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One of the most intriguing characters in The Expanse series, to me, is Amos.

While he's one of the scariest sumbitches around, yet somehow he's one of my favourites.

I've been wondering what a psychologist or psychiatrist would categorise him as?

Having read plenty of off-hand remarks labelling him a sociopath/psychopath without further evidence, it doesn't ring right from my armchair knowledge (or Wikipedia "research", seeing as I don't have a copy of the DSM nor the professional knowledge to really understand what I'd be reading).

Naomi describes him as

a monster (Nemesis Games)

We've had allusions to his past

he's likely an offspring of an Earth form of prostitution where, due to procreation restrictions, johns get off on intercourse with pregnant prostitutes. And a traumatic childhood that went with it.

but he actively seeks and follows characters who act as moral compasses

Linda, Naomi, James

and his violence has an almost clinical sterility and is generally directed as "bad people". Those "who had it coming".

There's too many examples of him protecting the weak, the victimised, the poor. He's not a narcissist, which often goes with psychopathy. Ditto for being extroverted.

Is he a "psychopath with a Robin Hood complex". Does such a thing exist in psychology?

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    Have you read "The Churn"? Just asking since you say we've only had "allusions" to his past – tobiasvl Feb 27 '17 at 6:40
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    The title of this question initially confused, me somewhat. – Amos Feb 27 '17 at 6:56
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    @Amos well? are you? or not? :D – Marakai Feb 27 '17 at 6:57
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    @Makarai Not required reading, but a good idea to read them, yes. "The Churn" is about Amos's past, specifically. You might not get a clear answer to your question, but you should read it if Amos is one of the most intriguing characters to you. – tobiasvl Feb 27 '17 at 7:32
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    Oh, and here's a fan theory om Amos being autistic, which Amos's actor on the show called "very intuitive": twitter.com/weschatham/status/833754541472428035 – tobiasvl Feb 27 '17 at 7:42
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First of all:

We've had allusions to his past

I urge you to read the novella "The Churn" to learn more concrete facts about Amos's past, since he's one of the most intriguing characters in the series to you.

The other answer does a good job of presenting how Amos fits some of the DSM symptoms for Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Recently (February 20), a self-proclaimed autistic fan of The Expanse wrote an analysis which argues that Amos might be autistic. It’s obviously conjecture, and while it sources some authoritative sources it also sources other blog posts – for what it’s worth, though, Wes Chatham, who plays Amos on the TV show The Expanse, called the write-up "fascinating" and "very intuitive". I’ll sum it up here.

The writer points out that fictional characters can be written or "coded” as autistic, even if they're not consciously diagnosed as autistic by the authors, because they choose personality traits for the character that they’re not aware might be autistic, based on people they know but don’t know to be autistic. If we consider this a good argument, the authors might have intended Amos to be sociopathic, but instead written him as an autistic person with difficulties with empathy. Having an empathy disorder/deficiency or otherwise having sociopathic traits does not equate to being a sociopath. Autistic people may lack empathy, although not necessarily.

Children who experience early childhood traumas (like Amos has) are affected in ways that fit with Amos, and that can persist into adulthood. Amos is fairly “hypervigilant”, he is at all times aware of his surroundings and potential threats. And “disassociation” also fits well with Amos:

Disassociation or ‘zoning out’ is another way the brain and body copes with high levels of potentially toxic stress hormones for overly long periods. It can also be a learnt survival strategy, submit, switch off and wait for the frightening, painful, incomprehensible act to be over. This ability to switch off can look like defiance or non-compliance as a child may just stare ahead and not respond to requests from adults

People who experience trauma can enter a condition known as C-PTSD:

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, or other threats on a person’s life.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of: domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

The writer argues that Amos displays signs of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) in the TV show. Examples include when Amos’s fight-or-flight instinct makes him abandon Naomi in a stressful situation. The writer points out how his autism might potentially impact his reactions:

And especially autistics are prone to notice patterns in both our individual lives and the world around us. In Amos’ mind life is only survival and there are certain patterns that are worth adhering to even tho they don’t really mesh with “civilised life” where humans have become lulled in a false sense of security.

Another argument that is put forth for Amos suffering from C-PTSD is his sexuality. Victims suffering from C-PTSD might alternate between compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality, like Amos seems to do, and they might also self-medicate, which he definitely does. I’ll quote these three paragraphs in full from the blog post:

When reading the Churn too, one thing that really struck me is that Amos is very disconnected from his own sexuality. He knows there are physical “drives”/“needs”, but it almost reads like he dissociates his way through most of it. In the main books too, when he can’t sleep and finds it weird because he usually always sleep better after (this might be because sexual activities trigger the release of endorphin’s and other hormones that have been shown to counteract the effects of hypervigilence, thus calming ptsd symptoms to a more manageable level (it also does wonders to make you feel in control of your own situation - again, personal experience)).

Insomnia and nightmares are also common symptoms of ptsd, and it would make sense that Amos have found certain ways to alleviate these symptoms, which include his famous brothel-diving, and drinking his body weight in alcohol when he gets shore leave.Self-medication is a common behavior among people with PTSD in the community.

