"What is a psychopath?"
After viewing my brain scan--which, being a scientist, I considered more of a professional curiosity than a personal cause for alarm--I started asking my psychiatrist colleagues this question to see if I fit the bill. I asked some of the most preeminent researchers in the field, and yet I couldn't seem to get a satisfactory answer. Several dismissed the question, saying psychopaths didn't exist at all and that asking them to define psychopath was like asking them to define a nervous breakdown. It's a phrase people throw around, but it doesn't bear any scientific weight or professional meaning. (The same goes for vegetable, which is a somewhat arbitrary culinary term, not a biological one.) When I asked my friend Fabio Macciardi, a UCI colleague and a noted psychiatrist, he said, "There is no psychiatric diagnosis of a psychopath." After some pressing he explained, "The closest thing we have in the manual is a personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder. But that is not always the animal you're looking for, either."
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