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Violence and psychosis

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1376865.  Mon Mar 15, 2021 6:22 am Reply with quote

People with violent tendencies are often casually labelled as 'psychopaths' by those who are aware of their volatile natures. To what degree do we think this is, by and large, an accurate characterisation of violent behaviour or is it a question of uncommon extremes of action?

It has occasionally been suggested that all murderers are mentally ill but this is usually regarded as being soft on those who see the removal of another person by their hand as a path to self-furtherment in some regard; in the US only about one in five mass murderers are considered psychotic. Since in 2019 there were more US mass shootings (417) than there were days in the year it is possible that the majority of the Ďnon-psychotic mass murdererí cases could be ascribed to gun culture and the mentality which is attracted to gun ownership. If that is a valid assessment UK attitudes will differ but in any event the broad notion that

This evolution proceeds rationally and logically, at least in the murdererís mind. The unthinkable becomes thinkable, then inevitable.

seems to me to undermine the suggestion of sanity. The constant drip, drip, dripping away of some mental process triggered inside the head of an unstable individual like a solely psychological form of Chinese water torture could either causes a neurosis or play on an existing one until the repetition sufficiently distorts reality such that a psychotic break occurs. There is of course a difference between neurosis and psychosis but in an inescapable position of subjection to an environment of psychological stress and/or attack the chances of one or both developing over time will greatly increase and be accompanied by a greater likelihood of aberrant behaviours emerging as a response.

The more grotesque and extreme acts of murder that tend to be associated with serial killers are, one might reasonably assert, indicators of mental illness Ė but are they? In a given percentage attempts to conceal a crime will result in a grizzly sequence of acts intended to prevent the body ever being found as in the case of Canadian husband and wife multiple murderers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. In some circumstances it can be difficult to distinguish between such acts and the behaviour of a killer seeking to dramatise his crime and increase its impact. Self aggrandisement has been identified a characteristic motive for acts of horrific dismemberment and it seems even the willingness to perform such acts is an indicator of mental instability.

Only one perpetrator of mutilation homicide had never been in contact with psychiatry yet ten out of 14 offenders in the Finnish study had been in-patients.

Childhood abuse (and thus one might assume deep seated mental trauma) was also found to be linked to sexually motivated ie Ďlustí serial killer profiles.

Abuse of all types excluding neglect was significantly higher in the serial killer population. For serial killers, the prevalence of physical abuse was 36%; sexual abuse was 26%; and psychological abuse was 50%. Neglect was equally prevalent in the serial killer (18%) and societal norm populations.

Are acts of violence self-evidently a sign of mental instability?

At some level of repeat behaviour does violence of itself indicate the presence of an actual mental illness?

Do posters agree that establishing and advertising an NHS contact number for people who chronically experience these violent feelings would be a sensible and desirable course of action?
The incidence of child abuse in serial killers
Heather Mitchell & Michael G. Aamodt Ph.D.
Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology volume 20, pages40Ė47 (2005)

Last edited by Celebaelin on Tue Mar 16, 2021 12:58 am; edited 2 times in total

1376869.  Mon Mar 15, 2021 8:08 am Reply with quote

There is much here to digest and cogitate upon. I will be back when I have finished the necessary digestion and cogitation.

1376873.  Mon Mar 15, 2021 8:28 am Reply with quote

Interesting article here - Psychopathy: Developmental Perspectives and their Implications for Treatment

Psychopathy is a neuropsychiatric disorder marked by deficient emotional responses, lack of empathy, and poor behavioral controls, commonly resulting in persistent antisocial deviance and criminal behavior. Accumulating research suggests that psychopathy follows a developmental trajectory with strong genetic influences, and which precipitates deleterious effects on widespread functional networks, particularly within paralimbic regions of the brain. While traditional therapeutic interventions commonly administered in prisons and forensic institutions have been notoriously ineffective at combating these outcomes, alternative strategies informed by an understanding of these specific neuropsychological obstacles to healthy development, and which target younger individuals with nascent symptoms of psychopathy are more promising. Here we review recent neuropsychiatric and neuroimaging literature that informs our understanding of the brain systems compromised in psychopathy, and apply these data to a broader understanding of its developmental course, ultimately promoting more proactive intervention strategies profiting from adaptive neuroplasticity in youth.

