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A Look Into the Mind of Psychopaths

As kids, many people are introduced to psychopaths and who they are. One may have heard about them on the news, read about them or even encountered one. Nowadays, it seems as if they have become a phenomenon. Humans are either scared of them or drawn to them.

Psychopathy is a personality disorder where the person cannot see the difference between right and wrong. They can “violate the law and the rights of others,” the Mayo Clinic says. Psychopaths have little empathy, are anti-social and suffer from shyness.

Are psychopaths born this way or not?

On the one hand, there is the thesis that psychopaths are born like this. “It is solid proof that psychopaths are born with the inability to experience fear.” They have a hard time recognizing and responding to fear, according to neuroscientists. They have less activity in the amygdala, which is located in the frontal cortex. Researchers compared the brains of 27 psychopaths and 32 non-psychopaths and found that psychopaths had less volume in their amygdala — their brains do not function like a normal brain would. These facts have been arguments for scientists saying a person with a normal functioning brain cannot become a psychopath out of the blue.

However, some people think that psychopaths are “made” due to their social environment. If a kid grows up in a violent environment where love is unknown, there is a possibility that he or she will later become a serial killer. On the contrary, if a kid grows up in a loving household, he or she will most likely have a “normal” life.

In some cases, however, growing up in a loving household isn’t enough. In a crime book written by Ferdinand von Schrirach, a German lawyer, one fits the “born psychopaths” theory perfectly. One day, a married man that had everything except a loving wife decides to kill his wife. Until that moment, he lived a perfectly normal life. He was a loved doctor in Berlin. He got fed up of the mental torture his wife inflicted him on a daily basis. If he had never met his wife and lived with that mental torture for 50 years, he would have never killed her, never turned into a killer. His wife made him that way.

Does that make him a psychopath, though?

Another book that can be helpful to understand these kinds of situations is “The Psychopath Test” by Jon Ronson.

There is a little distinction to make between a psychopath and someone having psychopathic tendencies. Psychopathic tendencies come from the social environment one grew up in. “A toxic household can cause one to develop psychopathic tendencies and it is frequent to have these tendencies in the early years of one’s life. Nevertheless, if those people are shown love and guided, the tendency can be easily cured. Psychopathy is not that easy to cure.”

Hence, are they really able to change? As of this day, there is no cure, no medicine that can make a psychopath turn back, but the earlier psychopathic tendencies are spotted the more help can be provided. There is no way to teach love and empathy to someone. However, loving relationships and therapy can help. The Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC) showed that psychopaths reacted to a “reward system” and not a punishment one because that encourage bad behavior in them. MJTC youth were 50% less likely to commit a violent crime, and while non-MJTC youth killed 16 people after their release, MJTC youth didn’t commit a single homicide.

Psychopathy is not something that can really be described as there are so many different cases. Psychopaths are either born that way or something in their lives made them become that way.

It is still a burning issue as scientists fight over who is right and who is wrong.

The human brain is as complicated as the answer.

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20 years old freelance journalist, based in Paris.

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