Psychopathy, also known as “antisocial personality disorder,” is a real neurological disorder that affects roughly 1% of the general population. At least when it comes to those clinically diagnosed. Just under 5% of those who have a senior position in a company are said to be psychopathic. People often have an incorrect definition of psychopaths. Some even assume they are all killers like what you see in films. There are a lot of signs that someone is a psychopath. However, “blood-thirsty killer” is not part of this. Keep in mind that psychopaths and sociopaths are not the same. This is often confusing, so be aware of that here.
In fact, a sociopath can actually feel empathy or remorse for their actions. Although it is limited or weakened, this differs from a psychopath. This makes one obviously worse than the other. Sociopaths are also far more honest than psychopaths. While a sociopath will tell you upfront that they do not care about something, a psychopath will naturally pretend to care. As it’s all about finding what’s in it for them to care. This makes it hard to tell if someone is psychopathic, but we’re here to help! For this list, we’ll be going over all the signs that someone is a psychopath. That way, you’ll know when you’ve come across one.
Problems With The Law/Issues With Authority
One of the hallmarks of those with psychopathy is their issue with authority figures. These people are loners for the most part and tend to have issues that connect to antisocial personality disorder. In fact, many psychopaths are diagnosed with this specific issue when they are younger due to the several connections it has to psychopathy. The main thing is that those with this disorder tend to get in trouble a lot. This might be something small, like problems in the classroom.
The young psychopath might be talking in class and not stop when their teacher tells them to. Thus leading to a trip to the principal’s office. As they age and continue to struggle with authority or struggle with interacting with others, that can lead to laws being broken. The psychopath might get into physical altercations or do something just to do it. Thus, they’ll get into repeated problems with the law. That could also lead to problems with the police, authority figures responsible for enforcing the law.
One of the biggest signs that someone is a psychopath is their problem with making goals. Some will claim that they have the goal to do something, but it is generally broad. The reason for this is that most psychopaths lack the general ability to think about the long-term because they live their lives consistently by short-term actions or gains. Whatever they feel good about in a given day is what they think about. That can cause many to struggle with schedules too.
For example, psychopaths have trouble keeping or holding down a job because it requires them to have to want to go to that job every day. If they did not feel like it that day, they just would not go to work and would be fired over that. This is similar when it comes to long-term goals. If one is only thinking about how they feel in the moment then they’ll never be able to think about an experience later on in their life. To psychopaths, that wait just isn’t worth it. They have a nomadic, aimless existence.
This is one of the biggest signs that someone is a psychopath. However, it is often the hardest one to truly figure out. The main reason is that psychopaths spend their entire lives watching others. They will then practice specific emotions to fit any need they might have. Some of them are even able to cry on command and show true sadness. It will truly come off as an Academy Award-winning performance because they’ll have faked the entire thing. The best way to tell if someone is faking an emotion is to actually know how emotions work.
Each one is triggered by a specific event or issue. Often, a psychopath will adapt to what the person around them is doing. If they are watching someone else, it’s all to see how they react. That is a sign they’re faking. To tell if someone is truly crying, watch their eyebrows. If someone’s eyebrows flatten out, this shows the forehead muscle is active and pulling the brows down. That is incredibly hard to control voluntarily, meaning a true involuntary action will need to be in play, like crying. Flattened eyebrows are usually an indication of genuine sadness.
The Shallow Affect is very similar to what we just went over regarding emotion. However, this specific disorder is very similar to another, called the blunted affect. Usually, someone will show emotional blunting in cases like schizophrenia. These people will usually struggle with expressing emotions. In the case of the schizophrenic, they will want to adopt an emotion to fit the character they have created and slip into. For the psychopath, they will not struggle with expressing emotions.
Rather, they won’t have the ability to feel anything at all. That is where the Shallow Affect comes into play. This is when a person has a limited range of feelings or a limited depth. The person could show openness one minute and a cold, closed-off emotion the next. Psychopaths are generally having to act out the emotion, so it will be easy for them to slip out of it. Due to faking things, they could be two completely different people emotionally in a snap. Some won’t even see the difference.
