Friday, June 24, 2011
Sociopaths among us
All murders are awful acts, but the multiple murders that took place in a Medford, NY pharmacy on Father’s Day are especially gruesome. As Suffolk police commissioner Richard Dormer put it, “This is one of the most heinous, brutal crimes we have ever encountered.” As I write, the alleged perpetrator is in police custody.
In reading about the case, I find myself rummaging into memory of my reading and actual experiences in dealing with the sociopath personality. Is David Laffer a sociopath?
In psychology, sociopaths are said to suffer from an anti-social personality disorder. In layman’s terms, we think of them as devoid of conscience. What’s scary is how many of them there are, roughly 4% of the population, or 1 of every 25 people. Making matters worse, they’re very difficult to identify.
They’re difficult to detect because they can be so charming. Laffer’s neighbors are simply dumbfounded. He seemed so friendly and kind. I was a social worker for three years, working with troubled youth. To this day, I remember two of my boys, Billy and Glenn, especially well. Billy, age 12, had this really cute mug I don’t think any mother could resist. You just had to like him, though you couldn’t ever turn your back without his getting into new mischief. He could lie like water from an open hydrant.
Glenn, age 17, was this tall, lean kid, strikingly handsome with his blue eyes and blond hair sloping down to his shoulders. Again, what a charmer! He just happened to set a school on fire back in Minneapolis.
Since they’re so numerous, chances are you’ve met some along the way. I suspect they gravitate to certain professions like sales, politics,and investments. History is replete with sociopaths at the top of the power pyramid, exploiting and killing, such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.
You hear a lot about schizophrenia and yet there are four times the number of sociopaths as there are schizophrenics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You’ve heard more than once about anorexia, but again there are more sociopaths than anorexics.
Did you know that there are 100 times more sociopaths than people diagnosed with colon cancer?
It’s a mistake to think these people don’t know the difference between right and wrong. They do, but it doesn’t motivate them.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, those characterized by three of the following should be considered as manifesting an anti-social personality disorder:
1. failure to conform to social norms
2. deceitfulness, manipulativeness
4. failure to plan ahead
6. aggressiveness, reckless disregard for the safety of self or others
7. consistent irresponsibility
8. lack of remorse after having hurt, mistreated or stolen from another.
I think it’s still hard, even for professionals, to decipher the true sociopath, but I’m betting Laffer fits the mold. As Dr. Martha Stout tells us in her excellent The Sociopath Next Door, “Whether the victim be a frog or a person, sociopaths can kill without experiencing anguish.”
I think of last Sunday morning, Father’s Day, four lives snuffed out, wantonly, brutally.