RARA-AVIS: Re: Mental illness?

From: Racerick75@aol.com
Date: 03 Jun 2008

John Lau wrote:

if you define narcissism as mental illness, ok. but refusing to play by society's rules for one's own benefit isn't necessarily mental illness. it's a

choice made by free-willed men and women

I'm glad, John, that you qualified your statement with the phrase "isn't <<necessarily>> mental illness".

The advent of the MRI has given us incredible new opportunities to actually witness the brain at work. One of the things research scientists have noted is that a section of the brain called the limbic system works very differently in individuals who have been?diagnosed with Cluster B Personality?Disorders such as Narcissistic PD, Antisocial PD, and Borderline PD.

Specifically,?there appear to be differences in both size and function in a body called the amygdala, an area which I teach my psych students should be?equated with 'fear'. The?amygdala is the center of the brain that triggers the 'flight or fight' response when the person?is threatened. People with Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorder (narcissists and psychopaths) tend to have much smaller amygdalas, and their amygdalas tend to have a much higher threshold for firing, when it has one at all. The result is that these individuals do not feel that adrenal-driven anxiety and fear that most of us feel when we're doing something we know to be wrong (the response we call 'guilt' or 'a conscience'). Because they don't feel badly about doing wrong, there is no internal punishment, and therefore these individuals do ignore society's rules when it suits them to do so. They have nothing to lose by manipulating and depriving others, and everything to gain.

Before we had access to MRI studies?with these populations, I used to say that they?were "missing parts you can't get spares for..". In fact, I used that in one or two of my books. I didn't realize at the time, however, just how accurate that statement was.

The obvious problem this raises is - Just what in hell do you do with these characters when you catch them? Rehabilitation is pretty much out of the question. We've long since evolved past summarily slamming people up against the wall and unleashing the firing squads (at least in the US, we wait ten or fifteen years and then try to make their demise as sanitary and painless as possible, and then only for the most heinous of crimes). If a narcissist or psychopath commits a relatively nonviolent crime, which most of them do, what should be the community's response? After all, you can always put them away for a while, but once they're released they'll just do it again.

Come to think of it, doing the same thing over and over, all the while expecting different consequences, is one definition of mental illness.

Gotta go. Things to write... R?

Richard Helms http://www.richardhelms.net

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