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The big problem with murderous sociopaths: They don’t look crazy

Ever since the terrible slaughter of children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, public officials and ordinary citizens have been looking for answers. What can be done to prevent future schoolhouse tragedies?

People are calling for stricter gun control laws, or armed guards in schools. People are lambasting the entertainment industry for producing violent movies and video games, which can desensitize vulnerable teenagers to the real pain of killing. People are advocating more institutionalization of individuals who obviously suffer from mental problems.

Commentator Charles Krauthammer—who is, by the way, a psychiatrist—provided a good analysis of each of these issues, and the legal roadblocks to addressing them, in his column called The roots of mass murder.

With Lovefraud’s focus on psychology, I want to look at this aspect of the tragedy.

What was wrong with Adam Lanza?

By all accounts, Adam Lanza clearly had mental problems. He wouldn’t look people in the eye. A former high school classmate told USAToday that Lanza “walked down the halls against the wall, almost like he was afraid of people.”

Apparently Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, believed that her son had Asperger’s syndrome. Ellen Adriani, a friend, told NBC News that “Nancy was always concerned about Adam because of his Asperger’s and the typical behavior that goes along with that.”

Multiple experts, however, have stated that Asperger’s syndrome is not usually associated with violence.

At least one psychiatrist has suggested that Adam Lanza suffered from undiagnosed schizophrenia. Writing for the New York Times, Dr. Paul Steinberg wrote:

Schizophrenia generally rears its head between the ages of 15 and 24, with a slightly later age for females. Early signs may include being a quirky loner often mistaken for Asperger’s syndrome but acute signs and symptoms do not appear until adolescence or young adulthood.

Searching for answers, the Connecticut medical examiner has asked scientists at the University of Connecticut to study Adam Lanza’s DNA. Experts point out, however, that Lanza’s genes will not necessarily explain his actions. Behavior is influenced by a multitude of factors—which brings us back to issues like violent entertainment and the easy accessibility of guns and inadequate mental health care.

For more information, read the following articles:

Adam Lanza: Withdrawn teen a mystery then and now, on USAToday.com.

Asperger’s not an explanation for Lanza’s Connecticut killing spree, experts say, on NBCNews.com.

Our failed approach to schizophrenia, on NYTimes.com.

Looking for clues: Researchers to study Lanza’s DNA, on NBCNews.com.

The other killers—sociopaths (psychopaths)

Usually, when I start talking about sociopaths to an uninformed audience—uninformed because, unlike Lovefraud readers, they haven’t directly experienced sociopathic manipulation and betrayal—the first thing I say is that these people are not all deranged serial killers. The fact is, most sociopaths never kill anyone.

However, some sociopaths do kill. Sometimes they kill in particularly brutal and heinous ways. And when they do kill, they do it without any remorse or regret at all.

Take, for example, that other shocking school shooting—Columbine. On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on classmates in Columbine High School, located in Columbine, Colorado. They murdered 12 students and one teacher.

Much of the early reporting about Columbine said that Harris and Klebold had been bullied and the shooting was an act of revenge against their tormenters. However, according to the FBI analysis of the massacre, this view is incorrect. In an article for Slate, David Cullen wrote that Dylan Klebold was depressive and suicidal, but Eric Harris was a psychopath.

Harris ranted about what he hated in his journal, including “stupid people,” “when people mispronounce words,” and “Star Wars fans.” But, Cullen says, what Harris was really expressing was contempt:

He is disgusted with the morons around him. These are not the rantings of an angry young man, picked on by jocks until he’s not going to take it anymore. These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority.

The FBI concluded that Eric Harris was the mastermind of the massacre, and Dylan Klebold the follower. Their objective was to inflict incredible carnage so that they could earn a place for themselves in infamy. Read:

The depressive and the psychopath, on Slate.com.

Sidebar—misconceptions about the Columbine massacre, on Slate.com.

No telltale social problems

The point is that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did not have the social problems of Adam Lanza. According to Cullen, Harris was “sweet-faced and well-spoken. Adults, and even some other kids, described him as ‘nice.'” Klebold was active in school play productions. Three days before the shooting, he attended his senior prom with a date. The two boys partied with a circle of friends on weekends.

American society should certainly do more to treat people who have obvious mental issues and social phobias. But we have to understand that this will not solve the problem. Many potential killers—the sociopaths—do not exhibit obvious mental problems. On the contrary, they can blend easily into society until they put their deadly plans into action.


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18 Comments on "The big problem with murderous sociopaths: They don’t look crazy"

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Donna, what a superb article – thank you for posting it. As always, I needed to read this, right now.

