Psychopathy: Is It Born Or Created?

Psychopathy: is it born or created?

Given the social nature of the human being, the origin of psychopathy is one of the great questions that humanity has questioned for a long time. You have probably heard about or read about this debate on more than one occasion. In fact, the topic generates so much interest that we can find it on the big screen frequently.

But do we really know what psychopathy is or do we have a generalized idea? In this article we will see it in detail. In addition, we will explore the two most studied lines of research: biological and environmental factors. With this, we aim to be able to understand a little better if the psychopath is born or made.

What is psychopathy?

It is important to keep in mind that psychopathy is not included as a diagnostic entity properly in either the DSM-V or the ICD-11, two of the most used diagnostic manuals today. The DSM-V includes the characteristic features of psychopathy within antisocial personality disorder (ASD).

However, there are authors, such as Cleckley, who have developed and offered diagnostic criteria and evaluation tools such as the PCL-R. We cannot forget that making a diagnosis must always be carried out by professionals specialized in mental health.

Characteristics of antisocial personality disorder

BPD is defined as a mental disorder in which a generalized pattern of contempt and violation of the rights of other people is observed. These behaviors usually begin in childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood.

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The main features observed are the following:

Is psychopathy born?

There are many authors who have tried to determine if psychopathy is a condition that is determined before birth. In this sense, both genetic aspects and possible alterations in brain areas that could provide an explanation have been studied.

MAO-A gene

It has been discovered that certain variables of this gene—and the presence of certain amounts—represent a greater predisposition to violent and antisocial behavior. This has been especially observed in people who have been victims of child abuse.

It tends to be said that psychopathy is hereditary, but we cannot forget that the presence of certain genes or modifications does not determine behavior. That is, a greater or lesser predisposition to certain behaviors or pathologies can be generated. However, gene expression can be influenced by the environment.

Brain disorders

There is no certainty about the neurophysiological correlates related to psychopathy, but certain alterations have been observed in certain brain areas. It’s important to put attention on Both genetic and environmental aspects can influence the alteration of the development of brain structures and circuits.

Although research continues to study this aspect, there are theories that indicate deterioration in areas such as the amygdala and insula. In addition, alterations in the functioning of the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex have also been observed.

Is psychopathy done?

There are many authors who advocate the environment as a determining factor in the development of psychopathy. On the one hand, it is currently known that the environment interferes with the expression of certain genes, as well as the development of the individual’s brain and nervous system. This could be a trigger for people with a greater predisposition.

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Furthermore, the experiences that each individual has lived during their development, especially in the most vulnerable stages, also have considerable weight. Numerous studies have been conducted investigating the relationship between child abuse and psychopathy. Victims of emotional abuse and neglect had higher psychopathy scores.

Finally, it is considered that there are multiple environmental factors that can be considered risk. There would also be protectors. The problem at this point is that they are not yet well defined and it is not known exactly what the weight would be. Again, it is important to keep in mind that predisposition does not ensure the development of psychopathy.

Taking all of the above into account, the authors reached the consensus that both and neither are true on their own. That is, psychopathy is neither born nor made. It seems that No one is born with a mental disorder, but they are born with a certain predisposition to develop it. In this sense, we can consider that it is a mix between both proposals.

There are several factors that mainly intervene: genetic predisposition, environment, personal experiences, learning and development. The interaction between all of them will have an impact on both the expression of certain genes—with the manifestation of certain behaviors—and the altered development of certain brain areas.

It seems that this unified proposal is the one that makes the most sense because it integrates the complexity of the human being instead of reducing it to specific aspects. In this sense, it allows us to understand why people who have experienced relatively similar situations can develop such different behaviors and have greater or lesser resilience.