions involved in mental illnesses (including psychopathy) and addiction and the mechanism of action of many helpful medications.

Now this may still be difficult for some people to comprehend but, I say categorically that, “a 20 year old male who kills his mother, several other women and 20 five year old children does not have a normal brain.” I also ask, “when are our laws regarding mental illness going to catch up with our scientific knowledge of same?”

Psychopathy is a disorder, not an adaptation

According to Merriam Webster online a pet peeve is something that annoys or bothers a person very much. One of my pet peeves is people of all sorts who say that psychopathy is “fascinating” or worse even assert that it is “beneficial”. There is nothing fascinating or beneficial about a disorder that is linked to child rape and murder of innocent victims and countless ruined lives. It also bothers me that professionals who talk about psychopathy in this way are sought after by the press.

Several months ago a lovefraud reader forwarded me an article I had not seen. Nepotistic patterns of violent psychopathy: evidence for adaptation? Linda and I wrote a comment on this paper and that comment has just been published. The comment argues that psychopathy is not an adaptation but is instead a “spandrel.” The word spandrel in evolutionary psychology is analogous to the architectural term. A spandrel, (also spelled spandril or splaundrel), is The roughly triangular wall space between two adjacent arches. This space has no meaning other than it is there because of other important features.

A mother paid the ultimate price

Many of us have faced condemnation by strangers, friends and family members for having been romantically involved with someone who turned out to be a sociopath. It takes a very strong person not to allow this condemnation to turn to self-doubt; we may blame ourselves as much as others blame us. I have been lucky because the experience of getting to know other victims has taught me that many fine people have been conned.

Furthermore, many of the conned tried to do their homework, they tried to protect themselves. Although highly intelligent, they were simply out maneuvered by an individual who was a professional con artist, a criminal who earns a living by preying on others.

Cartoons teach young children about sociopaths

This morning I was writing a comment on a recent article claiming that psychopathy is not a mental disorder while my son was watching Kung Fu Panda. Hopefully the comment challenging the premises of the article will be published and I’ll write more about it in a few weeks. Kung Fu Panda was almost as disturbing as the report that said that since psychopaths harm strangers more than family members, psychopathy is advantageous and not a disorder.

Parenting at-risk teens and young adults

A number of parents have written Lovefraud recently asking for advice regarding helping 16-24 year old sons and daughters whose other parent is a sociopath. These sons and daughters may be showing some signs of the disorder and the parents are at a loss about what to do.

The stage of life between 16 and 24, is called emergent adulthood, and I have come to believe this stage is critical in the development of healthy and unhealthy personality patterns. With respect to antisocial personality (sociopathy/psychopathy), although symptoms of the disorder may be present during childhood and early adolescence, recent studies show this is not always the case. The disorder can develop during emergent adulthood.

Sociopaths victimize using human institutions like the courts

This summer I read a fabulous book, Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life by Evan Stark. It is a well written academic discussion of the topic of coercive control that also provides a history of domestic violence awareness in America. Although I highly recommend the book to anyone who advocates for victims, I do not agree with the premise that coercive control is about female victimization. I have known too may male victims to believe that this is a male –female issue.

The challenge then is to come up with a theory about intimate partner victimization that accounts for, rather than rejects the very cogent arguments put forward by clinician-researchers like Dr. Stark. Although there isn’t space here to detail all the theory I am considering, the cornerstone of it is that psychopathic individuals (sociopaths) male and female will take advantage of every societal institution that exists as they work to gain control of the people in their lives. The end result of this theory aligns me with Dr. Stark and other dv advocates, in that I also see the need to change society in order to help victims of coercive control.