Likely the biggest problem with most psychopaths is their filter between doing something or not doing it. Contrary to popular belief, these people can understand if something is considered right or wrong. They just won’t care sometimes, which is what causes problems. If they know something is not considered right, it draws back to faking emotions. They will want to blend in and not do something if it is considered wrong. Especially if they are around other people, but that’s the big part of this.
If they are around others, many will want to keep their act up. Thus, they can control themselves at times, but that is due to something greater they are trying to accomplish. When isolated, all have trouble controlling their impulses. There is no need to keep an act up by that point, so if they want to do something, there is a good chance they will do it. Many might struggle with this around others too, which is how the average person can tell a person might be a psychopath.
While it might be odd, psychopaths are not capable of feeling emotion but they are capable of stimulation. What we mean is, if they are somehow compelled by someone, they’ll listen to them. But the person has to be saying or doing something that makes them feel stimulated. They won’t fall in love with someone, so if a woman is boring them, they do not have the social ability to listen through boring stories. Same with female psychopaths with males. It also happens in same-gender situations too.
Therefore, looks do not always matter but rather, the stimulation you bring to them. That means you need to be able to hold their attention without losing it, which can be very hard to do. The way most are able to do this with psychopaths is through some form of physical activity. Movies or TV shows, even those interesting to others, might not be important. They could carelessly walk out of a movie theater in the middle of a movie.
If you recall, we referenced already how psychopaths have trouble with impulsivity. Yet along those same lines, lacking normal inhibitions can be one of the signs that someone is a psychopath too. The reason for this is that they do not feel normal emotions, such as sadness and anger. On top of this, they also won’t feel major embarrassment either. Therefore, they could do something and not really care what anyone has to say about it.
Opinions of others are meaningless and emotions are not felt, so they will say or do whatever they please. As a result, psychopaths lack normal inhibitions that would cause the rest of us to not do something. For example, most men, even those in great shape, have trouble dancing in the buff. Especially for a group of women. A psychopath could be in terrible shape but they won’t care and could do this if they wanted to. They would not care what anyone thought afterward.
One issue that often plagues most of us truly is our emotions. We make decisions based on how they make us feel about something quite often. Even the most brilliant people will still struggle to make a decision due to being clouded by emotions, which is understandable. Psychopaths often have no problem making the tough call. They are able to do it simply because they use better rational thinking than the rest of us. To them, it’s all about the bottom line or the stat-line. Take it from a medical administration perspective.
Most doctors would struggle to tell a wife to let their husband go when he’s brain dead. If he leaves the hospital, it’ll be as a vegetable but her love for him won’t allow her to let him go. We then find out he’s an organ donor. The psychopath would tell the wife that her husband is gone and his life is now meaningless. But the lives he could save via his organs are numerous. It’s a harsh thing very few could say, and the psychopath would be kinda right in saying this. If it were up to the psychopath, the hospital would allow the man to die because his life is statistically over. They are merely using rational senses most cannot.
Disregarding Or Intentionally Violating The Rights Of Others
In our previous section, we spoke about the medical administrator who would tell a wife her husband’s life does not matter as much as the lives his organs could save. This is a harsh reality, but the psychopath cannot just kill the man. They have to respect the rights of his next of kin. It’s an ordered tier with rules, laws, and regulations that many psychopaths could struggle to work within. We already referenced their issue with authority too. All of this works with this next point.
One of the major signs that someone is a psychopath is how they react to the rights of others. Most of them can work within society just fine as an adult, as they know it is better for them to do so than not. This is likely due to trial and error in their adolescent years. But even as adults, psychopaths will intentionally violate the rights of others and disregard their feelings about it. Like if you’re next in the grocery line, they might break in front. They might even take something from your home without asking (stealing). Your rights, to them, mean nothing.
