Psychopathy is a syndrome that consists of a group of related symptoms. While it requires a professionally administered psychological evaluation to make a confirmed diagnosis of psychopathy, identification of individuals with many of the features of psychopathy is possible if you know what to look for. Individually, these traits do not mean someone is a psychopath, but if someone you know has many of these traits, you could benefit from protecting yourself from their actions. One of the world’s foremost experts on psychopathy, Dr. Robert Hare of the Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, estimates that one in every 100 people in North America is a psychopath.
Things You'll Need
Recognizing Some Characteristic Traits of a Psychopath
Look for glibness and superficiality in interpersonal relations. Psychopaths can be charming and appear to be likable. They often have good verbal skills; they can be entertaining, funny and witty. They tend to use these skills to make themselves look good and to manipulate others to their own advantage.
Look for egocentric and grandiose behavior. Psychopaths are extremely self-centered and may greatly overestimate their importance and sometimes their abilities. This narcissism and exaggerated sense of self-worth appears to contribute to their tendency to live by their own rules and to ignore commonly accepted concepts of right and wrong.
Look for signs of an inability to feel remorse or guilt. Lacking a conscience, a psychopath cannot “feel bad” after hurting someone. He cannot relate to your pain but may rationalize his actions or make excuses for it if he has to. A psychopath might just as easily deny an action or dismiss it as unimportant no matter how much trouble it has caused others.
Look for lack of empathy. A psychopath cannot relate to the feelings of other people. Others’ suffering, hardship, despair, or pain does not elicit sympathy. In place of empathy is a cold indifference to the feelings and suffering of others. The intense interest a psychopath has for herself is never extended to others.
Look for signs of deceitfulness and manipulative behavior. There is no reason for a psychopath not to lie and they do whenever they think it will help them. In fact, Hare reports that they often seem to lie with pride. If a lie is uncovered, the psychopath will simply change his story or lie more in an attempt get away with the original deceit.
Look for shallow emotions. Just as they lack consciences, psychopaths lack deep and true feelings. They may fake superficial feelings to manipulate others but they can’t relate to them on an emotional level. Unable to experience the depth of emotion most people feel, psychopaths can appear cold, like a predator surveying its surroundings looking for prey.
Tips & Warnings
- Dr. Hare advises: Know yourself. “Psychopaths” he warns, “are skilled at detecting and ruthlessly exploiting your weak spots. Your best defense is to understand what these spots are, and to be extremely wary of anyone who zeroes in on them.”
- Don’t waste your time trying to change the behavior of a psychopath. It is extremely difficult for professionals to do this and you will not succeed.
- Don’t believe the depictions of psychopaths commonly presented on television and in films. These media tend to portray psychopaths as highly intelligent murderers, a description that by no means applies to all psychopaths. This might explain why a survey published in the June 2009 issue of “Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology” found that people were more likely to correctly identify someone with depression or schizophrenia than they were someone who was a psychopath
- Many people have some traits in common with psychopaths without being psychopaths. It is the overall profile of psychopathic traits that is used to identify a psychopath.
- BBC News: Spotting psychopaths at work
- “Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology”; How to spot a psychopath. Lay theories of psychopathy; A. Furnham et al. June 2009
- http://westminsterresearch.wmin.ac.uk/8339/ “Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us”; R. D. Hare; 1999
- Photo Credit warning image by Markus Wegner-Parszyk from Fotolia.com
How to Tell If Someone Is a Sociopath
A sociopath is characterized by the deficit of social emotions such as love, guilt, shame or remorse. According to the University of...
How to Determine If Someone Is a Psychopath
How to Tell If Someone Is a Sociopath. A sociopath is characterized by the deficit of social emotions such as love, guilt,...
What Are Psychopathic Tendencies?
These people are usually very difficult to help, but they do have some similar characteristics you can learn to spot. ... How...
The Characteristics of a Psychopathic Personality
"Psychopath" is often used as a synonym for "sociopath," a person with antisocial personality disorder. Some psychiatrists define both of these terms...
What Is a Sociopathic Person?
Societal norms set the standards for individual behavior in terms of how we interact with others. Respect, empathy and conscience are all...
How to Identify Sociopathic Behavior
A sociopath is a person who completely disregards and violates the rights of others while refusing to conform to societal norms. There...
Signs of a Sociopathic Personality
Signs of a Sociopathic Personality. ... Sociopath Potential Warning Signs. We see representations of the sociopath every day on TV crime shows.
Signs & Symptoms of Psychopathic Tendencies
According to Scientific American, psychopathy or psychopathic disorder affects approximately 25 percent of prison inmates in the United States. Psychopathic disorder ...
Characteristics of Sociopathic Liars
A sociopath is a person who has no conscience but has effectively learned how to manage his way through a life where...
What Causes Sociopathy?
Identification. Also known as a psychopath, ... Also, the psychopaths showed much less activation than the normal people when shown happy faces....
How to Fight a Sociopath
A sociopath is a person without a conscience. If you are in a relationship with a diagnosed sociopath or a person you...
Warning Signs That Someone Is Capable of Murder
Warning Signs That Someone Is Capable of Murder. ... (See "Profile of the Sociopath" website in Reference section.) Habitual Liars and Narcissists.
How to Pass a Polygraph - 10 Tips
The police have asked you to take a polygraph test. What should you do and how can you pass a lie detector?...