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Antisocial Personality Disorder – Psychos welcome.

Casey Anthony: Textbook Sociopath.

Evaluation of Anti-Social Personality Disorder 

Abstract

 Antisocial personality disorder is one of the most intriguing, yet controversial forms of mental illness.  It is also one of most widely used themes in media and literature.  With the ability to now view criminal trials live, fictional television depictions, and weekly news documentaries, western culture has obsessed over sociopaths and psychopaths.  The purpose of this paper is to examine antisocial personality disorder.  While there are many complex facets to this mental illness, an overview of symptoms will be discussed.  As well as the general overview, an in depth look will be taken into the following topics:  biological components, treatments, aspects of criminality, and spiritual implications. 

 Keywords: psychopathy, sociopathy

EVALUATION OF ANTI-SOCIAL PERSONALITY DISORDER

Introduction

            Antisocial personality disorder, also understood as psychopathy or sociopathy,  is a classifiable mental illness that has strong ties to criminal behavior, obsessive media attention, and questions of demonic influence.  While antisocial personality disorder, or ASPD, is widely understood to be firmly rooted in environmental influences, there are biological and genetic considerations.  High profile cases of violent criminals such as Ted Bundy and Casey Anthony have all dazzled the media and played upon the worst nightmares of society. 

Historical Terminology

            Over hundreds of years, there have been many terms for mental illness.  In the advent of behavior science and psychotherapy, antisocial personality disorder has been narrowed and specified from previous terms.  Psychopathy and sociopathy are still terms associated with ASPD.  In years prior, other labels for the psychopathic condition were used.  (Ogloff, 2006) Some of these are manie sans délire, moral insanity, moral imbecility, degenerate constitution, congenital delinquency, constitutional inferiority, psychopathic taint, psychopathic personality, psychopathy, and, of course, Antisocial PD and Dissocial PD. (2006)

Psychopathy   

The term “psychopathy”or “psychopath”, which will also be interchangeable in this article, has been described as,

a constellation of affective, interpersonal, and behavioral characteristics including egocentricity, impulsivity, irresponsibility, shallow emotions, lack of empathy, guilt, or remorse, pathological lying, manipulativeness, and the persistent violation of social norms and expectations’’ (Gunter, Vaughn, and Philibert, 2010, p. 151)

 “Psychopathy” was actually the first personality disorder recognized in psychiatry.  (Ogloff, 2006) Thus, this concept has had historic clinical tradition in its understanding.  To use this termed disorder meant that the individual displayed an extreme form of abnormal personality.  Psychopathy is a concept with overt negativity.  (2006)  Even used by the media, “psychopath” implies an impression of danger and unmistakable evil. (Lykken, 1996) This is the longest standing term and a subject of considerable research and scholarly writing.  (2006)  In comparison to ASPD, however, psychopathy is more defined and based more upon traditional personality characteristics.  (2006) The first to use this term was the German systematist, Robert Koch.  (Lykken, 1996) Koch coined the phrase in 1891 for what we now refer to as personality disorders.  Later Emil Kraepelin, used the term “psychopathic personality” to describe amoral or immoral criminals. (1996)

Sociopathy

            The term “sociopathy,” was the next in line of specified, maladaptive personality terms.  In 1930, an American psychiatrist by the name of Partridge pointed out that these people had a common disposition to violate social norms of behavior and introduced the term “sociopath.” (Lykken, 1996)  Lykken made the distinction between psychopathy and sociopathy using the term, “sociopathy” interchangeably to antisocial personalities whose “behavior is a consequence of social or familial dysfunction.” (p. 29) Lykken (1996) further went on to state that he used the term, “psychopath” to refer to “people whose antisocial behavior appears to result from a defect or aberration within themselves rather than in their rearing. (p. 29) However, most current psychiatrists believe that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of psychopathy. (Furnham & Swami, 2009)

Antisocial Personality Disorder

            The criteria for ASPD, according to the DSM-IV-TR (2000) is as follows:

A.       A pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others since the age of 15 years, as indicated by three or more of the following:

1.         Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;

2.         Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

3.         Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;

4.         Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;

5.         Reckless disregard for safety of self or others;

6.         Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations; and

7.         Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent

to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

  1. The individual is at least age 18 years.
  2. There is evidence of Conduct Disorder with the onset before the age 15 years.
  3. The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode. (DSM-IV-TR, 2000, pp. 649-650)

Ogloff (2006) points out that the need for evidence of Conduct Disorder before age 15 reflects research that demonstrates that personality disorders are of long duration and have an onset that can be traced back at least to adolescence. 

