So-Called ‘Psychopathic Traits’ In Adolescents Often Symptoms Of Intense Emotional Distress

A recent study conducted at the University of Vermont and published in the Journal Of Child Abnormal Psychology by psychological researchers Gill and Stickle (2016) suggests that those in the medical profession who are prone to see young people displaying certain characteristics and behaviours as nascent psychopaths may not properly appreciate the complexities involved in the diagnosis of psychopathy.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnessedition 5 (DSM V), psychopathy is listed under antisocial personality disorders and it is currently hypothesized that the disorder is rooted significantly in genetic determinants and involves chemical abnormalities in the brain. In other words, the condition is thought to be substantially determined by biological factors.
 What Is A Psychopath?
Typically, a psychopath
ignores the rights of others
highly egoistical/narcissistic
bold
disinhibited / impulsive / problems delaying gratification
 
– lacks empathy
 
– is callous, cold and unfeeling
 
– disregards the law (although many psychopaths never break the law)
 
– is prone to violence (though, again, many psychopaths are not)
 
– have little or no conscience / do not feel remorse or guilt
 
– do not fear punishment
 
The Study :
 
The study referred to in the first paragraph involved 150 participants (both male and female) residing in juvenile detention centres.
All of the participants were aged from 11-years-old to 17-years-old.
All the participants had been classified as :
callous
– unemotional
– extremely, behaviourally antisocial
– incipiently psychopathic
 
What Did The Study Find?
Using more sensitive and sophisticated means of testing (especially with regard to examining personality traits) than is usually used to investigate psychopathy and psychopathic characteristics it was found that although, superficially, the young people appeared callous, unemotional and pre-psychopathic their actual diagnosis (according to the more accurate and appropriate tests used), in the main, was that they were :

severely depressed

– severely anxious

– in a state of high emotionality

(In other words, they were not psychopathic but suffering from intense emotional distress).

Implications Of Study :

Due to these findings, the researchers pointed out that young people displaying behavioural problems such as those in this study should not be unthinkingly labelled as incipient psychopaths, punished and stigmatized but, instead, be given appropriate support and treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and help to control their intense and volatile emotions.

REFERENCE:

Gill, A.D., Stickle, T.R. Affective Differences Between Psychopathy Variants and Genders in Adjudicated Youth. J Abnorm Child Psychol 44, 295–307 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-015-9990-1

RESOURCE

 

Control My Emotions Pack | Hypnosis Downloads

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

About David Hosier MSc

Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.

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