“It is my firm belief that we have a very different job than most parents. CD, left unchecked, can turn into psychopathy. Not all children with CD grow up to be psychopaths, but many do. I am a very blunt person, and as such, my own personal preference is to refer to children with CD as “potential psychopaths”. I do that for several reasons. A child under the age of 18 cannot be legally diagnosed as a psychopath. Also, I dislike the term CD because quite frankly I do not think it sounds serious enough. And this is just about the most serious “psychiatric” condition out there for kids. There are so many syndromes and disorders these days, this is just one more in the alphabet soup – often to the point where people roll their eyes at yet another “disorder”. I think using the term potential psychopath makes everyone, including yourself, take the condition as seriously as it needs to be taken. As parents of potential psychopaths, it is our job to do the best we can to see that our children do not become diagnosable psychopaths once they reach adulthood, or, at the very least, do what we can to make them less of a psychopath (if they become diagnoseable as one) once they are legally an adult.”
~Excerpt from the Welcome Packet for Parents of Children with Conduct Disorder
There is a cancer in the world, America. Not just in America, but the whole world. I think if we are going to consider ourselves the “leaders of the free world”, we need to start acting like it.
If you have cancer in your body I presume you would not just ignore it and hope it goes away. Or decide you “don’t want to think about it”. I further presume that you would not think that cancer is a “private matter” discussed only with family and close friends. And finally, I presume you would not be ashamed of your cancer, or think it is your fault, or allow anyone to shame you for having cancer.
And yet we do this every day with the most serious condition there is. One that is far-reaching and wreaks havoc on not just those with the condition, but those surrounding those who have it. If cancer spread? How would you react then? If cancer were contagious? You’d take it pretty seriously.
More to the point, if your child had cancer? You would do something, right? Especially if that cancer could harm other children. For instance, we vaccinate our children against childhood diseases, because those childhood diseases can harm or kill.
We might not be able to vaccinate against cancer but we can treat it. Yet there is another harmful condition some children are born with that we do nothing about. This condition can have potentially deadly results at worst, and at best will “only” cause psychological harm to those close to the child, and later adult. This condition can be passed down to children or grandchildren.
This condition causes untold damage to untold numbers of people. Just one person can leave behind millions of dollars’ worth of damage in their lifetime. And that is only counting the monetary costs and not the physical or psychological ones.
This condition is called Conduct Disorder (CD), and those who have it are potential psychopaths. Current science seems to suggest that psychopathy is a condition one is born with and that the brains of psychopaths are very different from our own. A psychopath, described in two words is: without conscience.
If I told you my child had a medical condition that could harm other people, continuously, for the rest of his life, even potentially kill your child, and that this medical condition could potentially be cured, or at least mitigated by proper treatment, I’m sure you would no doubt insist that proper treatment should immediately be given to my child.
My guess is that you are a good person and you would likely insist on treatment for my child anyway. You don’t want a child to suffer. But on a more self-serving note, you would want to protect your child from potential harm at the hands of my child’s condition.
And if you learned that that condition was responsible for the deaths of 17 children just last week, all in one fell swoop, you would be outraged. You would be calling your lawmakers, your news outlets, posting on social media, calling for the free and instantaneous treatment of these children immediately before anyone else died. Before anyone else was harmed. Before anyone else had to suffer.
But no one is doing this. And I ask myself why, every single day.
Every week I hear from yet another parent whose child with Conduct Disorder has tried to kill their sibling. I ask myself why no one cares about these kids besides their parents. Every time I hear about another animal killed, or maimed, I ask myself why these kids are not immediately placed in residential treatment facilities and kept there until they are safe to be around.
I know you would take your child to a cancer treatment center. I know if you found out your neighbor had a child with cancer and they did not take that child to the doctor you would be screaming bloody murder. But you are silent about the child who manipulates, lies, steals, and rages around the house destroying it, from ages as early as three.
We tell ourselves that all children are born perfect. But this is not true. I have a dear friend whose daughter was born with a congenital heart defect. She got the appropriate surgery for her daughter, who is thriving. Every few years her daughter has to go in for another surgery. And her daughter continues to thrive.
We do not blame this mother (nor should we) for her shortcomings or tell her it is her “parenting” that caused this condition in her daughter. Nor do we insist that her daughter was born perfect and pure and could only later suffer from a medical condition if she were not a perfect parent.
Yet we do this every day to parents of children with Conduct Disorder. We insist that their children (all children really) are born perfect little angels and that it is only poor parenting that causes children to be plagued with this condition.
This is patently false.