Lots of detail in between followed by:

8. Summary and Conclusion
Psychopathy is a developmental disorder that manifests itself as a set of core personality traits which allow one to disregard the rights of others in pursuit of impulsive, self-serving goals. Its development is undergirded by a neuropathology which distinguishes it from more typical antisocial deviance, presenting with hypofunctioning of paralimbic circuits in the brain, which ordinarily support the integration of affective information into cognitive processes governing ongoing behavior. Due to these apparent paralimbic deficits, psychopaths may have difficulty forming stimulus-punishment associations and are therefore poor at engaging in adaptive behaviors which conflict with other primary motivations. A second possibility is that if these associations are effectively formed, these deficits may render one unable to draw on these associations in hypothetical future-planning. In either case, the ultimate behavioral outcome may appear the same, and it remains a possible that global reduction in paralimbic activity impacts both processes, or that distinct etiological routes may contribute uniquely to similar effective outcomes.

The developmental trajectory of psychopathy apparently begins very early, adversely impacting oneís management of reward-punishment contingencies and oneís ability to establish adaptive social habits, very often resulting in patterns of antisocial deviance. Early indications of this developmental trajectory include the presence of callous-unemotional traits combined with conduct problems and deviance in youth, and these apparently become more intractable as the pattern extends into adulthood. Traditional strategies aimed at remedial intervention in adults with psychopathy have not been successful, and have sometimes contributed to higher rates of recidivism. It has been suggested here that the developmental nature of psychopathy involves behaviors and motivational styles that are deeply ingrained in oneís personality by adulthood, but which remain more plastic and susceptible to focused intervention in younger ages. Effective intervention might require very early recognition of nascent psychopathic traits, despite concerns regarding relative stability of these traits and the stigma of incorrigibility associated with the label.

If we are to respond appropriately to the mounting evidence which shows that psychopathy is accompanied by structural and functional deficits in the brain, this requires adopting alternative strategies more focused on promoting adaptive re-organization of functional circuits that allow for more successful social adjustment. Furthermore, it is clear that such strategies are most successful in a younger population in which greater neuroplasticity may support these efforts. As such, these efforts might mirror successful interventions in TBI in youth, for which strategies integrating positive behavioral reinforcement and the deliberate aid of those in perpetual contact with the child have yielded particularly beneficial outcomes. A proper assessment of the efficacy of this technique would, however, require focused longitudinal studies documenting adaptive changes in brain circuitry using functional imaging techniques. If such techniques are demonstrated to be successful, it would help to confirm developmental flexibility in the outcomes of this disorder and provide a more optimistic outlook for those who are neuropsychologically impaired in their ability to acquire key social implements such as conscience, empathy, and moral reasoning.

1376874.  Mon Mar 15, 2021 8:32 am Reply with quote

There is a woman called Athena Walker on Quora, who is a psychopath, who writes very interestingly about psychopathy.

1376901.  Mon Mar 15, 2021 5:52 pm Reply with quote

Very interesting Jenny Ė thanks for those quotes and links.

Briefly just to clarify for those who may be unfamiliar with the terminology:

Neuroplasticity Ė the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization.
TBI - Traumatic Brain Injury (in this case equating it with abnormal pathway development through psychological trauma or repeated exposure to inappropriate stimulus-reward processes)

There is mounting evidence for lifelong brain plasticity which suggests that non-pathological reward-punishment associations can be introduced at an adult developmental stage but this may not consider the inherent conscious opposition that individuals can exhibit to alteration in their established modes of behaviour. For instance it has been established that psychopathy is over-represented within the workplace Ė indicating that the strategy (of victimisation and manipulation) is a successful one in that environment; therapy which seeks to modify such behaviour will therefore have this hurdle to overcome.

Iíve now read some of Athena Walkerís posts and my first impression is one of egocentricity which I suppose is an indicator of the openness and lack of intent to manipulate you would hope to see in a self-aware psychopath undergoing therapy. On the other hand in a rather less charitable vein online presence is often distinct from actual personality and behaviour.

There has also been quite a lot of publicity about MAOA (the gene for the enzyme monoamine oxidase A) and its influence on psychopathy.

...this "warrior gene" controls the production of a protein that breaks down brain-signaling chemicals like dopamine, noradrenalin, and serotonin, which all influence mood.

But the idea of a "psychopath" gene remains controversial.

A gene for psychopathy?

People with a variant of the gene, called MAOA-L, produce less of the protein that breaks down these signaling chemicals, which in turn causes them to build up. An excess of these chemicals, scientists believe, leads to impulsive behavior (such as as hypersexuality), sleep disorders, mood swings, and violent tendencies.

Not that this gene is a metabolic on/off switch for psychopathy or that there are not other genetic factors implicated in a tendency towards psychopathic behaviour.

