We all know that there are a number of conditions that are commonly co-morbid with narcissistic personality disorder, and over the next several weeks, we’re going to dig into each of them in depth. This week, we’re talking about psychopaths – and we’re going to cover a number of factors in depth – so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t yet so you don’t miss one of this series.When I say the word “psychopath,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind for you? If you think of a serial killer or other kind of criminal who is sort of a society “outsider,” you’d be with the majority of the population.
But you may or may not know that you could also be married to one – or be the child or employee or sibling of one. It turns out that psychopaths are hiding among us in plain sight – and while we may assume that we could spot one, the truth is that they can be quite undetectable to the average person.
One example of a psychopath that I used in a recent video was Gus Fring from Breaking Bad, and more recently the AMC spinoff called Better Call Saul. He’s someone you’d never suspect of being a psychopath when you first meet him – he works as the fair-minded, soft-spoken owner of a small chain of successful chicken restaurants who is unfailingly polite and doesn’t seem like he could hurt a fly. But when you see him kill someone with zero regret in his face and clean himself up without one ounce of apparent nervousness, you realize what you’re seeing.
What other examples can you think of in television or movies of characters who represent psychopaths? Share your thoughts in the comments – I may use them in a fututre video.
So what are the traits of a psychopath? We’re going to start with how a psychopath is diagnosed, using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist to highlight the diagnosable traits. developed by Dr. Robert Hare, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia. Hare has taught and conducted research for more than forty years, with most of his career dedicated to the study of psychopathy.
How the Psychopath Checklist Works
There are 20 items on the checklist, some of which include: superficial charm, a grandiose notion of self-worth, the need for stimulation and impulsiveness, pathological lying, the ability to manipulate others and a lack of remorse and empathy.
In order to determine someone is psychopathic, doctors assign a score to each item, between zero and two points depending on whether a person matches each trait. This gives the highest-level psychopaths a top-out score of 40. To give you a bit of perspective, in the United States, one must score a 30 to be diagnosed a psychopath, while in the UK, you can be diagnosed as a psychopath with a score of 25.
Interestingly enough, many researchers say that psychopaths seem to have a significant amount of charisma and that they tend to have the ability to draw people in – or at the very least, to intrigue them. This is probably at least partially to their ability to charm people and manipulate them.
Another reason may be that psychopaths are often acting and mimicking normal reactions. Studies on psychopaths have found that psychopaths also do a lot of mirroring and straight-up lying to make people like them more.
Empaths May Recognize a Psychopath Better Than Someone Else
For empaths and other people who are tuned in, there are signs that can be recognized when it comes to narcissists – they tend to exhibit fake emotional responses, and we may notice them slipping up by having a weird tone or inconsistent body language. I think that relates to the fact that while they can mimic emotions and seemingly normal reactions – but they can’t actually understand them.
When it comes to psychopaths and their genuine emotions, you can expect them to be, at best, shallow and usually brief. Oh, and they definitely always have an ulterior motive for letting you see them.
They work to make you like and trust them, and they are good at it. They will charm them by telling them little insignificant secrets (which are often lies) and they’ll offer to help them out with stuff – favors around the house or loaning them money, for example, in order to gain their trust. Later, they’ll use these favors against them – either to make them do favors in return or in some cases, to get them to help manipulate someone else.
So that’s one of the qualities of a psychopath – they tend to have a shocklingly sharp way of manipulating other people and often take pleasure in doing it.
How Narcissists and Psychopaths Differ
Like narcissists, they often also have that air of superiority about them – but unlike narcissists, it’s often hard to see through it since they don’t really require any sort of validation outside of their own opinion.
Also like narcissists, they lack remorse and empathy – but unlike straight-up narcissists, they feel emotion only on a shallow level. Narcissists are absolutely not empathetic, but they feel their OWN emotions quite deeply.
Like many psychological conditions, there can be a spectrum of psychopathy, and on the most extreme end, the psychopaths could care less if you live or die – and it’s here where you find the most violent of the criminal psychopaths, including those who torture and murder people.
The full 20 criteria, includes: glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions, a tendency to boredom, a parasitic lifestyle, a lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsive, irresponsibility, lack of behavioral control, behavioral problems in early life, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole), multiple marriages, and promiscuous sexual behavior.
This brings me to the question of the day: do you think you know someone who is a psychopath, or have you ever met anyone? What made them stand out for you? Share your thoughts in the comments section and let’s discuss it!
That’s all I’ve got for you today – but one last point I want to make: psychopaths are BORN, not made – and while their environment could certainly have an effect on their level of violent behaviors, their chemistry could be more powerful than their environment. Next time, we’re going to discuss how one becomes a psychopath in more detail.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.