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Female psychopathy – Are we missing the diagnosis?

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Female psychopathy – Are we missing the diagnosis?

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Scientific research currently supports higher prevalence rates of psychopathy within the male population (Warren, Burnette, South, 2003; Wynn, Høiseth, Pettersen, 2012). However, could it be that the tools we use to diagnose the condition are more geared to detect the condition in males? Are the normative samples or cut-off scores of these measures the same for the female gender?  Perhaps the prevalence rate of women with psychopathy is a bit higher than we thought.

It seems the tools we use to aid in the diagnosis of psychopathy is appropriate and valid to use with women, however the validity is reportedly higher within the male population (Wynn, Høiseth, Pettersen, 2012). Based upon some of the current studies, it seems that in comparison to males, women are less likely to show antisocial behaviors.

She is more apt to display manipulative behaviors, tendency toward jealousy, controlling social relationships of others with the intent to do harm, and use sexuality to control, than her male counterpart (Wynn, Høiseth, Pettersen, 2012). It would not be uncommon for women with psychopathy to make threats of suicide or engage in self injurious acts. Males engage in similar behaviors (e.g., relational aggression), however they are likely to also use physical aggression and intimidation.

“Female sufferers more often seem to show emotional instability, verbal violence, and manipulation of social networks, and, to a lesser degree than male psychopaths, criminal behavior and instrumental violence.” (Wynn et al, 2012, p. 261)

Women with psychopathy tend not to feel distressed by the pain of their victim. They are not concerned with the dispair and chaos they create. One will rarely be able to ‘get through’ to her by attempting to appeal to her compassion regarding what she has done. She has no or minimal capacity to feel badly for antisocial behaviors – regardless of the magnitude. Women with primary psychopathy often appear calm, methodical, and collected. 

There are some evaluators who might misclassify a psychpathic woman, as borderline personality disorder. In doing so, they miss the psychopathic symptomatology that reflects absence of empathy, callousness, pathological lying, hypersexuality, dominance, aggression, lack of morality, absence of a conscience, narcissism, and so forth. At times, ‘missing’ the diagnosis can simply be a matter of gender bias by an under skilled examiner. Some consider psychopathy to be associated with males and borderline personality to be associated with females. However, psychopathy can be present in a male or female, just as those with borderline personality disorder can be either sex as well.

© 2014 NeuroInstincts | All Rights Reserved | No Unauthorized Reproduction Permitted in any form

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References

Warren JI, Burnette ML, South SC, Chauhan P, Bale R, Friend R, and Van Patten I. (2003). Psychopathy in women: Structural modeling and comorbidity. International Journal of Law & Psychiatry. May-Jun; 26(3): 223-42.

Wynn R, Høiseth M, and Pettersen G. (2012). Psychopathy in women: Theoretical and clinical perspectives. International Journal of Women’s Health.  4, 257–263.


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