Why Labels Matter for the Afflicted … A Psychopathic Perspective

In mental health circles, labels can carry great stigma.  Oh great … another schizophrenic … another Borderline … a psychopath – get them out, get them out, get them away from me!  The stigma can be conferred by those that are supposed to assist us – our therapists and/or psychiatrists – or by those in our lives: our girlfriends, husbands, family, etc.  No matter how much these labels sting, they can also be a great source of healing and community, however.

Many choose to adopt labels either through official diagnosis or self-diagnosis as a means of explaining the world that they live in.  The Borderline may equate their behavior with this specific label and may take steps to learn more about the condition based on their adoption of such a label.  The Bipolar individual equates mania with ‘Bipolar’.  So on and so forth.  However, the greatest power of a label (or diagnosis) comes in its power to transform a lonely condition into one shared by others.  No longer alone, the labeled individual either equates the label with their own identity or with a larger mass from which knowledge can be gleaned.

I will get to the psychopathy-specific ramifications of such labeling shortly, but I wish to clarify the point of community.  Many individuals with “abnormal” psyches feel hopelessly broken and alone.  They believe that there is no one else on earth that goes through the same psychic processes that they do.  They often have difficulty relating to others in this world and a label can be a source of great liberation.  They may not be able to relate to the majority in the world, but they quickly discover that they have a kinship toward those holding the same label.  Their struggles and successes are now rendered under a new light; they quickly find that they (if the label “fits”) can speak the same language as someone else rather than being effectively mute.

Those with Borderline or psychopathy face a unique benefit of such a label.  Both demographics typically have an unstable or non-existent identity.  I will focus on the psychopath.  The psychopath, with his constant mask-wearing and neurological wiring, often has very little sense of identity.  A label, while not identity, is something to hold onto.  As noted in my manuscript, my own yearning for identity led me to go through the psychological wringer, searching for any diagnosis (or many as it turned out) to hold on to as a means of explaining the person that I could not.  I have yet to find any semblance of identity but I still hold the label of ‘psychopath’ quite dear.  I may be clinically diagnosed, but I cannot hold the acceptance of the label by others against them.  We psychopaths are simply yearning for something to fill the emptiness caused by a lack of identity and a surplus of amorphous being.

I believe this is why so many antisocials hold dear the labels ‘sociopath’ and/or ‘psychopath’.  A few may want a sense of community as typically held by others with other mental differences, but I believe the majority of us simply want something we can stub in for identity.  Vis-a-vis the experiences of others with this label, we begin to have insight into our own inner workings.  We see with limited clarity, the   We may never be able to grasp the concept of identity that neurotypicals hold dear, but ultimately we wouldn’t want to emulate the neurotypical anyway.

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