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Can a 20-year-old self-confessed psychopath ever change?

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2011-09-12 14:34:49
2011-09-12 14:34:49

Ted Bundy was considered a "SAP", Socially Adept Psychopath, and having stated that, you are left to draw your own conclusions.

AnswerThe 20 year old in question is my son and my only child, so comparing him to Ted Bundy is not much help! He was nurtured and raised in a totally loving atmosphere and made to realise not only how much he was loved but also the importance of honesty, morals and ethics. He started lying aged 16 and his whole personality changed beyond recognition. He went from being kind to being cruel, drug-taking, selling drugs, drinking, gambling. He became a clone of his estranged father whom he had not seen since he was one year old.

I could not believe what was happening to him and he drove me further and further away and became aggresive if I tried to challenge his behaviour and lies.He left home at 18 and started telling people the most terrible lies about me. He is so charming and believable that he got away with it and carried on manipulating everyone he came into contact with. He then started running up debts giving my address and landing me with threatening letters from debt collectors.

One day he rung me up and laughingly said " Ok I admit it, I am a psychopath and have no feelings for you or anyone else". He then sought out my ex-husband, his father, and moved 200 miles away to live near him, knowing that this man is a dangerous person, a pathological liar and has done the most dreadful things to me and a string of other ex-wives, esentially ruining many lives.

I just cannot believe that my beloved son, who was my whole life, has now turmed his back on the whole of the family who loved him so much. It seems he couldn't face us once we saw what he was capable of. I could never trust him as he is now but am totally devastated and heartbroken at him turning out this way.

It is like a horrendous isolating bereavement but it just feels worse as time goes by.I am hoping someone out there may have had a similar experience and hopefully maybe someone has had a positive experience...or am I just clutching at straws?

AnswerThe response was not made as sarcasm or to make light of the situation. Ted Bundy was an extremely intelligent person who had ample opportunity to change his life for the better, nevertheless, he chose to murder. The designation of "psychopath" covers a very wide area of mental aberrations. The point being that psychopaths do not change by themselves they chose their behavior. The majority of need extensive therapy including medication and long-term monitoring, more than likely for their entire life, and even then, there are no guarantees. Pehaps your son is more sociopathic, a person who is aggressively anti-everything, they have no concern for others or what happens to anyone else as a result of their behavior. The more important issue is, for those who have been and are being harmed by his actions receive counseling to help them cope with the emotional and physical trauma caused by his actions. A psychopath, sociopath or schizophrenic, indeed any person who is mentally ill cannot be helped, cannot "change" unless they are willing to accept the help that is needed to accomplish such. Family of a SociopathHas the 20-year-old been professionally diagnosed as a sociopath? Or is this his own personal opinion?

If he or she has been diagnosed by a mental health care professional, Ifind it hard to believe they wouldn't have recommended some form oftreatment.

ANSWER

More info:

No, psychopaths/sociopaths do NOT choose to be what they are!

And the price the world pays for not being able to helpthese people is incalculable.

Sociopaths are the way they are because, from birth onward, the brainof a sociopath stores learning information in a random, chaotic wayinstead of in the usual designated places in the cerebral cortex. Partof this involves lack of crucial neurotransmitters, but as of yet noone knows whether this lack is caused BY the brain abnormality or is the cause OF it. It's probably the former.

Since their information -- including emotional information -- isscattered all over both brain hemispheres, it takes too long for thebrain to retrieve and process information, and the entire process ofsocialization becomes so ponderous that ultimately it fails. (See thebook "Without Conscience" by Robert Hare, PhD.)

Since the entire cerebral cortex of a sociopath is almost never ata normal level of alertness (their waking brain waves resemble thewaves of a normal person in a light sleep, alpha waves), this may bethe crucial deficiency that cripples the developing child's ability todevelop many aspects of the human mind. As the child grows, some of thebasic mental and emotional skills the rest of the world takes so forgranted never develop, and crucial among these is the thing calledconscience. That one never develops at all.

Some people may envy the apparent calm of a sociopath, but theirexistence is misery. They cannot connect with other human beings, andas babies they are so uncomfortable being held that they fight towriggle free of all but the most basic necessary contact. Theirheartbroken parents often blame themselves or the child, never knowingthat what is really wrong with the child is in his or her brain.

Under the almost somnolent calm sociopaths project is a constantsense of restlessness and unfulfillment that is nothing other than thebasic need all people have to receive stimulation and support fromothers. But a sociopath has no way of receiving this even if it'soffered. The endless frustration of this, and a discomfort that theyare utterly incapable of articulating or even really understanding, is the source of much of their chronic anger and aggression.

Plus, since they grow up in constant conflict with authority, theyare most often bitterly angry and sometimes violent adults, brittle andcombatative under a thin veneer of charm. Offered friendship, theyappear to respond, but quickly discover that they can get nothing fromit; they see the obvious pleasure of other people in such contact witheach other, and they often seek to "even it up" by stealing what theycan -- material goods, or even human lives. They are constantly toldhow "bad" they are, and by adulthood, most of them believe it. Andbehave accordingly.

Sociopaths rarely feel true happiness. If they do, it is usually inthe condition that some kind of intervention -- such as one of thesmall number of medications made for other conditions that may alsohelp somewhat with theirs -- has taken place, and it will be fleeting.For all their frantic racing around, they are really very dead inside,and this is tragic beyond description. Imagine spending your entirelife trying to get your brain to wake up! And failing. Thousands oftimes.

There are stories of people diagnosed as sociopaths who did improveto some degree, with the most ceaseless and diligent help. But sincethe vast majority of this huge body of people (there are more thanthree hundred million sociopaths on Earth) cannot get that kind ofattention, they turn to abusing those they envy, and often to crime. Itis certainly vengeance: "If I can't have any of this, why should you?"This is the real reason sociopaths lash out at strong and kind people.No matter what they say, they know that inside, they are always emptyand damaged beyond repair.

Only in neuroscience is there hope for these incomplete people. Thekey lies in awakening the brain, which is risky because sociopaths aremuch more prone to seizures than the rest of the population, and that-- an uncontrolled blast of electrical discharge spreading through thebrain and causing violent convulsions -- is likely to be the firstresponse from brain pathways that, after years or even decades ofsilence, are suddenly flooded with impulses. But if the devices ofneurosurgeons can be tweaked to avoid this shock, and all else relatedto this idea is workable, it's feasible that small electronic devicesplanted in the brain (these already exist, but are not yet being usedfor mental illness) could open up a closed connection.

That leaves us with the problem of whether a lifetime of scatteredinformation can ever be set into order. Probably the best that could behoped for would be a kind of retraining -- like what is now done withstroke survivors and head injury patients -- that would be bothintensive and compensatory.

One of the things that would be necessary would be to try to socializethe person whose congenital birth defect made such a thing completelyimpossible before. Whatever intervention is used, be it drugs orcomputer chips or what have you, it would probably -- I'd say certainly-- be excruciating for the patient at first.

With no knowledge of how to cope with the emotions the rest of the world has been dealing with all their lives, the recovering sociopath would be rendered as vulnerable as a baby.

Which makes sense, because some of the most basic aspects of the human mind would be developing from the primordial stasis in which they had remained since birth!

A person thus treated would never be fully normal, but the human brain is amazing in the way it adapts and continues to develop all through life.

And given the utterly joyless and meaningless existence a sociopath leads, any genuine improvement is better than none.

And once they are helped, those who are hurt and bewildered by their terrible and often baffling behavior will be a lot happier, too.

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