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Jim Moriarty - Hiiii!

What exactly is wrong with Mr Moriarty?

I’ve always thought of him as evil but for the first time I look at Mr Moriarty from a medical perspective.

Is he mentally ill?

And if so, what does he have and how did he become this way?

Comments always welcome!

Assumptions to Begin

As with all my metas, I assume that the Sherlock “universe” functions exactly the same as “real life”. If you believe that in the Sherlock “universe”, Jim Moriarty is pure evil and rose fully formed from the fires of hell that is your prerogative and this meta is not going to be of any interest to you.

If you disagree with what I’ve said, don’t torch my message box like its Bonfire Night – have a reasonable discussion with me.

This was written very quickly and skips over many details, may be technically inaccurate, uses terrible abbreviations and makes generalisations,  - so do message me if you need clarifications and explanations. 

Sherlock must be really jealous…

If there was any character that actually does fit the profile of a “high-functioning sociopath” it would be Jim Moriarty not Sherlock Holmes.  

However this term doesn’t exist (and never did). Moriarty’s condition would be described in modern psychiatric terms as: psychopathic/severe personality disorder (more on this later).

What exactly is a personality disorder and how does this explain Jim Moriarty?

“Personality disorders are enduring (starting in childhood or adolescence and continuing to adulthood), persistent and pervasive disorders of inner experience and behaviour that cause distress or significant impairment in social functioning. Personality problems manifest as problems in cognition(ways of perceiving and thinking about self and others), affect (range, intensity and appropriateness of emotional response)and behaviour (interpersonal functioning, occupational and social functioning, and impulse control). “ – Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry.

A really bad, scientifically and technically inaccurate, analogy involving computers…


This is best I can do to explain just how personality disorders work.  I don’t know much about computers, though so bear with me.

When we are born our minds are like a brand new computer off the production line. The hard disks are empty and unformatted; there is a basic operating system, which can be modified later.

The operating system is our “personality”. It dictates how we perceive and react to external stimuli. Some components of personality are genetic but the environment also plays a large role in the development of our personalities. At the current moment scientist are not sure exactly how genes and environment interact to produce distinct personality disorders.

Going back to the computer, as we interact with our environment we received inputs. We build up a hard disk full of data (memory) and software (skills). The content of each individual computer is different and depends on the environmental inputs. Although the basic operating system gives everyone similar potentials and constraints, the exact programs on individual computers mean that there is great variety in what tasks can be accomplished on each computer. Hence people have different skills, talents and gifts depending on their environment.

What happens in a personality disorder is that (and this is a terrible analogy) a virus infects the computer and corrupts the operating system. Please do not go away thinking personality disorders are infective, they are not!

On the surface it may appear that this computer is functioning normally but when you go to do certain tasks, you discover that it does not function in the same way a non-infected computer would.

The virus is a “bad” combination of external/environmental inputs that the patient is exposed to very early in life.

Because “infection” happens so early the virus becomes an integral part of the operating system and user does not realise that this computer should behave differently. In the same way patients with personality disorders tend to think they are perfectly fine and it is psychiatrists who are “nuts”.

Inputs into this computer are processed differently and do not produce the same output as other machines. In the same way stimuli that usually produced one emotional response in the “normal” population may produce a completely different emotional response in patients with personality disorders.

 This probably explains why Jim Moriarty’s response to “people have died” is “that’s what people do!”

(I originally thought this emotional response filled with frustration and anger was due to Jim loosing someone early in life and is still not past the anger stage of grief but it seems less likely.)

Personality disorders fundamentally distort the patients’ way of thinking and thus their way of functioning. They cannot understand why “normal” people think the way they do, in the same way that “normal” people cannot understand them (and label them insane or criminal).

Full Marks Mr Moriarty and that is not a Compliment


What is Psychopathy?

Psychopathic personality disorder (PPD) is considered a separate but related diagnosis to Dissocial personality disorder (DPD), which is characterised by a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others. DPD is considered the most common personality disorder with a prevalence of between 1%-5% of the general population in the UK. Compare this with schizophrenia which has a prevalence of between 0.5%-1% in the UK.

