Trump – Our Psychopathic President: Part I

Our President requires special treatment.

Over 73,000 licensed mental health professionals have signed petitions calling for the mental examination of President Donald J. Trump. (Change.org — over 70,000; CitizenTherapists.com — over 3,000)  Diagnosis-at-a-distance is a questionable practice. Accuracy is difficult if not impossible, a fact clearly demonstrated by the variety of diagnoses already suggested in the press, which include: schizophrenia, paranoia, ego-deficiency, narcissism, malignant narcissism, sociopathy, malignant sociopathy, psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder.

What exactly is Trump’s problem?

Consensus among therapists as to exactly what is Trump’s specific mental disorder has not and will not be achieved until Trump is personally examined by experienced psychologists and/or psychiatrists. Still, it is clear that the therapeutic community is in wide agreement that something is seriously wrong with his mind and/or personality. These two facts — something is wrong, we can’t agree upon what it is — strongly supports my position that Trump must be examined by mental health professionals as soon as possible, before he does something irreversible and world-changing.

Based upon my reading of his speeches and tweets and observing his behavior, It is my position that Trump is a Psychopath. The rest of this piece and the following five additional pieces are support for this position.

Most people know little about psychopathy beyond what they encounter in books and films. They imagine that all psychopaths are the vicious murders or serial killers typically depicted. This is far from the truth.

This film is an excellent introduction to the differences between narcissist, sociopath and psychopath. It is a short film and not all important points were covered. I’ll stress one point and add a few.

  1. All psychopaths and sociopaths are narcissists; not all narcissists are psychopaths.
  2. These are all spectrum disorders. You can be a little bit psychopathic, medium, a lot or a serial killer.
  3. Opinions differ on the influence of “nature vs. nurture.” Most experts agree that sociopaths are largely made, psychopaths are largely born. A very bad upbringing can make a psychopath worse, a good upbringing might ease the condition. Male psychopaths seem to be born rather than made to a greater degree than women.
  4. There are more male psychopaths than female.
  5. Most psychopaths are not violent. They’ll make your life miserable, but they won’t murder you.
  6. “Malignant narcissism” is equivalent to psychopathy.
  7. Many psychological professionals have no experience with these Personality Disorders. These people feel no “suffering” from their condition, thus they do not seek therapy. They feel fine – it’s the rest of us who are pathetic. Therapists expect patients to be “suffering” – no suffering equals no problem.

The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised Version (PCL-RV) was developed by Robert Hare, PhD, to assess people accused or convicted of crimes, in order to rate on a scale the severity of their psychopathic or antisocial tendencies, if any. It consists of 20 criteria, which are rated during an extensive interview with the inmate. Each criterion is rated 0 — Does not apply, 1 — applies somewhat, 2 — Applies fully. Top score (severe psychopathy) is 40 points. A score of 30-40 indicates psychopathy, 20-29 antisocial or “sociopathy,” below 20 is the normal range. Most people score close to 5. That alone should give you a feeling for just how different psychopaths are from the rest of us.

As with the stereotypical medical student studying diseases and their symptoms, it’s common when first reading the criteria and their descriptions to think, “Help, I have all these symptoms!” A rule of thumb is: if you’re afraid you might be a psychopath, you’re not a psychopath. A true psychopath doesn’t care if others think he’s disordered, has no empathy and no conscience. He knows he’s superior to all others, whatever they might say. Empathy and conscience are for losers, victims and prey, not for winners.

The shorter 12-item Screening Version (PCL-SV) is the primary tool used for diagnosing psychopathy in the general population and – for criminals – is used as a preliminary screen for the PCL-RV. When discussing Donald Trump, it is appropriate to use this version as it does not utilize criteria inapplicable to unincarcerated criminals.

How Common Are Psychopaths?

Depending on who is reporting and the specific study involved, one to five percent of all people test as psychopathic by these diagnostic tools; the rate of male psychopathy is a bit higher than for women. About one percent of psychopaths are violent. The United States, with well over 325 million people, has three to sixteen million psychopaths; thirty thousand to one hundred and fifty thousand of them are violent. Ten to thirty percent of convicts are psychopaths. The rate of psychopathy among business managers and corporate executive is unknown but estimated to be much higher than among the general population; ten percent has been cited. Politicians haven’t been studied as a group, but we should expect a rate of psychopathy similar to executives.

With one to five percent of the population being psychopaths, you have undoubtedly already encountered some, but lacking knowledge of the criteria of psychopathy, you would not know what their “deal” was. They might seem cold, calculating, fake, unempathetic, frequent liars, outstanding at “pushing your buttons” and frequently doing so, and always out to get something from you. They are the proverbial ‘toxic personalities.’ If you distrusted them and did your best to avoid them, you were smart.

In the following parts II-V and using the PCL-SV as the basis for my analysis, we’ll go through the twelve criteria, citing examples of his behavior.

Compact PDF checklist of the Twelve Criteria of Psychopathy

The Mental Health Profession and Trump

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association adopted the “Goldwater Rule”, which says that a psychiatrist may:

“…share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

The profession still adheres to this rule, although the seriously disordered nature of Trump’s behavior is beginning to crack this wall. It is because of this rule that psychiatrists — and the entire mental health profession — have been very reticent to voice their opinions about Trump. Unfortunately, this leaves discussion of Trump’s disorder to the non-professionals, who are then dismissed because they are not professionals. This becomes a circular argument, which can be resolved only when the psychological profession decides to speak out, or when our governmental officials gain sufficient courage and integrity to demand that Trump be examined by psychological professionals.

Whatever the composition of the group of mental health professionals who examine Trump, it must include therapists experienced with Personality Disorders (PDs), especially that of Psychopathy. People with PDs must be handled differently from those with neurotic or schizophrenic disorders. Many therapists unfamiliar with PDs will expect that patients “suffer” from their disability. Lacking such “suffering” or “discomfort,” there is really nothing wrong with them, therapists will claim, and they need no treatment. This view does not apply to many people with PDs, especially the “dramatic, emotional and erratic” Cluster B group which includes the PDs currently or formerly known as narcissism, sociopathy, psychopathy and antisocial. These people can be perfectly happy with themselves, fully believing that not only is nothing wrong with them, it’s everyone else who is defective. Psychopaths, for example, have recently begun calling non-psychopaths “neurotypicals,” which is not the compliment you might think it to be. Meanwhile, they create misery and destruction among the unfortunates who encounter them.

Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Screening Version and Trump

The criteria of psychopathy fall into four groups, which we’ll cover in four following blogs. Citations will be from Trump’s speeches and tweets, and from the opinions of those who know him well.

Other Blogs in this Series

Other reports and items of interest:

Recommended Reading

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. Hare, Robert D., PhD. 1993; New York: The Guilford Press

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work. Babiak, Paul, Ph.D. & Hare, Robert D., Ph.D. 2006. New York, Regan Books–Harper Collins Publishers

Cooke, David J., Michie, Christine, Hart,Stephen David & Hare, Robert. (1999). Evaluating the Screening Version of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-SV): An Item Response Theory Analysis. Psychological Assessment, Vol. II, No. 1, 3-13

Compact PDF checklist of the Twelve Criteria of Psychopathy

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