How to Recognize a Psychopath

The Everyday Psychopath

Contrary to popular belief, psychopaths aren’t always of the physically violent criminal type. There are many psychopaths walking among the rest of us who lead successful careers, seem very popular, and engage in or attempt to engage in meaningful relationships with others. Maybe we have even attempted to have a relationship with one. Some of them may just be emotional abusers – distant or self-absorbed individuals who don’t seem to worry about the feelings of others and say cruel things without realizing the impact on others. Others are the workaholic types who seem so wrapped up in their careers that they focus on their ambitious plans rather than developing ties to other human beings.

The difference between the socially challenged and the psychopath lies in the intentions and motivations of the individual in question. Psychopaths are very cunning and designing in their actions. While they might not always be aware of or care about how their actions emotionally impact another person, they do know what to do and say to get what they want. They have a strategy to get what they want from you and know how to be charming and inviting to draw you into their worlds. In other words, they do understand enough about human emotion to know how to manipulate and take advantage. The socially inept person really has no clue about how to engage in human interactions and is coming from a place of innocence.

Top Ten Signs of A Psychopath

  • Overly charming on the outside
  • Engages in mainly superficial relationships
  • Egotistical and self-centered
  • Lack of empathy, unable to recognize or acknowledge other people’s facial expressions or emotions
  • No conscience, remorse or guilt
  • Lack of a moral compass, no values that they follow
  • Chronic lying
  • Callous behaviors
  • Unable to control impulses
  • Unable to love, uses false sense of love to manipulate and control others to get what they want

Can Anything be Done?

Unfortunately, you may not be able to identify a psychopath right away. They can be very charming. Once you have been sucked into their web, you might get hurt a few times before you recognize the behavioral patterns.

There are varying theories on if psychopaths can be cured or at least trained out of some of their behaviors. Many people would like to believe that all people can be saved. The idea that there is “good” in everyone may lead some to try to cure the psychopath. A true psychopath cannot feel remorse for anything they have done. They can only pretend to feel it. For therapy to work, you have to have an individual who wants to change his/her behavior and become fully engaged in the work of self-improvement. Why would a person without a conscience feel like he/she needs to change? Just keep this idea in mind before you decide to go trying to reform a psychopath.

It is a sad state of human affairs that we have psychopaths. Who knows really what creates such an individual? Perhaps, a chemical imbalance in the brain or a rough childhood really does lead to such behaviors. It is not our job to save everyone. You are the only one that is always going to be there for you. Take care of yourself and be on the look out for the psychopath.

Check out these articles for more information on the everyday psychopath.

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Comments 34 comments

cheatlierepeat profile image

cheatlierepeat 5 years ago from Canada

Great informative article. My ex is a narcissist and managed to hide it for years. I only saw the "true" colors after leaving and he is now making up for all the years he missed making me "pay". In hindsight, the signs were there and how I wish I had this info before I ever married him. Great source of information, hope it helps others recognize signs in time. Thank you! Voted up and useful!

Nexusx2 profile image

Nexusx2 5 years ago

This was very interesting. I didn't know half of the things you wrote about. Very informative.

vvaleed 5 years ago

Hi truthfornow thanks a lot for selecting such a unique topic and providing us such a valuable information regarding these psychopath individuals. however, this hub reminds me of my college days when i met the same psycho student. though he seemed to be normal apparently (as you mentioned) and by the way he was also very talented and was a great drama actor, but we could not bear too much time with him owing to his unpredictable attitude.

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA Author

I have had a few psychopaths in my life and unfortunately you don't really know until after the fact. It is so hard to see pass their charm. Thanks for reading and the comments.

Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

I was really unaware of what defined a psychopath. Regardless, I believe your synopis on the futility of hoping for a successful outcome with treatment for someone who believes there is nothing wrong with them. I especially like your final lines about, in the end, we must take care of ourselves. As mom to a grown daughter, who was determined by a psychologist to be oppositional-defiant at a young age, I learned to pick my battles carefully or remain in an endless war. I came to the conclusion, that even our children are not within our control, and the only actions I was in charge of are my own. I tried to set a good example, but whether at school or with friends, she chose her own way, as we all do eventually. It is futile to insist on therapy if the individual believes they are fine. As they mature, it doesn't get easier. The problems, including financial, grow larger. It is a gut-wrenching dilemma, as I find it impossible to turn away from my own, even in adulthood. Since I am now laid off, when I am homeless myself, I will no longer have the option to pay her rent and buy her necessities. And, in some ways, it may be a relief. The stress is killer. Thank you for a great topic and a well-written, realistic approach with an invaluable wealth of information.

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA Author

It must be painful Amy to go through every thing you have and are going through with your daughter. It can be tough to see our loved ones not want to get help. Maybe one day she will see the light. You are a strong survivor.

Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Thank you, truthfornow. My daughter would have to want to see reality and she seems to defy it. There is always a logical reason or someone to blame. I sometimes feel there is a window of opportunity and I worry that it has closed. I know that as long as we are alive there is hope for change, but it must be recognized as needed and worked towards attaining. There is truth in "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." I appreciate your understanding. Thank you.

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

In 2010 I had the unfortunate privilege to experience for 6 months a non-violent psychopath in all his glory. Thereafter it took me almost a year to recover from the shocks he had given me. But today I know he was an important course I had to follow - he expanded my vision and insight; he made me wiser and stronger. Thanks to him I even managed to conquer my own ego.

And so he will live on, making others wiser and stronger, until the day he dies.

One of his many interesting stories: He blamed his eldest sister because she had forbidden him to visit their mother on her deathbed. I felt so sorry for him and I thought his sister was awfully rude... until I learnt the reason why she could not allow him (ever again) near their mother.

Thanks for this informative hub about the non-violent Psychopath.

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA Author

MartieCoetser, I am glad you got away. It is from personal experience that I write this article. I can also testify it takes a long time to get over being involved on any level with a psychopath. It is amazing how skilled they are at getting you to believe their stories. I am glad your experience made you stronger. Thanks for reading and commenting.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

A well written informative hub. I think we all have met psychopaths and were not aware at the time. I think i knew one. Thank God i got away. I was married to him for five years, a very wealthy man, who showered me with things that i didn't want or need. It took me away from my family. To get away, i hid among friends. I still am afraid when the phone rings....Peace

Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

Hi truthfornow. Well-written hub. Rated up and more.

I know a sociopath, but it's not practical to avoid him entirely. He knows that I know, and his attitude towards my insight is best described by the cynical witticism, "Aside from that Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

It's not easy to detect non-violent psychopathy. If you suspect it, I'd advise listening closely to what he says, and then comparing that with other things he's said, and especially with his actual behavior. Successful liars need to have excellent memories.

There's also the total inability to put himself in another person's shoes. He has practiced 'aping' human emotions that he is totally incapable of internalizing. And when he encounters a nuance in social interaction that's not in his repertoire, you get the feeling that he's not playing with a full deck.

I've read and recommend Robert Hare's insightful book, Without Conscience, which you've listed above. One of these days, I'll get around to reading the more recent one that he co-authored, Snakes in Suits.

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

truthfornow - do you know they don't call them psychopaths any more but sociopaths? Thanks again for this informative hub.

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA Author

Thanks for the constructive criticism . . . I don't mean to be an expert. In my psychology classes, we called it psychopath because there is debate on what the differences are between the two terms ~ and undefined conditions = no treatment. This is actually a hot debate in the field, so I played it safe and go "old school" until they work it out.

If you want to get technical, the DSM calls it something else. . .

Here is some more information on the debate of the two terms for those who are interested:

I prefer psychopath because the people I know what this condition don't care about others ~ not even supposed loved ones. And the word "psycho" reminds me to stay away.

Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

MartieCoetser wrote:

"truthfornow - do you know they don't call them psychopaths any more but sociopaths?"

I think that this is a matter of nuance. According to Robert Hare's book, the two words mean essentially the same thing. However the connotations are different. And the book's nomenclature may be slightly outdated.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

You might find PsychoBabble by Richard Ganz a very interesting read.

thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 4 years ago from India

This is disturbing. How do we know if there is someone in the workplace? If we find anyone like this, how can we help them? Is it a personality disorder?

Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

Thumbi7, there's precious little that we can do to help a sociopath. If they land in prison, they may 'enthusiastically' participate in group therapy, but it's just a game to them. They may be jockeying for parole, for example.

When a sociopath has been convicted of a crime, and has been correctly labeled, the best that we can do is nonviolent warehousing for as long as the law allows.

There really are people--even from good families--who have no conscience whatsoever. I wouldn't classify it is a personality disorder, because that implies some degree of treatability. We're talking about a major, untreatable character disorder here.

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA Author

Yes, I think people without a conscience cannot be treated. Hopefully, there is no one like that where you work.

Rick Gri 4 years ago

My ex-girlfriend was informally diagnosed by not one, but two psychologists (one was my client) as being a non-violent psychopath. Neither person ever met my ex-girlfriend and, therefore, neither examed or tested her. But I separately told each about myself and my ex-girlfriend as objectively and honestly as I could, and hoped they could sort through it all. After an hour of conversation, my former client (a psychologist of 35 years) immediately concluded my ex-girlfriend was a non-violent psychopath as awell as passive/aggressive. The other person was a cleaning woman from Hungary who had degrees in psychology and chemistry. She knew my ex-girfriend for three years and, after I told her about the above, she also immediately diagnosed my ex-girlfriend as a non-violent psychopath. It surprised me that here were two idenitical diagnoses and sounded very bad because I had never heard of it. In looking back, I told each person the Hare factors (18 of them). My ex-girlfriend's mother is crazy, according to my ex (a woman who was not prone to exaggerate). For example, the mother raised her daughter with "tough love" (i.e., physically beat her, locked her out of her house naked a few times when she was 4 and 5 years old, kept her paternal grandmother from touching her (i.e., kissing, hugging. holding, rtc.) when she came over out of jealousy. My ex did not allow her mother to be around her adult or nearly aduly children when I first met her (probably as punishment for the above past behavior). When her mother was blaming her when the County was putting her dog down (about a year after I met my ex), my ex-girlfriend asked me to intervene with her mother. I tried to be diplomatic, but her mother told me "Honey, don't you dare tell me how to raise J, I've raised her for 45 years, and nobody is going to tell me what to do!" I have never met more over-controlliing people in my life, then my my ex-girlfriend and her mother. We were getting ready for a poker party which was held in her house because mine was too small for the number of people. I adjusted the track lighting switched before we left to buy snacks. She yanked them down and I asked why. She said "It's my house, my electricty, and my money." She and her mother blamed everybody for everything. Her lying and truth-twisting were "breath-taking" I would say. Telling the truth and lying were the same to her. I actually would record our conversations to preserve the truth. That should have been a red flag, but I didn't know better. I do now and that will never happen again. My ex-girlfriend would never admit anything and would try to turn obvious things around. For the first few yeaws, she would say (and actually believe) "I have no problems, my only problem is you." The problem was that when I finally figured my ex-girlfriend out (and I could "predict" her behavior in response to things), I read that a non-violent psychopath will never seek treatment unless her/his environment was too painful. Also, successful treatment is a rarity anyway. My ex looked down on most people as her mother did. Most people were beneath her and were existed for her use.

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA Author

What a story Rick Gri. I think your story can help others. I am glad that you are out of that relationship.

Rick Gri 4 years ago

I appreciate your thoughts. One additional situation was when my ex-girlfriend stated that she didn't know how her mother could be so mean and not even care. I replied, that can be you often. It was strange that my true words went right through my ex-girlfriend without a comment or gesture from her. I believe that, because she knew her mother was crazy (non-violent psychopath probably), my ex-girlfriend could not, or would not, accept that she had many of her mother's negatives as well as positives.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Whew! What a hub discussion about a hot topic for sure. Add me to the club of 'people who have met and survived a psychopatholigical relationship'.

I love what Marie C mentioned, (yes...I actually read through all of the comments, haha). That she had had the 'privilage' of having had the experience in 2010. Yes, I would have to agree with her-boy, did I wake up and grow up from the one I had to recover from.