Overview

            According to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) manual, a diagnosis of ASPD requires at least three of the following: 

  • A failure to conform to social norms
  • Consistent deceitfulness
  • Impulsiveness and failure to plan ahead
  • Irritability and aggressiveness
  • Consistent disregard for work and family obligations
  • Consistent disregard for the safety of oneself and others
  • A lack of regret or remorse (Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2000, p. 1)

The Model Sociopath

The Harvard Mental Health Letter (2000) further highlights the typical traits of one with ASPD.  The disorder is at least three times more common in males than females and, by and large, more serious in men than women. (2000) He is neither autistic nor displays any psychotic behavior, but his is indifferent to the concerns and feelings of others.  However, he is cognitively aware that others have wishes and concerns, but this information does not affect him, thus his behavior is not thwarted as a result.  (2000)  His narcissistic attitude leads him to do anything and everything that he wishes, often requiring elaborate manipulation by deception or intimidation.  Because he feels that he is a narcissist, he seeks to exploit the weakness in others and believes any harm that may come to them is deserved and easily justifiable.  Further, he may feel only contempt or indifference toward his victims. (2000) Generally, he is highly irresponsible and unreliable in any commitment that does not reflect his personal desires. He seems incapable of loyalty, shame, or guilt.  Though he can be quick to anger and rage, a sustained feeling of hatred is rare.  (2000) In speaking of love, he may mean sexual attraction, a desire for flattery, or physical and material support. When he expresses sadness, it is likely due to a failed scheme, getting caught, or a missed opportunity.  Due to this shallowness, even his sense of suffering and remorse is nearly non-existent.  However, he may display paranoia and sadism.  The Harvard Mental Health Letter (2000) states that the “model sociopath is likely to be hotheaded, as well as, coldhearted.”  (p. 2)

Some authorities maintain that there are two types of sociopaths.  In the first group, traits such as: glibness, selfishness, callousness, and deceit are prevalent.  (The Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2000) The second group includes: thrill seeking, irresponsibility, self-defeating impulsiveness, and lawbreaking.  Those in the first group are capable of long-range planning, contrarily to the impulsive nature of the second group.  They are more intelligent, less reckless, and are able to achieve a degree of social success, all the while, creating havoc in public and personal lives.  (2000)

As previously stated, one requirement by the DSM-IV-TR (2000) is evidence of Conduct Disorder in childhood and/or adolescence.  Some behaviors associated with CD are:  lying, truancy, bullying, fighting, cruelty to animals, arson, burglary, vandalism, malicious mischief, running away from home, consistent precocious aggression, deceit, impulsiveness, and rule violations.  (The Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2000) There is a possible comorbidity with learning disabilities, particularly Attention Deficit Disorder.  (2000)

            Another common trait of those with ASPD is addiction or addictive behaviors.  Chemical addiction, substance abuse, and sexual addictions are all common in sociopaths.  (The Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2000) It is important to note, however, that a person who typifies antisocial traits will change completely upon recovery from an addiction.  (2000) It is possible that the antisocial tendencies may be the cause or the consequence of addiction.  It is also possible that addictive behaviors and sociopathy may be the result of a common predisposition.  (2000)

Biological Components

            Clearly, the traits of those diagnosed with ASPD reflect an abnormality in behavior.  However, little is known about variances in genetic inheritability.  What is known and documented is the presence of antisocial tendencies in individuals who have damage to the frontal lobe area of the brain.  (The Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2001) One infamous example is that of a man named Phineas Gage, a 19th century railroad worker, who was seriously injured in an accident.  An iron spike penetrated Gage’s frontal lobe, which amazingly did not reflect obvious permanent damage.  Although he recovered, others reported that his personality changed severely.  The once reliable, sober worker became an alcoholic, profane, unreliable drifter.  (2001)

