Profiling Jodi Arias: Psychopath or Sociopath?

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Jodi Arias, the murderess of Travis Alexander, is the perfect image of the ultimate manipulator. As she keeps stirring the court room, getting under Prosecutor Martinez’s skin, and painfully scarring the victim’s family with her allegations of abuse, she truly loves being under the media spotlight.  She could have been the next Dante Sutoris, the black widow that kills wealthy men for money. Except, Jodi’s chase for the prosperous man stopped at Travis. Her crime, fortunately contained to one, is purely a crime of passion. And the reason why America is fascinated by this story is because it has all the elements of drama: the handsome guy, the pretty girl, the religious beliefs and the taboos associated with it, the blood, the sex and the murder. It can’t get any better than this. Furthermore, when on the stand, Jodi is a performer and anyone can appreciate her emotional disconnect and her superficial charm while she is trying to sway that one juror to spare her life. I read somewhere that Jodi Arias is believed to embody all the traits of a Sociopath. Psychopathy and Sociopath behavior are listed in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 4th ed) under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorder. Is there truly a difference between the two? There are several schools of thought in this regard. To some, in fact, there is very little to no difference. Others however, believe that the two disorders are discernible in their action planning. Notwithstanding, both Psychopaths and Sociopaths lack a conscience, engage in harmful behaviors to others with no guilt or remorse, and lack the ability to emotionally bond with those close to them. Also, both Sociopaths and Psychopaths appear on the surface to be decent people who can behave according to circumstances most of the times. However, when they need to satisfy a desire, a fantasy, or feel a dearth of seeking revenge for a perceived humiliation, they can behave inappropriately and take bizarre actions to reach their purpose.  And while these actions are taking place, a Sociopath will be rather disorganized and impulsive with a lack of thoughtful planning. The Psychopath however, will be highly organized and will plan the actions, fantasize about them and carry them on according to plan. Furthermore, a Psychopath is more likely to manipulate others and has a peculiar ability to be “an organized offender” according to Criminologist Damon Muller “The offender will often bring his own weapons and restraints, which he will then take with him after the crime.”

What motivates a Psychopath to engage in a violent crime?

According to Canter, “A crime can be seen as an interpersonal transaction in which criminals are performing actions in a social context (often just between themselves and their victims)” and that “the offender will select victims that are consistent with the important characteristics of people who are important to him or her” This is particularly true for serial offenders but also has some validity with respect to those committing a crime of passion. Travis was not important to Jodi just because of her obsession about him per se. Travis was important to Jodi because what he represented was somewhat meaningful to her. He embodied popularity and satisfied her narcissistic tendencies. He was a trophy. In fact, he was popular, well loved and successful. She envisioned herself beside a man who had popularity and power in his community. Travis was an accomplishment to her. His rejection therefore was perceived as an unacceptable humiliation to her. She was cognitively struck by the perception that he had broken her fantasy world. Women with Sociopath behavior who commit a crime often exhibit lack of preparation and lack of impulse control whereas women with psychopathic tendencies tend to plan their actions which will be highly extreme in order to achieve their ultimate goal (in this case satisfy a perceived humiliation). We can see the Psychopathic tendencies in Jodi when she travels all those miles from Yreka to San Diego all the way to Mesa and up north to Utah. Psychopaths go to greater lengths to justify their actions.

Why do we care about the subtle distinction between Sociopath Behavior and Psychopathy? Because, the latter, exhibits signs of planning and manipulation which leads to believe that murderous actions are premeditated. Therefore, Arias shows signs of Psychopathy as she felt humiliated by Travis rejection and by him moving on. She then planned to murder Travis Alexander and went to greater length to justify her actions.

-Annie Aguzzi-

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