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Reasons To Take Your Child To a Psychologist or Psychiatrist

Updated on June 21, 2014
krsharp05 profile image

Kristi graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Human Development and Developmental Psychopathology of Children.

Psycopath Richard Ramirez
Psycopath Richard Ramirez | Source

Could My Child Be A Danger To Society?

It might be one of the most difficult decisions you make on behalf of your child. In fact, these types of decisions are always harder on the adult than they are on the child. There are many factors which might trigger a parent to wonder if their child has problems however, isolated characteristics are not indicative of mental illness, psychosis or being a psychopath. This will serve as a useful guide to help parents understand which behavioral markers are the "red flags" and could be potentially problematic.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

When a child or teen suffers from antisocial personality disorder they are typically without regard for others. They have an obvious lack of guilt, remorse and empathy and often have difficulty maintaining friendships or relationships although they can be very witty or charming. The ability to present a garrulous front is the manipulative nature of antisocial personality disorder.

Antisocial teens and adolescents have an aggressive nature although it may materialize in different ways. A small percentage of antisocial people become murderers or violent offenders but a greater percentage become master manipulators and career criminals. If they are confronted, they will defer blame regardless of the accusation.

The "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" requires that a person be at least 18 years of age to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, that they were diagnosed with or presented obvious and marked signs of conduct disorder by the age of 15 and have a very restricted range of human emotions. Antisocial personality disorder can evolve into psychopathic behavior.

People who are afflicted with antisocial personality disorder rarely recognize it as a problem and as such, do not seek help until it is ordered through a judicial ruling.

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Ted Bundy - one of the most prolific serial killers in US history.Phillip Garrido is the man who kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard and held her captive for more than18 years.H.H. Holmes Serial Killer from the Chicago World's Fair (Devil In A White City)
Ted Bundy - one of the most prolific serial killers in US history.
Ted Bundy - one of the most prolific serial killers in US history. | Source
Phillip Garrido is the man who kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard and held her captive for more than18 years.
Phillip Garrido is the man who kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard and held her captive for more than18 years. | Source
H.H. Holmes Serial Killer from the Chicago World's Fair (Devil In A White City)
H.H. Holmes Serial Killer from the Chicago World's Fair (Devil In A White City) | Source

Pleading Insanity in the United States

M'Naghten Rule

The M'Naghten rule states that every defendant is inherently sane. In order for that person to be convicted it must be proven that at the time the criminal act was committed, that person was laboring under a defect of reason , from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.

^Reference M'Naghten Case

The Durham Rule

Adopted in the late 1800s, it states that a defendant is not criminally responsible for the crime if the act was a product of a diagnosable mental defect or disease. The problem with the Durham rule was the lack of definition about mental defect and disease. Currently there is only one state that still uses the Durham rule.

Model Penal Code

Under the American Law Institute test "a person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law."

^Reference Model Penal Code


Psychopaths are very different from persons who are diagnosed with psychoses in that they are persons with antisocial characteristics who carry out their negative and wanton desires. They have no remorse or guilt for the pain and suffering of others, they will plan with great detail exactly how they are going to carry out their schemes and can often be recognized through appropriate and early detection. Persons with antisocial personality disorder are at the greatest risk of developing psychopathy or becoming a psychopath. The nature of antisocial personality disorder is the foundation of what fuels a psychopath.

If you look back in history at several of the massacres that have plagued our country, there have been many similarities between the perpetrators. Psychopaths are not scary people, they are misunderstood because they either slipped through the system or manipulated their way through the system. It's not uncommon for a psychopath to manipulate the people around them in order to hide who they really are.

  • Psychopaths have planned their crimes in great detail. I will speak on the part of a male because the rate of male to female psychopaths is 10/1. Planning the crime indicates that the perpetrator knew exactly what he was doing from start to finish. In most cases in US history, psychopaths are male.
  • Persons who are psychopaths are extremely intelligent. It is dismissive to say that they are insane. On the contrary, they are quite sane because they recognize the difference between right and wrong however, they feel that those rules do not apply to them.
  • He would know what he wanted to accomplish, when and where it would take place and who it would affect as far as his target audience.
  • He may obtain weapons legally or illegally. Women are more prone to using poison, knives or handguns.
  • He would watch or stalk the crime scenes prior to impact in order to be as effectively destructive as possible. The stalking may take place for minutes, hours or days before the criminal strikes. Once a psychopath does complete their first successful assault, it is nearly a guarantee that there will be more if he is not caught.
  • Additionally, the murder or crime itself may take minutes, hours or days.
  • He may have multiple sites of impact in order to hurt or kill as many people as possible.
  • It is also common for psychopaths to attempt to destroy evidence however they may do it in a manner which is a feeble attempt so as to ensure that they are recognized as the perpetrator. It is more common for the perpetrator to keep trophy items from victims.
  • If he is involved in the actual combat situation he may protect himself from the combat which is indicative of his obvious disregard for the lives of his victims and his narcissistic attitude about saving himself. He doesn't care about the individual lives he destroys but he will go to great lengths to ensure his own safety.
  • Mass murders or "psychopaths" often want the recognition and notoriety. Unfortunately, immediately following a tragic event there is a media blitz that immediately explodes and the the alleged criminal becomes somewhat of a celebrity. Often times it's a "power" that they feel has been deserved to them for their entire lives and now they've finally got the attention they deserve.
  • Psychopaths lack "causal relationships" but while their names might be in the media for a few days, they forget that getting a fair trial will be at best, impossible. Additionally, they will be targeted in prison for what they've done because the "celebrity status" doesn't make you special in prison, it makes you a low-life. It is common for high profile defendants to be placed into protective custody because they are not safe in general population due to the overwhelming amount of press coverage. Jeffrey Dahmer was killed in prison and many speculate that it was because the inmates were aware of the horrific crimes he committed.


