Thursday, September 15, 2016

I'm only worried about you, Donald

Image via IN slideshare.
Now that the question of the candidates' health is making so many headlines, can we revert back to the question of mental health?

I realize we were all wrong piling on a few months ago diagnosing Trump's narcissism or sociopathy or psychopathy at a distance and without professional expertise, which is a terrible and unethical thing to do if you are a trained psychiatrist according to the so-called "Goldwater rule", and possibly unhelpful if you're an amateur since there are so many things about Trump that are worth complaining about without bringing this up, but as the man says I don't know, it's just something a lot of people are saying.

I mean, I'm just asking questions. Can we get a medical report on that?

Also there's some interesting news suggesting that Donald Trump is at serious risk of being a psychopath, about 21 times greater than the average person. I'm not even kidding; this is literally true, because of his lifestyle choice of being a corporate CEO.

True, that is, if you pay attention to recently reported research by the Australian forensic psychologist Nathan Brooks and colleagues Katarina Fritzon of Bond University and Simon Croom of the University of San Diego. In a study of 261 American senior corporate officials, they found that 21% of them were psychopaths, about the same as prison inmates, as compared to 1% of the general population. This may not come as a surprise to anybody who has ever worked for a corporate CEO, or you may be asking, "Are you sure that wasn't 21% not psychopaths?"

The research hasn't been published yet—it was reported just Tuesday at the congress of the Australian Pyschiatric Association in Melbourne and will be coming out soon in the European Journal of Psychology—but we can infer something about the methodology from some of Brooks's previous work, a 2012 study in which he and Bruce D. Watt examined the incidence of psychopathy in a community in southeastern Queensland. One of the interesting things about it is that it doesn't follow that Goldwater rule about how only a professional psychiatrist interacting with the patient in person can make these judgments. For example, you can do it well enough for research purposes by getting them to fill out a questionnaire: Watt and Brooks, forensic psychologists as I say, sent out a survey questionnaire, the Self Report Psychopathy III (SRP-III), to 2,888 individuals, with a return rate of about 13%, (327 responses yielding sufficient data for analysis), and tabulated the results. So I assume Brooks et al. did the same thing with their American executives in the new study.

As reported in The Australian,
``The term ‘successful psychopath’, which describes high-flyers with psychopathic traits such as insincerity, a lack of empathy or remorse, egocentric, charming and superficial, has emerged in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis,’’ [Brooks] said.
‘’We are really talking about someone who strives to dominate others. They are ruthless. They are very callous. They have no conscience and really it’s all about self-gain.
`In moderate levels, it could be successful but with too many traits and, in too higher levels, it’s going to a problem. They will be successful potentially for a period of time but then it’s a question of what the costs are going to be. It night be moral costs or it might be criminal costs.’’
He said there was a risk the `successful psychopath’ might engage in unethical and illegal business practices and have a `toxic impact’ on employees.
“Typically psychopaths create a lot of chaos and generally tend to play people off against each other,” Mr Brooks said.
Sound familiar?

There's an answer there, by the way, to the question about whether this kind of speculation encourages discrimination against the mentally ill. Given that the condition is found in particularly successful individuals, it doesn't apply as clearly as it does to a plainly disabling condition like depression or schizophrenia. We should encourage the identification of and employment discrimination against psychopaths precisely because they are excessively likely to get the job. And because doing harm to others is a part of the condition, by definition.

Also, of course, because they can get help. These antisocial personality disorder symptoms can be treated, chiefly with psychotherapy possibly assisted by drugs to help stabilize mood swings. Jail could also be beneficial in the case of patients who have committed crimes:
Usually one of the more effective ways for a person with this disorder to learn to change their ineffective behaviors is to have to face up to the consequences of their behavior. This sometimes means dealing with courts and jails, but it can also eventually be a motivating factor in the client’s treatment.
I'm only worried about you, Donald.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog. A relevant post from BooMan.

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