FPD, the Flamer Personality Disorder?!!
Internet Troll as a form of mental illness

W. Beaty, 2001

I've met a certain class of people on Newsgroups and e-lists who all seem to have the same "symptoms." I am led to suspect that their type of behavior might constitute a mental illness. To discuss this, first I must define it. My list of diagnostic criteria for FPD, the FLAMER PERSONALITY DISORDER is below. (grin) Know anyone like this? It's a composite description of two real-world people I know, plus three of the worst internet trolls I've encountered, plus the "troll" side of my own personality (yes, we all have one.)

WARNING: As a psychologist, the author of this page would make a good electrical engineer! This webpage is half-joking. But only half. I have no experience in psychology except as a customer of marriage councilors, and the subject of too much self-examination. On the other hand, I was much more of an idiot in my younger days, and it's easy to list the following symptoms when you can see every one of them from inside. (The term "flamer" is short for "flaming a**hole," also called "troll" or "being a dick.") On Youtube they're called "Haters." More about me if you must know.

FPD Symptoms:

1.Namecaller: Denigrator. This defines the flamer. "Troll" means "namecaller"... -->

2. Competitive/argumentative: flamers are fighters; verbal brawlers. We greatly enjoy arguments for their own sake, and will start flamewars intentionally.... -->

3. Amoral: we think that our insults, verbal abuse, character attacks, and even death threats are perfectly acceptable behavior, once "justified"... -->

4. Vengeful: flamers believe that once an insult has been received, it becomes perfectly acceptable to return the insult, or even to embark on a longrunning insult stream... -->

5. Deceitful: we see nothing wrong with deception and distortion as long as our victims don't catch on... -->

6. Narcisstic: we have extreme vanity, taking the form of an exquisite sensitivity to anything which even SLIGHTLY resembles an insult... -->

7. Paranoid: we trolls constantly display secretive behavior, being careful to never freely discuss personal info: our schooling, experience, personal problems... -->

8. No self-doubt. 'Perfect' people never monitor themselves to avoid mistakes... -->

9. Self-blind: No insight into our own flaws and foibles... -->

10. Hypocrites: we're totally enmeshed in a self-serving bias: "when I do something offensive, it's really a pure and justified deed, but when you do exactly the same thing, it becomes a shameful and disgusting PLOY." -->

11. Self-important: we have a very low opinion of others, and an exalted (if dishonest) opinion of ourselves... -->

12. Denying/projecting: We never attempt to see reality honestly, but must constantly manipulate it by erasing some parts and distorting others. -->

13. Pervasive, long-standing, intense symptoms -->

"Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience." - anon

Megalothymia - the need to be seen as being superior to other people.

Moderator Strategies:
    Detecting the concealed troll

1. They just simply must reply to every. single. message. ! -->

2. Psychological projection? This allows us to accurately read their minds... -->

3. Mild derogatory language directed at others ...constantly. -->

4. "Self-serving bias," obviously present. -->

5. Trolls won't ask questions. Trolls avoid answering questions. -->

6. The FPD/troll will never apologize, never takes responsibility. -->

Links elsewhere

Misery of Social Life #15, "To be obliged frequently to meet in company a man who opposes every remark for the purpose of starting an argument, in which he is always more vociferous than convincing." from The Miseries of Human Life by J. Beresford, 1806

"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him." - Galileo


Invariably a FPD flamer will start a flamewar. First the flamer attacks another subscriber unexpectedly. It happens because the flamer felt insulted (exquisite sensitivity to insults), but usually this insult was entirely in his/her own mind. But the flamer never considers that perhaps he made a mistake while interpreting the insult (no self-doubt), and he also sees a need to answer every insult with insults (vengeful, narcissistic.)

