Sanctuary for the Abused
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Psychologist Explains the Psyche of Psychopaths
By April Wilkerson
When news broke of the alleged BTK Killer's capture in Wichita, it sparked new discussions and feelings toward a decades-old case: fear, relief, intrigue about such a person.
Public interest in serial killings and psychopaths is always high, says a local psychologist. But her involvement in the field is from a more analytical perspective.
Dr. Sue Stone is a clinical psychologist at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, a position she's held since January. Although her work here is in general psychology and therapy, her specialty area is psychopathy, and she came from three years' work at the Department of Corrections, doing criminal court evaluations, consulting on capital murder cases and more.
Stone says there's an adage in her field: Not all psychopaths are serial killers, but all serial killers are psychopaths. While psychopaths as serial killers are a relatively rare phenomenon, there are people functioning in society who exhibit various degrees of psychopathic behavior in their daily lives, she said.
That makes the term psychopath a relative one, but there are definite characteristics of such people, Stone said.
Psychopaths demonstrate antisocial behavior and an aggressive narcissism -- they use people through charm, intimidation or violence, she said.
"They have a parasitic lifestyle -- they live off people. Their whole mindset is domination over other people," she said. "Psychopaths are not necessarily criminal in their activities, but they are attracted to positions of power. They have no anxiety about their behavior.
"Psychopaths see themselves as wronged. They can be paranoid, feel persecuted, feel a need for revenge. They harbor a lot of persecutory beliefs." (i.e. - They are the victim, not you, in their heads)
There also is a lot of thrill-seeking with psychopathic behavior, Stone said. Over time, there will be an escalation of their behavior because they've gotten sensitized to a certain act, but then have to "up the ante" to capture the thrill they seek, she said.
That may be the case with the alleged BTK Killer, who resurfaced with letters to the media after not being heard from in a while, Stone said.
"Psychopaths have a need for recognition, not just a need for attention," she said. "They have a sense of being invincible, of 'I can outsmart you.' They're taken in by their own narcissism. It's almost like a game."[Sociopaths] often take "souvenirs" from their victims -- pictures, jewelry, lock of hair -- to remind them later, Stone said. "They want to keep that image, the fantasy of that control going," she said.
In the BTK case, Dennis Rader has been arrested and charged in the killings of 10 people beginning in 1974. His seemingly normal life as a churchgoer and Scout leader has shocked many, but that type of appearance is not unheard-of in psychopaths, Stone said.
"It's a misnomer to think that if we saw a psychopath, he would look odd. Often, that's not the case," she said. "A psychopathic individual can be a chameleon and learn to act a certain way. That advances their opportunity to engage in certain behaviors because who would suspect?"
Often, people think that childhood abuse can create psychopathy in adults, Stone said. Childhood trauma certainly can aggravate psychopathic tendencies, but it's not a cause-effect relationship, she said. Research over the last 10-15 years is supporting the notion that psychopathy is related to a genotype (aka - GENETIC), she said.
Psychopaths also differ in that their intellectual and emotional understanding of things don't match. Stone said psychologist Robert Hare has a saying for this condition: Psychopaths know the words but don't know the music when it comes to emotions.
"They know intellectually what it is to be sad, but their empathy and regard for other people is not there," Stone said. "They can mimic the feeling, but they really can't put words to how they feel because they don't have that internal experience."
There is no known treatment for psychopaths; rather, behavior management is the course of action, Stone said. Psychopaths don't say, "I need help" because they see others as the cause of their problems; they don't have anxiety to prohibit their behavior, she said.
And studies have shown that group therapy not only doesn't work for psychopaths, it makes their behavior worse, Stone said. They use the therapy setting as practice for manipulating people.
One percent of the general population in the United States meets the criteria for psychopaths, Stone said. But the percentage is 15-20 percent in prisons because of the criminal activity psychopaths often engage in.
Instances like the BTK case often create anxiety or spark fears in people, Stone said. But it can be a good time for people to reassess their safety precautions in their homes, cars and when dealing with strangers.
"There's a certain amount of trust that goes into our daily interactions with people," Stone said. "It's important for people to realize when dealing with strangers that they need to take some precautions."Most people want to trust and help others, but that's just the position that Ted Bundy took advantage of, she said. He would act hurt and request assistance from women -- even using props like a cast -- then as soon as they were close enough, he would abduct them, she said.
Simple actions such as locking doors at home and in the car are important, but so is protecting yourself in a vulnerable position, Stone said. It's OK to call the office of a repair company to check a person's credentials, she said, and if a stranger comes to your door asking to use the phone, ask him to step to the curb, then call the police.
"It doesn't mean we need to be suspicious of everybody. We couldn't function in life; we have to have some sense of trust," she said. "The BTK case brings up issues of safety. It's a good time to look at what areas we can be safer in our day-to-day life, while realizing that serial killers are a relatively rare phenomenon."
BUT SOCIOPATHS ARE NOT A RARE PHENOMENON - THE MAJORITY OF SOCIOPATHS EXPLOIT OTHERS BUT DO NOT KILL - CLICK HERE FOR MORE