The Impulsive Crime: Aspects of Psychopathology and Psychodiagnosis

The Impulsive Crime: Aspects of Psychopathology and Psychodiagnosis

Luca Cimino (University of Bologna, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1286-9.ch006

Abstract

The term “impulsive crime” is usually defined as a type of violent crime that arises suddenly under the pressure of intense emotional-affective involvement, against victims with whom an interpersonal relationship. The heterogeneity of the psycho(patho)logical frameworks underlying violent and sudden behavioral outbreaks has always represented one the most controversial and complex topics in forensic psychopathology. For this reason the author emphasizes importance of a approach characterized by a psychopathological and psychodiagnostics analysis, through the use in particular of the Rorschach Test, to understand the enigmatic nature of this type of offence that represents the “breaking point” the a particular and dramatic individual dimension, which develops and articulates within the context of the subject's life history, the analysis of which cannot be omitted if we wish to reach a position of “comprehension” of the criminogenesis and criminodynamics of the act itself, to implement even on appropriate therapeutic and preventive measures.
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Introduction

The sudden and unexpected transition to homicidal acts by individuals considered completely normal up to that moment, as they lacked psychopathological precedents and had a stable and well-defined socio-relational role, has always represented one the most disturbing, controversial and complex topics in forensic psychopathology. It has generated a thorny debate involving psychiatrists and legal scholars over the centuries in an attempt to decode the mysterious incomprehensibility and unpredictability of this behavior (Crawford, 1946; Meredith, 1947; Fornari, 2014).

The effort to identify psychopathological frameworks that can explain such an act, considered particularly atrocious because the destructive violence is expressed within the family, or, in any case, towards others who are emotionally significant for the perpetrator, is not merely a response to the need to stem atavistic fears through the removal of those who are alien, “other” or monstrous, who, according to common sentiment, cannot share the psychological/human characteristics of those who belong to the community that is considered normal. There is also the need to place this particular type of crime in the appropriate legal context, which, with the purported certainty of the law, aims towards a “just” judgment of the crime.The “magmatic nature” (Surace, 2005) of the definition of the crime of passion can be seen starting from Pinel (1801) up to the current classifications of mental disorders contained in the Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders, Tenth edition (ICD-10) (World Health Organization, 1992) and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The condition has been defined at various times as follows: monomania, madness or transitory madness, moral madness, raptus, short circuit reaction, episodic dyscontrol, acting out, marginal syndrome, bouffée délirante, transient acute psychosis, short reactive psychosis, etc. This testifies to the difficulty of categorizing a psychopathological condition that begins with the crime and ends with it. Therefore, this aspect limits a synchronic approach to the problem, with respect to a criminal behavioral event that represents the “point of coagulation”, the “breaking point” of an existential and psychopathological dynamic. Although making itself evident in the event of acting-out, this develops and articulates within the context of the subject’s life history, the analysis of which cannot be omitted if we wish to reach a position of “comprehension” of the criminogenesis and criminodynamics of the act itself (Balloni, 2004; Bisi, 2004; Fornari, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Empathy: The ability to place oneself immediately in the mood or situation of another person.

Acting Out: Sudden violent behavior as a manifestation of abnormal psychogenic stress reactions.

Psychodiagnosis: Discipline dealing with psychological assessment and diagnosis through the use of tests.

Anthropological Vulnerability: A sub-clinical condition in which the personological attitude can represent a predisposing factor, which, under certain conditions, can evolve into a psychopathological state, modulating its expression and course (pathoplastic factor).

Projective Test: Psychological instrument consisting of intentionally ambiguous visual stimuli.

Personality Disorders: A habitual, stable mode of inner experience (cognitive and affective) and pervasive and inflexible behavior in a variety of personal and social situations, with impaired social and workplace functioning.

Pathological Narcissism: A personality disorder with a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.

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