For more on DPD read this meta.

However, most psychiatrists regard psychopathic personality disorder as a more severe manifestation of DPD. We must remember that, like any psychiatric illness, DPD exists on a spectrum and PPD is at one extreme end. Psychopaths have all the characteristics of DPD but to a more severe degree. In a highly unscientific way, I would describe them as just more “insane”. The same veneer of normality exists in PPD; they may even be better at disguising their abnormalities. However when the mask slips, it becomes obvious that these people are “psychologically disturbed”. Patients who are on the opposite end of the DPD spectrum will often be described as “nasty” and “criminal” rather than “insane”.

Psychopathic personality disorder is diagnosed most commonly using the Hare Checklist, a 20 point long list of characteristic psychopathic traits. These 20 traits are further categorised into three subgroups.

 Factor 1 traits are all to do with narcissism.

A high score in this category correlates with high social potency (ability to function well in society at least on the surface) and high achievement but does not correlate with high suicide risk. In fact these people who score highly in factor 1 are deemed very unlikely to commit suicide and are never put on “suicide watch” in hospital unless they have another psychiatric problem.

Factor 2 traits are all about antisocial behaviour patterns.

Most of the listed criteria are identical to the checklist for diagnosing DPD. People who score more highly in this section than Factor 1, usually have low socio-economic status and a high risk of suicide.

Therefore psychopathy itself has a spectrum of manifestations from narcissistic, charismatic and high achieving psychopaths at one end to poverty stricken, repeat offending criminals at the other.

I am quite convinced that Jim Moriarty firmly falls into the narcissistic end of the spectrum.

If we look at the checklist, we can see that he scores very highly over all, but better in Factor 1 than Factor 2.

The factors in italics are the ones that I do not feel Moriarty consistently demonstrates from what we can see on screen. I am not going to a great deal about each trait because this meta would be very very long. 

Factor 1: Personality "Aggressive narcissism"

  • Glibness/superficial charm (superb acting skills, charmed Kitty Riley very quickly)

  • Grandiose sense of self-worth

  • Pathological lying

  • Cunning/manipulative

  • Lack of remorse or guilt

  • Shallow affect (his genuine emotion is short-lived)

  • Callousness; lack of empathy

  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions (“That’s what people do!”)

Factor 2: Case history "Socially deviant lifestyle".

  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom (committing heinously clever crimes, getting Sherlock to come out and play)

  • Parasitic lifestyle (unknown)

  • Poor behavioural control (screaming in the middle of a conversation…)

  • Lack of realistic long-term goals (no, definitely plans well into the future)

  • Impulsivity (“I’m so changeable”)

  • Irresponsibility (this is not failure to accept responsibility for crimes but rather unable to carry through with commitments)

  • Juvenile delinquency (Carl Powers )

  • Early behaviour problems(unknown)

  • Revocation of conditional release (unknown)

Traits not correlated with either factor

Promiscuous sexual behaviour (unknown – we are really looking for multiple examples of cheating behaviour or several sexual partners in one night)

Many short-term relationships (unknown)

Criminal versatility (Jim in a nut shell)

Jim scores a solid 13 out of 20 which is enough to get him diagnosed.

In reality, if we had more information about Jim he could probably score much higher, perhaps even 18 or 19/20, which would make him a highly psychopathic individual – enough to get him sectioned and committed to a high security psychiatric unit.

In some cases their extreme traits make psychopaths diagnoses much easier if you know exactly what to look for. The average DPD suffer is more likely end up in prison than a psychiatric unit but people with PPD (at least the ones who get caught) are more likely to be sent to high security mental hospitals.

I don’t doubt that any qualified psychiatrist would be able to do a spot diagnosis on Jim Moriarty if they could see the scenes that we did.

However I am convinced that Jim has more than just psychopathic personality disorder. His intense obsession with Sherlock, emotional instability and the fact that his ended up committing suicide are good indicators of another personality disorder:

The Borderline between Psychotic and Neurotic

Borderline personality disorder is so called because it was considered that suffers are on the borderline between psychosis and neurosis.