Psychosis is different than being a psychopath because when a person is diagnosed with a psychosis, they have delusions, hallucinations, may hear voices and will actually lose touch with reality. They move into an "altered state" which they believe to be authentic. For example, someone who is living with a psychosis may dress up as a superhero or villain and run around the grocery store however, they are not prone to violent outbursts. They are more prone to wearing the costume while purchasing fresh fruit.

An example of psychosis is schizophrenia. It's common for people who are diagnoses with schizophrenia to see things which don't exist or hear voices which are not present. You might witness them have a conversation or a screaming match with a person who only appears to them - say for example while they are in their costume in the fresh fruit isle. It's important to note that psychosis can be both positive and negative. People can experience religious euphoria or extreme bouts of happiness however, they can also suffer paranoia and extreme difficulty with carrying out their normal daily routines. Living with psychosis can be very debilitating.

Let The Doctors Diagnose

DO NOT ASSUME that because your child or someone you know, displays one or two of these characteristics that he or she is impaired by a mental illness, psychosis or is a psychopath. If you have concerns at any time, the first step should be to take your child or teen to a licensed medical professional. Don't ask your child what they think because they won't understand the capacity of what you are talking about and cannot possibly comprehend the gravity of what you are presenting them with. If your medical professional explains to you that there might be a problem, hear them out and don't feel as though you are a failure.

Pleading Insanity

The use of the insanity defense is very rare. It's employed in less than 2% of all criminal trials and is successful in only .25% of those cases. It's extremely difficult to use the insanity defense. When it is effectively utilized, often times times the offender will end up spending more time in state custody than if they had been traditionally convicted.

Recent Events

The population of the world is growing and as such, so are the number of people with mental illnesses, brain dysfunctions and the need for real psychiatric help. The devastating reality is that there are people who will slip through the cracks. Whether it's a shooting, kidnapping or a mass fatality there are always commonalities between the perpetrators.


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    • krsharp05 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Sharp 

      6 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Candice Harding, Thank you very much for taking the time to read and for leaving such an excellent comment. I really like that you highlight the fact that therapy isn't just for "extreme" cases and that often times it takes more than one therapist before you find a good fit. Two great points. I also want to thank you for the link you provided - very informative. It's nice to make friends and contacts here on HP. Lovely to meet you and I hope to see you again. Best, Kristi

    • profile image

      Candice Harding 

      6 years ago

      I think you took this hub in a really interesting direction. I have personally been to multiple psychologists, many while I was still a child (no, I'm not a psychopath) and that was definitely a good decision on my parents' part. There are lots of good reasons to take a child to a mental health professional (and not all of them are that the child has bad or criminal behavior). Therapy has altered my life and, while I've have had at least one ineffective psychologist, I can honestly say my parents' decision to put me in therapy saved me years of misery.

      Candice Harding

    • krsharp05 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Sharp 

      8 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Hi Teaches! Thank you for reading and commenting. The Colorado killer is a psychopath as opposed to having a psychosis. He did dress up and he did act very strange in court however he exhibits the qualities of antisocial behavior. The fact that he waited and watched his victims, had multiple weapons, multiple sites of destruction and fully protected himself from assault and then completely gave up as soon as police arrived - there are too many factors that lead to psychopathic behavior. His "strange behavior" actions in court were most likely coached by his attorney because in Colorado, if you are going to use the insanity defense you have to plea it at the arraignment. He can't go into court looking sane - he has to look as though he's not in touch with reality. Fortunately Colorado uses a modified version of the M'Naghten rule with the Irresistible Impulse Test. I believe that it will be easier for the state to prove him sane because of his sheer determination and if you look at the totality of his actions, he didn't feel the least bit bad about what he did and he did it to the best of his ability. I appreciate you being here! -K

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      I found this topic so fascinating and learned tons of this psychosis. It all fits with the character of the Batman Killer. It's interesting to know that they do not have empathy, which makes sense for such a person to carry out his violence. Voted up.

    • krsharp05 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kristi Sharp 

      8 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Kelley, thank you for the excellent comment. Historically, in most cases of psychopaths who kill, there were many people along the way who felt each person was a danger to society and yet somehow they careened through the chasm of our often political cracks. I know that there is more that can be done but when it comes to accepting that your child might have a serious condition, it's scary. Additionally, because a child has the qualities of an antisocial/conduct disorder child does not mean that they will be a serial killer or mass murderer.

      You are absolutely right that if a parent notices a problem it should never be ignored. It doesn't mean you stop loving your child. It means that you love them enough to protect them from harm they could do to themselves or to other people. The parents of the Colorado man will have to live with the "If I'd only....." for the rest of their lives since they knew he was a danger to society. Thank you for taking the time to read. -K

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow this is a fantastic topic for a hub. With the recent Colorado killings I told my husband if I thought one of our children were ever a danger to society I would notify the police. I couldn't believe the Colorado man's mother's reaction when they notified her of the shootings. If in fact she knew he was a danger I think she should have notified the authorities. Thanks for sharing this. Kelley


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