Personality Disorders Rise to Power

The polish psychiatrist, Andrew Lobaczewski spent his early life suffering under the Nazi occupation of his country. His experience of those horrors led him to develop the concept of “pathocracy” The term describes a political system in which individuals with personality disorders, particularly psychopathy and narcissism, occupy positions of power.

Lobaczewsi devoted his life to studying evil: He wanted to understand why “evil” people seem to prosper while so many good and moral people struggle to succeed. He sought to explore why people with mental disorders so easily rise to positions of power and take over governments.

Personality Disorder of “Pathocracy”

Pathocracy is possibly one of the biggest problems in the history of the human race. History is a saga of constant conflict and brutality. People fighting one another for territory, power and possessions.

The problem is not that all people are inherently brutal and cruel. But, there are a small number-those with personality disorders- who are brutal and cruel. They are intensely self-centered and lacking in empathy. And this small minority has frequently held power and managed to influence the majority to commit atrocities on their behalf.

Power and Pathology

A minority of people suffer from personality disorders such as psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder. People with narcissistic personality disorder desire constant attention and affirmation. They have an insatiable lust for power. Narcissists feel that they are superior to others and have the right to dominate them. They also lack empathy and are able to ruthlessly exploit and abuse others.

Psychopaths feel a similar sense of superiority and lack of empathy, but they differ from narcissists in that they don’t feel the same impulse for attention and adoration. To an extent, the need to be adored acts as a check on the behavior of narcissists. Narcissists are reluctant to do anything that might make them too unpopular. Psychopaths have no such qualms.

Empathy and Compassion

In contrast, people with a high level of empathy and compassion usually aren’t interested in power. They prefer interacting and connecting with others. They may even refuse the offer of a high-status position. The refusal is because they’re aware that higher status will disconnect them. For a non-empathic person, however, that is part of the job’s appeal.

This leaves positions of power wide open for people with personality disorders, or at least for those with a high level of ambition and ruthlessness.

Throughout history, pathological individuals have consistently risen to the top. Pre-industrial feudal societies restricted them because power was bequeathed by birth rather than attained by individual efforts. The demise of the feudal system was certainly a positive step toward equality and democracy. One negative consequence is that it gave psychopaths and narcissists greater opportunities to attain positions of power.


As Ian Hughes points out in his book Disordered Minds, the whole point of democracy is to try to protect the masses of people from the pathological minority. The American Constitution and the Bill of Rights were established to limit the power of pathological individuals.

Hughes also asserts that pathological leaders hate democracy. Once they attain power, they do their utmost to dismantle or discredit democratic institutions, including the freedom and legitimacy of the press. It was the first thing that Hitler did when he became German chancellor. Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban of Hungary and President Erdogan of Turkey have done it also.

Moreover, pathological leaders are completely unable to comprehend the principles of democracy, since they regard themselves as superior. They see life as a competitive struggle in which the most ruthless deserve to dominate others.

Pathological Leaders Attract Others with Mental Disorders

Pathocracy isn’t just about individuals. As Lobaczewski wrote, pathological leaders always attract others with mental disorders. They will seize any opportunity to gain influence. At the same times, individuals who are moral, empathic, and fair-minded gradually fall away from such leadership. They are either ostracized or they step aside voluntarily, appalled by the growing pathology around them. As a result, over time, pathocracies tend to become entrenched and extreme.

Not everyone who becomes part of a pathocratic government suffers from a disorder. Some may simply have a high level of ambition and a lack of empathy without having a diagnosable condition.  Others may want to ride the coattails of a pathological leader whose goals happen to coincide with their own.

Protection Against Pathocracy

Is the U.S. in danger of being taken over by a pathocratic leader?

Remember that pathocracies emerge only when citizens fail to take sufficient measures to protect themselves from maniacal leaders. In the long term, societies need stringent measures to restrict the attainment of power. All potential leaders, or members of a government, should be rigorously assessed by mental health professionals for empathy, narcissism, selfishness, and psychopathological disorders. In the meantime, we need to preserve and protect democracy from the insatiable passion to control and command. We need to make sure that our democracy does not transmute into a pathocracy.

Emotions, emotional strife, worry, perfectionism