When you picture a psychopath, usually the image you think of is a weapon-wielding individual with a crazed look in their eye. That’s the image that popular culture has portrayed, but how accurate is that definition?
It’s not as simple as the stereotypical depictions you see in films and TV shows. One of the biggest myths about psychopaths is that they are all violent or criminal. In fact, you could be in the presence of a psychopath and not even know it. The term psychopath was coined in the 1900s when doctors noticed certain mental health patients who appeared neurotypical had what they called a “mental depravity”.
Psychopathy was conflated with sociopathy at the time. Since then, researchers have amended the definition of psychopath to refer to those who lacked a sense of ethics regarding others on a genetic level. Psychopaths also lack a conscience allowing them to manipulate others without feeling a sense of wrongdoing.
Although it’s not easy to detect a psychopath by judging their appearance, there are ways to determine whether someone may be a psychopath:
1) Lack of guilt: According to Psychology Today, a psychopath will do what they please without consideration for how their behavior will impact others and without feeling a sense of remorse.
2) Lack of empathy: According to livescience.com, a psychopath is unable to place themselves in another person’s shoes or see things from their perspective if it is not beneficial for them. However, they are capable of mimicking empathy or sympathy by observing others.
3) Enjoy making others feel guilty: Mentalhelp.net explains that another way to detect a psychopath is that they like to manipulate people’s emotions in order to get them to do what they want. They pick up small details about you, and once they build your trust, they will use the information against you.
4) Only value themselves: International Business Times reveals that as long as a psychopath is doing what they want and getting what they want, they couldn’t care less if the world goes up in flames.
5) Believe they are better than others: According to an article on psychopaths that was published by CNBC, Psychopaths think they are better than everyone else and that is why they get away without feeling any guilt. They have an inflated sense of self-worth.
6) Liars: Reader’s Digest states that another clue to detect a psychopath is that they will lie about anything to get what they want, but they will also lie even if it has no benefit for them. It gives them a false sense of power over everything.
7) Often well-liked: According to Psychology Today, psychopaths are able to get along with almost everyone. They are friendly and approachable which allows them to gain your trust and learn about you.
8) Lack of accountability for their actions: Psychology Today explains that this is how they are able to manipulate and bend people to their will. They feel no responsibility whatsoever.
9) Early behavioral problems: If you can recall or look into their childhood, do you notice unsettling patterns like enjoying hurting or torturing animals? Do they have a long history of lying to avoid getting into trouble?
10) Juvenile delinquency: A study published by the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology shows that youth with high psychopathic traits start engaging in criminal activities earlier in life, come into contact with the justice system earlier in life, and have higher levels of conduct disorder, behavior problems, and delinquent behaviors.
11) Walking contradiction: According to a Business Insider article, psychopaths will contradict themselves often. Not only do they have been-there-done-that toughness combined with a false innocence that draws their victims in, they also contradict themselves in their behavior and speech and will do so without so much as a second thought.
12) Don’t believe that rules apply to them: Psychology Today explains that psychopaths believe they are above any rules or conventions so they are able to get away with terrible behavior. Much like narcissists, they are so self-centered that they believe they are not held to the same standards as others.
13) Shallow emotions: A study conducted by Dr. Willem H. J. Martens from the W. Kahn Institute of Theoretical Psychiatry and Neuroscience demonstrates that psychopaths show signs of emotional abnormalities like shallow affect. This means that events that may engender an emotional response from a neurotypical may have little to no effect on a psychopath. That, however, does not prevent them from feigning these emotions in order to fit in or manipulate.
14) Rage: Of the few emotional responses that have been attributed to psychopaths is anger, which appears to be intact and perhaps enhanced in psychopathy according to one study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Abigail A. Marsh finds that Elevated anger responding is intrinsic to many descriptions of psychopathy. She also references two case studies that include numerous descriptions of psychopaths whose misbehavior included frequent temper tantrums and rage-induced aggression.
15) Unfazed: According to an article published by Scientific American, psychopaths are unfazed not only by social, moral, or legal consequences of their actions, but they are also not easily disturbed or affected by situations that may, for instance, startle a neurotypical.
16) Sucker for thrills: A psychopath is also partial to adrenaline-inducing activities. They enjoy extreme sports like sky diving and drag racing. Some of the crime that they commit is also as a result of them seeking a thrill according to an article published by Inc.
17) Short personal space: Another indicator of psychopathy is a tendency to invade personal space. A study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titles ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me: Psychopathy and the Regulation of Interpersonal Space’, found that “individuals with high levels of ‘cold-heartedness’ preferred shorter interpersonal distances”.
18) Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom: According to healthyplace.com, a common trait of psychopaths is their need for stimulation. They are easily bored and, because of their restless minds, are constantly in need of entertainment.
19) Parasitic lifestyle: A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology finds that some psychopaths live what can be classified as a “parasitic lifestyle”, meaning they will leech of those around them and take credit for accomplishments achieved by others.
20) Lack of realistic long-term goals: Healthyplace.com explains that psychopaths lack the ability to set realistic long-term goals. Because of their inflated sense of self, they have a tendency to establish unattainable goals.
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