Child Psychotherapist Reveals the Hallmark of a Significant Personality Disorder

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A cat was removed from the sidewalk near Randolph and Clyde in South Bend on Monday. Now, two days later, remnants of the dead cat can still be seen. Fur and maggots cover the sidewalk with the alleged brick used to beat the cat still there.

South Bend Animal Care and Control continue to investigate the incident, but Shelter Manager Matt Harmon says this is a pretty gruesome offense that they don’t want in this community. Residents agree.

“Animals are almost like humans,” Daniel Sanchez, who lives near where the cat was killed, said. “They have a mind of their own. They don’t need to go through that. They’re animals.”

Sanchez owns an outdoor cat. He says it will occasionally come home with scrapes or fur missing, but nothing severe. Now, he worries for his cat’s life.

“It kind of makes me nervous having him walk around because that could be my cat the next time,” Sanchez said. “They’re some bad kids. They’re sick for that. To be able to throw a brick at a cat’s neck and then set it on fire. It’s pretty sick. I couldn’t do it.”

Dr. Erin Leonard, a psychotherapist specializing in child and adolescent therapy, agrees and thinks it’s time to step in to help.

“If a child is maliciously and violently pursuing animals that hurt it, that’s the hallmark of a pretty significant personality disorder,” Dr. Leonard said. “The most extreme personality disorder in terms of pathology would be an antisocial personality disorder for a child. And in adulthood, antisocial disorders left untreated kind of move toward sociopathic [sic] tendencies. So it’s very serious.”

A theory has been put out there about common childhood behaviors shared by serial killers known as the Macdonald Triad. It says children who share any of these issues could be a problem when they grow up. The behaviors are bedwetting past the age of five, fire-setting, and animal cruelty. This is a reason why Dr. Leonard believes these children need help.

“If a child lacks empathy and lacks accountability and lacks remorse, those are pretty serious signs that they’ll have long-term issues,” Dr. Leonard said. “If they do have signs of empathy and show signs of remorse, and if they do take responsibility for the malicious act, those are signs of health. You want to pursue treatment and counseling in any event, but those are the signs that the child has the ability to be rehabilitated.”

Dr. Leonard says it may be difficult for the children to get the treatment they need because these behaviors are generally gained from adults who exemplify the same traits.

“That’s how the cycle of violence continues and a cycle of abuse,” Dr. Leonard said. “That’s really problematic to everyone involved. The boys definitely need help, and if the parents were the abusers or the ones who neglected the boys early on, if there was some other relative or many other experiences that made these boys feel powerless and helpless and abused and so they had to act this out on an animal. Those things really need to be addressed, and the parents really should take responsibility and try and get them some help because these are very serious acts. If they’re able to treat an animal like that, what are they going to do to a person.”

Go through this checklist to see if Your Partner Has a Personality Disorder.

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