Posted: March 23rd, 2023

What is the Meaning of Psychopathy?


The term psychopathy originated in the 1980s and later transitioned to antisocial personality disorder. A psychopathic individual exhibits antisocial traits of impulsiveness, high negative emotions, irresponsible behavior, low conscientiousness, deceit, and recklessness. For that reason, the lives of people with this condition are characterized by unstable relationships at the personal level. As such, individuals do not take responsibility for their behavior, never learn from experience, are egocentric, and significantly disregard other people’s feelings. Both genetics and high-risk environments like those of unstable families nurture psychopathic traits, especially where parents exercise harsh and inconsistent emotions. As a result, most of them result in criminal activities, while inadequate parental support leads them into being delinquents. The variability of this disorder makes it hard for medics to diagnose it at an early age, but it is possible to treat it over a period. However, most people with this problem find it difficult to have a social life or to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. Therefore, psychopathy is a critical health issue. Thus, the need to evaluate the ideologies of different scholars pertained to this condition to create awareness and nurture a healthy society.   

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Adult Psychopathy Begins in Childhood

Antisocial personality disorder occurs due to various reasons. However, the most significant causal factors are childhood variables that carry on to adulthood, which have substantial effects on the adult patient and society. According to studies, antisocial behavior starts in childhood, where a kid’s problematic characters are nurtured by a high-risk environment (Krastins et al., 2014). As children grow up, they find ways of posing defiant behavior, which through adverse environments nurtures the psychopathic behavior in them. However, it is crucial to understand that ASD traits in children are nurtured within their communities, starting from home to the wider society due to weak family ties, parental maltreatment, and exposure to external behavior challenges like bullying or aggression.

Childhood mistreatment is the greatest active contributor to adulthood antisocial depression symptoms. Research provides that those children who are maltreated through emotional abuse, including parental neglect, sexual harassment, and teasing, have higher chances of developing psychopathic symptoms in adulthood. Present studies are an extension of past research where it was speculated that child victimization predicted increased APD occurrence in adulthood (Krastins et al., 2014). Notably, a poor parental bond for a father’s protection or maternal care gradually develops psychopath children who later grow into problematic adults. However, other studies maintain that there is a positive correlation between overprotectiveness and APD, but this relationship remains insignificant due to inadequate evidence.

Bullying is also another potential source of adulthood exhibition of APD. The underlying reason is that victimization and frequent teasing by bullies continually aggravate the psychopathic traits in kids who gradually develop full-grown APD symptoms in adulthood. In fact, bullying plays the greatest role in developing an individual’s psychopathic behavior to a great extent. The result of childhood exposure to a high-risk environment is antisocial personality disorders like constant anxiety, engagement in substance abuse, and depression. In 2003, the researchers provided that out of 5000 people at least 3% of individuals in a high-risk population live in constant anxiety (Krastins et al., 2014). Indeed, anxiousness then yields into a major depression where such a patient starts indulging in substance abuse, eventually leading to addiction. Notably, the three most important APD symptoms of anxiety, depression, and addiction highly correlate as they are as a result of different childhood variables, which emanate from maltreatment.

Gender Psychopathy and Drug Abuse

It is worth noting that psychopaths have high probabilities of indulging in drug abuse since psychopathy is characterized by two critical factors, which are the interpersonal-affective traits and the impulsive antisocial behavior (Schulz et al., 2016). Strained interpersonal relationships allow psychopaths to lie, use superficial charm, manipulate others, and exhibit low empathy or remorsefulness in their daily lives. On the other hand, impulsivity leads them to irresponsible actions, little self-control, and indulgence in crime.

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In recent studies, researchers assess the link between psychopathy in gender differences and substance abuse by measuring how drug abuse starts and progresses to full addiction. According to Schultz et al. (2016), a successful examination and correlation between the two issues requires medics to determine the age at which a patient initiated into using substances and individual experimentation illicit drugs, then integrate the results with the clinical symptoms of drug addiction and a medical perspective of total addiction. Through this approach, recent studies can provide the relationship between gender psychopathy and substance abuse, the interaction between impulsivity and interpersonal, affective factors, and establish the psychopathy facets. 

