Personality Disorder What is Psychopathic Personality
Psychopathic Personality is sometimes referred to as “antisocial personality,” the psychopath is a person who is basically unsocialized and whose behavior pattern brings him repeatedly into conflict with society. He is largely incapable of loyalty to other individuals, groups, or social values, and he is grossly selfish, callous, irresponsible, impulsive, and unable to feel guilt or to learn from experience or punishment.
In the past, the condition we now refer to as psychopathic or antisocial personality was called “constitutional psychopathic inferiority.” Implicit in the use of the term “constitutional” was the idea that the characteristics mentioned stemmed from a genetic or hereditary defect. Such individuals, it was believed, were incapable of being socialized normally because of faulty heredity.
Today the idea of constitutional inferiority is not generally accepted; rather, psychopathic personality is believed to be a disorder stemming from faulty psychological development. Thus then people now diagnosed as psychopaths have in this common: “They have developed in such a way that parental and social standards have never been introjected. They have failed to respond adequately to the process of socialization.”
Cleckley has drawn up a “clinical profile” of the psychopath. In conversation, he notes, the patient makes an unusually pleasant impression. He is alert, well-informed, and able to talk well. He appears intelligent, but at the same time, irresponsible in matters both great and small. He cannot tell the truth. He does not accept blame for his conduct nor is he ashamed of it. On the contrary, he gives a plausible excuse for everything that has occurred. He gets into the same trouble over and over again, and seems unable to learn from experience. He seems incapable of real love and attachment, and in fact appears devoid of strong, deep, and lasting feelings.
An interesting example of the psychopathic personality is seen in Ferdinand W. Damara, Jr., a man who spent years as an imposter. So well known is this case that it was the subject of a book and then a movie, called “The Great Imposter.” Damara began his career as an imposter by obtaining the college grades of an officer while he (Damara) was in the Navy, and then “doctoring” the transcript so that he could use it to apply for a commission himself. He deserted from the Navy before he was commissioned, however, because of a fear that security checks would reveal his true identity.
He later obtained the full credentials of a man who had earned a Ph.D. in a psychology from Harvard, and used these to obtain an appointment as Dean of Philosophy at a small Canadian college. While there he taught courses in general, industrial, and abnormal psychology.
Leaving his teaching job after a disagreement with his superior, he became friends with a physician who taught him a considerable amount of medicine. With this knowledge, Damara used fraudulent credentials to obtain a commission as a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy medical service. Assigned to a destroyer in the combat zone in Korea, he not only performed routine medical services, but a number of difficult operations as well. A reporter’s interest in his activities ultimately led to his unmasking.