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Psychopathy – How do you recognize a psychopath?

There are many myths surrounding psychopathy, but what is it really? And how do you recognize a psychopath?

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There are many misconceptions about psychopathy and psychopaths – how common they are, how intelligent they are, and how to recognize a psychopath. Here we answer some of the most common questions about psychopathy.

What is a psychopath?

According to the diagnostic tool used in psychiatry, psychopathy does not exist as a separate diagnosis. Instead, one could describe psychopathy as a combination of antisocial personality syndrome and narcissistic personality syndrome:

“If you take the antisocial personality syndrome and pair it with the narcissistic, you get a good description of psychopathy,” says Katarina Howner, specialist in psychiatry and forensic psychiatry to Healthy living.

How many are psychopaths?

That it would be relatively common to have psychopaths out in society is a myth. The few research studies that have been done in a societal context indicate that it is about one percent of the male population. Within correctional facilities, it is estimated that approximately 20 percent meet the requirements for psychopathy.

How do you recognize a psychopath?

Many signs of psychopathy can be categorized as either aggressive narcissism or a socially deviant lifestyle. Aggressive narcissism means things like:

  • Superficial charm
  • Grandiose self-image – an exaggerated image of one’s own ability and person
  • Pathological lying – the person lies unhindered about both big and small things
  • Manipulative
  • Inability to feel guilt or remorse
  • Superficial affects
  • Lack of empathy, lack of empathy
  • Inability to take responsibility for own actions

A socially deviant lifestyle means, among other things:

  • Need for stimulation/ tendency to get bored
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor control of behavior
  • Early behavior problems
  • Lack of realistic future goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Revocation of parole from prison

Other signs may be promiscuous sexual behavior, many short cohabiting or marital relationships, or extensive and varied criminality.

Misleading stereotypes

As I said, there are many myths surrounding psychopathy, but neurobiologist and researcher Karolina Sörman says that the stereotypes surrounding psychopathy are exaggerated:

“Often psychopaths are described as evil, cold-blooded monsters or as people who are found in every other company management. Both of these stereotypical images are incorrect. One can have certain psychopathic traits, such as being manipulative, fearless or self-aggrandizing, without meeting the medical criteria for psychopathy for the sake of it,” she says and continues:

“A true psychopath, on the other hand, exhibits several of these character traits in combination with deviant antisocial behaviors, such as a lack of impulse control and in some cases also criminality and violence.”

Sörman believes that this combination of deviant personality traits and behaviors often leads to the person in question having major problems in being with other people:

“For example, they don’t seem to react in the same way to fear and punishment as the average person, which can lead to reckless behavior.”

Sources: Karolinska Institutet, Cure, The Express, The psychology guide

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