A very bad, non-PC joke:

What is the difference between psychosis and neurosis?

Answer: the psychotic patient believes 2+2=5 and thinks you should too; the neurotic patient knows that 2+2=4 and is disturbed by this.

In effect, psychosis is characterised by delusions (belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary), and neurosis is characterised by an inability to cope with reality.

Walking on the Tightrope


In the UK we use a different diagnostic manual to the DSM-IV (used in America), called the ICD-10. The psychiatric diseases listed are mostly the same but under different names, and the diagnostic criteria are subtly different.  The ICD-10 equivalent of Borderline personality disorder is Emotional Unstable Personality disorder (EUD).  

Moriarty may not fulfil the diagnostic criteria (depends on the psychiatrist diagnosing him) but he definitely possesses certain unique traits of emotional unstable personality disorder that cannot be explained by any other diagnosis.

F60.30 Impulsive type

At least three of the following must be present, one of which must be (2):

1.     marked tendency to act unexpectedly and without consideration of the consequences;

2.    marked tendency to engage in quarrelsome behaviour and to have conflicts with others, especially when impulsive acts are thwarted or criticized; (The patient does not need be in a lot of quarrels per se, psychiatrists look for people who have instigate or escalate conflicts with others to an unnecessary degree that cannot be explain simply by anger or humiliation. I think Jim Moriarty's intent need to destroy Sherlock in Season 2 demonstrates the qualities we are looking for)

{C}3.     {C}liability to outbursts of anger or violence, with inability to control the resulting behavioural explosions;

{C}4.     {C}difficulty in maintaining any course of action that offers no immediate reward;

{C}5.     {C}unstable and capricious (impulsive, whimsical) mood.

F60.31 Borderline type

At least three of the symptoms mentioned in F60.30 Impulsive type must be present (above), with at least two of the following in addition:

{C}1.     {C}disturbances in and uncertainty about self-image, aims, and internal preferences;

{C}2.     {C}liability to become involved in intense and unstable relationships, often leading to emotional crisis;

{C}3.     {C}excessive efforts to avoid abandonment (possibly? He did kill himself because he didn’t want to continue living in a world without Sherlock to "play" with).

{C}4.     {C}recurrent threats or acts of self-harm;

{C}5.     {C}chronic feelings of emptiness.

{C}6.     {C}demonstrates impulsive behaviour

From a semi-professional view of point, I think Jim Moriarty’s obsession with Sherlock throughout the show is pathological. It is beyond the realm of what psychiatrists would regard as “normal” or “acceptable” obsession. He forms an intense interest in Sherlock despite not meeting the man and sacrifices his own gain in order to entice the object of his obsession through a maze of challenges that culminates in an audience with Jim.

It may just be because he sees in Sherlock a kindred spirit. In the psychiatrically well population, people do not normally attempt to destroy others they feel are similar to themselves nor do relationships usually end in suicide.

We do not have a good solid foundation for this diagnosis as there is reasonable doubt whether he may have EUD because there is much more room for different professional interpretations with regards to whether Moriarty clearly demonstrates enough of the criteria. 

However having two personality disorders can alter the presentation of one or both of the disorders. Jim's primary psychiatric disease has to be Psychopathic Personality Disorder and the development of this disorder may have contributed to an atypical presentation of EUD. 

A psychiatrist would not disregard the EUD traits, whether or not he is diagnosed. From a practical point of view, these traits change his behaviour pattern so that it would deviate from what psychiatrists expect of "psychopaths". EUD traits also influence assessment of suicide risk – with EUD traits Jim has just gone from a very low suicide risk to a high suicide risk. 

A common observation that is not included in the diagnostic criteria is that people with EUD do not have a coherent solid sense of self. In other words they "do not really know who they are". For most suffers this leads to uncertainly, low self-esteem and being easily influenced by others. For other suffers this produces the phenomenon we seen in Kitty Riley's flat. Moriarty is incredibly convincing when he turns into Rich Brook - it is also as if he turns into a completely different person. 