This implies that there could be a pharmaceutical treatment to assist in the treatment of psychopathic behaviour comparable to that for, eg, diabetes (although the genetic root cause would be harder to determine and may not be the sole determinant).

Scientists found that psychopathy can be linked to abnormalities in the expression of genes and immune-response-related molecular pathways. For example, RPL10P9 and ZNF132 genes were upregulated and CDH5 and OPRD1 were downregulated. These genetic alterations are also associated with autism. In this case, these abnormalities explained 30Ė92% of the variance of psychopathic symptoms. Also, scientists noticed that expression of proteins related to glucose metabolism and the opioid system were also altered in cases of psychopathy.

30-92% is an unusual figure to publish; one wonders if that is a reflection of the degree of individual difference or perhaps the result of statistical analysis based on a low sample size - I suspect the former.

I'm still interested to hear posters' attitudes as regards what constitutes psychopathic behaviour but given a certain amount of reticence in that regard thus far a wider discussion might be informative.

I imagine in the course of your work with the prison population you have gained some personal insights in this area Jenny - have you any broad assessments you'd be prepared to share?

Aging and brain plasticity
Lisa Pauwels, Sima Chalavi, and Stephan P. Swinnen
Aging (Albany NY). 2018 Aug; 10(8): 1789Ė1790

1376929.  Tue Mar 16, 2021 9:44 am Reply with quote

Not really Cele, as I haven't done that work for a few years now. In the prison I worked in, there was a special unit for sex offenders, in which category you might expect to see psychopaths over-represented, and we did some workshops in that unit, but I have no idea about long-term consequences from that.

Athena Walker's posts are very interesting because she is prepared to explain herself in detail and seems to have a very clear insight into the nature of her condition. I'll paste one of her answers to a Quora question here, to illustrate what I mean.
Athena Walker wrote:

Can a psychopath miss his ex?


Psychopathy comes with a mutated oxytocin receptor, which means no chemical love, bonding, or trust.

If you cannot bond to a person, you cannot miss a person. A psychopath can invest in a person, which I will describe below, but once intentional investment is withdrawn, thatís it.

Chances are I wouldn't recognize one of my exes names, let alone their faces. People think that this is somehow cruel, and that it means that they had no value as a person, but itís just not how my brain works.

A psychopath no missing another person has nothing to do with that person, or their value as a human, itís just a difference in functionality.


This is what psychopaths can do in a relationship. We cannot bond to people, and we cannot feel the chemical component of love. We are immune to that drug. So, instead we invest in someone else.

A person that I am going to invest in is someone that I am compatible with as an individual. These are rare and far between. I donít have a need to be around people, and I very much enjoy being alone. To me, alone is preferable to most other states. When I do run across a person that has an interest to me I have plenty of time to vet them and make sure that they meet my requirements. I never need to rush into relationships, so the ones I have are worth the effort necessary to keep them. Every so oftenóas I mentioned, it is rareósomeone comes along that I enjoy being around. That person is worthy of my time, my effort, and my energy. My investment.

This is entirely done through action. It is a matter of considering the other person. Their needs, their wants, and adjusting my actions to accommodate their feelings.

I make room for them in my life. I will do what I need to do so that they know they are important to me. I understand that there is a certain degree of emotional feedback necessary. I will do this for them. I am there for them no matter what it is that they need from me. It isnít something done because I feel like I should. It is done because I know that I should.

Learning to trust them. This is something that takes a great deal of time with me. If I am getting to know a person, violations of my trust are taken very seriously. I give very few second chances. Inadvertent violations are one thing. If they intentionally do something that makes me know I canít trust them, betrayal or something along those lines, the gate closes and will never reopen. This includes behavior toward a person unrelated to me. I watch people very carefully to see what their character is made of. I wonít invest in someone that is presenting me a pretty paint job to hide the rust and Bondo underneath. They need to show me that they are worth my confidence.

How this works with trust is, they show me that I can trust them. Every day. Itís not a bank account that they should expect interest on. I expect the same response from them, which is why I work exceptionally hard if I am invested in them, to keep that position clear. I am worth their investment, because I expect that they will be worth mine. Violate that and itís incredibly hard to get it back. It removes their credibility nearly completely.

That said, I can forgive a lot of things. Small inconveniences, little trespassesóvery little makes me angry or affects what I think of them. If itís something significant, that is a major problem. Trust is always a choice, and if you make my choice for me, I am going to be inclined to agree with you

I have to be trustworthy myself. They need to know that what I say I am going to do is what I do. I mean what I say, I speak clearly and without pretext. I am not going to play games with them, and I expect that in return. I wonít be cold and callous to their problems, and they donít flood me in emotional soup. Who I am, is who they know.

