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I watched one of my favorite films on Lifetime yesterday morning called “Drew Peterson: Untouchable.” I don’t know how many of you have seen it, but it’s really good. For those who don’t know, it’s based on a true story about none other than Drew Peterson, who was accused and convicted of killing one of his wives and is suspected in playing a part in the disappearance of his fourth wife as well. Rob Lowe plays Peterson, and boy is he convincing. He played it so well; it actually made me a bit scared of him (Lowe, I mean). He’s very charming and easily lures women in, getting engaged to them very quickly and only stays married to them for a few years before they threaten to leave him and then “disappear” or are found dead.

Kaley Cuoco (Big Bang Theory) plays his fourth wife, Stacey. Peterson is very emotionally, and a bit physically, abusive with his wives. He blames everything on them, justifies every disrespectful act he commits, grabs them forcefully if they try to walk away, accuses them of cheating when they never did, and so on. Even when he’s confronted by the cops and arrested, he seems so at ease. He doesn’t feel guilty about anything because he truly doesn’t believe that he’s done anything wrong whatsoever.

So let’s see, he feels no guilt, he’s never anxious about anything (even jail), he doesn’t treat people fairly, he’s abusive, he’s charming, he’s manipulative, and he doesn’t seem to really love any of the women he’s with. Sounds like a complete psychopath to me. He fits the description perfectly.

Here’s another example: The Stepfather. That film portrays a psychopath really well. Terry O’Quinn plays Henry (the stepfather) in the original and Dylan Walsh plays him in the remake. Like Drew Peterson, Henry is also manipulative, charming, and feels no guilt whatsoever. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a man who lures in widowed/single women with kids and marries them, only to become abusive and eventually kills the mothers and the children. He then moves on to another city or town and does it all over again, though under a new name each time. Sound like a psychopath? Oh yeah. In fact, the movie is also based on a true story, that of John List.

I’ve found psychopaths to be very interesting to learn about and study. They have a disorder known as Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD), which psychopath and sociopath are the informal nicknames of. It’s one of the most difficult disorders to treat, because people with APD don’t feel guilt or remorse, meaning that they don’t know right from wrong. If they did, they’d have a moral code, and people with moral codes feel guilty (usually) when they do something wrong or harm others. Someone with APD would have no remorse over hurting someone – or even killing someone.

Now, not all people with APD are criminally insane; not all of them are abusive; not all of them are dangerous. Usually, when we hear someone is a psychopath, we think of someone who is violent, abusive, dangerous, criminal, and willing to kill. That’s how movies portray them. But that’s not so for all of them – probably not even for most of them. A person can have APD and not kill anyone or even harm anyone – they just simply don’t know right from wrong, so they may be rebellious, may mimic others’ emotions (they don’t really feel emotions themselves), may manipulate others with ease, may be overly charming, and so on. They’re not all killers. Personally, I wouldn’t be very afraid if I knew someone who was psychopathic. Most people probably would be, but I’ve done so much research on this disorder and have learned about it so much in my psychology courses (even wrote a long research paper on it), that I understand the difference between someone with APD and a psychopathic killer. Many people debate about whether all people with APD are psychopaths – some think they are, while others think that psychopaths are just the violent, criminally insane people with APD, rather than all people with APD. But I’ll get into that later.

I could go on, but I’ll stop for now. There’s more about APD to come, as well as classic examples and maybe even my theories about them.