The Doctor Opines: Nature Vs. Nurture, Part 1

We sit and day after day as horror stories smack us in the face. I faded out last night to more news of the bus bombing in Bulgaria, followed by Norway’s new resolve not to allow their way of life to be changed by the Brevik massacre. Then, this morning, slugged again – this time with the Colorado Batman shootings.

I guess the first thing – well actually the second thing after the ,”Oh, my God!” response we feel and wonder is – why?  What takes a person to this place? Obviously, the psychological community has not found the answer, or else the escalation in violence we are witnessing would have been capped. But here is what we do know:

Studies show that 60% of psychopaths had lost a parent; as a child – was deprived of love by parents, belittled by them, and – probably the most telling – inconsistent discipline: if the father is stern and the mother is soft, the child learns to hate authority and manipulate mother. That’s the nurture part. As for the nature – inherited genetics, when a psychopath does inherit genetically-based, developmental disabilities, its is usually a stunted development of the higher functions of the brain. About 40% of psychopaths show abnormal brain wave patterns, or EEGs. (Studies quoted here are from the latest edition of the DSM, and a full bibliography will be found at the end of this piece).

Can we fix them?   No.   Shock treatment doesn’t work; drugs have not proven successful in treatment, and psychotherapy, which involves trust and a relationship with the therapist, is out of the question, because psychopaths are incapable of opening up to others. They don’t want to change.

I am, of course , making some assumptions, since we don’t have much on this guy’s background. For instance, I am not considering drugs, a recent tragedy or perceived wrong done to him, and delusions and hallucinations, usually the top common behaviors in a psychotic break. I will try to address those in my second piece, as LK and I had a long discussion this morning as to how we’re going to break this down.  He’s leaning towards the environmental ramifications.


Dahmer, Lionel. Father’s Story
Egger, Steven. Killers Among Us
Everitt, David, and Harold Schechter. A To Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers
Foreman, Laura, editor. True Crime: Serial Killers
Jennifer Furio The Serial Killer Letters: A Penetrating Look Inside the Minds of Murderers. The Charles Press Publishers, 1998.
Gekoski, Anna, Murder by Numbers: British Serial Sex Killers since 1950: Their Childhoods, Their Lives, Their Crimes. London: Andre Deutsch, Ltd. 1998.
King, Brian. Lustmord: The Writings and Artifacts of Murderers
Leyton, Elliott. Hunting Humans; Inside the Mind of Mass Murderers
Martingale, Moira. Cannibal Killers
Meloy, J. Reid. Psychopathic Mind; Origins, Dynamics, and Treatment
Norris, Joel. Serial Killers: The Growing Menace
Ressler, Robert; Ann Burgess, and John Douglas. Sexual Homicide: Patterns, Motives & Procedures for Investigation
Seltzer, Mark. Serial Killers
Richard Tithecott Of Men and Monsters: Jeffrey Dahmer and the Construction of the Serial Killer.

Angry Boys

  Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that almost 8% of adolescents experienced bursts of anger extreme enough to warrant a diagnosis of “intermittent explosive disorder,” an adolescent mental illness.

     According to a recent study, 1 in 12 teens cross the line between normal teen angst and explosive disorder.  Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that almost 8% of adolescents experienced bursts of anger extreme enough to warrant a diagnosis of “intermittent explosive disorder,” an adolescent mental illness.  Researchers say the results warn of a “highly prevalent and seriously impairing disorder,” according to the study, published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
     It’s also twice as common in boys, and nearly two-thirds of adolescents said that at some point in their life they had gotten so angry they destroyed things, threatened violence or became violent.  Now, some mental health experts are fighting against including anger – classifying it as a mental illness, and thus – not putting it into the new edition of the DSM. Why? Book getting too big? Who is lobbying against labeling this so psychiatrists and psychologists have a baseline of study and treatment at their disposal? The study’s author, Katie McLaughlin told CNN. “We know not that much about the course of the disorder,”"Which kids grow out of it and which kids don’t?”
     Kids grow up to be adolescents, and then adults. If we can track this, and possibly head it off before it becomes ingrained into a full blown personality disorder, maybe the vampires, family killers, school snipers, and legions of psychotics can be at least shaved down. There is no argument – no other side of the coin here that I can make out. Psychiatry is confidential in fact, so confidential it survives death. Records remain sealed, even after the patient’s death, so no one’s going to blab the diagnosis, and ruin the kid’s life…if that is the fear.
     We owe it to society, and certainly to the young kids who – for reasons none of us understand yet, have no clue as to what is going on inside their heads.