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Aim: To define psychopathy and discuss psychological theories relating to psychopathy.
We all think that we know what a psychopath is. This is a term bandied about by the
media, films, cinemas, and so on. So before we continue, let us clarify some
Mental illness in the Western World tends to be classified in accordance with the
DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders) published by the
American Psychiatric Association. It is regularly updated. The DSM uses five
dimensions to diagnose mental illness.
Axis 1 – Clinical Syndromes: this includes items such as depression, schizophrenia
and social phobia.
Axis II – Personality Disorders and Developmental Disorders: included here is
autism, learning disabilities, and so on, but also personality disorders, such as
antisocial personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and so on.
Axis III – Physical Conditions - these are physical conditions that can affect
conditions in Axis I and II, such as brain injury, HIV/AIDS.
Axis IV – Severity of Psychosocial Stressor – these are events that happen in our
lives that affect Axis I and Axis II, such as bereavement, unemployment and so on.
Axis V – Highest level of Functioning – here the psychologist or psychiatrist looks at
the person’s level of functioning now and at the highest level over the previous year,
to help the clinician determine how the axes are affecting the person.