Having created a fight while blaming others for starting it, the flamer then lays into his victim, (amoral, combative), while seeing his own actions as a righteous battle against an evil enemy (projection.) If the victim seems hurt, the flamer will be disgusted by such weakness (amoral.) But if the victim responds in kind, the flamer will immediately complain bitterly about this, while steadfastly denying that the type of attacks he so hates are identical to the ones he's using himself (hypocrisy, self-serving bias.) If other subscribers object, the flamer ignores them as beneath contempt (egotistical), or because he knows they must be wrong without even reading any of their messages, much less listening to their reasoning (no self-doubt.) Or perhaps he ignores them because he is certain that they have hidden agendas, and their complaints could only be false constructs meant to deceive. (denial/projection.)

The FPD flamer typically ignores a moderator and refuses to alter his behavior, and can only be stopped by ejection from the forum. Sometimes flamers attack the moderators in order to get ejected (and therefore feel smug righteousness at being "censored" or "martyred.") A flamer will occasionally be shocked by being banned from a forum, and actually reconsider his behavior. But this is rare. Usually they're too far gone for this to penetrate their immense psychological defenses. They will refuse all responsibility for the problem (deceit, denial), blame it on their victim, or on the moderator, or on the group for conspiring against them in private (paranoia), and totally refuse to look at their own mistakes in an honest light (denial, deceit, self-blind.) Sometimes a FPD/flamer will somehow be made a moderator himself. It's rare, since flamers usually cannot conceal their nature from others. However, when this happens, watch out! Unless that forum has strict rules against moderators' abuse of power, there's little hope to fix the problem, other than perhaps ending the forum and re-starting it without the corrupt person present.

Heh. Don't we all just love encountering a full-blown FPD-type flamer?

"If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart." -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

"Put an end once and for all to this discussion of what a good person should be, and be one."
- Marcus Aurelius

Nobody is worthless: they can always serve as a bad example! If you hate trolls, don't attack them. Instead, try to stay painfully aware of the "troll side" of your own personality, and don't ever act that way. If you think you have no Flamer within yourself, then you'd better be Ghandi, because if you're not, then you're suffering a very serious case of self-blindness. You might be 100% flamer without knowing it! Does this scare you? It should. It's no joke.

Below is some REAL info. A note about the following. A personality disorder must "lead to distress or impairment", but many flamers seem well adapted to modern life. Instead it is everyone around them who becomes distressed or impaired. They're like a happy and well-adjusted tumor exuding poison that kills the body. Another note: much of the above I lifted from Peck's People of the Lie In other words, the flamer is the "online persona" of one of Dr. Peck's examples of human evil. Some flamers might not be evil so much as sick; suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

And most important: have some compassion. Mental illness is a true illness, so don't take these attacks so personally. In some cases, Personality Disorders are created by extremely cruel childhood mental abuse which victims received from the parents who themselves had a disorder. Emotional child abuse leaves no physical trace, so it probably occurs far more often than anyone realizes. Don't fight with the sick person, but also think twice about welcoming them into your home (or your forum.)

Personality Disorders: general

The definition of "personality disorder" from the APA's DSM-IV manual: "an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectation of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment."

Dr. S. Vaknin gives this list of common features of all Personality Disorders

  1. Self-centeredness that manifests itself through a me-first, self-preoccupied attitude .
  2. Lack of individual accountability that results in a victim mentality and blaming others, society and the universe for their problems
  3. Lack of perspective-taking and empathy
  4. Manipulative and exploitative behavior
  5. Unhappiness, suffering from depression and other mood and anxiety disorders
  6. Vulnerability to other mental disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive tendencies and panic attacks
  7. Distorted or superficial understanding of self and others' perceptions, being unable to see his or her objectionable, unacceptable, disagreeable, or self-destructive behaviors or the issues that may have contributed to the personality disorder
  8. Socially maladaptive, changing the rules of the game, introducing new variables, or otherwise influencing the external world to conform to their own needs
  9. No hallucinations, delusions or thought disorders (except for the brief psychotic episodes of Borderline Personality Disorder)

"To do evil, a human being must first of all believe that what he is doing is good"
- Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn

Created and maintained by Bill Beaty. Mail me at: .
View My Stats