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“Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder” by Robert D. Hare Essay (Article)

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Abstract

The article titled “Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder: A Case of Diagnostic Confusion” (February 1996) by Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. revolves around the confusions regarding the two terms: psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder. The main source of the problem is the failure of the DSM versions to provide clear definitions for ASPD and psychopathy. As a result of this confusion, psychopaths among criminals are being ignored and this can have dangerous consequences. The problem may be removed by making suitable changes in the DSM and also by training the clinician to identify all the symptoms of psychopathy and ASPD. The major impact of this problem, according to Hare is acutely felt in a society where psychopathic symptoms are increasingly tolerated and sometimes even valued.

Summary of the Article

The article titled “Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder: A Case of Diagnostic Confusion” (February 1996) by Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. discusses the problems in differentiating between psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder. Hare was once asked by a Secret Service agent if he had read the 1992 FBI report that said half the killers of law enforcement officers were diagnosed as having an antisocial personality. The finding seemed insignificant to Hare who thought it was common for people to mix up antisocial personality with an antisocial personality disorder that is listed in the DSM-IV and which he points out is found widely amongst criminals. But to his surprise, it was explained to him that the killers were truly psychopaths as per medical definition. Hare then found out from the FBI report (1992), the killers were not only antisocial individuals who fitted the DSM-IV criteria for ASPD but were also psychopaths who chillingly used charm or threat to achieve whatever they wanted to. In the judicial context, Hare notes that it is very important for psychopathy to be differentiated from ASPD. He says that unfortunately, even the latest edition of DSM-IV is not very clear in making the distinction between the two. Personality was excluded from the diagnosis of psychopathy/ASPD in DSM-III.

The article then talks about Robert Hare’s personal efforts at solving this problem by providing a checklist for diagnosing psychopathy. According to Hare “most of the psychopaths also meet the criteria for ASPD, but most individuals with ASPD are not psychopaths”. The author then lists the differences between psychopathy and ASPD. He discusses the problems in DSM-III and DSM-IV regarding this issue. He emphasizes the fact that failure to clarify the differences between psychopathy and ASPD can be disastrous from the medical point of view and the societal view. He finally concludes that we live in a “camouflage society,” where many traits of psychopaths are easily tolerated and sometimes even valued. Hare then explains that this has lead to a terrifying situation where psychopaths are entering fields such as business, politics, law enforcement, government, academia, and other social structures (Hare, 1996).

Reaction

The article was published in the Psychiatric Times, February 1996, Volume XIII, Issue 2. Dr. Hare has extensive research experience in the field of psychopathy and is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. Thus he is well suited to write this article. The article is of medium length with about 2000 words. As such, it is both easy to read and assimilate. While discussing the differences between psychopathy and antisocial disorder the author lists the characteristics attributed to psychopaths. However, he fails to list the characteristics of those suffering from ASPD. This makes the author’s point of view a bit difficult to understand.

The author adopts a very casual tone while beginning the article so that even a non-medical person would be interested in reading it. The reference to the FBI report sounds interesting. The subject of the article is regarding the differences between two terms – psychopathology and antisocial disorder personality. This is dealt with in great detail. The importance of knowing the difference is first explained, the source of this problem is described, then possible solutions are discussed, the author then gives his contributions to solving the issue, and finally, the author talks about the acceptance of many psychopaths in the social context. Thus the article has a logical structure and ends powerfully. One is made to reflect on the deteriorating nature of society by allowing psychopaths to enter various fields.

The author has no bias and neutrally discusses the topic. He provides complete information regarding how the meanings of the two terms got distorted by explaining the various changes done to DSM-III and DSM-IV. Every conclusion he makes is supported by scientific data that is well referenced.

The overall tone of the article varies from professional to casual and hence for the common person, there is some difficulty in understanding the source of the problem and easier to understand the implications of the problem. But the author has provided complete information that is especially useful for professionals. He has also provided a detailed list of references at the end of the article. These make the article authentic, valid, and professionally sound.

Opinion

In my opinion, I agree with the author that the distinction between psychopathology and those suffering from ASPD should be made very clear. Because this article shows that ASPD is very common among criminals and its danger level is minimal compared to psychopaths. Psychopaths can cause danger to society and hence I believe that psychopaths among criminals should be treated medically and also given longer sentences. Moreover, it is disturbing to know that society tolerates and even values some psychopathic traits such as egocentricity, lack of concern for others, superficiality, style over substance, being “cool,” manipulativeness, and so forth. This implies that modern culture which is moving towards a more and more self-centered lifestyle is leading to the creation of psychopaths. This can be corrected only through mass media. The fact that psychopathy was renamed antisocial personality disorder and defined by persistent violations of social norms, including lying, stealing, truancy, inconsistent work behavior, and traffic arrests in DSM III seems to have the root of the problem.

The author holds that DSM-IV contains two sets of diagnostic criteria for ASPD, one consisting of antisocial and criminal behaviors, and the other consisting of these behaviors plus clinical inferences about personality. The clinician, the author says is not provided with guidelines on how to make these inferences. This should be corrected and a medical professional should be taught how to make the distinctions accurately. The author says that there is a marked difference between psychopathy and ASPD in the areas of linguistic and emotional material. Maybe this can help the clinicians make a difference.

References

Hare, D. R. (1996). Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder: A Case of Diagnostic Confusion. Psychiatric Times, Vol. XIII, Issue 2. 2007. Web.

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