Can a psychopath ever be cured?


I watched a fascinating documentary, about a 6 year old girl (Beth Thomas) who had been severely sexually abused and neglected and was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, a precursor of psychopathy. The little girl is remarkably callous when she speaks about wanting to kill her younger brother and her adoptive parents and shows little emotion. However, because she is only six, she is also honest and candid. She is shown a few years later and has become a normal, loving child.

Psychopaths generally cannot be cured, but in some cases like little Beth’s, early intervention combined with removing a young child from an abusive home can reverse the course of psychopathy before it’s too late. Today, Beth Thomas is in her 30’s and is a registered nurse who works with her adoptive mother, Nancy Thomas in her company Families By Design, which promotes Attachment Therapy to improve the parent-child relationship.
From all accounts Beth shows no signs of narcissism or psychopathy. This is what she looks like today:



14 thoughts on “Can a psychopath ever be cured?

    • No, I haven’t read it before, but I just did. Really interesting, thanks. I do think there is a “psychopathic brain” as described and that in certain cases fullblown psychopathy doesn’t develop due to the brain being “rewired” by training a child in more prosocial behaviors like was done for Beth or growing up in a positive environment. It doesn’t always work though. The psychopathic brain itself doesn’t change because it’s genetic. People like Beth or the guy in the article you posted would probably seem less emotional than most people and might seem “aloof” but have learned to act in a prosocial way and even develop a workable conscience. Not all psychopaths are criminals anyway. Malignant narcissists are psychopaths who go around hurting others but don’t necessarily break the law or murder anyone. The difference between them and the guy in the article or Beth is that they still have no conscience, but they want to put forth a good image and/or are afraid of legal consequences so they limit their activities to “soul-murder” instead of actual murder. Also not all violent criminals are psychopathic. Some even have a moral code. A person whose family is starving and robs a bank to get money for food is acting more morally than a psychopath who doesn’t commit a crime but likes to make people miserable for kicks. That doesn’t excuse the crime but makes it understandable, while most people can never understand the way a psychopath thinks. Thanks for posting that article.


      • It could also be that someone like Beth who was severely abused, did not actually have a psychopathic brain at all and that’s why she could be cured–some people like her just act out their anger because of what was done to them. The man in the article had a psychopathic brain but was able to become a productive member of society in spite of it. Certain professions are psychopath-friendly and psychopaths are drawn to them because they make use of psychopathic behavior in a more productive way–for example the military, contact sports, law enforcement and corporate life are people who are probably psychopaths. These professions encourage psychopathic traits such as aggression, competitiveness and the ability to remain emotionless or unruffled in situations that would upset most people.

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  1. Reblogged this on duncanmason and commented:
    Maybe this explains why an adult can be so twisted and bitter; she must have had it tough and is so full of shit and hate now.


  2. I saw that documentary a few years ago too and I thought it was sad that she had endured such horrors. And I was also really touched by the therapis in the story too. (if I’m remembering correctly). I remember a scene where he said something to her and she just broke down and cried. He had apparently broken through.

    I agree with one of your comments above where you say that she might not have had a psychopathic brain. I thought that right off the bat when I saw the doc. Such horrific abuse can really rewire the brain.

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    • Even in the earlier therapy session, she’s hesitant and seems to show more emotion when it’s pointed out to her that all the baby birds had died. It’s almost as if she didn’t realize what she had done, even though she did.

      When kids aren’t mirrored as babies (which happens when they’re abused or neglected) they develop no sense of self and resort to using other people to act as mirrors — so narcissism and psychopathy can develop even if the brain isn’t wired that way at birth.

      Watching this little girl (who is really very cute in spite of the shocking things she says) was quite sad, and I got tears in my eyes when she made that breakthrough at the end and started crying. Even in that early session, I didn’t get the impression she was really a bad person inside. But she could have become that way. It really makes you wonder if some serial killers (most who suffered horrendous abuse) might have turned out differently if they received early intervention like Beth did.

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  3. Just saying, she is NOT a psychopath though…. You are throwing around the word, but you do not understand the raw definition.


  4. Beth’s outcome is my worst nightmare. To become a church-going, nurse? (shudder) I think I did grow up thinking myself “bad.” I once dreamed I turned into a monster. I was huge. My parents saw me and I knew I had to destroy them or they would destroy me. But I was never actually abused. I would love to have a brain scan to find out if my brain is psychopathic. But I can’t even find a professional who is willing to administer Hare’s checklist. Oh, well…I like what Dr. Michael Stone (I think that’s his name) said in “Psychopath Night.”
    “Psychopathy is like diamonds. It’s forever.”

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  5. Pingback: Can a psychopath ever be cured? | Down the Rabbit Hole

  6. Beth is not a psychopath. A psychopath cannot be cured, one is born a psychopath and they actually have a brain disorder. The part of the human brain that feels emotions actually does not get triggered in psychopaths. They cannot get better with a little therapy. But even though they do not feel remorse, it does not mean they are always wanting to hurt people as is popularly shown in television. Beth is just a child with severe attachment disorders, because she never learned the ability to trust or form a bond or relationship with someone. Just wanted to clear that up!


    • You’re right, she would have become a sociopath had she not had early intervention. At the time I posted this, I didn’t realize psychopathy is inborn and sociopathy is something some people develop due to abuse and neglect. I was confused for a long time about the difference.


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