He’s also been described as “picking fight because he enjoys it”, which is a pretty obvious sign of self destructive behaviour, and it also circles back to his need to feel in control of his life and his surroundings. This war between self destruction and asserting control is textbook Ptsd. Coupled with growing up in an environment that is clearly mired in toxic masculinity and the heteronormative status quo (fascinating that earth society seems to have advanced absolutely not at all on those fronts, esp in Baltimore) it would seem perfectly natural for Amos to internalise his stress and emotions and keep it all under wraps until he hits port and can “blow off steam” as they say. If Amos is indeed autistic, this research article (linked in the blog) is relevant: The Effects of Psychological Trauma on Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

I feel the writer makes a solid argument that Amos might suffer from C-PTSD, and compelling arguments that he might have autistic traits that perhaps impact his ways of both empathizing with other people and coping with this C-PTSD.

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  • With all due respect to Jason K, I think this answer fits better and provides interesting additional information, including comments from the writers as well as the actor. I'll therefore switch to this as the accepted answer. Thanks! – Marakai Mar 17 '17 at 5:18
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    I wish I could upvote this more than once! – AJM-Reinstate-Monica Nov 29 '19 at 12:28
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I've not read all of the Expanse books, but in the first few he certainly has some traits consistent with "antisocial personality disorder", or what we could call sociopathic/psychopathic traits. To actually DIAGNOSE him he would have to fit some criteria.

From the DSM V (taken from here):

Symptoms & Criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder

According to the DSM-5, there are four diagnostic criterion, of which Criterion A has seven sub-features.

A. Disregard for and violation of others rights since age 15, as indicated by one of the seven sub features:

  1. Failure to obey laws and norms by engaging in behavior which results in >criminal arrest, or would warrant criminal arrest.

  2. Lying, deception, and manipulation, for profit tor self-amusement,

  3. Impulsive behavior

  4. Irritability and aggression, manifested as frequently assaults others, or engages in fighting

  5. Blatantly disregards safety of self and others,

  6. A pattern of irresponsibility and

  7. Lack of remorse for actions (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

The other diagnostic Criterion are:

B. The person is at least age 18,

C. Conduct disorder was present by history before age 15

D. and the antisocial behavior does not occur in the context of schizophrenia > or bipolar disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

So you can see that knowledge of Amos's childhood is pretty critical in order to properly assess and diagnose him. But he certainly exhibits a very low level of empathy for other people, especially ones he deems a threat to himself or his crew. He also seems to understand that he lacks a moral center, and so he has latched on to Naomi and uses HER moral center as a substitute. How often does he defer to her for decision making? He exhibits little guilt or remorse over his actions, past or present from what I remember. He has little concern over the consequence of his actions, other than eliminating a current, present obstacle (this is especially apparent when he urges Holden to let him kill a certain character in Cibola Burns. Doing so would remove a current problem, but would be disastrous in the long term, but Amos does not care).

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Some of the things stated above maybe true about Amos. However, Amos, does try to make choices on his own that are protective of others.

On Ganymede, when Naomi wants to let 52 people onto the ship. Amos disagrees with Naomi trying to over ride her choice in the matter. This shows that Amos is concerned about Naomi's well being and to protect her he would over ride her choice. He admits that he was wrong later on so he is aware at times when he does the wrong thing. Later on Earth when Amos is getting a ship ready to take off as Earth is being destroyed, he makes the choice to help take extra passengers on the ship.

When Amos gives an answer why he does this he say's what Holden would do. While this might be true its not uncommon for people to reshape their mental center of gravity based on another persons morals. We are learning all of our lives. That is not to say that Amos has come to a firm self path. But he clearly is comfortable with people part of a group that try's to do the right thing. Some times the right thing is to get someone out of the way who is dangerous. And some times Amos does allow his frustration to over right his good moral sense. As with the time he beat a prisoner. He could have killed him but he did not.

Amos maybe many things. But like most of us he is learning along the way. He makes new choices but the over riding choice he keeps making is to stay with a group of people Holden, Naomi, Alex because they all are for the greater good when faced with hard choices. While I agree Amos fits the C-PTDS he does make this active choice to stick with these people. Chrisjen Avasarala, is part of this and may understand Amos better than anyone else.

Amos knows hard choices have to be made and Chirsjen Avasarala also knows hard choices have to be made. Someone has to make the hard choices and do the best they can do at the time that they are making those choices. Which would explain Amos giving Chrisjen her nick name of Chrissy. Now maybe I am wrong about some of this or even all of it but is how I can see Amos as someone who grasp what good is and wants to follow that path even if its behind others.

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    Welcome to SciFi.SE! This could be a decent analysis, but it's quite hard to read at present. Would you mind breaking it up into paragraphs so it's easier to read? Thanks! – F1Krazy Feb 7 '18 at 14:02
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It feels to me like a different take on Data's (Star Trek) personality. He's a sociopath (not psycho, he doesn't care about you but it doesn't mean he enjoys killing) but he doesn't WANT to be. He tries not to as hard as possible.

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In the TV series in season 2, when they capture the scientists from the station, they perform a scan on Paolo Cortazar and find out that his temporal lobe was disabled with transcranial magnetic hyper stimulation, making him a psychopath. Amos then asks the scientist if it's reversible. From what I see he is interested in maybe fixing himself.

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I think you are trying to find fancy explanations for simple matter. Before western civilization sank into the oblivion of psychological mumbo jumbo, Amos would have been called ruthless. From his position within the group he is the tool - in meaning that he is not a policy maker, but policy enforcer. Some people are strategists, some are soldiers. Amos is an exceptional soldier, enforcing agreed-upon-policy with merciless effectivity. Sometimes it also means taking a preemptive strike, when the strategist is overwhelmed by sensory input or forming further steps, soldier removes obstacles at hand

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    Well is he a psychopath/sociopath? – Edlothiad Jul 22 '18 at 19:44

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