Everything You Need to Know about a Psychopath

A psychopath is a person indifferent to the welfare of others, has no worries about the future, and doesn’t feel bad about what he has done in the past.

In the past, the word sociopath was more popular than the word psychopath. But this trend has changed. In the present climate, the word psychopath is used for persons who manifest a congenital tendency to harm others.

The term sociopath refers to the person who goes against societal rules and gets involved in antisocial activities. A sociopath can feel remorse for what he has done. There may be hidden suffering in the case of a sociopath.

On the other hand, a psychopath doesn’t feel remorse. He also goes against social norms but in an unnoticed manner. They are aggressive but can appear cool. Predominantly, they’ve got a marked degree of control over themselves. They don’t end up in prison easily, unlike sociopaths, who are not so composed.

What are the essential traits of a psychopath?

Psychologists have endeavored hard to delineate the core traits of psychopaths. Routinely, these traits are considered to be an essential part of psychopathy:

  • Antisocial behavior
  • Egocentricity
  • Superficial charm
  • Impulsivity
  • Callousness
  • Lack of remorse, and
  • Lack of empathy

As of yet, the list is incomplete.

The triarchic model of psychopathy developed by Patrick defines psychopathy in only three words: disinhibition, meanness, and boldness. While it’s a brilliant attempt, it misses some essential features of psychopathy.

Hare’s twenty-item Psychopathy Checklist is uneasy to apply and work with. It’s very generic and some traits are synonymous with others.

The lexical model of psychopathy tries to converge the generic traits of psychopathy into a handful of core traits. It lists egotism, maliciousness, insensitivity, and deceptiveness as the core traits of psychopathy. According to this model, other features of psychopathy emerge from these four traits.


Egotism, egocentricity, or narcissism is the core trait of psychopathy. Psychopaths possess a grandiose sense of self-worth. They think that they are the center of the universe, and everything revolves around them. This self-delusion makes them feel important and entitled. They justify their actions and think that rules don’t apply to them. Why? Because they think they’re a rarity, rather the masterpiece in the grand scheme of the universe.


Psychopaths exhibit malignant tendencies to harm others. They are mean and spiteful. They leave no stone unturned for inflicting pain on others. The more others suffer, the more the thrill.


Psychopaths lack feelings for others. They’re hardhearted and unfeeling. While they don’t feel emotions at deeper levels, they can fake emotional states.


Psychopaths are deceitful, tell lies, and resort to manipulation often. They can easily persuade other people to work for them.

They are extremely good at lying. They can tell lies to get out of trouble. They manage to become charming through lying. They, on top, lie to cover up their previous lies. Romance at short notice is their specialty. If caught, they can fabricate a whole new story and get away with it.

Is there a psychopathy test?

While online tests of psychopathy are floating around the internet and contribute to the digital noise, the test used by professionals is called the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). Unlike self-reported online questionnaires, it is completed through a semi-structured interview and a review of the records of the person (medical and police reports).

In the interview part, a twenty-item inventory is used to check whether a person exhibits those traits and to what extent. Each item has a score ranging from zero to two. The aggregate score for the inventory is 40. A person scoring 30 or more is stamped as a psychopath.

The score on PCL-R informs us whether a criminal is likely to re-offend or rehabilitate. Higher scores on the psychopathy checklist suggest a more substantial risk of recidivism. States use the test to argue the criminal cannot rehabilitate and is a great risk if freed. On and off, the defense may also employ this test to show that the offender poses a low-risk need to re-offend because of a lack of psychopathic traits.

Authorities administer this test to block the efforts of the release of an offender. They argue through the test that an offender is most likely to commit the same act of violence if given parole.

Furthermore, the test has been employed by states in an attempt to get the death sentence for prisoners. If a prisoner poses a risk to other offenders, he is more likely to receive a death sentence.

Various other measures of psychopathy exist, for example, The Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI). The biggest problem with these measures is that they’re self-reported, and psychopaths can easily get away with them. It’s because psychopaths are excellent manipulators.

The causes of psychopathy

Many behaviorists believe that the disorder stems from environmental factors during the early childhood days. Maltreatment by caregivers, parental abuse, and emotional deprivation can steer a child to become a psychopath.

Studies have established a connection between childhood abuse and a child becoming a psychopath later on. It seems that this trend comes from criminology studies. Criminology and other social sciences maintain the environment leaves its footprints on the brains of younger ones. However, the latest research in the domain of biology suggests it is the other way around. Modern neurologists believe psychopaths are born.

In the old days, it was believed that genes and the environment each account for half of personality development. Studies suggest that only 10 percent of environmental factors and 90 percent of genes account for our personality traits. Psychopathic brains are different from neurotypical, and we know that genes determine how the brain forms.

If psychopathy is genetic, what about the links between childhood trauma and psychopathy? Well, it can be the other way around. If a child behaves badly, it can drive others away from them. This way, psychopathic children can end up with attachment issues due to their behavioral problems.

While psychopathy seems genetic, we should not issue a verdict that psychopaths are doomed from birth and born without a conscience. Subsequent research may unfold on this dilemma.

Are psychopaths always violent?

No. Generally, psychopaths learn to normalize in society with time. They are masters at the art and science of manipulation and get away with it. For conning others, you don’t have to be always violent.

While psychopaths may appear aggressive at times, violence is more associated with sociopaths. Sociopaths assert little control over themselves and resort to violence more often. A psychopath represents an “evil genius” and doesn’t become violent easily. These types of psychopaths are called “successful psychopaths.”

However, this is not invariably the case. Many unsuccessful psychopaths turn to violence whenever the opportunity arrives.

While a psychopath is born a psychopath, it’s the environmental factors that bring about the tendency of performing violent acts in them.

How to deal with a psychopath?

Psychopaths represent a challenge whenever they’re nearby. People are incapable of judging them because of their manipulation and superficial charm. This lack of judgment contributes to a vast amount of suffering.

Understanding the nature of psychopathy should be the first step in your coping strategy. Psychopaths don’t want to change because it serves them best. They are callous and unemotional and see no point in becoming affectionate. If we understand someone’s personality and behavior, it’s less likely we’re deceived by them.

If you have the option to stay away from them, or you can make them stay away from you, I’d recommend immediately going for that.

Every so often, the most robust strategy to win is not to play.


High Ranker is a self-taught psychologist and a freelance writer. He graduated in botany and likes to describe himself as a nature lover. He spends most of his time exploring different subjects and navigating existing academic research. He has a profound interest in health sciences and issues related to scientific research. When he's not writing something, you can find him talking to random people, reading a book, or gardening at home.

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