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Crazy vs. Cunning

Being in the field of psychology and mental disorders, I watch the court and news stations with silent frustration.

I am watching defense attorneys or news-casters talking about rapists, murderers, pedophiles and the like being “mentally ill” when these psychos have “personality disorders,” not mental illness. What’s the difference?

The difference is huge as anyone who has or has lived with a loved one with mental illness knows. I spent five years in a State psychiatric hospital. (Not as a patient! Although there was the on-going joke, “What’s the difference between patients and staff? Who has the keys!)

Anyone committed to a State psych. hospital 9 times out of 10 was truly mentally ill in the most extreme of ways. I speak of a male who was committed after trying to cut open his stomach believing he was pregnant, a man who stabbed his mother 79 times to death, poured gasoline all over her body and the family home and torched it because Satan was “speaking through his mother”, many wandering aimlessly along highways and bi-ways completely naked seeking the Virgin Mary or avoiding the CIA and Mafia from abuducting them to send them to the planet Burgonis to be eaten. These are cases of mental illness! Schizophrenia, BiPolar Disorder, Delusional Disorder and more.

I was prompted to write this because of the recent Jodi Arias case. She was convicted of First Degree murder for stabbing and shooting to death her boyfriend Travis Alexander. Her defense attorneys called Expert Witnesses to testify that she suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Battered Women’s Syndrome. While both of these are true emotional illnesses, they do not render one psychotic or crazy as her defense team attempted to sell to the jury. While I am in no way minimizing Battered Women’s Syndrome, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I am saying that it is a far stretch for anyone to find these disorders a reason to excuse a planned, well-executed, or mitigated reason for murder.

Narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, borderline personality disorders are the most likely suspects of murders, rapes, robberies and pedophilia. Defense attorneys get experts to testify in court all the time to say how these clients suffered horrible childhoods and consideration should be taken for that in light of their sickening, violent, heartless crimes. Please! These people are suffering what are called Personality Disorders, many of which have been removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic criteria for True Psychological Illnesses. No surprise here! Why?

So many people have these personality disorders. They are not crazy. They are problematic people. However! They know right from wrong very, very well. Indeed, some people even date or marry them! Later, we wonder…..”What was I thinking?” The truth is, you didn’t know.

These people are very engaging, lovely, enticing and can have you believing you have found your proverbial “Soul Mate” faster than a fly finds a fruit. Then come the lies, the guilt they inflict, the control they thrive on until they have you believing, “I must be nuts!”

I am not sure if people who sit on juries know the difference between Psychosis and Personality Disorders. Defense lawyers would love you not to. Prosecutors would welcome you if you did. Personally, I’ve been excused from two trials over the past 10 years because I told the court I was a Psychotherapist. I don’t wonder why. This raises another question about juries. How fair are they really?

In any case, the Arizona jury who convicted Jodi Arias of First Degree murder got her right! She may very well have Borderline Personality Disorder. However, that does not constitute insanity!


Read more posts by Leo Battenhausen, MSW, addiction and mental health counselor.  Leo is a blogger for JenningsWire.