The same social reasoning deficiencies that sociopaths demonstrate are often similarly indicative in patients with frontal lobe damage.  (2000) However, Gunter, Vaughn, and Philibert (2010) report that, “examinations of brain tissue are the facts that exact regions of the brain involved in antisocial spectrum disorders and psychopathy have not been identified and neurons only constitute 10% of the cells in the brain.” (p.153) Interestingly, however,  there have been several neuropsychological tests that seem to indicate biological abnormalities in those with ASPD.  (The Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2001)  One such finding is a “feeble stress” response in the autonomic nervous system, which is indicated by low heart rate and sweating of the palms, measured by electrodes attached to the hand.  (2001) In measurements of the skin conductance, when told that they are about to receive an electric shock or observe someone else who is to receive an electric shock, sociopaths do not show the typical surge of anxiety. (2001) In another psychological study, results of the experiment demonstrated that sociopaths have difficulty recognizing facial expressions of anger, fright, and disgust. (2001)

It is important to note that, thus far, there has been no “antisocial gene” pinpointed.  According to The Harvard Mental Health Letter (2001), this also means that  biological abnormalities in the brain region alone will determine if someone will be irresponsible, deceitful, or violent. There is the possible of vulnerability, which combined with an unhealthy family and/or social environment can lead to ASPD.  It is also possible that there is a biological component of an extreme temperament or subtle variation in the prefrontal cortex.  (2001)

Treatment

            Attempting to cure or, at the very least, treat ASPD can be an extremely difficult and overwhelming task.  Due to the prevalent deceit, manipulation, and abuse, the job of a physician or psychotherapist is highly complex.  (The Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2001)  A lack of responsibility for actions, blaming everyone else for failures, and possible anger are common threads.  The therapist must maintain a proper emotional distance, without being drawn into attacks.  (2001)  Overcoming feelings of repulsion and setting aside feelings of disapproval can be very difficult, but necessary.  On the other hand, the therapist must remember the strong abilities of the sociopath.  “Actions are louder than words” would be a highly appropriate saying.  The Harvard Mental Health Letter (2001) has this to say about working with sociopathy, “It is almost impossible to avoid being deceived at times, and the effort to uncover every lie is rarely worthwhile.  But even habitual liars sometimes tell the truth…” (p. 2)

Yet, it is often argued that there is no cure for adult sociopathy. ((Lykken, 1996) The most useful option according to Lykken (1996) is prevention.  Training high-risk parents to properly socialize children, revamping the adoption system, and providing healthy, successful rearing environments are all necessary preventative tactics.  Unfortunately, these tasks are overwhelming, highly expensive, and time consuming.  (1996) However, it is important to note that it is estimated that sociopathy will cost about $3 million in an average lifetime in society.   Lykken (1996) states,

That means that each million potential sociopaths now out there on the production line of our American crime factory will end up costing us $3 trillion by the middle of the next century. (p. 38)

Controversially, Lykken (1996) goes on to propose state licensure requirements for those wishing to procreate or adopt, positing

Such a licensure requirement would offend those who believe that people have an inalienable right to produce as many babies as they wish, no matter how incompetent, immature, abusive, or depraved they may be. Because I am more concerned about the rights of those helpless babies than I am about the alleged procreative rights of their feckless parents—and about the lives of crime, violence, and social dependency that most of these babies are doomed to lead when they grow up…” (p. 38)

Diagnosis

            There are several tools used to assist in diagnosing ASPD.  Some of which are:

Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire—4 (PDQ-4), Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory—III (MCMI-III), Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI), Self-Report Psychopathy Scale II (SRP-II), Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (LSRP), Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI), Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) (2005), and The Hare Psychopathy Checklist. (Ullrich & Coid, 2010) However, there are strong concerns from some in the psychiatric community of over and misdiagnosis. (Ogloff, 2006)  Ogloff has this to say,

As currently construed, the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder grossly over-identifies people, particularly those with offence histories, as meeting the criteria for the diagnosis. (Ogloff, 2006, p. 519) Far more people (particularly prisoners) meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Antisocial PD, than is warranted. (Ogloff, 2006, p. 521)

According to Ullrich & Coid (2010), ASPD disorder affects approximately l%-4% of the adult general population in westernized countries.  According to the authors, ASPD is more strongly associated with violence towards other persons at the population level than other psychiatric disorders. It is important to note, however, not all persons with ASPD are violent, “with approximately half in a community sample reporting no violent behavior towards other persons over a five year period.” (Ullrich & Coid, 2010, p. 172)

Ogloff posits that while it is true that people may possess psychopathy characteristics, very few people possess enough of the traits to be considered ‘psychopathic’, citing that approximately 15% of North American male prisoners, 7.5% of North American female prisoners, 10% of male forensic psychiatric patients, fewer than 3% of psychiatric patients and an estimated 1% or less of the general community display antisocial traits. (Ogloff, 2006, p. 522) The Harvard Mental Health Letter (2001), concurs with this estimate stating that many antisocial personalities are found in prison, estimating 15% – 20% of prisoners meet diagnosis requirements.

