Similar Disorders?

Between 1987 and 1989, I spent time inside the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, doing research for my second book: The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Penitentiary.
I was given free reign to come-and-go as I pleased. I could interview any Bureau of Prison (BOP) employee or federal prisoner who was willing to speak to me. As you might imagine spending time inside a maximum security prison, even as a visitor, has a dramatic impact on your life.
I remember seeing two inmates attack each other one day. One had a “shank” – a homemade knife – and he stabbed another inmate several times before a completely unarmed BOP lieutenant drove in and separated the two men. The raw imagine of that bloody violence and the courage of that lieutenant stayed with me for a long time.
I used to spend 23 days inside the prison and then return  home for a month to de-compensate mentally and think about something other than what I had seen and felt in prison. I remember buying a copy of Donald Trump’s first book, The Art of the Deal, inside the Kansas City airport to read on a flight home. The book was a bestseller and I wanted my book to be one too when it was published. I wanted to see how Trump had done it.
This was at the very start of Trump’s rise in fame — before he became a “business magnate, socialite, author and television personality,” which is how Wikipedia describes him now.
As I read his book, I remember thinking that some of the traits that Trump saw as virtues were only a hair different from the claims that many criminals were making to me in Leavenworth. The inmates talked about how they were the ultimate risk-takers, were not bound by society’s rules, were willing to bully people to get what they wanted, were at “war” with their opponents, and  respected power over mercy.
I wasn’t impressed with the book or many of Trump’s teachings.
So you can imagine the smile that broke across my face recently when I came across this report on the Internet.
“ In 2005, psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon at the University of Surrey, UK, interviewed and gave personality tests to high-level British executives and compared their profiles with those of criminal psychiatric patients at Broadmoor Hospital in the UK. They found that three out of eleven personality disorders were actually more common in executives than in the disturbed criminals. They were:
1.  Histrionic personality disorder, including superficial charm, insincerity, egocentricity and manipulation.
2. Narcissistic personality disorder: including grandiosity, self-focused lack of empathy for others, exploitativeness  and independence.
3. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: including perfectionism, excessive devotion to work, rigidity, stubbornness and dictatorial tendencies.
The authors described the business people as successful psychopaths and the criminals as unsuccessful psychopaths.”
Don’t misunderstand. I admire many business executives, especially those with a social conscience. I also wonder if you can’t find these same disorders among journalists whose single-mindedness helped them get to the top.
Just the same, I had to chuckle.
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.

  • Elizabeth Flynn

    The three Axis II disorders as outlined in the blog gave me a hearty chuckle as well, mostly because they describe to a tee, three of the members of senior administration at the medical group for which I used to work!

    When we consider that 20% of our population could benefit from mental health services at any given time, it should be no surprise that 20% of the employees in any category can be classified as mentally ill. (At least that is a statistic that we used to push while trying to sell EAP services to companies!)

    One other thing that is amusing to me is the way society in general talks about people who suffer from mental illness; they refer to the mentally ill as if they were all identified and isolated, ” those people over there”, maybe behind a chain link fence or something….. Little do they realize how frequently they are referring to the guy in the cubicle next to them.

    Please keep the commentary coming….I love it.

    Elizabeth Flynn

  • Elizabeth Flynn

    The three Axis II disorders as outlined in the blog gave me a hearty chuckle as well, mostly because they describe to a tee, three of the members of senior administration at the medical group for which I used to work!

    When we consider that 20% of our population could benefit from mental health services at any given time, it should be no surprise that 20% of the employees in any category can be classified as mentally ill. (At least that is a statistic that we used to push while trying to sell EAP services to companies!)

    One other thing that is amusing to me is the way society in general talks about people who suffer from mental illness; they refer to the mentally ill as if they were all identified and isolated, ” those people over there”, maybe behind a chain link fence or something….. Little do they realize how frequently they are referring to the guy in the cubicle next to them.

    Please keep the commentary coming….I love it.

    Elizabeth Flynn

  • Maria

    Donald Trump labeled a psychopath? Have you ever read the definition of a psychopath? It’s not a very nice label. What about the Pope? Is he nothing more than a successful schizophrenic?

    Donald Trump has many of the same qualities my father had. My father ran a business and his employees were grateful to work for such a genuine, hard-working man. He was admired by many and contributed greatly to the local community.

    Psychopath is a strong label to put on a person. I wonder what personality types psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon are? If a test could have labeled my father a psychopath, then there is something wrong with that test.

    Mr. Trump’s books have been successful for many reasons including his strong leadership qualities and his ability to mentor others. Undoubtedly, Mr. Trump has the ability to author best selling books, however his strength comes from putting talented people to work for him. Because of his incredibly busy schedule, do you think it is possible he hires ghost writers?

    http://www.observer.com/1997/leggy-stunner-page-six-becomes-trumps-sexy-ghost

    If your goal is to write a best selling book, perhaps try putting the same effort into your work as you did when you were in college. Do you remember what it was like working on a manual typewriter? no spell check, no copy and paste, no delete, using white out, using the c where the worn out e would go, sore fingers from pounding on those keys to get through a carbon copy, dealing with a worn out ribbon, and how about researching at a place called the LIBRARY? How perfect did you want that college paper to be? Oh how we were forced to use our brains before technology came along. No wonder why Hemingway and so many other brilliant writers who knew how to assemble words into literary art ended up “Crazy”.

  • Maria

    Donald Trump labeled a psychopath? Have you ever read the definition of a psychopath? It’s not a very nice label. What about the Pope? Is he nothing more than a successful schizophrenic?

    Donald Trump has many of the same qualities my father had. My father ran a business and his employees were grateful to work for such a genuine, hard-working man. He was admired by many and contributed greatly to the local community.

    Psychopath is a strong label to put on a person. I wonder what personality types psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon are? If a test could have labeled my father a psychopath, then there is something wrong with that test.

    Mr. Trump’s books have been successful for many reasons including his strong leadership qualities and his ability to mentor others. Undoubtedly, Mr. Trump has the ability to author best selling books, however his strength comes from putting talented people to work for him. Because of his incredibly busy schedule, do you think it is possible he hires ghost writers?

    http://www.observer.com/1997/leggy-stunner-page-six-becomes-trumps-sexy-ghost

    If your goal is to write a best selling book, perhaps try putting the same effort into your work as you did when you were in college. Do you remember what it was like working on a manual typewriter? no spell check, no copy and paste, no delete, using white out, using the c where the worn out e would go, sore fingers from pounding on those keys to get through a carbon copy, dealing with a worn out ribbon, and how about researching at a place called the LIBRARY? How perfect did you want that college paper to be? Oh how we were forced to use our brains before technology came along. No wonder why Hemingway and so many other brilliant writers who knew how to assemble words into literary art ended up “Crazy”.

  • Are there any places that give free records for inmates without having to co to the court?