Creating a mask is a key symptom of psychopathic personality disorder but becoming an entirely different person is a feature we see in people with one kind of EUD. It is quite easy for such individuals to simply take on the role of another because they completely believe that they have become fundamentally different. They do not "perform a role", they "live the life". 

In conclusion - if Moriarty were to walk into a psychiatric clinic he would most likely to be labelled as psychopathic personality disorder (narcissism predominate) with an emotionally unstable component.

Two is Good Company


Can you actually have two personality disorders?

Yes, and it’s incredibly common. Most psychiatric illnesses have co-morbidities. This means that there are often one or more accompanying disorders in addition to the main psychiatric disorder.

EUD and DPD as separate conditions give psychiatrists more grief than any other disease. These patients require very intensive management and never get better. There is no medically recognised effective treatment for personality disorders; most of what we do revolves around keeping the public and the patient safe. For EUD suffers we can give all manner of support and occasionally mood stabilisers like anti-depressants to reduce suicide risk. For DPD patients we either commit them to a secure psychiatric unit or if we cannot, we like to keep an eye on them until they inevitably end up in jail, again.

How did Jim become the Person he is?


There is no consensus on the actual agent that causes EUD or DPD. However there has been one very consistent finding in many large scale retrospective (examining past history) studies done people with personality disorders:

Child Abuse

As I’ve said previous the “seed” for personality disorders is sown very early in life. We do not know exactly how the different personality disorders arise from abuse but there is no denying the strong correlation. Correlation does not equate to causation and there are many flaws to retrospectice studies. Thus child abuse is considered a “risk factor” for developing personality disorders rather than the actual cause.

Emotionally Unstable personality disorder has the strongest correlation with childhood abuse, in particular sexual abuse. There haven’t been any large scale studies of the effect of genetics on EUD. It is know that first degree relatives of some with EUD have a higher risk of developing it than the normal population but this can be due to sharing the same environment. 

Dissocial personality disorder/Psychopathic personality disorder appears to have a larger genetic component than EUD. We know this because when we study sets of identical twins raise in separate households and different environments, we find a significant percentage (~30%) of twins both develop DPD. Studies have also shown that physical child abuse and severe neglect correlate with the development of this disorder.

We must remember that is both genes and the environment in tandem that leads to the development of personality disorders. The identical twin concordance rate for DPD is only ~30% which means the ~70% of the factors the lead to this personality disorder are environmental. 

It is important to remember that only a small minority of child abuse victims go onto the develop personality disorders, but nearly all patients with severe personality disorders have been abused as children.

Where Headcanon meets Statistics. 

In order for Jim Moriarty to end up the way he did, statistically he is very likely to have been abused as child. It is also likely that one or both of his parents had personality disorders as well. If I had to make an educated guess, I would say his father had DPD (as it is more common in men than women) and his mother had EUD (as it is more common in women than men).

Alternatively, his parents may have simply suffered from a myriad of social problems. The most common cause of parenting which results in children with personality disorders is drug addiction. It may not actually be the drug addiction that leads to abuse and neglect (though most psychiatrists think it is), it may be the entire socio-economic environment that these families inhabit. Poverty and all the associated problems increase the risk of child abuse, which increases the risk (how ever minute) of developing personality disorders.

Side note - Jim Moriarty may have been born with a genetic predisposition to DPD into a middle class family. His father might have also suffered from DPD, which may explain why Jim developed a more severe form. A significant minority of business leaders, politicians and dictators do have DPD. However the vast majority of people who develop psychopathic personality disorder/DPD are born into socio-economically deprived families.

Most commonly psychiatrists see: drug addiction, violent crime, domestic abuse, parents/siblings with psychiatric illnesses in the social/family history of patients who have developed DPD. To reiterate, we usually see all of these risk factors in the patient's home environment not just one or two. 

I doubt both his parents stayed in his life for very long. EUD traits often manifest themselves in children who have suffered a string of abandonments – and they are relatively more common in children who have been spent a long time in social care. On the other hand, one or both of Jim Moriarty’s parents might have raised him to adulthood, which would only exacerbate the severity of his personality disorder.  

