Insight Into Psychopathy

The complexity of psychopathy was front and centre as Dr. Lisa Marshall presented during Grand Rounds at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (OntarioShores) on Thursday, February 21.

In her presentation, Dr. Marshall, a forensic psychiatrist at Ontario Shores, provided greater insight into the term psychopathy and revealed some of the treatment challenges facing clinicians.

“The definition of psychopathy is much different than what is presented in the media,” noted Dr. Marshall.

Grand Rounds

While TV and film often depict psychopathy in the mold of the notorious movie character Hannibal Lector, it is extremely complex and doesn’t necessarily live up to common stereotypes.

A person who scores high in psychopathy lacks empathy and a sense of connection to other people.  Other common traits of a psychopath can include glibness, a grandiose sense of self-worth, proneness to boredom, pathological lying, manipulative behaviour, impulsivity, irresponsibility and a failure to accept responsibility for own actions.

While more prevalent in the criminal justice system, psychopathy exists in other areas of our world.

“If you look at our society, some of the behaviours associated with a high scorer in psychopathy can also be traits or behaviours of people who have achieved great success in the business or political worlds,” noted Dr. Marshall.

Dr. Marshall pointed to research which suggests the difference between a high scorer in psychopathy who engages in criminal behavior and one who doesn’t is the person’s environment or upbringing.

While there is a belief that psychopathy is untreatable or that treatment attempts can make them worse, Dr. Marshall noted positive outcomes for high scorers in psychopathy have been achieved through a structured approach to treatment, which is also lengthy and intensive with a focus on reducing criminal behaviour along with other problem behaviours, thoughts and feelings.