Examining the relationship between suicidal behavior and psychopathic traits through the lens of the interpersonal–psychological theory of suicide

Authored by: Katie Dhingra , Sofia Persson , Marc T. Swogger

Routledge International Handbook of Psychopathy and Crime

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138085169
eBook ISBN: 9781315111476
Adobe ISBN:


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Psychopathy has historically been conceptualized as conferring relative immunity to suicidality due to low anxiety and reduced self-conscious emotions (e.g., shame, guilt). The Interpersonal–Psychological Theory of Suicide is a promising heuristic for clarifying complicated and potentially contradictory findings within the literature. On one hand, the development of active suicidal ideation requires a perception of oneself as a burden on others with no meaningful connections to others. The callousness, unemotional personality, and manipulative interpersonal style inherent in individuals with high core (Factor 1) psychopathic traits may render them less likely to develop suicidal desire due to an indifference to enduring and meaningful relationships and/or inability to perceive problematic interpersonal interactions. In individuals with elevated Factor 2, but normative or low Factor 1, however, the combination of normative affect and interpersonal interactions and exposure could lead to both enhanced suicidal desire and capability. Rather than thwarted belonging or perceived burdensomeness, an individual high in core psychopathic traits may realize that his chances for “success” in an endeavor have suddenly been drastically reduced and may seek the feeling of power associated with “going down in a hail of glory” or cheating law enforcement out of exacting justice.

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