From group studies of adopted children we have discovered that just exposing a baby to 12-18 months of abuse and neglect is enough to make a permanent alteration in some that will eventually lead them to develop a personality disorder. Most of this data actually comes from studies of Eastern European babies adopted by Western parents from the former soviet bloc. These babies arrive looking psychologically normal (because you can’t really do psychiatric tests on a baby). However many of them developed personality disorders (mainly DPD) despite living nearly all their lives in home environments that did not expose them to any of the risk factors for developing DPD e.g. abuse, neglect, poverty etc. Upon further investigation into the backgrounds of these children from their respective orphanages, researchers have discovered that they were almost all subjected to horrifying abuse as infants.

Jim Moriarty might have been adopted by a perfectly nice middle class couple, who absolutely adored him but he would still have turned into a psychopath.

Jim’s life has been anything but good but it is also, in my eyes, a tragedy. Statistical - it is more likely that his parents would have suffered from a whole host of social and psychiatric problems then it is for his parents to be responsible citizens or well off/middle-class. 

Their household would probably have made “dysfunctional” sound like a compliment. They were obviously not fit to have a child, let alone raise one but the social services didn’t do the best thing which is to remove the baby immediately. Jim might have suffered through long months of abuse before he was eventually removed by which time the damage was already done.

Life in the care system in the UK is pretty dire. I doubt it is any better in Ireland. Statistics show children are less likely to leave school with any qualifications, much more likely to be addicted to drugs, and chillingly must more likely to die before they reach adulthood.  Moriarty survived but the time in care must have simply exacerbated his personality disorders.

Is Jim Moriarty to blame for the fact that he commits such heinous crimes? A significant proportion of psychiatrists argue that people with personality disorders should not be regarded as criminals – they should be seen as very ill people.

This meta is not entirely speculation. I’ve laid out the psychiatric reasoning for Jim’s diagnoses. There is scientific evidence to support the various risk factors that are involved in the development of personality disorders. This certainly isn’t an academic paper, heavens it would be laughed out of the face of the earth if it was (no references see) but there are facts to support my conclusions, which are more deductions I think than imaginations.  

Other Metas in Series:

1. Sherlock is to Psychopathy as Eeyore is to Depression

Why Sherlock can't be a high functioning sociopath. 

2. Mycroft on the Examination Couch

Is Mycroft the real psychopath in the Holmes family, I get out the official diagnostic criteria and explain some uncomfortable truths about Mycroft and the condition. 

3. Sherlock Himself and His Aspergers

Why Sherlock wouldn't be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in the UK


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC)
Another fascinating meta, you really are very kind to share your knowledge with us all. I have to admit to having the same thoughts as you but with no idea, until now, that what I just felt on "gut instinct" was medically plausible.
One small point though - and entirely my own interpretation of the roof top scene - Jim killed himself because he couldn't bear to lose the game with Sherlock, not because he didn't want to live without him. I doubt it matters too much in the scheme of the meta but it stuck in my mind so I thought I'd say.
Nov. 9th, 2012 03:13 pm (UTC)
I've been enjoying these meta pieces, but have been terribly remiss in letting you know. /o\

This is the version of the non-PC joke that I first heard:

The neurotic knows that 2+2=4, but it bothers him.
The psychotic knows that 2+2=5, but why don't you.
The sociopath knows that 2+2=4, but doesn't give a damn.
Nov. 9th, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much! I'm glad that I'm not the only one who's heard this non-PC joke!
Nov. 9th, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
These are SO interesting, I'm so glad you take the time to write them!
Nov. 9th, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
Nov. 9th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
My knowledge of Abnormal psychology is a bit rusty, and I know this entire work up is mostly speculative and that's interesting to say the least -- but I think you missed something really important:

I'm going to have to double-check The Casebook when I get home, but my immediate thought is that the show does suggest that Jim suffered some abuse -- but that it didn't come from his home. I mean, he murdered Carl Powers to 'stop his laughing'. He did that when he was about thirteen years old (I think -- I'll re-check the dates when I'm not at work, as I said).

