How To Detect A Psychopath? 10 Features

Ten traits and behaviors that warn us of the psychopathic personality.

It happens constantly. 

How many times have we heard on the news: a seemingly normal man, who enjoyed a good reputation and who had never raised suspicions, one day is brought before the court to testify for a series of crimes that not even his closest associates would suspect that he would be capable of commit. Someone totally integrated into the community becomes, overnight, a criminal.

This kind of thing can lead us to ask ourselves a somewhat macabre question:

Would I be able to recognize a psychopath?

And it is that, although psychopaths do not have to commit criminal acts or crimes, it is true that due to their characteristics they are capable of acting to break the rules of coexistence just as someone isolated, desperate and without resources would. However, psychopaths do have social resources: they are charismatic and know how to make a good impression. That is why, many times, identifying a psychopath who is about to commit an illegality is complicated.

Spot a psychopath

So is it possible to identify psychopaths? Of course, “from the saying to the fact there is a stretch” and it is that, regardless of the characteristics that the diagnostic manuals list or the number of experts who affirm that the unequivocal features of psychopathy are “X” or “Y”, the The truth is that each psychopath has a different way of functioning in society. And, of course, it seems that  psychopaths willing to commit crimes every day learn to go more unnoticed.

What are psychopaths like? 10 characteristic features

However, there are certain trends and patterns of behavior that, based on statistics, make it more possible to detect a psychopath. Here you can find 10 keys that are often useful to experts.

1. No long-term goals are set

Psychopaths tend to lead a lifestyle based on immediacy, so they worry relatively little about tomorrow compared to goals closer in time (especially if these are very primal and impulse-based). They tend to satisfy their  most basic needs (hunger, sex, housing, etc.) so they do not tend to plan their future meticulously.

They may organize to pursue an end that they consider important, but generally these goals always pursue short-term results. For example, a crime-prone psychopath might steal a fancy car to impress a girl and get her to get in it to sexually abuse her later.

2. Mythomania

Let’s make something clear: everyone lies. Some more, some less. Now, a “small” or “white” lie is not the same as  telling lies in a pathological way.

Psychopaths have a great knack for lying, and sometimes they do it to get what they want even if it means harming other people as they do not foresee the nature of the consequences of such lies. Furthermore, they always tend to justify and rationalize their actions.

3. Irresponsibility

The classic description of psychopaths characterizes them as people who do not feel tied to “contracts” or “pacts” with the rest of humanity.  

This means that they have difficulties repressing certain behaviors so as not to harm others. It is for this reason that they have the peculiarity of being sporadic in the jobs they perform, as well as constantly moving residence. In the life story of a psychopath, it is common to find that the jobs he held were held for short periods of time.

4. Superficial charm and false adaptation

Psychopaths often cope in everyday life with relative adaptability because they have cleverly learned to gain the trust of others with their false charm.  

These attitudes are simply devices used to hide their true intentions. Such is the case of John Wayne Gacy “the killer clown” in which the police were astonished after hearing the neighbors refer to Gacy as a kind and courteous man. Or that successful businessman who kindly shakes hands while doing money laundering in his company.

5. They do not establish long-term emotional ties

This point is intuited in the previous ones. The emotional instability is a characteristic almost unanimous in people who have been diagnosed with psychopathy.

6. They are problematic

The DSM-IV states that people with  antisocial personality disorder are characterized by their inability to understand the norms and rules of society, as well as a general pattern of contempt and violation of the rights of others.

Psychopaths tend to be confrontational and it is not surprising in their record to find that they have been convicted of a crime on more than one occasion. They often get into trouble, the punishments and consequences of which seem not to care at all.

7. They tend to parasitic life

Things that have to do with routine and responsibility (like a legal and stable job, for example) are boring, so they prefer to lead a parasitic lifestyle. That is, living at the expense of others.

8. They are manipulative

Psychopaths  have an incredible almost innate capacity for persuasion and  seduction, tools that they often use to manipulate others and achieve their evil ends.

They do not skimp on treating others as objects who can use this charisma to get what they want, even if it does harm or harm to other people. That is why they like to “associate” with submissive and dependent people in order to take advantage or abuse them.

9. They lack empathy

It is probably the almost unequivocal characteristic of a psychopathic disorder in the person. Psychopaths do not have the ability to “put themselves in another’s shoes”, to feel what the other person feels. However, psychopaths can understand other people’s emotions, identify what physiological changes a mood entails, and even imitate it.

For example, a psychopath will know that someone smiling is probably happy, or someone who cries is sad, yet these foreign emotions are unintelligible to them beyond their understanding of them on a theoretical level. They cannot understand the joy or pain the other experiences.

10. They do not feel fear, guilt or shame

Psychopaths do not regret their actions, because they lack moral conscience since they live under their own value scheme, doing what they consider necessary to satisfy their needs. However, they know how to use blame against other “good” people and in their favor with impressive mastery to manipulate.

On the other hand, psychopaths frequently seek out actions that are exciting, which is why routine tends to bore them. This leads to the search for striking and even reckless activities, since they do not experience fear or feel intimidated by anything or anyone.

Who to trust?

Currently it is estimated that the number of psychopaths (their prevalence) could be in the range between 1% and 3% of the total world population. However, and although only experts can diagnose and identify cases of psychopathy, there are lessons that we can learn from all this. Among them, the fact that some human beings (although few in number) can go very far harming others, and not all of us have immovable moral restraints.

Dr. Ana Beatriz Barbosa Silva, for example, recommends that when we must decide who to trust, we must bear in mind that the coherent combination of evil actions with frequent scenic games that appeal to pity are like “a light signal planted in the forehead of a person without a conscience ” . And is that the combination between  emotional manipulation and lack of impulse control can be very dangerous.

Despite this, of course, people who meet these characteristics are not necessarily serial killers, and perhaps not even violent. However, they are individuals with whom it can take a lot to form affective bonds and come to consolidate a healthy and symmetrical relationship in which we can trust the other with our goods, leave our children in the care, do business with them or share secrets. After all, not all psychopaths are criminals, and not all criminals are psychopaths.

Bibliographic references:

  • Barbosa Silva, AB (2011): Dangerous minds. Madrid: Aguilar Fontanar.
  • Marchiori, H. (2002): Criminal psychology. Mexico DF: Porrúa.

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