In spite of what some might say, psychopaths, are able to show empathy for others. Yet this is only involving those very close to them. The reason for this is likely due to the nature vs nurture debate. For nature, the psychopath is born and cannot show proper emotions. For nurture, you can teach them to understand what emotions mean and hope they react properly to them accordingly. The latter situation does not work well but can have some success.
They will feel a bond or closeness to family members, which for them is sort of like love. While lack of empathy is one of the major signs someone is a psychopath, this is only for 99% of those in their life. They will still care about family members because their brain has allowed them to develop that close relationship. That might be due to remembering the help they were offered or how they were taken care of by a parent. To them, the rational thing is to care, so they do. They won’t show empathy like the rest of us. However, merely coming home to see their family members is a sign of empathy in a psychopath.
Along the same lines of empathy, a psychopath can actually show remorse too. For years, this was assumed to be impossible for them. However, a 2017 study by Harvard University found that they can feel/show regret or remorse. Remember, they have a logical, rational brain. If they do something that did not work out well for them, they will see that as a problem. Therefore, they will understand that choice was a bad one and regret that they made it.
Harvard found that psychopaths have trouble extracting information from the environment around them. Most of us use this to tell us whether or not something would be good to do or not. We use retrospective regret, triggered by an emotional experience that makes us feel we’d have a better outcome if we chose the better choice. Psychopaths do not possess this. They can feel regret in the moment, but might not be able to use this to guide future decision-making. When it comes specifically to remorse, they cannot show remorse well but they can agree their decision was incorrect. Which is close.
When we talk about irresponsibility, some might see this as someone is unable to function in daily life. As if they cannot be trusted to do anything. However, that is not the case with psychopaths. Many can be trusted to do things, as long as you make it worth their time. But when it comes to responsibility, the same situation comes into play. If you know you cannot make it worth their time, you cannot trust that they will care about something.
As a result, they could very well leave a store as the only person there and not lock up when doing so. You could yell at them if they return, but to them, it did not matter. They are impulsive and get easily bored, remember? One of the major signs that someone is a psychopath is their huge problem with responsible actions. Therefore, they truly cannot help it. These people are not wired to care, therefore, not wired to be responsible either.
Now, this is a bit different from general irresponsible material. In the realm of the social world (times when one is among others), a psychopath struggles. This is not because they cannot interact with anyone well. Truth be told, they can do that just fine. When we reference “social irresponsibility,” we mean that they might overdrink in spite of warnings from others. They might get involved in altercations with others too.
While some might assume it’s an alcohol-infused issue when they start fights, that is not always the case. Sometimes, it just because they want to do it at the time. This is also a problem if a psychopath works for a specific business and gets into a random argument with a client. Ultimately, social behavior issues like this are among the signs that someone is a psychopath, but these same things can happen with others. Many with other mental disorders struggle in social situations too.
Remember that psychopaths do not experience emotions. At least not in the way the rest of us do. Due to this, they are going to have trouble understanding when enough is enough. Generally, they are great at manipulation. This is because they are able to fake various types of emotions and even make people like them. This can, in turn, allow them to become likable and thereby make it easier for them to manipulate others.
When we reference “hurting others,” we mention it in the form of emotional more than physical. While they might get into altercations, psychopaths more often prefer to manipulate through emotional triggers. This might be making a person fall in love with them and then ending the relationship once they get what they want out of them. That is a type of hurting someone, and quite common to see among psychopaths. Thus, it’s one of the major signs that someone is a psychopath.
If you recall, we referenced how psychopaths struggle with impulsiveness. This is a huge problem for many reasons, but the most notable is that it causes them to make reckless decisions. Some of those things can even involve them getting hurt, which is never good. There have been issues where psychopaths get into fights with others randomly. Yet this is not as common as one might think, though it is possible.