I just think maybe the impact of bulling and abuse from peers which the show seems to suggest as the catalyst (With the parallel of Sherlock and Jim beginning their 'careers' at the same time) ought to be factored into any psychological work-up. Not to say he didn't suffer any neglect or abuse at home -- on that I don't know one way or the other -- but I think it's worth looking at the canon.

Also, for the sake of clarity. EUD and BPD are the same, right? As is DPD and ASPD ? I just want to make sure the terminology I know lines up properly!
Nov. 9th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the comment:

Yes bullying is likely to compound any personality disorders Jim has but it does not in itself cause Jim to develop DPD (which is the same as ASPD it's just a non-american term) or EUD (which is the same as BPD).

Many children get bullied at school, very few of them ever murder their bullies in such a horrific fashion. The causative factors for developing personality disorders happens very early on in life, before children get to school age. It is predominately their family life that produces the risk factors for developing personality disorders.

Carl's murder may have been the catalyst that showed Jim he could get away with murder and it was fun to do so but it didn't make him a psychopath. Jim was already a psychopath to begin with which is why he murdered Carl.

Bullying is psychologically damaging but without other risk factors for psychiatric illness most children do not go on to develop personality disorders. They often develop depression, anxiety and associated disorders such as anorexia but once they are removed from the toxic environment, patients do recover.

Jim is never going to "recover" from his personality disorders. They are persistent and incurable.

This is why I haven't really mentioned Carl Powers in all of this because it didn't contribute to the development of any of Jim's personality disorders. Carl Powers' death is a sad consequence.
Nov. 9th, 2012 05:46 pm (UTC)
I just want to reiterate that I don't think there is any real right-or-wrong thing here, and this is all just speculative, but I'm sort of a nut who loves to talk about the psychology of fictional characters. It's one of the reasons I dig literary analysis so much.

I was just thinking along the lines of ASPD being, as you said, heavily genetic. Being predisposed is being predisposed -- it's something you're born with. It's how it manifests that can change significantly based on upbringing and upbringing doesn't always have to mean family.

Nov. 9th, 2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
Absolutely fascinating. Thank you.
Nov. 9th, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
I know Jim Moriarty as I taught him as a child. He was not abused. His parents were not drug addicts or even, as far as I know, social drinkers! He had parents that would have been described as average to above average intelligence. He was quite obviously (to me at least) going to grow up and, were he ever clever enough to actually manage to trick someone into marrying him, murder his wife. I referred him to the Educational Psychologist who was more than a little shaken by her time with him. The outcome? He fitted NO known niche (remember this was before the autistic spectrum was even known, let alone started to be understood, although she did mention the words "psychopathic" and "schizophrenic" ) and she could do nothing to help me but, and even after all these years I can quote from memory "do not allow him to handle knives and do not turn your back on him" Luckily his intelligent parents were so offended by my referring him they removed him from the school and sent him to Public School.........
Nov. 9th, 2012 09:53 pm (UTC)
Hi thanks for the comment, although I am incredibly confused. Are you saying that you taught someone like Moriarty?
Nov. 9th, 2012 10:12 pm (UTC)
Yes, sorry, the first bit was a trifle tongue in cheek....
Nov. 10th, 2012 01:42 am (UTC)
Ah ha, thanks it's kind of hard to see when just reading text. You've raised a very interesting point. Personality disorders are hard to diagnose even in children even for experienced psychiatrists. I'm not surprised that the educational psychologist was shaken by this fellow and could put her finger on what was wrong with him.

Of course we don't know exactly why some kids turn into psychopaths, so far we've agreed it's genes and the environment - you need both. So just having a genetic predisposition is not enough, you need environmental risk factors, the most common of which is dysfunctional family life, very broadly speaking this includes abuse from people who aren't your parents, emotional neglect in early life. One theory is that post natal depression prevents a mother from bonding properly with her child and this emotional neglect can be enough for a predisposed individual to develop a personality disorder. The mother eventually recovers, but the effect on that child is long lasting, and often not noticeable to the family because they think this is how their child is supposed to be.

