Psychopaths or sociopaths have repeated or recurrent episodes of impulsive behaviour not desirable and agreeable to the social structure. The activities of a psychopath are essentially those of an anti-social. They learn very little or have least desire to learn from their past experience to correct themselves. Hence, they perform similar or different types of antisocial acts again and again, which are clearly, impulsive, unwise, without a trace of judgement, inconsiderate and insensible.
Aetiology – Some have tried to describe the condition as moral insanity. Others have recorded these disorderly behaviours in hypomaniacs, in subjects with history of encephalitis, or due to alcoholic intoxication and during the manic phase of manic-depressive psychosis. Another clumsy idea about the aetiology is that the psychopaths willfully become the victim of psychopathic behaviour. This leads to the belief by some that, a psychopath can’t help but to be a psychopath.
Scott (1960), tried to classify or group the psychopaths according to their aetiological backgrounds. His observation shows that some develop psychopathic personality due to adverse surrounding during the period of their upbringing, in their early childhood, which taught them to follow an antisocial way of life in future. The second group of the psychopaths have deficiency and defects in personal education and training. They behave, as they were taught to behave. They may have inner feeling of anxiety, inadequacy and unconscious instinctual drives. The third group also develop the abnormal behaviour due to weak and inconsistent training and rearing during childhood which may not be clearly deficient or defective. In the fourth group, excessive frustration is the cause of the development of the abnormal behavioural pattern. The first two categories may respond to punishment for their antisocial behaviour but the third group, if treated harshly may develop the pattern of mentality of the fourth group, which does not respond to any type of treatment.
Lack of intelligence, though may more commonly accompany psychopathic disorders, it is not an essential ingradient. Many of these persons are of average intelligence and a few may be even more than average and may have quite pleasant and charming personality and approach, when they are not indulged in antisocial activities.
Henderson’s types of psychopaths – Henderson (1939), classified psychopaths as (a) Predominantly aggressive (who turn violent and may even commit homicide), (b) Predominantly inadequate (in their education, training, behaviour and personality) and (c) Predominantly moral and mental deficient type (the behaviour is neither essentially aggressive nor inadequate).
It is the aggressive variety which bothers the society maximum. These people may turn violent out of very trivial issues. They have minimum self-controlling capacity.
In general, the psychopaths have least sense of social responsibility, their conduct is persistently antisocial, they cannot continue with any job. A psychopath is an easy lier, addict, and may have sexual and other offences in his account. Any tough attitude towards him may turn him to a dangerously vindictive and antisocial element.
To diagnose a case of psychopath, instead of attaching too much importance on his violent or anti-social activities, more importance should be attached towards his personal history – present and past.
The established psychopaths should better be treated by psychotherapy, instead of subjecting them to punitive measures for correction. However, for the interest of the society, to protect others from a habitual aggressor or trouble maker, stringent measures of any degree and description may have to be adapted.
Further, diagnosis of psychopathic disorder does not, by itself alone, bring an accused within the protective fold of section 84 I.P.C. or McNaughten’s rule.