If you are a fan of crime shows and psychological thrillers, you’ve probably come across psychopathic characters. But have you met any in real life, and would you be able to identify a psychopath if you came across one?
What Is Psychopathy?
Psychopathy is a mental illness that is often called a personality disorder because psychopathy defines an individual’s entire personality.
Psychopaths have been around for ages, yet it is still difficult to identify them. This is because they tend to be extremely charming and cunning and know well how to manipulate their victims. They also lack any empathy and conscience whatsoever.
While these individuals may lack emotional empathy, they have enough cognitive empathy to understand how you would feel in a particular situation. They use that knowledge to manipulate other’s emotions and manage to leave them in shambles.
Psychologists believe that individuals with psychopathy may start showing traits at an early age. What might begin as temper tantrums or disregard for school rules and weeknight curfews might develop into more disruptive behavior during the adolescent years. It is up to us to observe and recognize these traits and provide help and treatment.
Symptoms of psychopathy to look out for:
- Entertaining conversationalists who know how to shine the spotlight on themselves
- Extreme narcissistic qualities
- Ability to justify living by their own rules
- Total disregard for society
- Lack of concern or guilt about the way their actions impact others
- Lack of empathy, even for family members
- Manipulative, with an innate ability to lie constantly
- Predominantly cold and unemotional
- Impulsiveness to achieve instant gratification in whatever they are doing
- Poor control over emotions
- No feeling of responsibility toward work, family or relationships
These characteristics make a psychopath extremely cunning and able enough to charm the best of us into trusting them completely. Doctors say that many psychopaths even spend hours watching movies to understand human emotions and behaviors and the right way to respond to each.
Experts who have studied psychopaths often categorize them based on certain behaviors and say that these dangerous individuals can be categorized as:
You might have come across people with strong leadership skills at school, at work or even at home. While most of them know how to be assertive, without crossing the line, there are others who take pleasure from bullying their subordinates and exerting their power in every possible situation. And, while many leaders might seem successful in their profession, the abuse and tyranny that their family undergoes are often hidden behind the shroud of privacy.
These are apparently the easiest variety to spot because of their typical characteristics of being impulsive and cunning. They are mostly found breaking the law over and over again, with no regard for others who might get hurt by their actions. They break the law only because it can be thrilling.
With some characteristics that mimic schizophrenics, a paranoid psychopath believes that the whole world is out to get him or her. This feeling is often combined with the idea of making others pay for their actions (which the psychopath imagines). The innate cunningness teaches them how to use their fears to gather sympathy and then turn it around as an excuse to be abusive.
This category of psychopaths knows well how to shower their victim with love and care, and they often show an urgency to start an intimate relationship. They are experts at manipulating the other person’s vulnerabilities to their own gain and most often leave the victim heartbroken, at the least.
While a knowledge of psychopathic behavior alone may not be enough to identify a psychopath, experts suggest that you could:
- Be wary of new acquaintances who initiate serious relationships
- Be aware that these predators thrive in locations like singles bars and airports, where they might find lonely victims
- Seek professional advice if you already are a victim of a psychopath
While a psychopath may initially come off as an extremely charming and lovable person, they reach a point when they get entangled in their own web of lies and start showing their true colors. So, if you notice a change of behavior in someone you have known, say just for a few weeks, observe the changes and seek help if things don’t look and feel right.
This Charming Psychopath. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199401/charming-psychopath
Neo, P. (2018, August 31). The 7 Breeds Of Psychopaths – And How To Spot Them. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/breeds-of-psychopaths-and-how-to-spot-them