In a recent Science Daily article, Dr. Skeem of the University of California, Irvine, was quoted – “Psychopathy has long been assumed to be a single personality disorder. However, there is increasing evidence that it is a confluence of several different personality traits.” While it is true that within the last ten years there have been many neurological studies elucidating structural abnormalities in the brains of psychopaths (particularly the OFC, VMPFC, amygdala, hippocampus, and corpus callosum, as well as white matter damage in the uncinate fasciculus), it seems a very antiquated view that psychopathy is one disorder with an underlying etiology that is carved in stone. Hare’s checklist for psychopathy (PCL-R) includes a multidimensional analysis of those exhibiting antisocial behaviors, and the ICD-10 and DSM IV (while not in strict agreement) make it apparent that there are many facets to psychopathy, and this is no longer a new phenomenon.
I think both the public and the scientific community are in love with the term “psychopath” and both seek to claim and shamelessly manipulate the term for their own ends. Whenever another line is drawn or a statistically significant difference rears its ugly head, the flags go down and the term itself gains another meaning in its pock-marked face.
Dr. Skeem’s article “Psychopathic Personality: Bridging the Gap Between Scientific Evidence and Public Policy” is a very compelling read and does help to dispel many of the myths about psychopathy.