From Van Gogh to Lady Gaga: what is personality disorder an illness of geniuses and artists?

What do we mean when we refer to an antisocial behaviour (not extravagant)? This type of conduct is one that does not conform to the social norm or moral. This definition has two consequences key.

The first is that we are talking about a concept very extensive, and includes both personality traits psychopathic (low empathy, impulsivity, or conduct of handling), to other more serious behaviors such as non-compliance of legal rules, scam for profit or personal pleasure, or absence of remorse.

The anti-social behaviour can affect both people and animals, or properties, infringiƩndoles damage or harmful action intentionally.

Anti-social behaviour in the story

The second consequence is that the anti-social behaviour, by relying on the social norm, change with time or geographical area. Without the intention of entering into ethical issues, and keeping only on the aspects related to the socialization, it is essential to keep in mind that what is considered anti-social in a historic moment, not what is or has been in other times.

For example, behaviors that consist in to do harm to others physically are today very punished, but in the other moments of the story were not so much. This happened with the torture and punishment is exemplary, both in the time of slavery, as for political reasons (dictatorship). Also with the gender-based violence, which, until recently, was perceived mainly as an issue belonging to the private sphere, and not a matter that could be judged and limited publicly.

Quirky characters

Once we have clear the concept of anti-social behaviour, it is quite likely that many people reading this article think that there are not so many geniuses who have exhibited antisocial behavior, although it may arise some examples of characters are certainly quirky, or even who have raised moral dilemmas, who were only in that, in the absence of intent to harm anyone.

In addition, the fact that they are perceived as people display cases of anti-social behaviour (or extravagant) can be explained by the use of a cognitive bias: the sobreinclusiĆ³n categorial. This distortion is assumed to overestimate the percentage of people that exhibit a characteristic or behavior is to extract a subset very outgoing from a very large group and little-known.

This combination assumes that the prevalence of that trait will be overvalued in function of the differentiating features that has the sub-group in place of the traits that it shares the group with the global group.

Another cognitive process that tends to occur also in this case is the use of copies that are made available in our mind. This explains that when we think of an animal that begins with the letter e to almost all the people we can think of an elephant (and not hedgehog), or that when we think superhero, we think of Superman, Spiderman or Batman, depending on what generation we are, the last film that we have seen or that are advertised on the billboard of the film; that is to say, the information we have available, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Van Gogh to Miley Cyrus

Applied to our case, this process justifies that when we think of an artist or scientist with behavior eccentric (outside of the social norm), let us think of Vincent Van Gogh and the episode with his ear, or in Michael Jackson and its multiple behaviors, the object of debate, and of judgment. Van Gogh and Michael Jackson’s work as exemplary of this category of “artists from eccentrics”, as they also may be Madonna, Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus.

In fact, this effect known to the artists, and that is why they seek the eccentricity as a mode of being cared, remembered and commented on. What is incongruous, and again with respect to the reality we know is what seizes our attention and, therefore, is more likely to be remembered. If, in addition, you get to become a copy of a category is assured of a high probability of being available in the minds and decisions of the people.

Beyond the extravagance or conduct that is eccentric, there are, as we mentioned, the anti-social behaviour. At the end of the maximum severity of these behaviors are those that are included in the disorder of antisocial behavior. This is the personality disorder most frequent (between 50-80 % of people with any type of personality disorder) compared to others such as personality disorders schizoid, schizotypal, borderline, or narcissistic.

The seven traits of antisocial

Some studies indicate a prevalence of between 0.7% and 3% of the population. To diagnose it, the person must meet a series of requirements. The DSM-V, as the current manual that defines the diagnostic criteria of psychological disorders, determines that in order to diagnose a personality disorder of antisocial behavior, the individual, with more than 18 years, must be manifest, at least from the age of 15, six of the following seven traits:

1.- Not conform to social norms, which is then reflected in illegal behaviors.

2.- To manipulate other people for his own benefit or pleasure.

3.- Behave impulsively, finding it very difficult to carry out a plan fixed up to the end.

4.-Exhibit irritability and aggressiveness, and may include physical struggles.

5.- Neglecting your own safety and that of another person.

6.- Submit irresponsibility maintained, including work obligations or financial.

7.- Lack of remorse, including rationalization and justification of the harm or mistreatment or theft done to other people.

If we look at these criteria and we think of the intellectuals, artists, writers, or philosophers that we know of, how many of them we can say, in reality, that exhibit behaviors characteristic of a disorder antisocial of the personality, instead of it just being people looking for extravagance, more or less consciously as a way of life?

This article has been published in ‘The Conversation‘.