When we find nice middle class kids with psychiatric problems like psychopathy, it's rather hard to explain why they developed a personality disorder - short of pointing to the parents and saying "sorry, bad genes" or suggesting they are secretly terribly neglectful.

From the sounds of the boy you taught, I seriously think he needs to psychiatrist...I just hope he's not in charge of other people's lives.
Nov. 10th, 2012 01:53 am (UTC)
I feel bad for that kid.
Nov. 9th, 2012 11:02 pm (UTC)
A common observation that is not included in the diagnostic criteria is that people with EUD do not have a coherent solid sense of self. In other words they "do not really know who they are". For most suffers this leads to uncertainly, low self-esteem and being easily influenced by others. For other suffers this produces the phenomenon we seen in Kitty Riley's flat. Moriarty is incredibly convincing when he turns into Rich Brook - it is also as if he turns into a completely different person.


This is, in my opinion, what makes Jim so frightening. It isn't merely that we don't know who he really is, but that he doesn't know who he really is, either. He doesn't know who he is and so he does not know what he believes, or even what he wants, ultimately. Jim's sense of self is stuck in infancy---he knows how to occupy himself, but nothing else.

When Jim says he's "so changeable", I almost think that's the void of self-identity talking again, like he's internalized the fact that things in the outside world change and taken a sort of responsibility for it. Looking out at the world must be like looking into a mirror to Jim, which makes sense, when you consider that he's probably never had a single steady presence in his life other than Sherlock. Sherlock is the only fixed-point, as far as Jim can tell, and so he clings to him obsessively, trying to keep his balance in the ebb and flow of things.

Got a bit carried away there, but I had to comment on this meta. I'm awful about commenting, but this is just so top-notch, I had to let you know how much I enjoyed it. Excellent work!

Edited at 2012-11-09 11:03 pm (UTC)
Nov. 9th, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
I really find this amazing, there is a lot more points for Moriarty to know that from the protagonist even if this is amusing! The other characters are more difficult to see.

I think his obssession with Sherlock goes with his genius too, there is no one so intelligent so he is not only pysichotic but he feels alone in a world who are average where he is intelligent.
So Sherlock appear to be his equal, but he is in the wrong side...? This can't be??? So he intervined

I really like your meta!!

Nov. 10th, 2012 02:54 am (UTC)
In the psychiatrically well population, people do not normally attempt to destroy others they feel are similar to themselves nor do relationships usually end in suicide.
This made me laugh.

However the vast majority of people who develop psychopathic personality disorder/DPD are born into socio-economically deprived families.
I was thinking about this, in light of this article: http://gigaom.com/2011/12/09/startups-entrepreneurs-are-arrogant-and-psychopathic/ . Essentially, some German researchers have determined that many successful start-up entrepreneurs display traits of: narcissism 2) manipulation and trickery of others 3) 'sub-clinical psychotic behavior'. Since I don't speak German, I've no idea how valid the study is. But it made me wonder. High IQ changes the presentation of many disorders; often masks them or makes them sub-clinical, because something is only diagnosed as a disorder if it inhibits the person's ability to function in society.

I suspect that high socio-ecoonomic status might do the same thing. A rich kid is much less likely to get sent to prison for assault than a poor kid is. And if you have money, you also have more legal options in how to pursue your goals. So it might be less that poverty is a risk factor, than wealth is a protective factor that makes someone on the DDS spectrum less likely to end up in prison or a locked ward. Jim Moriarty - DDs, criminal, AND successful entrepreneur? I think so!

Nov. 10th, 2012 03:16 am (UTC)
Psychologists (not psychiatrists) have a concept known as the Dark Triad: three personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Many studies have pointed out the high prevalence of these characteristics in the powerful: business leaders, politicians, dictators etc.

However the dark triad is not made up of personality disorders. A personality disorder is pervasive, constant and affects the patient's ability to function within normal society. It is a disease rather than an unpleasant personality characteristic. The people who demonstrate these characteristics aren't nice people, I wouldn't want to meet them any time soon but they are also not ill. Jim Moriarty on the other hand is mentally ill.

Being rich definitely protects you from the legal implications of your actions and also protects you from being in a position where you might be diagnosed with a personality disorder.

