Can Psychopaths Feel Attachment?

My interactions with others are purely purpose driven. Or at least that I what I have observed with every human interaction to this point.  I treat others as potted plants, wishing that they can thrive with the minimum of effort on my part and tending to them only when it pleases me.  I never felt attachment to another and I’ve written that the price to pay of psychopathy is the complete inability to form interpersonal bonds with the same intensity that neurotypicals can.  As I prepare to move thousands of miles to a new playground, I wonder if it is truly impossible to form those bonds or whether the psychopath may merely find it less automatic.

It may seem strange to the neurotypical, but I fear making such a bond.  I fear it because I do not want the pain of seeing a trusted and cherished friend die or vanish.  I have never felt such a feeling and it both terrifies me and disgusts me to think of myself rendered feeble by such useless emotions.  This terror is reality as the gravity of moving and leaving one such acquaintance behind invokes these emotions that I could never fathom.

I told my family that I was moving far away.  Upon hearing the news, my mother burst into a sorrowful wailing that I simply could not understand.  Why would anyone shed tears over another?  How could anyone mean that much?  When I told a non-romantic acquaintance that I respect highly, it finally hit that this acquaintance would be gone from my life as well.  The tears that I shed upon this realization were alien and confusing.  For one that has always treated others with indifference except when those others have use, the thought of actually missing someone did not make sense.

I wondered whether such feelings invalidated the diagnosis of psychopathy.  I wondered if I had reached a level of emotional growth from years of deep introspection and efforts toward my mental health.  There were so many questions and there will be so many more.  As far as I can tell, this person is the only one that I will truly miss.  I will not miss my family nor any other acquaintances.  I am overjoyed at the idea of becoming a fresh nothing-face in a new land.  Yet, I can’t shake the notion that something very dear to me will be missing from my new life.  I can’t shake the notion that I have something dear to begin with.  It does not make sense.

Is it gratitude for what they have done for me?  I don’t think so; I am not a gracious person.  Is it a valuation of their existence?  That doesn’t seem quite right either.  What about a selfish feeling that someone who has had great influence in my life will be essentially dead to me?  A few weeks ago, I would have written that such had to be the case.  Now I’m not so certain.  I may have actually developed a bond that means something and now it will be gone.

My goal in the coming weeks – before I move – is to understand what these tears mean.  Am I glimpsing a part of humanity that I assumed was inaccessible to me?  And, if I am, what exactly does that mean?  Am I not invincible to the pain that neurotypicals feel?  Am I, on the tiniest of levels, the same as my mother with her tears?  I don’t quite understand and all that I can do is to keep searching.

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  1. Anonymous says

    I wondered whether such feelings invalidated the diagnosis of psychopathy.

    Do you feel pressure to fit the diagnosis, now that you have it?

    • Anathema says

      It is tricky. I often lose sight about how my personality disorders fit together. I think it is only natural to throw up my arms and say ‘Aha, there is proof that I’m not X’, but then something always seems to come along later that invalidates the invalidation.

      I’m a very introspective person. I ultimately do not care what diagnoses I have so long as I am in better control of my actions. I would love to one day be “cured” of the fears of abandonment and black and white thinking that come with Borderline Personality Disorder. However, I’m not so sure that I am ready to “give up” the invincibility that I thought I had with psychopathy when it comes to leaving relationships by my own hand.

      All of that said, I suppose that I do feel somewhat compelled to look for the psychopath in me. The diagnosis explained so much of my internal processes that seemed to elude the diagnoses of Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. I’m not out causing the havoc that I used to in order to prove to myself anything – as that would be dangerous. However, I try to prove to myself that I am still emotionally invincible and I think that is what is troubling the most about those tears that I shed. For the first time in my life, they were not crocodile tears.

      • klempie says

        Hi, I hope you are subscribed to this thread and get this reply cos I have a question I’ve been wondering about for the last couple of months.

        I believe I have crosses the paths of both psychopaths (two of my bosses) and a borderline (a colleague I became very close to outside of work). You can imagine that my life got turned upside-down with all the gaslighting going on.

        Anyway, after consulting with some mental health professionals, one told me that Borderline Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder could be comorbid. This seems paradoxical to me given the underlying causes of both.

        ASPD is characterised by the low or non-activation of the amygdalae which are where emotion is processed. On the other hand, BPD is characterised by over-activation of the amygdalae! The underlying neurological processes driving each of these syndromes are fundamentally opposed, so how could one experience both? BPDs are over-emotional and ASPDs are unemotional.

        The only possible way that I could see this working is that the neurology is set up in such a way that the amygdalae in such an individual have higher-than-normal neuronal density (which is the case in BPD and explains why BPDs are so sensitive) but the pathways leading into/out of the amygdalae are branched in such a way that in SOME situations they are activated, yielding a borderline response, and in others the amygdalae are bypassed, yielding an ASPD response. Are you able to tell me a little bit about how this works in your life? I am fascinated!

        • J. Kelly says

          The key is to remember that BPD (like all personality disorders) is a grab bag of symptoms. Not all are required to be present, just enough to cross the threshold for diagnosis.

          Let me think about this a bit more and I’ll reply in the form of a new post.

  2. Anonymous says

    ” I treat others as potted plants, wishing that they can thrive with the minimum of effort on my part and tending to them only when it pleases me. ”

    this is the closest analogy for how i feel about people yet.

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