Are there conditions under which children can be turned cruel, callous, unemotional, vengeful, and uncaring of anyone else’s welfare (and sometimes even their own)? Of course. But in my experience, this is not the majority of children with CD. In my experience, these children were born that way.
Regardless of the origins of CD, the important thing to know is how prevalent it is. In fact, potential psychopaths may actually outnumber children with autism!
Follow me here while I do some very quick (and very basic) math:
According to this Medscape article from 2016, the incidence of children with CD in the United States is anywhere from 2%-9% of the population.
The CDC reports 1 in 68 children have autism. Yet, two percent is 1 in 50. If we go with the much higher rate of 9%, this means that nearly one in ten children have Conduct Disorder.
Regardless which data you use, this means whatever way you cut it, more children have Conduct Disorder than have autism.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there are 74.2 million children in the United States. 2% of 74.2 million is 148,400. 9% is 424,800.
We have somewhere between 148,000 and 424,000 children in the United States alone who need treatment for CD. Go ahead and guess how many treatment facilities we have. Go ahead. Guess.
We have one. We have one treatment facility with 29 beds that specializes in this particular condition. Somewhere between 148,000 and 424,000 children who need treatment and 29 beds.
Let me repeat that one more time. Somewhere between 148,000 and 424,00 children who need treatment and 29 beds.
On Valentine’s Day just a few short weeks ago, Nikolas Cruz walked into a school and slaughtered 17 of his classmates. His history reads like a worst-case scenario playbook for CD. Obviously, I am not a doctor, and I am not diagnosing him, but I would be utterly shocked if he did not have CD as a child. I would be even more shocked to discover he is not diagnosable as a psychopath.
Now, I want to be clear, not all children with CD who grow up to be psychopaths will end up doing things like this. As I mentioned in I am the Frog, the percentage of psychopaths who are killers is very small indeed, or none of us would be alive if that were the case.
But, as anyone who studies psychopaths for a living can tell you, the wake of emotional, psychological, financial, and sometimes even physical devastation these people leave behind them is prolific.
Everyone knows the key to combating any condition is early diagnosis and treatment. Yet it is nearly impossible to get a diagnosis of CD for a child because no one wants to “label” the child. Could you imagine if doctors refused to diagnose children with cancer because they did not want to “label” the child? You would be outraged. So would I.
Cancer funding is in the billions of dollars annually. I couldn’t even find a budget for Conduct Disorder.
I will repeat again. Somewhere between 148,000 and 424,000 children who need treatment and 29 beds.
The more callous among you might say, “So what? What does it matter if your child doesn’t have treatment options? They are a monster.”
To those people I would say this:
Because my child might grow up to hurt your child. Heck, if my child goes to school with your child, they might hurt your child now. But for sure, any child with CD who grows up to be an actual psychopath, leaving my hopeful “potential” word behind will hurt someone.
They might not kill anyone, in fact, statistically speaking they likely will not. But they will hurt someone. This is not a “perhaps”, this is not a “maybe”. This is 100% set in stone. Psychopaths harm others and don’t care. They are without conscience, remember?
The only questions are: Who will they harm? How many will they harm? What kind of harm will they cause? When will they harm? How many years will they continue to harm others before they are caught and jailed? Will they ever be caught and jailed at all?
And that’s just off the top of my head.
Let’s not even think about my two most dreaded questions: Will they have children and pass this on? How many more generations of psychopaths will be born? Because let’s face it. These people are not responsible. They don’t care about consequences for themselves, let alone children.
I come at the issue of Conduct Disorder and Psychopathy from a Community Safety and Harm Reduction standpoint. Those of us with children who are potential psychopaths are trying desperately to keep everyone else safe. We are trying desperately to keep our potential psychopaths from becoming actual psychopaths.
But we cannot do that alone. We cannot do that with only 29 beds in the entire world.
I know you, America. You are the world leader. Let’s start acting like it.
We need your help in urging our lawmakers to push for funding for more treatment facilities like Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center. No parent can afford the ten to twelve thousand dollars a month these places cost. We need no cost access to these facilities.
We need these treatment facilities to be available to children before they are arrested for hurting people, because, as you see so well, waiting until Nikolas Cruz killed people was not an effective strategy.
That is why we are forming the Society for Treatment Options for Potential Psychopaths. Our goal is to bring awareness to the issues of potential psychopaths, and advocate for treatment options for these children before they cause serious harm. Remember, just because someone has the potential to become a psychopath doesn’t mean they are one. And we would like to see psychopathy stop in its tracks.
Our awareness campaign is just starting, and we will post action items and articles as they come up. But we need you to join us. We cannot do this alone. We need to you stand up and raise your voices with ours and say, “Enough is enough! This has to STOP!”