Therapy

            As previously discussed, psychotherapy with a sociopath can be very intense.  Behavior therapists have used token economies as a reward system, rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior.  (The Mental Health Letter, 2001)  Cognitive therapists try to change maladaptive thinking habits, hoping that feelings and actions with follow.  (2001) Overall, the goal of the therapist is to teach ASPD patients new ways to express needs, solve problems, anticipate consequences of actions, develop self-control, and resist false assumptions and expectations of hostility from others.  (2001) Often, sociopaths are encouraged to journal about situations that provoke anger and then compare these events to the immediate rewards with the long-term negative affects of impulsive acts.  (2001)

            One important note about therapeutic intervention in sociopaths is that the prospect of success is much greater with people who can be persuaded to change.  (The Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2001) “The model sociopath would never volunteer for psychiatric treatment.” (p. 2) Typically, he is coerced or required to attend therapy.  (2001) He may attempt to dominate a therapy group with fascination or intimidation.  The Harvard Mental Health Letter (2001) describes the possible scenario,

He can turn psychotherapy into a power struggle in which he alternates charm and flattery with intimidation – trying to enlist the therapist as an ally against his family, the law, the prison system, or society, and going on the attack if he is thwarted.  If he is intelligent enough, he can wield a psychiatric vocabulary to deceive therapists and parole boards. (p. 3)

Psychotropic medication

            Caution, when prescribing a sociopath medication, should always be used, due to possible comorbidity with substance abuse.  However, drugs that reduce irritability, aggressiveness, and impulsiveness may be useful.  (The Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2001) Serotonin enhancing anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro, anti-psychotic drugs, anti-consultants, and Lithium are all common pharmacological drugs used to treat sociopathy.  (2001) However, it is important to note that a sociopath cannot be relied upon to consistently and voluntarily take medication that does not provide immediate, pleasurable results.  (2001)  Furthermore, as stated before, it is necessary to use strong discretion when prescribing medication due to abuse and combining medications with other substances.  (2001)

Effectiveness

            Although, treatment is a process fraught with a negative outlook, little is really known about the true prospective outlook for the sociopath.  It is encouraging to note that there is evidence to suggest that sociopathy begins to “fizzle out” around age forty. (The Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2001) Impulsive aggression and criminality seem to dissipate by this time. 

Criminality

            One of the most fascinating, albeit tragic aspects of ASPD is the link to criminal activity.  Due to the aggressive nature and impulsivity, combined with narcissism and a disregard for others, crime is extremely common among sociopaths, as discussed prior, however, not all sociopaths are violent criminals. With the advent of instant media, in court cameras, and a vast societal interest, obsession with violent, extreme sociopathy has captivated the Western world. Hollywoodnever ceases to produce fictional tales of horror or documentaries based upon real life events.  Television shows, such as CSI, Law & Order, and Criminal Minds all play upon the fascination with sociopaths.  

High Profile Cases

 Ted Bundy.  There is, perhaps, no sociopath as famous as Ted Bundy.  He eventually confessed to thirty murders, though many speculate that the victims were many more.  (wikipedia, 2011) Until the final given interview with James Dobson, the day before he was executed, he placed blame with many others, including

“his abusive grandfather, the absence of his biological father, and the concealment of his true parentage, alcohol, the media, the police (whom he accused of planting evidence), “society” in general, violence on television, and ultimately, pornography.  On at least one occasion he even tried to blame his victims: “I have known people who…radiate vulnerability. Their facial expressions say ‘I am afraid of you.’ These people invite abuse…By expecting to be hurt, do they subtly encourage it?” (wikipedia, 2011)

His crimes were all against women, all brutally violent, and equally appalling.  In the televised interview he gave he described the feelings he had when committing his crimes.  He used phrases such as, “some kind of horrible trance” and “possession by something alien.”  He stated that after a “brutal urge to act, then after he becomes himself again….basically a normal person.”  What is unbelievable is Bundy’s affect and countenance the day before he was set to die.  He seemed genuinely remorseful.  He seemed to fully accept responsibility for his actions and was very hesitant to relive the gruesome details of his victims.  These traits were not always described in observing Bundy, as alluded to previously.  So what could account for the change?  Either two things:  1.) Bundy was a very skilled, extremely charming, and highly intelligent individual who was manipulating any viewer.  This is quite possible.  These are the hallmark traits of the “model sociopath.”  Or 2.) There was a profound, life-altering change in his life that could only be supernatural. 

