Lack of guilt in psychopaths
Psychopaths lack any true sense of guilt or remorse for harm they may have caused to others. Instead, they rationalize their behavior, blame someone else, or deny it outright. This is seen by psychologists as part of a lack of moral reasoning (in comparison with the majority of humans), an inability to evaluate situations in a moral framework, and an inability to develop emotional bonds with other people.
Also known as sociopathy or antisocial personality disorder, this psychopathic lack of guilt used to be termed ‘moral insanity‘. However, others suggest that the psychopath is in fact driven by a very severe but unconscious sense of guilt.
Psychopathy (/saɪˈkɒpəθi/ is a personality disorder that has been variously characterized by shallow emotions (including reduced fear, a lack of empathy, and stress tolerance), coldheartedness, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity, criminality, antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse, and a parasitic lifestyle. However, there is no consensus about the symptom criteria and there are ongoing debates regarding issues such as essential features, causes, and the possibility of treatment.
While no psychiatric or psychological organization has sanctioned a diagnosis of “psychopathy” itself, assessments of psychopathy are widely used in criminal justice settings in some nations and may have important consequences for individuals. The term is also used by the general public, in popular press, and in fictional portrayals. This popular usage does not necessarily conform to the clinical concept. According to the Scientific American, although psychopathy is associated with and in some cases is defined by conduct problems, criminality or violence, many psychopaths are not violent, and psychopaths are, despite the similar names, rarely psychotic.
Although there are behavioral similarities, psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) according to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are not synonymous. A diagnosis of ASPD is based on behavioral patterns, whereas psychopathy measurements also include more indirect personality characteristics. The diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder covers two to three times as many prisoners as are rated as psychopaths. Most offenders scoring high on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R) also pass the ASPD criteria, but most of those with ASPD do not score high on the PCL-R.
Co-occurrence with other mental conditions
Psychopaths may have various other mental conditions. It has been found that psychopathy scores correlated with “antisocial, narcissistic, histrionic, and schizoid personality disorders … but not neurotic disorders or schizophrenia“. Additionally, the constellation of traits in psychopathy assessments overlaps considerably with ASPD criteria and also with histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder criteria.
Psychopathy is associated with substance use disorders. This appears to be linked more closely to anti-social/criminal lifestyle, as measured by Factor 2 of the PCL-R, than the interpersonal-emotional traits assessed by Factor I of the PCL-R.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is known to be highly comorbid with conduct disorder, and may also co-occur with psychopathic tendencies. This may be explained in part by deficits in executive function.
Terrorists are sometimes called psychopaths, and comparisons can be drawn with traits such as antisocial violence, a selfish worldview that precludes welfare for others, lack of remorse or guilt, and blaming external events. However, such comparisons could also then be drawn more widely, for example to soldiers in wars. In addition, it has been noted that coordinated terrorist activity requires organization, loyalty and ideology; traits such as self-centeredness, unreliability, poor behavioral controls, and unusual behaviors may be disadvantages