Sometimes, they might decide to do things like jump off their own roof. They also might drive too fast on a road and get into an accident. These are the types of things many have to worry about when it comes to psychopaths. More often than not, it is when they are alone with their thoughts. When they are around others, while they could still make mistakes, it is less likely they will do something that could get them seriously injured. Even then, it is STILL possible.
There are many people who have brain disorders in the world today. Only a few of them really offer any special abilities regarding intelligence. Even then, it is not something most will have. However, most psychopaths are usually pretty intelligent, but it is more often “emotional intelligence” than something like a high IQ score. Of course, simply being intelligent should not be seen as one of the signs that someone is a psychopath. You can be smart and not psychopathic too.
However, psychopaths have to be pretty smart because they need to be able to understand the world around them. That takes a special type of intelligence. A psychopath must follow along with a person’s specific mannerisms and how they speak, as well as their overall personality. They’ll then need to be able to adapt to it to come across as normal or likable. This is an act the must be able to do with everyone. While psychopaths do not always do well in school (long-term goal issue), this does not mean they do not know the answers to things. They simply do not care.
One of the hallmarks of a normal psychopath is their tendency to lie. Most of the time, they are lying because they want to get something out of someone. Thus, it is used quite often as a form of manipulation. For most manipulation tactics to work, at some point, you must lie. Some psychopaths also lead cults. In literally every single cult, you’ll have a leader who is choosing to lie to people in order to get something out of them.
This is often why many cults live off the grid or have people move in with other cult members. When you only hear the thoughts or ideas of one person, you’re only going to buy into those things. The lies you see from a leader are all to get something out of you, in the end. Lies are common among psychopaths because, to them, what they say or claim is all meant to attain something they do not have and feel they must take. Whether that’s power, money, or something else.
Have you ever met someone who just wants to watch the world burn? They will do anything they can to help create this and will sit back in the end just to see it happen. That is how some psychopaths are. It’s all about what they find compelling to them at the time. This causes many to intentionally cause chaos, then act innocent as they sit back and watch the chaos unfold, that they created. Sometimes, this comes in the form of provoking people repeatedly.
One thing some will do is provoke you, causing you to react. They will then tell you that they are “not going to keep having this same discussion with you.” It makes you feel overly sensitive after a while, even if you know you did nothing. In the workplace, they will try to make others see you as lesser than, all to hurt your credibility while upping their own. Most of the time, psychopaths bait us into falling for their chaos. They use our anger against us, which is something we need to keep in mind.
Hesitant To Ever Accept Responsibility For Their Actions
Let’s say a psychopath is caught red-handed trying to stir up chaos. One would assume if you are caught literally doing this, you’d confess that this was indeed what happened. Regardless of what you say, you know that everyone knows. There is no hiding it. But psychopaths struggle to see things that way. Instead, they will continue to try their tricks on you and proclaim that you clearly heard them wrong or assumed something incorrectly.
They might even try to put the blame on others. Saying they were “set-up to look like they did something by Todd.” They might even say that Bob told them to do this, or something along those lines. The entire time, they are trying to dismiss themselves from all potential blame. Being hesitant to accept responsibility for your actions is one of the biggest signs that someone is a psychopath. Many cannot do this because they feel they can always get the upper hand, and sometimes this is true.
Psychopaths are all about stimulation and what makes them feel engaged or interested. Without some sort of mental stimulation, they simply cannot care. But stimulation comes in a few different forms, with one of those being intimately active. One of the signs that a person is a psychopath is their intimate relationship history or lifestyle. While a psychopath might not be able to feel emotionally attached to someone they have physical intimacy with… they can be interested in them physically. If they enjoy it, they will continue seeing that person for this.
However, psychopaths generally struggle to have relationships for very long. This is due to their need to have physical relations as much as they can because it’s truly a stimulation point that many find addicting. Psychopaths will get into brief relationships just for the physical aspect and will have numerous affairs if married. Many also are not picky and will choose to have intimate relations indiscriminately. Many are also bisexual and have hook-ups with both men and women, sometimes even in a group setting. Female psychopaths will often use coitus to get what they want out of men, which tends to work incredibly well.
