While you may be familiar with psychopaths as murderers in true crime shows and movies, not all psychopaths necessarily commit terrible crimes. Some, may be people you actually cross paths with on a regular basis, many being successful CEOs or other business leaders. Studies show roughly 1% of the general population meets the criteria for psychopathy and 3% may be in top business positions. There’s definitely a possibility you’ve encountered a psychopath at one point and may not have even known it. To protect yourself from potential harm, it may be helpful to know the signs of psychopathy so you can spot one if they come into your life. 

Diagnosing Psychopathy

However, before you can detect a psychopath, it’s important to understand what psychopathy actually means. Many psychologists refer to psychopathy as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) due to the notable overlap of many symptoms, while some believe psychopathy is simply a subtype of ASPD disorder, exhibiting more severe symptoms. However, there is no actual criteria for a diagnosis of psychopathy in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 

In the case of diagnosis, psychopathy falls under an antisocial personality disorder. The DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder include a consistent pattern of complete disregard for others since 15 years of age, but the individual must be at least 18 years of age for a diagnosis, and symptoms need to include three or more of the following:

  • Irritability or aggressiveness, including physical fights or assaults
  • Extreme impulsiveness and failure to plan
  • Reckless disregard for self and others
  • Consistently irresponsible, unable to sustain regular employment or honor obligations
  • Failure to conform to societal norms or laws
  • Deceitfulness, repetitive lies, use of aliases, and conning or manipulating others for personal gain
  • Complete lack of remorse, may even rationalize their ill behaviors 

Signs to Look For

Chances are though, you may not be a doctor and you aren’t here to diagnose an individual with antisocial personality disorder. However, you may be wondering how to identify one in your every day life. Those with antisocial personality disorders may not always be easy to spot at first, and they actually may be incredibly charming on first impressions, but eventually you may begin to see a pattern. If you’re wondering if you’ve encountered someone with psychopathy, here are some of the top signs to look out for. 

They’re Incredibly Charming

Those living with psychopathy are often very well-liked at first and may make a great first impression on you. They may be incredibly talkative, witty, and articulate and have interesting stories to tell that keep you engaged. They may compliment and flatter you often which may be to ultimately gain your trust. Those in a romantic relationship with someone living with psychopathy may find they are “love bombed,” and are overwhelmed with attention, admiration, and affection from the very beginning. However, this superficial charm is often used to lure you in you may eventually see this charm is not genuine as time goes on. An individual with psychopathy may use their excessive charm to gain a person’s trust and admiration so they can manipulate them in the future. 

They Lack Empathy

One of the first red flags you may notice in a person living with psychopathy is their complete lack of empathy and remorse. These individuals may be unable to relate to what others are feeling. They typically won’t feel anything when they hurt someone, even those close to them. This may cause them to often say or do things that are emotionally or even physically damaging to others without feeling any guilt, and it is common they may not take any responsibility for their actions afterwards. They may even find ways to point blame onto others for their actions.

They Manipulate Others

While an individual living with psychopathy may not display genuine emotions such as empathy, they are often very good at mimicking these emotions in others which can make them master manipulators. They are often very deceptive, consistently lying to manipulate others using various manipulation tactics, such as “love bombing” or gaslighting for their own personal gain or profit. Those living with psychopathy are usually very good at conning others, may use aliases or fake names, and may attempt to gain sympathy or use guilt trips as a way to get what they want. 

They Have an Inflated Sense of Self 

Individuals living with psychopathy often have an inflated sense of self and may come off as extremely arrogant, displaying narcissistic behaviors. They may believe they are better than others or that they are special and unique and that others are jealous of them. They also may choose to engage only with others they deem as equally important and may patronize others. They may seem preoccupied with fantasies of power, success, or wealth. 

They’re Reckless

Those living with psychopathy have a tendency to have reckless disregard for the safety of others and even themselves. This may cause them to break laws or engage in illegal or high-risk activities. You may find this individual seems irresponsible at times and can’t seem to commit to obligations and may often breaks the laws or refuse to follow rules. This is often because they may believe they are above the law and the rules don’t apply to them. Their extreme impulsiveness and reckless behavior may lead to them engaging in risky behaviors that can put you and/or them in danger. 

Bottom Line

While you may not be able to change an individual living with psychopathy, it can be helpful to know the signs to look out for so you can minimize the impact their harmful behaviors can have on you. If you believe you or a loved one may be living with psychopathy or an antisocial personality disorder, it may be beneficial to seek the support of a mental health professional. They may be able to provide tools and guidance to help you manage your relationship with them or alternatively, find healthy ways to cope with the symptoms.