Psychopathy is among the most difficult disorders to spot. The psychopath can appear normal, even charming. Underneath, he lacks conscience and empathy, making him manipulative, volatile and often (but by no means always) criminal. – Psychology Today
“We think of psychopaths as killers, alien, outside society. But, says the scientist who has spent his life studying them, you could have one for a colleague, a friend – or a spouse,” says The Telegraph columnist, Tom Chivers.
The words “psycho,” “nut-job,” and others are thrown about loosely – and with little to no relevance to a person’s actual state of mind. We may even feel comfortable characterizing someone in such a way to others, with little to no thought given on the matter.
Sometimes we even forget there are, in fact, people who meet the clinical standards of psychopathy; that actual “psychos” do exist. Before we go any further, let’s refer to the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of psychopathy (technically, termed ‘Antisocial Personality Disorder’) as reported in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5):
“(A) pervasive pattern or disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.” The manual goes on to list seven evidence-based behaviors of psychopathy, of which a person must display three as having regularly occurred since age 15.
The phrase “pervasive pattern or disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others” is psychopathy defined in eight words.
Professor Robert Hare, a career criminal psychologist, and creator of the ‘PCL-R’ assessment – a diagnostic criterion of psychopathy, is a leading expert in psychopathic behavior. Hare states “It stuns me, as much as it did when I started 40 years ago, that it is possible to have people who are so emotionally disconnected that they can function as if other people are objects to be manipulated and destroyed without any concern.”
Perhaps what is more stunning (and frightening) is the possibility of being in a close relationship with a psychopath. As psychopathy is a cryptic mental disorder, it is often very challenging to “find out” if someone does or does not fit the mold.
That said, there does exist a common set of behaviors that psychopaths display.