The Psychopathic Personality

Revised: May 21, 2014


The psychopath is one of the most fascinating and distressing problems of human experience.  For the most part, a psychopath never remains attached to anyone or anything. They live a "predatory" lifestyle. They feel little or no regret, and little or no remorse - except when they are caught. They need relationships, but see people as obstacles to overcome and be eliminated.   If not,  they see people in terms of how they can be used. They use people for stimulation, to build their self-esteem and they invariably value people in terms of their material value (money, property, etc..).

A psychopath can have high verbal intelligence, but they typically lack "emotional intelligence". They can be expert in manipulating others by playing to their emotions. There is a shallow quality to the emotional aspect of their stories (i.e., how they felt, why they felt that way, or how others may have felt and why). The lack of emotional intelligence is the first good sign you may be dealing with a psychopath.  A history of criminal behavior in which they do not seem to learn from their experience, but merely think about ways to not get caught is the second best sign.

The following is a list of items based on the research of Robert Hare, Ph.D. which is derived from the "The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, .1991, Toronto: Multi-Health  Systems."  These are the most highly researched and recognized characteristics of psychopathic personality and behavior.

  • glibness/superficial charm
  • grandiose sense of self worth
  • need for stimulation/prone to boredom
  • pathological lying
  • conning/manipulative
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • shallow emotional response
  • callous/lack of empathy
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • poor behavioral controls
  • promiscuous sexual behavior
  • early behavioral problems
  • lack of realistic long term goals
  • impulsivity
  • irresponsibility
  • failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
  • many short term relationships
  • juvenile delinquency
  • revocation of conditional release
  • criminal versatility

There is no actual diagnosis of Psychopathy in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), but it is a highly studied area. A psychopath is not the same as an antisocial personality. Antisocial personalities may or may not be psychopathic.  The antisocial personality is primarily a problem involving a failure to respect the right of individuals, the law and rules of society.   Psychopathy involves poor emotional intelligence, the lack of conscience, and an inability to feel attached to people except in terms of their value as a source of stimulation or new possessions.  There are many expressions and forms of psychopathy.   For instance, a sexual psychopath is one form of a psychopath.

There is a significant amount of evidence to suggest that:

  • there may be a genetic influence that creates a psychopathic personality
  • adult psychopaths do not benefit from traditional counseling therapy and may in fact offend again and sooner because of it
  • the brain of a psychopath may function and process information differently from those of non-psychopaths
  • less intelligent psychopaths end up in prisons (highly intelligent psychopaths can run companies)
  • psychopathic behavior may have once had a strong genetic "survival of the species" value
  • psychopathic personalities are much more common than most of us realize

For further and more detailed information as well as research, see www.hare.org