            In his final interview, Bundy specifically as for James Dobson of Focus on the Family.  He began to tell the story of what would end in horrific violence, stating, “People in towns around the country, just like me with dangerous impulses.”  He explained his profound addiction to pornography.  He went on to say that 100% of men in prison have a rooted addiction to pornography.  He claimed to be “half-drunk” at the time when he committed most of his crimes.  He discussed the desensitization affect in the addiction that lead to hard-core violence in feeding his impulses.  In that seeming humility and remorse, he expressed that he deserved “the most extreme punishment allowed by society.”  Finally, he told Dr. Dobson that he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, but was also scared about “being in the valley of the shadow of death.”  Most people believe that he was simply manipulating his audience in an attempt at sympathy. 

Truly, only God knows.

            Outside of the interview that took place within, what were his final hours, the scene was described like this,

On the morning Bundy went to the electric chair, hundreds (from photographs of the event, the crowd seemed to be composed largely of men) gathered across the street from the prison. Many wore specially designed costumes, waved banners proclaiming a “Bundy BBQ,” or “I like my Ted well done,” and chanted songs such as “He bludgeoned the poor girls, all over the head. Now we’re all ecstatic, Ted Bundy is dead.” The most common journalistic metaphors for the overall scene were that of a carnival, circus, or tailgate party before a big game. (Journal of American Culture, 1990, p. 4)

What doesn’t make sense is the bloodlust for Ted Bundy, but millions flock to theatres paying millions of dollars to see “horror” films, such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Silence of the Lambs, Saw, and Friday the 13th.

Casey Anthony.  Not since the O.J. Simpson trial, has there been such fanatic attention to a criminal trial as the Casey Anthony case.  From the flamboyance of the defense attorneys to the family drama that is noted in court, daily, worldwide attention began at the first glimpse of that angel-faced, Caylee Anthony.  Her mother, Casey Anthony is on trial for murder.  Habitual lying is the pervading undercurrent for the entire trial.  Accusations of sexual abuse, conflicting stories of accidental death, and shocking behavior have all crossed the lips of the defendant. 

In watching these amazing hearings, the utter narcissism and complete disregard for the feelings of others is immediately apparent of Ms. Anthony.  For thirty-one days, her child’s whereabouts remained unknown before Caylee’s grandmother, and, arguably, co-caretaker, demanded to know where the child was.  It was at this point that Casey admitted that she had been “missing.”  Cynthia Anthony called authorities immediately, when her mother, possibly never would. 

During the month that the defendant claims that her daughter was taken from her, shocking pictures were released, depicting her hard-core, party lifestyle.  Clubbing nearly every night, shopping nearly every day, grief and concern are completely absent from a mother, who claimed to be wild with worry for two-year-old daughter.  After being arrested and convicted on check fraud and theft, and then finally charged with the murder of her child, Anthony changed her story, being caught in a slew of lies, to the accidental drowning of little Caylee.  Her father was now the target of the defense council, asserting that he sexually abused his daughter, giving justification for the habitual lying. 

Ms. Anthony’s affect and demeanor in court are, often, wildly unpredictable.  From proclaimed anxiety and nausea, to intense, brief rage, Casey’s emotions seem to fluctuate, depending upon the presence of the jury and the position of cameras.  She is seen often, unbelievably laughing at moments and at other times, completely stoic and stone-faced.  She often seems completely in control of her council team, passing out files and papers, setting up computers and answering questions from the judge in calm disposition.  However, towards the end of the defense’s presentation, they submit a motion, declaring Casey Anthony of “incompetence.”  The judge denied the request, following a battery of tests by court-appointed psychologists. 

