What Are Psychopathic Tendencies?

Written by lynda lampert
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What Are Psychopathic Tendencies?
Psychopaths have a tendency to break the law, among many other negative traits. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Psychopaths are the new bogeymen; they are the ones who scare us. They are serial killers, murders and rapists. Yet how do we identify people who exhibit psychopathic tendencies? Even the medical community has a hard time pinning down what it means to be a psychopath. These people are usually very difficult to help, but they do have some similar characteristics you can learn to spot. Be warned, however: a psychopath is not necessarily what you think.

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Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy are often confused. Someone with antisocial personality disorder may show psychopathic tendencies, but not be a psychopath. Symptoms of this disorder include an inability to follow the law, lying and conning, and a tendency to be impulsive. Aggression and a marked disregard for personal safety and the safety of others is also evident. People with this disorder will not feel guilty about doing any of these things and will not take any responsibility. However, despite having some psychopathic traits, they are not considered psychopaths. Psychopaths have the added component of paranoia, and their tendencies tend to be more extreme.

Hare Psychopathy Checklist

One way to check for psychopathic tendencies is to administer the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. This is a standardised interview list administered by a mental health professional to determine if someone can be considered a psychopath. According to the checklist, a psychopath will be charming, think very highly of himself, lie pathologically and need constant stimulation. He will be manipulative, display no remorse, have no empathy and have few to no appropriate emotional responses. A psychopath will be a parasite with poor control over his own behaviour. He is impulsive, irresponsible and refuses to take responsibility for his actions. He may be sexually promiscuous and have no long-term life goals. Likely, juvenile delinquency will be in his past, along with a string of failed relationships or marriages. He will be a person of many crimes.

Psychopaths and Violence

Despite the almost synonymous relationship of the words "psychopath" and "killer," not all psychopaths are violent. And although there are many violent people in the world, not all of them meet the criteria for being psychopathic. Likewise, just because someone is manipulative does not necessarily mean she is violent. It is true, however, that she would not care if she was violent. She just does not necessarily have to be violent to be a psychopath, according to a 2007 article published by "Scientific American Mind."

Psychopaths and Psychosis

Psychopaths do not necessarily "act crazy." Most are cold and calculating, and can be quite rational. Think of how easily and coherently serial killer and rapist Ted Bundy explained his crimes. He was the very definition of a psychopath, yet he was not psychotic. A psychotic is someone who has a break from reality and is not in touch with right and wrong or how things exist in "the real world." A psychopath is someone who knows exactly what he is doing and does it anyway because he does not care what the consequences are.

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