The exspath “blends in” with a meek and understated presentation – he presents “old fashioned values” and even uses archaic phrases and terminology which gives him the appearance of being older and more mature. Those who are blind to what he truly is would refuse to believe it, even though there’s physical evidence to support the truths.

Yes, they blend in. Some are outright killers, while others (like the exspath) murder by proxy.

AS A STRICT ASIDE: Donna, I want to thank you for building this website. It has been my lifeline since 2009. I also want to thank each and every reader for their encouragement, support, understanding, and strong healing counsel.

May 2012 be left in the past with only strong lessons well-learned to carry forth into 2013. May each and every one of us reclaim ourselves and recover in good order.

Brightest and most sincere blessings

Great article Donna, and so true. Ii read the book on columbine and it pretty well goes along with the Eric was a psychopath, and Dylan the follower.

The fact that Psychopaths can get “ordinary” people, maybe depressed or a little dysfunctional, at worst, to go along with them in committing some of the most heinous acts is UN-believable to most people. Like you said, those of us who know about psychopaths don’t have any trouble believing it. My son got me to “go along” with a lot of things, though fortunately not into committing crimes with him. He has my egg donor under his control right now and for a while had his brother C “snowed” as well.

Those like Ted Bundy who can appear “normal” versus the Charlie Mansons of this world who don’t appear “normal” to main stream middle America are strange groups at opposite ends of the bell curve. Both psychopaths, but one able to “blend” the other not so easy to blend into Middle America, though they can hide on the fringes.

Lots of stuff to think about. Good points all.

We might be focusing too much on the cluster B’s and forgetting about the cluster A PD’s. These school shooters act more like schizoids than spaths.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizoid_personality_disorder

The other cluster A’s include Paranoid, and Schizotypal. They are called the odd or eccentric PD’s. Whereas the cluster B’s are called the dramatic PD’s.

If people begin to kill, we assume they are psychopaths but maybe the lack of empathy and humiliated rage can create/affect schizoids too.

In my mind, if they don’t wear a mask, they aren’t a spath.

Harris did ‘wear a mask’;being”sweet faced and well-spoken” and considered “nice” by adults as well as students.

Focus on the CONTEMPT he showed,both in his journal and videos.Makes me shudder.I just recently described my husband that way to my counselor!

A good example of this is Breivik in Norway who was sentenced as a sane man.

Blossom4th, I was reading some about Harris the other day, and he had this massive SUPERIORITY COMPLEX and hated everyone else for being INFERIOR to him…my Sperm donor P was exactly the same, He was actually quoted in the press during an interview (he was very rich and famous) as being like a man stranded on an island with nothing but malicious chimpanzees…he was so superior to the rest of the human race. Several other times he was quoted as saying he was THE smartest man in the world, the smartest that ever lived. He believed that too. But he never did get it that his saying that did not (A) endear him to others (B) make them envy him or (C) make them worship him.

He was CRUDE. Very crude and did NOT get it about others because he looked down on them and DESPISED them as worthless. He managed to make a lot of money though with something he invented so after that lots of people sucked up to him for the potential benefits it might convey to them. He donated a lot of money to a university and at his funeral I understand that the representatives of the University were about the only ones there. My youngest half sib worshiped him and I think is about like him from what writings of his I read on the net.

Though his mother was a physician and his father was, and his mother pretended to be a “socialite” she didn’t “get it” either but she DID try to act “hoity-toity” but my P sperm donor left home so young and lived on the fringes of society that he didn’t really have any idea about “manners’ our how to not be uncouth.

Once when some visiting business associates from another country came to the US…he wanted to IMPRESS THEM so he flew them by private plane to a Tiajuana WHORE HOUSE….LOL ROTFLMAO, they were NOT impressed. On a trip to Mexico with him once he actually took me to the “cantina” part of a whore house, but it was just like any other low bar, and I didn’t realize until someone told me what/where I was at. LOL Yea, real class, take your daughter to a whore house.

“I could write a book about ______” but then, THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO WOULD BELIEVE ME ARE THE LF BLOGGERS. LOL ROTFLMAO

That’s the thing about every one of our Ps, is that we COULD write a book about them…but only people who had encountered a serious relationshit with a P would even begin to understand or believe the book. I wonder how many people read Donna’s first book and DIDN’T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT. Or if they did believe it happened to SOME ONE ELSE, **ever** believed it could HAPPEN TO THEM.

My P sperm donor played on his “macho” stance…and his (at the time I worked for him) “unusual” way of making a living as a wild life photographer…he was “interesting” at the very least…and as a WIDE EYED kid who wanted to get to know her “real daddy” and with the prospects of learning to fly airplanes and travel to exotic places, well…I was HOOKED from the first. Then he spent hours, days, weeks, GROOMING me…and it worked. I felt SPECIAL.