However research has shown us that you need certain environmental "stimulants" to develop DPD/any other personality disorder. Just having a genetic predisposition is not enough. Also not having a genetic predisposition doesn't mean you are immune from this personality disorder.

When socio-economic status is controlled for in studies we still find patients with high scores on the DPD or psychopathy checklist have undergone either neglect or abuse as very young children. One particular risk factor is failure to bond with the primary care giver. Abuse, neglect, failure to bond are more commonly seen in families that have a myriad of social problems related to poverty However they do occur in families with high socio-economic status (at a lower frequency) and their children do develop personality disorders but just less frequently because the "causative agents" as not as prevalent.

Poverty itself is not a direct causative agent, it is more the problems that poverty is heavily correlated with that "cause" personality disorders. In the same way, poverty is indirectly correlated with just about every single mental illness known to psychiatry. Having a high socio-economic status does protect you against depression in a population study but plenty of individual rich people get depressed.

So statisically Jim Moriarty is more likely to come from a lower socio-economic background just because of the numbers. However he could just as well have been from a nice rich family who bought him lots of westwood suites.

Edited at 2012-11-10 03:19 am (UTC)
Nov. 10th, 2012 03:40 am (UTC)
I found this very interesting. Thank you. :-)
Nov. 10th, 2012 09:29 am (UTC)
I doubt me asking for this had anything to do with you actually doing it - but thank you so much! :) Another wonderful meta!

Now I wonder "That's what people do." - am I not normal for laughing at that and thinking 'You're right, Jim!'; 'I just took it as a witty comeback on his part. Besides, if you view people only as numbers/nameless faces/chess pieces, than it's not wonder you feel no sympathy for them. Even in RL that happens, like with a big catastrophe; if it's too often shown on TV, the sympathy/empathy wears thing surprisingly fast...
Nov. 10th, 2012 12:23 pm (UTC)
Actually, I wrote it because you and several other people asked for it :). Thanks for the inspiration.

Nov. 10th, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC)
Nice meta analysis of Moriarty.

I believe that Jim Moriarty was written as psychotic XD No wonder he displays the symptoms.. After all he threatened to made shoes out of Irene and he killed Carl Powers because he could. His obsession with Sherlock is very Narcissistic since it is more about Jim than Sherlock.

In terms of his personalities he has Richard Brook and 'Jim from IT" He was convincing enough as Jim that Sherlock could not see pass his mask even though he only glimpsed him for seconds :)
Nov. 11th, 2012 12:29 am (UTC)
just want to say, this is very interesting, and a very good read.
Nov. 12th, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC)
Fascinating meta, so glad you wrote this.
Nov. 12th, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
I don't think you can fully examine Moriarty's particular brand of insanity without delving into some of the psychology behind stalking.

I find it fascinating how we can watch the same scenes and interpret them completely differently. You see Jim's outbursts as him losing control but I can't see them as anything more than another facet of The Act. I think that Moriarty is completely, horribly in control of everything that we see, which is why I find him so creepy. Nothing about Moriarty is real; everything is a fabrication, except, presumably, his death.
Nov. 14th, 2012 12:16 am (UTC)
Thanks for you comment! This meta is predominately about examining Jim from clinical psychiatric perspective mostly because that's what I have specialist knowledge in. I'm afraid it doesn't deal with any psychology (abnormal or otherwise) at all: I have assumed that Jim Moriarty is psychiatrically ill rather than psychologically abnormal.

Stalking is something that perfectly healthy people and the mentally ill engage in. It is not in itself a psychiatric illness. Unfortunately I don't know anything about the psychology of stalking to talk much about it.

It's interesting that you say his outbursts are part of an act. I completely agree that his entire persona is an act. This is quite typically of people with emotionally unstable disorder. They have no sense of self and therefore everything they do is essentially an act. Jim's outbursts are him losing control but not involuntarily. He is throwing control out of the window as part of his act and it is all part of the persona he has created in the form of Genius Criminal (TM). He is probably not aware that he even lacks a firm sense of self (or that he has several psychiatric conditions).
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