My late husband would consistently tell me I was 'too naive' about people-trusted them to a fault without getting to know them. I never believed him until I came out of that relationship. Now, I doubt that I will ever be 'charmed' by the smooth talk of a sociopath again, without the hairs on the back of my neck raising.

Oh, boy...I'm sure so many of our stories would be similar if we sat in one room. There are dangerous men and women out there and their lack of empathy is one sure fire way to do a 'check in' before proceeding.

I was struck also by thumbi7's desire to help. Don't help, "run the other way as fast as you can!" As you, and others here, have stated, "there is no treatment for a psychopath." In my field, that was a huge lesson to learn, as well.

And, on the subject of work-just last week I took care of a patient who made the hairs on the back of my neck go up with his behavior and comment, "Denise, that's a nice name...where are you from?" said the fox with his crafty smile. I gave a warning shout to the other staff to watch his manipulation. When I came back two days later he was gone-I thought he had been discharged, but later discovered he went off on someone, (his anger when he did not get his way was just under the surface), and they moved him to the acute unit. Good riddance, until I have to work down there! LOL

Thanks for the excellent read-I voted it up and U/I

BTW-read the new revision for this category-thank you for that link, and was intrigued by this update. Appreciate the info there and that you had added the link.

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA Author

Thanks Denise Handlon for your very detailed and personal comments, really adds to the discussion. Sounds like you narrowly escaped a dangerous situation on the job. Hope you don't have to deal with him again. People don't really know until they experience this type of person how creepy and how much they can manipulate. Thanks very much for the vote up.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Hi truthfornow-I'll be dealing with him when my assignment takes me to the acute unit (psychiatric hospital) this weekend. I spoke with the nurses there last week and they informed me they had to call the campus police because he had 'shown his colors'. It's part of my job, unfortunately.

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA Author

Be Safe.

starme77 profile image

starme77 4 years ago

I was married to one for over 20 years - and my son unfourtanatly - it looks as though he has inherited the same problem as his Dad - I'm not sure if his behavior is inherited or learned but whichever it is at 19 he is the exact same way- he lies and minipulates to try to get what he wants and is only sorry when he is caught or called on it - he feels no remorse at all and he gets violent just like his father did - when he came to my house he kicked my cat - thought no one seen him - then lied about it - it's a sad - sad thing to see your own son end up like this it really is

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA Author

I am so sorry you are going through this situation. Prayers for you starme77.

starme77 profile image

starme77 4 years ago

Thanks for the prayers I appreciate it

Angela Brummer profile image

Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

Great information! I have encounter some. superficial is true and explains why one I met was anything but kind to anyone that he deemed unable to offer him anything monitary!

CrisSp profile image

CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

Be on the look out as sociopaths are extremely charming and you're right, they know how to get you without you knowing. I once have written a hub about the same subject and I couldn't agree more on the points you have raised here. Thanks for sharing this useful and informative hub.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada

Some high-functioning sociopaths make wonderful captains of industry - not so great for anyone their company rides rough-shod over, though. I HAD a charming friend who displayed most (if not all) of the characteristics of a sociopath, and was certainly good at getting his way and getting around people - quite a few got hurt along his way.

sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

I am sure it is very hard to quickly recognize a sociopath. I am always leary of the people that are "overly charming". They usually are the ones that will tell you just what you want to hear in order to get what they want out of you. Very good information here, we need to not get to close to people before we really understand what makes them tick! Up, useful and interesting. :)

temptor94 profile image

temptor94 2 years ago from India

Very interesting post :) There are psychopaths (or rather sociopaths) all around us who exploit people for their own gains and use emotional manipulation. One of my favorite topics! Glad to read your wonderful article :)

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Marie...You have done a superb job of describing the psychopath. What is especially impressive is that you have enlightened your readers to the fact that these disturbed individuals do not wear Neon Signs, flashing a warning of their dangerous disorder.

Far too many of the unsuspecting general public hold the erroneous idea that psychopaths are blatantly recognizable.

As one who has had decades of experience, researching & working with numerous diagnoses.....I commend you on this honest, straightforward article...Up+++

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