Schultz et al. (2016) confirm a relationship exists between psychopath female and male drug abuse. The authors continue to indicate that women with antisocial disorders are more exposed to drug addiction than their male counterparts. However, the interpersonal-affective traits in women protect them from abusing drugs, thus delaying early indulgence in substance abuse. In addition, the study maintained that impulsive-antisocial psychopathy positively aggravates and nurtures all the variables related to drug addiction. Notably, impulsivity leads to continued abuse and drug dependency, encourages early initiation and individual experimentation of different kinds of illicit substances.

Different lifestyle facets like those of small goals, irresponsible behavior, and impulsivity in psychopathic individuals are moderately associated with increased drug abuse, particularly to those of the female gender. Clearly, this approach provides that psychopathy differences in genders are stronger in the women than in men. Hence, the outcomes associated with the underlying psychopathic traits or the increased drug policy awareness programs focus on one gender than the other. Evidently, the number of imprisoned women records larger percentages than men considering that in 2012, the incarcerated females were at 25%, while that of the males were at 17% (Schulz et al., 2016). Women psychopaths living an antisocial lifestyle are more prone to engage in drug abuse and experience social and legal issues, but that does not necessarily lead them to addiction. Notably, psychopathic women are initiated to substance addiction more than men due to their personal traits. However, interpersonal and affective characteristics in women protect them from commencing drugs abuse at an early age due to the absence of friends and peer pressure (Schulz et al., 2016). On the other hand, the first indulgence in drugs for men is aggravated by the need to keep the societal expectations of masculinity.

Clinical Perspective of Psychopathy

Medical practitioners provide that structural and functional inadequacies of the brain cause ASD symptoms. Clinicians pose evidence that an individual’s anatomy of the brain can alter a person’s mental wellbeing due to wrong emotional processing and response (Thompson et al., 2014). Medics provide that if the prefrontal cortex region inadequately regulates emotions, then the behavioral traits of a psychopathic person become adversely affected. In addition, the inadequate responsiveness of the endocrine area in the brain aggravates high possibilities of developing ASD symptoms since an impaired hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenaline systems immensely contribute to the development of psychopathic characteristics. In fact, an altered serotonergic and dopaminergic system can significantly influence ASD as the two systems are crucial in rewarding and reinforcing person’s behavior in all interpersonal activities (Thompson et al., 2014). However, increased dopamine enhances the aggressiveness in an individual as serotonin volumes are considerably low to regulate the dopaminergic systems.

The medical platform provides that psychopathic traits are developed in two ways: environmental influences and parental inheritance. Environmental influences are mostly exhibited through children who grow in a high-risk environment. According to clinicians, ASD traits are manifested through aggressive behavior, antisocial characteristics, and impulsivity (Thompson et al., 2014). Particularly, psychopathy in children is aggravated by family structures, social-economic status, racial affiliation, physical punishment, poor parental discipline, poor supervision, peer delinquency, and a history of impulsivity or low IQ (Thompson et al., 2014). Indeed, that is why exposure to high-risk environments during childhood guarantees adult psychopaths, but if this condition is recognized early, then it is possible to treat it and eliminate the adverse effects that come along with this problem.

On the other hand, the genetic construction can lead to psychopathic individuals, especially in children who exhibit unemotional traits in their daily activities. As a result, parents or caregivers who do not recognize these emotions continue to provoke more psychopathic characters in children who later develop into delinquent adults (Thompson et al., 2014). In addition, individuals with the homozygous allele variance within their serotonin systems have a high possibility of developing ASD symptoms, especially if they come from a high-risk environment. Moreover, an impaired serotonin receptor gene further nurtures unemotional and destructive traits in psychopaths (Thompson et al., 2014). In essence, the medical platform recognizes genetic makeup for developing psychopathic adults.

According to clinical procedures, psychopathic disorder can be treated with antidepressants or oxytocin. From a medical view, antidepressants significantly reduce aggression and neuroticism, thus increasing social interaction and interpersonal relationships (Thompson et al., 2014). However, different studies have emerged to prove that antidepressants are not designed for ASD, as taking serotonin inhibitors increase and develops psychopathic traits. Oxytocin is also recommended since it increases social attachment, trust, and empathy in a psychopath. Nonetheless, different studies have disagreed with its application for psychopathic individuals as it elevates negative social behavior connected to insecurity and mistrust (Thompson et al., 2014). However, oxytocin is suggested for treating anxiety disorder and autism.

