If Adam Lanza is burning in hell by now, he is probably laughing. Adam Lanza’s laughter would be the kind of laugh that is characteristic of a psychopath, or is it a sociopath? A Dec. 28, 2012, Huffington Post article uses the word “psychopath” to describe Adam Lanza’s motif for killing his mother Nancy Lanza and Sandy Hook’s innocent children and adults.
A Dec. 28, 2012, Imperfect Parent article uses the word “sociopath” in its description of Adam Lanza’s motif for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012.
“Adam Lanza was widely believed to suffer from Asperger, a high functioning form of Austism, however, violent and sadistic behavior is not common in those with Asperger, leaving many to wonder if there wasn’t some sort of sociopathy or neurological anomaly that predisposed the shooter to acting out on killing so many youngsters in cold blood.”
Whether Adam Lanza’s DNA analysis will ever show whether he was a psychopath, a sociopath, or had some “neurological anomaly,” – will it make a difference?
In 2007, the Scientific American shed some light on the use of the word “psychopath.”
“We have all heard these phrases before. ‘Violent psychopath’ (21,700). ‘Psychopathic serial killer’ (14,700). ‘Psychopathic murderer’ (12,500). ‘Deranged psychopath’ (1,050). The number of Google hits following them in parentheses attests to their currency in popular culture. Yet as we will soon discover, each phrase embodies a widespread misconception regarding psychopathic personality, often called psychopathy (pronounced “sigh-COP-athee”) or sociopathy. Indeed, few disorders are as misunderstood as is psychopathic personality.”
Psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley described the personality traits and behaviors of a psychopath as:
- Psychopaths can be superficially charming
- Psychopaths make a good first impression on others
- Psychopaths appear to be remarkably normal
- Psychopaths are actually self-centered, dishonest and undependable
- Psychopaths engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it
- Psychopaths have an extreme lack of guilt, empathy and love
- Psychopaths have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships
- Psychopaths “routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.”
When using the word “psychopath” or “psychotic,” it is extremely important to distinguish the individual’s sense of reality. Psychopaths know exactly what they are doing and fool their environment intentionally. Psychotics, on the other hand, usually have lost their contact with reality.
For example, Charles Manson claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ which would make him a psychotic, not a psychopath. Similarly, David Berkowitz believed he was receiving commands from his neighbor Sam Carr’s dog, also making him a psychotic, not a psychopath.
If Adam Lanza’s reason for why he killed innocent children was due to some “outer-mind control” as some articles suggest, he would be a psychotic, not a psychopath.
Adam Lanza might have been psychotic (loss of contact with reality) but he did not have psychopathic characteristics (being charming).
Adam Lanza is not the first killer for whom the word psychopath is used instead of psychotic. “In the days following the horrific Virginia Tech shootings of April 16, 2007, many newspaper commentators described the killer, Seung-Hui Cho, as ‘psychopathic.’ Yet Cho exhibited few traits of psychopathy: those who knew him described him as markedly shy, withdrawn and peculiar.”
Adam Lanza’s laughter from hell would sound more like “I wish I’d been a psychopath.”
If Adam Lanza doesn’t quite fit the characteristics of a psychopath, maybe Adam Lanza’s DNA would reveal some sociopathic characteristics?
Similar to psychopaths, sociopaths have the following characteristics:
- Sociopaths have a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others
- Sociopaths have difficulties to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors
- Sociopaths are excellent in deception, repeated lying
- Sociopaths like to use aliases and con others for personal profit or pleasure
- Sociopaths are impulsive and fail to plan ahead
- Sociopaths often display irritability, aggressiveness, or get into repeated physical fights or assaults;
- Sociopaths show reckless disregard for safety of self or others
- Sociopaths display consistent irresponsibility, repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
- Sociopaths show a lack of remorse, being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another
Using the word “sociopathy” comes with several challenges. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) does not use the word “sociopathy” but “antisocial personality disorder.” Similarly, the World Health Organization(WHO) uses “dissocial personality disorder.” While both the APA’s and WHO’s terminology for sociopathy helps to focus on the social aspect of sociopathy, it does add some confusion to the general use of sociopathy.
In order to distinguish between psychopathy and sociopathy, it usually helps to break down the words and to remember that the word “psychopathy” is a construction of the Greek words psyche (mind, mental) and pathos (suffering, feeling) while “sociopathy” is a construction of the word social and pathos, suffering of social interaction.
Treating psychopaths is almost impossible. Treating sociopaths can be successful. Treating psychopaths Charles Manson and David Berkowitz and convincing them that their sense of reality was incorrect, was impossible. In contrast, a sociopathic man, for example, who was abandoned by his mother at a young age (attachment disorder), then sexually abused, can be treated with psychotherapy.
Adam Lanza’s careful planning of his Sandy Hook attack and lack of social interactions do not appear to follow the typical characteristics of a psychopath or a sociopath. Is it worth spending thousands of dollars to analyze Adam Lanza’s DNA to find Adam Lanza’s “neurological anomaly” or could the very same amount of money and research time be spent to find genetic causes for diseases that could save the lives of many?
Adam Lanza’s laughter from hell is a cruel echo of the fact that Adam Lanza destroyed the “three brains” that would have been able to provide an answer to Adam Lanza’s true reason why he killed; his mother Nancy Lanza, his computer, and his own brain when he shot himself.
Adam Lanza’s laughter from hell is also a cruel echo of another fact. After Sandy Hook’s massacre, everyone wants more. The American Psychiatric Association wants more funding for mental health, the National Rifle Association wants more guns, the government wants more gun control, schools want to be more of an armed fortress, teachers want more weapon training, the media wants more answers why Adam Lanza killed, and scientists want more insights into Adam Lanza’s DNA.
It seems the only “want more” that is justified is for Sandy Hook’s surviving family members to want more time with the loved ones that they have lost.
Maybe the power to stop Adam Lanza from laughing in hell lies in the Serenity Prayer.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things that I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Is it the amount of guns that are out there that needs changing? Or is it the psychopathic or sociopathic label for Adam Lanza that needs changing? Or is it school safety that needs changing? Or is it an understanding of Adam Lanza’s DNA that needs changing? Or is it the amount of love and needed attention that we give to the children and adults that are in our lives that needs changing?
On Dec. 28, 2012, the National Enquirer reports that Adam Lanza’s mother Nancy Lanza had left her son Adam Lanza alone in the house while she went on a trip just three days before Adam Lanza’s Sandy Hook shooting spree.
“But just three days prior, Nancy, 52, made a 220-mile drive from her Connecticut home to the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods for some rest and relaxation … Nancy drove up there to escape her painful existence at home. … She was at a crossroads on what to do with Adam, and occasionally she would make the trip to the hotel just to get away from it all. … On the evening she arrived, Nancy hit both of the hotel’s bars. First she ‘downed several glasses of Chardonnay’ at Stickneys. After that place closed, she moved on to The Cave, where she continued to drink alone until the place closed at midnight. … Nancy did the same thing the following night, then checked out at noon on Thursday and headed back to Newtown and an unimaginable nightmare.”
Maybe dealing with a “painful existence” on earth (no matter how hard it is sometimes) might be a better choice than dealing with a “laughing echo” from hell.