Read part one of Was Patrick Bateman Actually A Psycho?
Welcome back to the second part of the four-part series of essays discussing whether or not Patrick Bateman was, indeed, a psychopath. We will be exploring personality disorders, specifically looking at antisocial personality disorder. Click here to read part one.
Patrick Bateman is a self-absorbed, pop-culture obsessed, materialistic, greedy, young man who feigns social niceties and political correctness yet has no issue saying what he really feels when he believes no one is listening. He has a constant need to fit in, and a need to never be seen alone, even if he is with people he despises, at least no one is seeing him alone. He is caught up and has been consumed wholly by the consumerist culture of the 1980s.
Patrick lets the audience know about his increasing blood lust and his need to be in control of any and all situations. He has a strong desire have the best of everything, right down to his business card, even though it pales in comparison to Paul Owen’s. He is in competition with all these clones who have the same job, same tan, same type of girlfriend, same taste in music: they are all just copies of a copy. There is nothing real or sustainable in the world of Patrick Bateman. The culture in which he lives does not thrive on the meaningful and true. It instead thrives on what to sell you next – what is popular now –the commodity you must own to fit in. Things, things you do not really care about until you hear that it is popular or until you hear that your personal idol, Donald Trump, eats at a trendy restaurant or wears a high-end designer suit.
This bit of character information can help us determine what psychological disorder Patrick is living with. I feel that Patrick must be living with a Personality Disorder because of how he perceives, relates and thinks about his environment and himself. One mark of a Personality Disorder is the enduring functional impairment or subjective distress it causes the sufferer.
Let us start with the most obvious one, Psychopathy or Antisocial Personality Disorder. The DSM-IV text revision states, briefly:
Antisocial Personality is a pattern for, and violation of, the rights of others. The disorder begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues on into adulthood. Conduct disorder is the precursor to Antisocial Personality Disorder that occurs before the age of 15. It is a repetitive, enduring pattern of violating social norms and basic human rights. Behaviours can fall into one of four categories: aggression to people and animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness or theft, or serious violation of rules.
Later in the book Patrick mentions, in a glib manner, that he raped one of his maids when he was 13. He also mentions how he has lost his conscience probably during Harvard. Based just on this, we can determine that he is actually a psychopath. But before we jump to conclusions, we need to look deeper into antisocial personality disorder, other personality characteristics, and other personality disorders.
The DSM-IV Text Revision states:
The associated features of antisocial personality disorder is someone who frequently lacks empathy and tends to be callous, cynical, and contemptuous of the feelings, rights, and sufferings of others. They have an inflated and arrogant self-appraisal, and may be excessively opinionated, self-assured, or cocky. They may display a glib, superficial charm and can be quite verbose and verbally facile (e.g., using technical terms or jargon that might impress someone who is unfamiliar with the topic). Individuals with this disorder may also experience dysphoria, including complaints of tension, inability to tolerate boredom, and depressed mood. They may also have comorbidity to other disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance-related disorders, pathological gambling. Those with Antisocial personality disorder may also meet the criteria of narcissistic, histrionic, borderline personality disorders.
There are a few other personality disorders that may also explain Patrick’s behaviour. Respectively, borderline personality disorder is marked by instability, specifically in relationships and self-image, as well impulsivity. Histrionic personality disorder is marked by excessive attention seeking and emotionality. Narcissistic personality disorder is marked by a pattern of grandiosity, a need to be recognized and admired, as well as a lack of empathy or remorse. Lastly, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is marked by the obsession to keep everything surrounding the individual perfect and in order. This is also marked by a need for control.
We can discount histrionic personality disorder from the list of what afflicts Patrick Bateman. From the brief definition, we know almost immediately that it does not fit his description. He does not display an excessive amount of emotionality but there are times where he does need to seek attention, especially in an attempt to get a reaction. I also do not think that he is suffering from borderline personality disorder although he can be impulsive and erratic, and his relationships are unstable, it does not fully describe Patrick. Patrick has something more grandiose bubbling at the surface. That leaves us with three possible personality disorders: antisocial, narcissistic and obsessive-compulsive.
Violence and Treatment
The most common question about personality disorders is if they are treatable; as in, can you be cured from your personality disorder? Not necessarily. Personality disorders, as you may already know are marked, chronic patterns (i.e., habits) that are formed from a very young age. It is difficult to erase the major part of what makes you, you. Instead, many individuals seek help from mental health professionals. Therapy seems to be the most effective course of action, as it brings in a new perspective of how those behaviours can not only affect the patient but those around them. There are coping strategies that can help patients, and vary depending on which personality disorder they are living with. One of the most controversial methods is using medication to help suppress these habits. Although some swear by its effectiveness, it is difficult to measure how you can suppress a major part of yourself with medication. Indeed, your personality is a major part of who you are and how you act and react to your surroundings. When a personality disorder is treated, it will go into a remission, so-to-speak, but it will never be cured.
Can those living with a personality disorder become violent? From what we have covered, there is no doubt this would be one of the first questions to come to mind. There are several instances where people can turn violent based on their atypical personalities; conversely, many people do not act on their impulses and carry out violent deeds. The most common personality disorder associated with violence with antisocial personality disorder – the one which Patrick may be living with – and the one that is marked with little to no remorse or empathy. This personality disorder is often regarded as the most fascinating because it affects the brain to a large extent. To elaborate, those living with antisocial personality disorder are missing activity in a major part of their brain: the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. What this means is there is a lack of empathy and guilt; there is a lack of a conscience. Furthermore, there is also a reduced connection to the amygdala, which mitigates fear and anxiety. When put in this manner, there seems to be little doubt that those marked as psychopaths will, indeed, be violent. Although this may be true in noted instances, there are several individuals who have been labelled as psychopaths that have functioning and flourishing careers, most notably in higher positions (e.g., CEO). This means is they can carry out company reductions with little to empathy for those they fire. They are still callous, but they may not end up involved in crime. When it comes to Patrick Bateman, we – for the purpose of this – will assume he is a psychopath, and can denote he has several of these marked features. Bret Easton Ellis exhausted himself to research several criminals and psychological abnormalities, which we can see has moulded a character so vivid and monstrous that he embraces all of the patterns we have covered and much more that we will cover next issue.
Although much more complex, I will be leaving links for further reading, if this essay has sparked an interest. We will continue to explore these personality disorders in the next two issues, as well as explore schizophrenia, before coming to the conclusion.
Further reading and watching:
Was Patrick Bateman Actually a Psycho Part 2 [video] by Hanaa El - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QcphGfh-T4&t=4s
Personality Disorder by the Canadian Mental Health Association - https://cmha.bc.ca/documents/personality-disorders-2/
Treatment for the ‘Untreatable’ - http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar04/treatment.aspx
What Causes Personality Disorders? - http://www.apa.org/topics/personality/disorders-causes.aspx