psychological disorders

psychological disorders
Nowadays a lot of people suffer from various types of psychological disorders, due to different reasons. At the same time there are a lot of variants of medical or psychological support and treatment for these people, so that the symptoms of any disorder might be easily brought to nothing. However the situation with criminals is more sophisticated. On the one hand most of them do suffer from various disorders. On the other hand there is hardly always the possibility to provide the sufficient psychological care for such patients. Further in this paper we are going to discuss the necessity of providing the psychological support for convicted criminals, suffering from generalized anxiety disorder in combination with other measures, which would increase the chances for success.
From the very beginning it seems necessary to provide the definition of this type of disorder – “chronic anxiety, with excessive worrying about a lot of different life events over a period of at least six months” (Harris & Rice, 2006). There is a number of unpleasant symptoms, like for example feeling tense and tired, irritated and not able to concentrate. Important for working out the scheme of treatment is the fact, that generalized anxiety disorder is fully psychological problem and this means, that psychological treatment is the most appropriate one and with less of side effect. Usually psychologists use behavioral approach for reducing the anxiety of the patients. Also “A combination of cognitive and behavioral interventions has shown very positive results, without the drawbacks of medication. The development of cognitive coping strategies for managing anxiety is a particularly effective treatment for individuals with generalized anxiety disorder” (Neumann & Hare, 2008).
Normally all people have to face anxiety from time to time, however real psychological support is needed only in some severe cases. When people encounter some kind of threat to their physical state they experience both physical and psychological fear. In psychology such a reaction received the name “fight or flight”, which means that the reaction would be either running away or fighting to defend oneself. Everyday events usually don’t bring any serious physical threat, rather problems with work, family or money. If we talk about criminals – the situation is absolutely different, because people, who commit crimes – risk everyday – the risk to be injured or even killed appears. Besides they have to constantly worry, that they will be caught and legally punished. No wonder, that most criminals suffer from numerous psychological disorders, including the generalized anxiety disorder. For usual people everyday problems cause anxiety and this anxiety in its turn makes people react to the problems, solve them in order to make it disappear. For people from criminal world anxiety accompanies them constantly.
We have already mentioned cognitive and behavioral techniques in treating the generalized anxiety disorder as the key ones. The main method of cognitive techniques is challenging of the “anxious” ideas, which rather often do not correspond to reality. For example if a person is so much afraid of failing to get a job because he has some criminal past, it is often helpful to consider the possibility, that he really fails, to consider all the possible variants of further development of the events and their outcomes. “New approaches to cognitive therapy have also included exercises designed specifically to target intolerance of uncertainty, by helping individuals to recognize, accept, and cope with uncertainty in life” (Harris & Rice, 2006). Relaxation training is one of the most commonly applied techniques. First different muscle groups are tensed and then they are relaxed. For relaxation special breathing techniques and other exercises are suggested. This is evident, that for success of such practices non-stressful environment is needed, which in case of convicted criminal is rather difficult to provide. Either there should be special places for psychological trainings, or the desired results won’t be achieved at all. Imaginal exposure helps patients to face directly the situations they are most worried about. As soon as they get used to these images, their anxiety and stress, related to concrete situation are likely to vanish, or at least these situations become less frightening for them. “In imaginal exposure, fear-provoking images are identified, and then the person begins exposure with a moderately fearful image, gradually working his or her way up to the highly fearful images” (Harris & Rice, 2006). Such practice could be useful to criminals also, especially if we are talking about younger generation. Because children and teens are not so much used to the reality, they are more inclined to dream and to believe into something positive in life. Although there are cases, when it becomes even more difficult to convince young people, who seem to have lost their trust in people and in life in general.
Actually, the issues related to providing of psychological help to criminals are rather controversial and many-sided. Different correctional approaches started to develop decades ago. The moralistic and theological theories claimed, that punishment is the best method of retribution for conducting evil to other humans. Jeremy Bentham, the well-known philosopher of the nineteenth century devoted a lot of his effort to make the punishment fit the crime more precisely. He even tried to compare pleasure with pain in order to support his argument, that criminals would not commit crimes, if they knew the degree of sufferings, they would have to face in the future. Thus the pain of the punishment should according to him overweight the pleasure of crime. His approach was fully based upon psychological postulates, which are no so widely applied in criminal justice system nowadays. In reality this is really difficult to give simple answer to the question, whether psychological support would determine committing crimes. As for example if we take a criminal, who has killed numerous people for the sake of robbing them and is not going to change his life philosophy, there is hardly the chance, that any psychologist would be able to convince him using the methods of cognitive therapy. In the situation, when a young boy has stolen something once, he is young enough and can be easily influenced by a person, who deserves his trust and respect, there is good chance for working with his psychological problems. Also the sex of the criminal is often an important criteria for psychological specialists, because women are naturally more flexible and more emotional, they can be under the influence of a psychologist. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the so-called neoclassical school appeared. The founders of this school supported the idea, that there should not be any fixed punishments, on the contrary in each particular case there are a lot of factors, which should be taken into consideration, like for example age, concrete circumstances of the crime, intellectual level, emotional state of the criminal and so on. In order to understand, why somebody committed a crime, it is necessary to know the concrete motives and any conditions, related to the crime. “The influence of the neoclassical school led to the development of such concepts as grades of crime and punishment, indeterminate sentences, and the limited responsibility of young or mentally deficient offenders” (Neumann & Hare, 2008).The Italian school at the same time developed the idea, that prevention of crimes is more effective than punishment. Supporters if this school stated, that a person can not be fully blamed for his crime as there are forces, which are out of his control and have influence upon him. Thus there is the necessity to influence people using other channels, for example reducing the spread of pornography, urging birth control, secure work places and salaries and so on. Their theory can be applied to the situation with criminals, suffering from anxiety disorder or other psychological disorders. There is little to no chance, that such a criminal would stop committing crimes, whereas an individual after corresponding psychological help is likely to reconsider his actions. On the other hand, there are still situations, when punishment is needed and can not be substituted by treatment only, or be at least in combination with it. Thus we can conclude here, that there is a strong need in considering all the details, related to concrete crime and criminal, in order to take the final decision about punishment or treatment or both. One of the modern strategies is monitoring of criminals in various surroundings, of their behavior in prison and out of it, among different people. Only after analyzing of all this information it is possible to work out the concrete individual approach to a criminal, the program for his individual treatment.
Overall, we have studied general facts about the generalized anxiety disorder, including the possibility of purely psychological treating of patients, suffering from it; investigated the approaches to psychological treatment of criminals in relation to the modern situation; we have concluded, that the most rational balance between punishment and treatment might be found only under the condition of thorough investigation of all the individual features of the criminal and concrete crime; we found out, that the best way to prevent crimes is to ensure the corresponding social conditions and standards along with psychological support for criminal offenders.


Harris, G., Rice, M. (2006). "Treatment of psychopathy: A review of empirical findings". in Patrick, Christopher. Handbook of Psychopathy. pp. 555–572

Harris, G. T.; Rice, M. E.; Lalumiere, M. (2001). "Criminal Violence: The Roles of Psychopathy, Neurodevelopmental Insults, and Antisocial Parenting". Criminal Justice and Behavior 28: 402

Neumann, C. S., Hare, R. D. (2008). "Psychopathic traits in a large community sample: Links to violence, alcohol use, and intelligence." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 76 (5): 893.

Ochberg F.M, Brantley AC, Hare RD, et al. (2003). "Lethal predators: psychopathic, sadistic, and sane". International Journal of Emergency Mental Health 5 (3): 121–36

psychological disorders 6.9 of 10 on the basis of 3947 Review.