Dr. Keith Ablow (2011) recently penned the article, Why We Can’t Stop Watching the Casey Anthony Trial.  He asserts three reasons that the public is enthralled with this trail:  First Casey represents a “brainteaser.”  He describes her as a “psychological Rubik’s Cube,” She has no criminal history, prior to 2008.  She comes from a middle-class family.  Her parents are still married and despite recent allegations of abuse, there is no documentation or witness to attest to this. (2011)

Secondly, Ms. Anthony’s conduct, whether a killer or a simply a mother who did not report her child missing, is a “conduit for buried, forgotten terrors still inside all of us.” (Ablow, 2011) Dr. Ablow (2011) explains that during childhood, our physical and emotional vulnerabilities are entirely dependent upon that of our guardians.  At that time, the thought that a mother or father dislike us, wished that we didn’t exist, and may be able to act upon those feelings, are fears that we suppress.  These childhood nightmares are, simply, unthinkable, and, in adulthood, still locked deep inside us. (2011) He states,

Casey Anthony, the pretty, smiling, mother who may well have murdered her daughter is, in fact, every adult’s worst, long-denied childhood nightmare. The chance to see such a woman in captivity, and to ponder what she is accused of, is like going to the zoo to see the rarest, deadliest monster you can imagine, the one resurrected from the deepest recesses of your mind in its most fragile moments. And, what’s more, even if she is that monster, she may or may not be freed. (2011)

Finally, the third reason that the public is so enthralled with this murder trial is that many people who have experienced the joy of starting a family, still have moments of wistfully recalling what it was like to be unencumbered with a child. (Ablow, 2011)  Parenthood is not easy.  There are times when it is downright hard.  With the many moments of blessing, also bring moments of challenge, emotion and frustration.

Spiritual Elements

Demon Possession

Mark 5:1-13

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”  Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. (New International Version, 1984)

The passage of Scripture cited is one demonstrating demonic possession.  There are a few key elements relating to mental illness.  The first, is the fact that this man was isolated, due to the fact that he could no longer be physically restrained.  This could be likened to extreme aggressive behavior and possible mania.  His strength and ferocity required segregation from society.  The second key, is that he would “cry out” and “cut himself with stones.” Today this would be described as inappropriate outburst of emotion, indicative of possible psychosis, Bipolarity, Delusional Disorder, Schizophrenia, or a personality disorder.  Finally, the final relation to current mental illness is the response by the man to Jesus’ question about his name.  The response, “Legion, for we are many,” is clearly attributable to Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.              Based upon this passage, and assuming a biblical worldview, this is solid evidence that mental illness is, at least in some cases, directly caused by demonic possession.  Symptoms that are commonly classified in modern times as mental disturbance have clear, direct correlations to cases that occurring thousands of years ago. 

            Neil T. Anderson (2000) is a proponent for the theory that most, if not all mental illness is derivative of possession.  What many term mental illness, psychosis, and poor habits, the author redefines as living in bondage to demonic influence. The author points out that these are merely symptoms, but one should appropriately ask:  Who or what is causing the symptoms? (2000) 

            There are six common misconceptions: 

  1. Demons were active when Christ was on earth, but their activity has subsided.
  2. What the early church called demonic activity we now understand to be mental illness.
  3. Some problems are psychological and some are spiritual.
  4. Christians cannot be affected by demons.
  5. Demonic influence is only evident in extreme or violent behavior and gross sin.
  6. Freedom from spiritual bondage is the result of a power encounter with demonic forces.  (Anderson, 2000, pp.19-26)

However, In Tennant’s (2001) article, Altar of Possession, the author highlights the relation of dissociative patients to satanic ritual abuse or SRA.  “And once most started talking about SRA, there was a bias on part of the therapists to look for this phenomenon,” Kelley says. “If genuine SRA wasn’t there, the doctors would help them find it.”  (p. 51) This is one concern of most secular psychotherapists.  Hypnosis is a similarly controversial technique in which there is great speculation of “memory planting” and within the Biblical Counseling field, an invitation of demonic activity.  

Discussion

Antisocial Personality Disorder, psychopathy, sociopathy are labels that strike fear into the hearts of, both, lay persons and professionals.  It is important to note that not all those who display ASPD behaviors are violent.  Further, this diagnosis presents several concerns of misdiagnosis.  Are some people, simply demon possessed?  Is an exorcism necessary?  Or, less dramatic, are antisocial tendencies merely the result of sinful behavior, thinking, and action?  It is very possible that there are degrees and cases of each scenario.  Only by viewing this “illness” from the scope of a biblical worldview, is it possible to truly discern the true foundations for ASPD.
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