You’ve likely seen reports about psychopaths over the years where people were shocked to find out that they did something horrible. People like Charles Manson and Ted Bundy, both psychopaths, were considered very charming people. Some women notably threw themselves at them. Notably, one woman did this in the Ted Bundy trial. Even though she knew he killed many others. Charles Manson had a similar experience and someone still married the man, knowing what he did.
Psychopaths are often smooth talkers, very engaging, and slick. They are not shy at all, and never self-conscious. On top of that, they’re not afraid to say anything on their mind and will take over a conversation easily. That makes it feel like they are so confident, and confidence can be intriguing for people. While charm is one of the biggest signs that someone is a psychopath, charm itself is not psychopathic. But psychopaths never get tongue-tied. They always have something to say, which is free of social issues and even double-talk tactics.
While not all psychopaths are evil people, there are some that are. Those types of people are terrible human beings, regardless of their mental disorders. You do not see all psychopaths in prison or going on murderous rampages, which is important to take note of. It is not as if they’d need to think twice about doing it and could do so without remorse. But they do not, because there is still some ethical concept within most psychopathic people. For some though? That is not present.
Normal people feel remorseful when they do bad things, such as hurt others. But some psychopaths actually get off on this type of thing. They know they hurt someone and did what they did literally for that very reason. It is rare to get an apology from a psychopath, and usually only done because they need something from you. They do not have the ability to feel guilt or shame about what they do. Therefore, the lack of those things are major signs that someone is a psychopath.
Trying to turn people against each other is one of the major signs that someone is a psychopath. While many psychopaths like to cause chaos, the way some go about it will differ. Turning people against each other is easy for them and a common way to get what they want. They are terrific at arguing their case about someone, which is why you could begin hating someone you once liked and not know why. You could even dislike someone you’ve never actually met due to them.
They will whisper false gossip into people’s ears and watch what happens. Psychopaths are using our emotions against us, causing us to be jealous, upset, angry, or even suspicious of other people. It can even happen for no actual reason. They’ll try to remove themselves from the ordeal too. Doing so by “just saying what they heard,” or “letting you know what (insert name) mentioned.” Some do this just for attention to be given to them, while others do it to get ahead.
One of the most common signs that someone is a psychopath is an incredibly high ego. We’re talking about one so large that they will not even remotely believe they could be wrong about something. To them, they are the ultimate and no one else can compare. Of course, some psychopaths aren’t as vocal about this as others. Yet all psychopaths have a high ego, which is what gives them the confidence to go about doing the things they do.
Whether that is trying to do something incredibly difficult, doing a dangerous stunt, or anything of that nature. They never once saw themselves failing at anything. If they do, “they” didn’t fail but everything around them failed THEM. Some have an ego so large that they will blatantly do something wrong or horrible openly. Then try to act like nothing ever happened. It can even exist if they are caught on video evidence. Stubborn to the bitter end are psychopaths.
They Constantly Try To Trigger Your Cognitive Dissonance
One of the biggest signs that someone is a psychopath is that they try to control a narrative and trigger your cognitive dissonance. Narcissists do this too, but not quite as well as psychopaths. They want to be seen as greater than, and the only way to do this is by painting you as a problem. Most psychopaths like to soak up attention and will make themselves look “perfect” or try to push their image as the perfect one. That can cause many of us to doubt ourselves severely.
Some will try to copy the psychopath, but you’ll never be as perfect. The perfect person does not exist, which the psychopath knew beforehand. They did what they did literally to trick “you,” specifically. You are always the bad one, not them. You can only ever do wrong while they will always be in the right. Even if you do the same things they do. Psychopaths are great at making others feel like THEY are the problem, not them. This type of confusion is a form of cognitive dissonance.