Mon. July 29
Is Anthony Weiner a Psychopath?
Using the alias Carlos Danger, Anthony Weiner is at it again. Having got caught two years ago sending an explicit picture of himself to a woman via Twitter, this last week Weiner again became embroiled in a scandal amidst a fledgling New York City mayoral campaign. This time Weiner admitted having engaged in online, sexual relationships with up to potentially ten different women. For most of us seeing this story, is it easy to react with disgust, disdain, and indigence – this is a bad guy doing bad things, forcing his wife to stand by him yet again in an awkward press conference.
But to me that is just 1% of the story. The other 99% concerns why would he do these behaviors again? After all, you don’t become a congressman without some manner of intelligence and common sense. So if we assume Weiner is a smart guy, knows he is a public figure, and realizes how devastating getting caught for his indiscretions would be, why would he do the same behaviors over and over again? From a psychological perspective, there are three distinct, yet potentially overlapping, explanations.
- He is a sex addict. Though disputed in medicine and psychology as a legitimate addiction, it seems possible Weiner could be addicted to sex, going to extreme lengths to perpetuate sexual relationships with many women at the same time. Wiener denies he is a sex addict and if we are to believe early reports he did not actually have intercourse with most or all of these women.
- He is a narcissist. Narcissists have overinflated feelings of self-importance and entitlement, lack an ability to be empathic, and often feel the normal rules of society don’t apply to them, because they are so special and unique. Not surprisingly, they are some of the worst people to be in relationships with. Wiener is definitely a narcissist and having at least a snippet of this trait is probably a prerequisite for politics. But did his feelings of grandiosity actually motivate his amazingly erratic behavior?
- He is a psychopath. Psychopaths are individuals who lack remorse/empathy, are impulsive, have difficulty controlling their behavior, are manipulative, and are antisocial. The term is evocative and usually brings to our mind images of serial killers like Ted Bundy or a cinematic version Hannibal Lecter. But psychopaths can function in society, and this is likely the best description of Weiner. Glancing at the frequently used checklist to diagnose psychopathy, it’s striking how well these traits fit him.
Viewing Weiner as a psychopath doesn’t excuse his behavior, but at least offers a partial explanation for it. The causes of psychopathy are somewhat unknown and curing it is pretty much impossible – you just can’t all of sudden make someone be remorseful. As such, energy should be placed not in trying to fix a psychopath, but learning to properly handle them. This almost always means not getting married to one and definitely not making one the mayor of New York City. Talk about danger.