Treatment for Antisocial Personality Disorder

Treating psychopathy is crucial for the entire society as the disease has tremendous adverse effects on the community. There are various treatment programs for antisocial personality disorders, which range from boot camps, community therapies, drug abuse programs, mental health courts, and domestic violence groups. However, it is challenging to work with psychopathic patients as their conditions may relate to that of Antisocial Personality Disorder (Hatchett, 2015). For instance, treating a psychopathic individual may become difficult if the person has new mental disorders, anxiety problems, abusing substances, or has mood swing issues. Therefore, the American Psychological Association (APA) designed guidelines that clearly illustrate how a mental disorder or any other related disease can be treated effectively (Hatchett, 2015). The guidance provides that patients exhibiting antisocial characteristics should be addressed in two ways. First is through remediating any psychopathic traits or reducing recidivism; the second is treating substance abuse complications.

The remediation intervention strategy aims to reduce criminal activity recurrence and decrease antisocial traits in patients. However, different studies provide that this approach negatively impacts patients with ASPD (Hatchett, 2015, p. 18). As such, the high dropout rates reported the high probability of recidivism after discharge and initiated more psychopaths into becoming iatrogenic (Hatchett, 2015). However, recent studies provide that it is possible to treat ASPD and psychopathy through remediation strategies. In fact, perseverance in this therapeutic approach is the key to successful results. In addition, the effectiveness of the remediation intervention process in psychopathic treatment showed effectiveness when integrated with the treatment-as-usual procedure in community therapy programs (Hatchett, 2015, p. 21). In essence, therapeutic community programs are significantly essential as they help eliminate recidivism amongst psychopathic prisoners.

The second treatment approach requires medics to treat substance abuse disorder alongside psychopathic conditions as the two correlate in various ways. The treatment procedure has numerous benefits to the ASPD individuals, while it has enormous therapeutic gains for those with substance abuse issues. Moreover, it is during drug addiction programs that additional treatments like those of depressive disorder are introduced to help motivate ASPD and substance abuse patient into persevering the treatment process (Hatchett, 2015). However, other studies argue that patients with ASPD do not benefit from the substance abuse programs due to the minuscule improvement margins in psychopathic individuals (Hatchett, 2015). Treating psychopathic patients depends on a health professional’s decision on the most efficacious method and the one that can be well implemented in a practical clinical setting.   


Evidently, the above discussion has exhibited that psychopathy is an existing health problem as various studies providing different opinions of this condition. The research has clarified that psychopathy begins in childhood, where various high-risk environments aggravate a child’s problematic behavior into nurturing delinquent in adults. In addition, the study has indicated that gender psychopathy relates to drug abuse in three ways. Hence, there is a relationship between gender psychopathy and addiction, while interaction exists between impulsivity and interpersonal. In addition, affective factors exist in both men and women, whereas psychopaths have particular lifestyle facets. On the other hand, clinicians provide that ASD is caused by structural and functional inadequacies of the brain, which are developed by parental genes and environmental factors. However, health professionals provide that ASD can be treated through oxytocin or antidepressants. In America, psychopathic patients are treated through the APA guidelines of remediation intervention strategies and substance abuse treatment procedures.



Hatchett, G. T. (2015). Treatment guidelines for clients with antisocial personality disorder. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 37(1), 15-27.

Krastins, A., Francis, A. J. P., Field, A. M., & Carr, S. N. (2014). Childhood predictors of adulthood antisocial personality disorder symptomatology. Australian Psychologist, 49(3), 142-150.

Schulz, N., Murphy, B., & Verona, E. (2016). Gender differences in psychopathy links to drug use. Law and Human Behavior, 40(2), 159-168.

Thompson, D. F., Ramos, C. L., & Willett, J. K. (2014). Psychopathy: Clinical features, developmental basis and therapeutic challenges. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 39(5), 485-495.


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