For decades a steady stream of psychologists has been raising the alarm on the devastating effect that people with certain personality disorders are having on society. The Mask of Sanity first published in 1941 by Hervey Cleckley, Robert Linder’s study Rebel Without a Cause from 1944, Theodore Millon’s 1981 Disorders of Personality, and Robert Hare’s more recent Without Conscience have been sounding a series of clear and persistent warnings. All of these authors warn that the destruction wreaked by psychopaths and those with certain other dangerous personality disorders is vastly underestimated.
So what are dangerous personality disorders? Up to 12 personality disorders have been recognized by the international psychiatric community. It is important to emphasize that not all of these personality disorders are dangerous and correlate with an increased risk of harmful behavior toward others. Indeed, most personality disorders result solely in distress and social hardship for the person suffering from the disorder. Such is the case, for example, with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and depressive personality disorder. Of all the recognized personality disorders, this book is concerned with only three. People with these three types of dangerous personality disorder – psychopathy, narcissistic personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder – are proven to be much more likely to be involved in violence and criminality.
Dangerous personality disorders are deeply engrained and enduring patterns of behavior that represent extreme deviations from the way the average person thinks, feels, and relates to others. They manifest as rigid patterns of behavior that are difficult, threatening, and harmful to others, including an increased propensity for violence and greed. In fact, people with these disorders are up to ten times more likely to have a criminal conviction than those without. People with these disorders suffer from distortions in the basic cognitive and emotional structures of their minds. These distortions include deficits in basic emotional functioning, such as the absence of feelings toward others, and cognitive distortions, such as the inability to process any information that runs counter to their inflated self-image. While everyone can manifest callous, narcissistic, and paranoid traits, depending on circumstances, it is the rigidity of their thoughts and feelings that marks people with dangerous disorders out from the majority of the population.