Blossom4th,
My understanding of Harris was that he was an outsider and disliked by most students. Like Oxy’s sperm donor, he didn’t hide his narcissism.

In contrast, my ex-spath wore a mask of humility. He was such a nice, lovable guy. So charming, and cared so much for animals.

I agree that no one would believe our “books” but the LF readers; and no one would be able to grasp the enormity of it all even if they believed what they read.

Hope everyone has been well (as much as can be in the situations many are in) and that 2013 is a year of health, healing and hope for all.

~New

my experience is most people have NO understanding of mental illness. its only touched on in health class in school. usually taught by teachers who dont know anything about mental illness either. but americans are ignorant about health in general. most people dont know the difference between their liver and kidneys, so why would they know the difference between an autism spectrum disorder and psychosis? but we spend years forcing kids to learn cursive.

Umami, well for what it is worth, kids are no longer being taught cursive in my state…and I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing as now they will not be able to read old cursive documents for themselves, it will be a “foreign” language to them.

I do agree 100% with you though that Americans at least are IGNORANT about physical AND mental health…which is to the detriment of their physical and mental health.

Many “easily managable” or even “curable” diseases go undetected and un treated until the person’s health is RUINED and little can be done. And that’s only the physical health, the mental health part is even worse.

Plus, the part of our population with high psychopathic traits and violence and other crimes goes in and out of prison or jail like a revolving door….at a huge cost to society, their victims, and their families who are encouraged to take them back in by “the system.”

OxD,

Ex spath2, went in to prison with much of a Charles Manson look but cleaned up well. Now he’s more of the Bundy type!! That’s what prison is teaching them these days. They are learning to blend in and utilize their talents. His is his mouth. If you let him speak long enough, he gives away his truth.

I noticed the other day, some of the things he said were from a movie and it brought back all the memories of how this man never had an authentic thought of his own. It would blow your mind that he was using your own words, ideas etc. I would think “oh he just has to believe it was his idea” when he would come at me with someone elses thoughts and sometimes they were my own! I used to be able to stay in a safe place with him by repeating his own words verbatim back to him when possible. It seemed to throw him off.

Talk about mirroring. I really think the prisons are well intentioned getting these guys to stop committing crimes but they are creating monsters. (some of the people there are well intentioned, while some are lining their pockets with some serious money now that the prisons are NOT state run) He’s selling A/C service contracts and servicing A/C units with a fake technical certification. It’s scary as the company hires convicts from prison and nobody knows when they are coming out to your house.

The prisons are actually making companies for these guys to work at. We are going to need to make new laws to keep them in certain fields or limit them somehow.

umami_mommy:

Boy, did you hit the nail on the head about people and the ignorance about their own bodies. People really are clueless about their own health…it’s a pity.

I’ve been trying to tell people that psychopaths like what they so they don’t seek help and that they can fake out even a trained professional. I’ve been telling people that these gun men probably are not psychopaths or sociopaths in the truest sense and are probably suffering from some other disturbance. We can detect these gun men. Psychopaths are not detectable.

I’ve heard so many gun control ideas that just aren’t well thought out.

I tell everybody that our legal system is temporally biased in favor of those about to commit a crime.

Unfortunately there are no easy answers. How would we protect mental health professionals from flagging a person so they couldn’t buy a gun? If the professional does not disclose their action to their patient this can cause the patient to target the mental health work when they go to buy a firearm and are declined. Further, if flagging the patient is not disclosed to the patient than that undermines the thereputic trust relationship the mental health worker has established with the patient. The people who would get flagged are the ones that are going to have the most difficult time trusting anyone.

This is very frustrating for me. No one seems to think these things through!

I saw an ad on TV recently, it encoraged donations for mental health research.

apparently, for every 20 dollars invested in research on physical health, only 1 dollar is invested in mental health research.

no wonder we really don’t know jack about sociopathy.

Athena……..holy cow. Worse, still, the EGOS involved in the psych communities are so overblown….oy.

Brightest blessings

TTSS

What has yet to be properly investigated is the fact that a large majority of these “shooters” were either on psychiatric drugs or withdrawing from them.

Here is a link to an index of SSRI related violence.

http://ssristories.com/index.php

The anecdotal evidence suggests that these drugs induce violent and aberrant behavior. Likely the stats on this are very thin and largely under reported.

Maybe the P’s are not the shooters,who are possibly suffering from a medically induced psychosis, but the executives of big Pharma and their captive FDA, who admit to 100,000 deaths a year from the chemical cornucopia that is prescription drugs, especially the psychiatric drugs known as SSRI’s.

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