Psychopathy (/saɪˈkɒpəθi/) is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others. It is defined in different ways, but can involve a lack of empathy or remorse, false emotions, selfishness, grandiosity or deceptiveness; it can also involve impulsiveness, irritability, aggression, or inability to perceive danger and protect one's self.
However, there is no consensus about the symptom criteria for psychopathy, and no psychiatric or psychological organization has sanctioned a diagnosis of "psychopathy" itself.'
The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders includes a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and states that this is also known as psychopathy. Nevertheless, the DSM-V working party is recommending the addition of a subtype specifically termed 'psychopathic'. The ICD-10 diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization has a Dissocial personality disorder, which it states includes the psychopathic personality. The term 'sociopathic' is also often treated as equivalent, having been introduced as an alternative term indicating social causation. However, most psychopathy measures are different from the criteria for ASPD in that ASPD focus on observable behavior while psychopathy measures also include more indirect personality judgments.
Psychologist Robert Hare has been a particular champion of the concept of psychopathy, based largely on a characterization introduced by Hervey Cleckley mid 20th century. The Hare Psychopathy Checklist is a standard ratings tool most often used in forensic settings to assess psychopathy. A study by Hare and colleagues suggested that one to two percent of the US population score high enough on a screening version of the scale to be considered potential psychopaths. The diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder covers two to three times as many prisoners as are rated as psychopaths on Hare's scale.
According to some, there is little evidence of a cure or effective treatment for psychopathy; no medications can instill empathy, and psychopaths who undergo traditional talk therapy might become more adept at manipulating others and more likely to commit crime. Others suggest that psychopaths may benefit as much as others from therapy. According to Hare, psychopathy stems from as yet unconfirmed genetic neurological predispositions and as yet unconfirmed social factors in upbringing. A review published in 2008 indicated multiple causes, and variation in causes between individuals.
Despite being unused as the main term in diagnostic manuals, the term 'psychopath' is still used by some mental health professionals and by the general public, popular press and in fictional portrayals. Despite the similarity of the names, psychopaths are rarely psychotic. Although psychopathy is associated with and in some cases defined by conduct problems, criminality or violence, most psychopaths are not violent.
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