Being loyal. That means that I will never betray them, and they are expected to keep my counsel in return. Betrayal on either side is unacceptable. What constitutes it would be established between myself and that person. I am very clear with what my investment means, and what I require in return from friends. No one goes into it with their eyes closed.

I will be sure that no matter what, a person in my inner circle is always okay. What they need, I will get for them. At different times this has meant everything from rescuing a person left stranded somewhere states away without hope of getting home, literally risking my life to protect them, to sending food across country to be sure that someone had something to eat and not continue to go hungry.

Investment is what I do and am for that person. It is my time, my effort, my consideration. It is unwavering until it is no longer desired, or until that person demonstrates to me that continuing to do so is a waste of my time. I will then withdraw my investment.

I can go months without speaking to a person. I donít need to see them, or hear from them. The last time I spoke to them is what I will remember them as. The lack of bonding comes into play here. I donít bond with a person. What this means is, while our past relationship has some bearing, it is no where near what it is between neurotypicals. If they screw up with a neurotypical and break trust, all the good and fuzzy memories that the two of them share can sway the other personís opinion over towards forgiveness. It doesnít work that way with me.

Our interaction is a series of events with little tying them together. Every moment of trust and loyalty I give out is intentional action and choice on my part. It is not something that runs on autopilot. My last interaction with an inner circle member is what determines my level of initial response to them the next time I see them. Imagine it as a pause button. If we pause after having a great night watching movies and having fun, bully for them. If we paused where they pissed me off? Not so much.

Investment is a series of intentional and intricate actions to provide a good relationship to the person that has earned it from me, to show them that they are important to me, to make sure their lives are good as long as they know me, and to accommodate them in my own life.

1376933.  Tue Mar 16, 2021 10:08 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:

Athena Walker's posts are very interesting because she is prepared to explain herself in detail and seems to have a very clear insight into the nature of her condition. I'll paste one of her answers to a Quora question here, to illustrate what I mean.

Thanks very much for that, Jenny. It may have helped me to understand the rather bizarre behaviour of a few people I know - including my own mother.

1377004.  Wed Mar 17, 2021 11:09 am Reply with quote

She seems to be a person who - because she understands her own condition - has made a choice to live within the norms of society.

1377574.  Tue Mar 23, 2021 1:04 pm Reply with quote

A change of tack then - when, in the opinion of posters, is it acceptable to resort to violence?

If the answer to that is 'never' then is that not saying that individuals must accept the events that are inflicted upon them and only seek the slow, dispassionate and unreliable retribution for any wrongs suffered?

Given that is only state-sanctioned retribution through legal processes acceptable? If not what form and extent of private revenge is acceptable?

Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.

George Bernard Shaw (1856Ė1950)

1377585.  Tue Mar 23, 2021 2:34 pm Reply with quote

I don't accept that anyone can truly be honest when they say they will never resort to violence no matter what, because given the right set of emotional pressure, with environmental pressures, access and legal definition, history has shown us that humans are capable of incredible levels of violence regardless of their belief or culture.

This is where society steps in and we agree to a set of codes that take away the legal right to inflict violence, reduce access to violence, reduce environmental pressure, and if possible reduce the emotional pressure.

Philosophically, we can condemn certain concepts of Government, such as Dictatorship, absolute Monarchy, Theocracy, etc. However, history is replete with such Government being toppled not because of philosophical disagreements over they type of Government, rather they were often violently toppled because they failed in providing a safe and secure society for a significant proportion of their people and often failed in one or more of the test points in my previous paragraph (* note, I don't even say majority because having a disproportionate level of power allows a minority to continue ruling).

1377597.  Tue Mar 23, 2021 3:25 pm Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
A change of tack then - when, in the opinion of posters, is it acceptable to resort to violence?

As a basic rule of thumb, I would say when it is visited upon you, you have the right to respond in kind. Personally, I would also say that sometimes it may be used in moderation to prevent more occurring, or in self defence. If someone is approaching you with clear malice in mind, then it is (imho) justifiable to do what is necessary to prevent them.

I freely admit that the whole situation is hedged around with "ifs", "buts", and "maybes" and there is frequently no clear-cut answer. Personal ability (and willingness) to resort to violence will always be a factor, and the question of whether just running away is a better short-term solution must also be addressed. It is not an easy thing to decide, but I will be interested in other's answers, particularly Jenny's, given her beliefs.


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