Are psychopaths capable of empathy?

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When I was at university we had to write an essay in our final year that was on the topic of cognitive psychology and we had to find research that used cognitive methods in order to do so. I wanted to write an essay on psychopathy – I have always been interested in mental health, the idea of “good” and “evil” and believed I had a relatively good, but brief, understanding of what psychopaths are. I knew the common theme of a typical psychopath is that they lack empathy – they don’t feel for other people, which is how they are capable of doing what they do, whether that is cold blooded murder, or becoming a successful businessman or politician. They don’t care about other people. I wanted to see if this was entirely true – surely they must feel something for other people, that’s what makes us human, right? So I gave the idea to my lecturer and, despite him having no background knowledge in psychopathy, he let me write it.

It was my most successful essay, completely boosting my overall mark of my degree,  and the most enjoyable one I’ve written throughout my academic career. I’ve decided to post it on my blog for that reason – I enjoyed writing it. I’ve edited it slightly, giving more indepth definitions to those of  you who are not psychologically or scientifically inclined, edited it from an essay structure to a blog post layout, and have taken out the majority of in-essay referencing as it’s not necessarily needed (a full reference list will be posted at the end for those who want to do some further reading).

So read on if you wish to find out the answers I discovered on my research pathway to see if psychopaths can feel empathy at all, or if they really are separate from what makes us human. Any questions? Just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Continue reading “Are psychopaths capable of empathy?”

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What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

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Most people, especially those who work within psychology, mental health and well-being, have heard of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of therapy that encourages the client to change the way they think about situations, and therefore change the way they behave in reaction to them. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a branch of CBT which is growing in popularity alongside other behavioural therapies such as mindfulness based CBT. I have seen first-hand with the patients I work with how ACT can change the way patients think, and seen them recover from their mental health disorders to the point of discharge. So, like my post on mindfulness, this is an educational blog post in order to inform you about ACT as a type of therapy that everyone should be aware of and everyone can adapt into their lives in order to fully engage with every moment of every day.

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Do you know what it’s like to be sectioned… by the courts?

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So, if you’ve read my previous post then you do know what it means to be sectioned. However, not everyone who has been sectioned has gone down the pathway of “innocence”.

I am the last person to put forward the notion that people with mental health problems are criminals, but, as I have mentioned, before mental health can affect anyone. This includes criminals, and yes, in some cases, mental illness can drive people to crime. In other cases, individuals can commit crimes and have poor mental health but the mental health is not causative of the crime. In both cases, there are laws in place to help and protect these people, and also to protect the public from these people.

In this blog post I will outline some of these laws and sections of the Mental Health Act.

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Do you really know what it means to ‘be sectioned’?

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You hear it on the news, on soaps, and in magazines. Another celebrity has been sectioned, or that criminal who committed that crime was sectioned when he was younger, or that character is being sectioned against their will because they’re crazy…

The term “sectioned” has been totally demonised by society and the media, when in actual fact for some people being sectioned is the best thing that could have happened to them. If someone is being, or has been, sectioned then they have been through enough without people being scared of them because of them ‘being sectioned’. It’s really not as scary as it seems. Since working as a support worker in a CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health service) low secure hospital, primarily on the PICU (psychiatric intensive care unit) ward, I’ve learnt that not many people understand the work I do, or the reason behind why I need to do it and why my patients are where they are. I also realise that not many people understand the mental health system – this needs to change.

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Coulrophobia – Why are we scared of clowns?

If you haven’t heard of the clown craze that has been sweeping the US and now the UK then I’m gonna assume that you’ve been living in the ocean for the past few weeks. People have been dressing up as clowns, going out when it’s gotten dark, purely just to scare people – and it’s working. Some of these ‘clowns’ are wielding weapons, reports are that some have even been trying to lure children into forests, but the majority of them are simply standing in the dark, or chasing people just to scare them. But why? And why are we so scared? Not many people would be totally comfortable when faced with a stranger dressed up as a clown, but why not? Clowns are linked to our childhood, linked to laughter, birthday parties full of colour and joy…right? Perhaps not…

(Trigger warning: clearly there are going to be LOTS of pictures of clowns in this blog post, if you genuinely suffer badly from coulrophobia- the fear of clowns- then just be warned…)

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The Brain, the Body, the Behaviour – PTSD

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What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and it is a type of anxiety disorder, therefore a lot of this information will be similar to that in my “The Brain, the Body, the Behaviour – anxiety” post. However I believe that PTSD is an important mental health illness to highlight on it’s own. It is well-known for being diagnosed amongst war veterans; previously known in the two world wars as ‘shell shock’.  Due to the environment and events that occur during wars, PTSD is common among veterans with at least 20% of  veterans of the Afganistan and Iraq Wars and 15% of veterans of the Vietnam war  living with it.
However PTSD is not specific to those in the military. PTSD can occur to anyone who has been faced by a frightening or distressing life event. Those who have been involved in serious road accidents, who have suffered from long term abuse (emotional, physical, sexual, neglect, financial, etc.), those who have been the victim of an assault (again, physical, sexual, etc.), victims of terrorist attacks and natural disasters, or witnesses to violent deaths. PTSD can develop immediately after an event, or even weeks/months/years later, depending on personal circumstances, individual levels of resiliance, and the existence of other co-morbid mental health problems. 

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The Brain, The Body, The Behaviour – Schizophrenia (Part 1)

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So, schizophrenia. It’s a complicated disorder. Therefore, following the origin of the word “schizophrenia” – where “schizo” means “split”, I’m going to split this “The Brain, The Body, The Behaviour” post into two parts.

It’s going to be a bit of a different structure compared to my other two posts on depression and anxiety, but will still cover the same content. This first part is going to be an overview of schizophrenia – I’m going to talk about what it is, what the symptoms are (the behaviours), physical problems those with schizphrenia may suffer from (the body) and I’m going to debunk a few myths about schizophrenia.

Then in the second part I’m going to talk about the brain of an individual with schizophrenia – or, at least, i’m going to try, as it’s not exactly simple, and like most areas of psychology there is no single answer to the biological insight of schizophrenia, and is probably going to be one of the most complex blog posts I ever have and ever will compose… But i’ll try my best. So, onto the first part:

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