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Myths and Truths About Psychopaths

Updated on July 17, 2015

A high-functioning psychopath is also known as a sociopath.

All sociopaths are psychopathic, but all psychopaths may not be sociopaths.

Common Belief About Psychopaths

Most people think that a psychopath is a deranged killer who goes on random killing sprees. This is nothing but a myth created by TV and movies.

Psychopathy is merely a thought process of people with certain characteristic traits like lack of empathy, narcissism, need for self-gratification and so on.

Clinically speaking, psychopaths need not be killers at all or even violent for that matter. Psychopaths should not be confused with serial killers.

Every serial killer is a psychopath, but the converse is not true.

Most serial killers suffers from some kind of anti-social disorder that fuels their violent nature. Psychopathic disorder just helps them get away with their actions till the law catches up with them.

Common Psychopathic Traits


Researchers and experts have found that a considerable number of human beings have psychopathic traits in their character.

If you notice the table below, I have listed the characteristics under positive and negative traits. The negative traits cause trouble and disturbance to people, while the positive ones are beneficial to the psychopath as well as to society (in some cases).

Extremely self-centered
Thinks with cold logic
Lack of conscience
Calm and composed under pressure
Absence of empathy
Displays superficial charm
Very ego-centric and narcissitic
Good at masking their true nature
Needs constant excitement
Greatly perceptive of people's strengths and weaknesses
Good at manipulating others
Fearless in the face of challenges
Enjoys playing mind games
Doesn't hesitate to take harsh decisions
Devoid of emotions
Likes to emotionally abuse people
Resents authority or rules
Cannot maintain stable relationships

The Psychopaths Around Us

All of us would have come across people with at least few of the above qualities, though to varying degrees. Look all around you, you will find a psychopath somewhere.

  • It may be in the form of the smooth-talking boss at the workplace who knows how to extract work out of his slogging employees.

  • Or the dynamic businessman who is never scared to take risks

  • Think about the surgeon who performs complicated operations to saves lives without losing his nerve.

  • There are firemen and rescue workers who pull out injured people from disaster sites. Can we imagine the amount of mental pressure that these people face in such situations? They are forced to look beyond the horror for the greater good.

  • Consider the work of crime scene investigation or forensic experts. They need to witness blood and gore all the time and yet keep their calm. After all, it's their job!

  • Think about the lawyers who toil day and night to dig out facts from a sea of theories, incidents and witnesses.

  • Or the enigmatic and dangerous intelligence agent who can glibly extract information from unsuspecting people and shoot down adversaries without batting an eyelid. Remember James Bond?

  • The genius detectives who see through all masks and pretensions, sniffing out even the minutest anomaly in a case.

These people can perform their jobs well because they can think calmly without bringing their emotions into picture. None of the above people would qualify as insane or homicidal. What sets them apart is the rare ability to maintain dead calm when others are unable to.


Know When To Walk Away

We saw the positive aspects of a psychopath, without which our society cannot function properly. But there are those who possess only the ugly characteristics of psychopathy.

Such people use a mask of friendship to get close to their gullible targets whom they use for their own gains. They drain you out mentally and emotionally, taking pleasure in the entire process. Learn to identify these type of people and walk away before it is too late!

1. Are you in a relationship with a psychopath?

It could be the emotionally abusive boyfriend or girlfriend who exploits you before leaving for greener pastures. They charm their way into your life and give you the feeling that they are the best things that could possibly ever happen to you. They tell you exactly what you want to hear. You think, he is too good to be true!!

As time passes, the layers slowly start coming off. You realize that your partner is no longer the wonderful person he used to be a year back. He frequently plays with your feelings, gives you the silent treatment when something doesn't go his way. He insults you in front of others and likes to see you humiliated. When you try to break up, he pretends that he can't live without you and sweet talks you back into the relationship. Then the cycle repeats.

If the whole thing sounds familiar to you, you are in a relationship with a psychopath. Break away now without looking back. If you don't, he will eventually get bored of you and dump you for his next potential victim. By then, you would have lost all your self-esteem to the relationship.

2. Psychopaths in the workplace

There will always be that one colleague who will try to get you into trouble for no apparent reason. He/she will be jealous of everyone and will always try to prove that others are inferior to them. Such a person would have studied your weaknesses well and would take every chance to hit your trigger point. Many of us would react by losing our cool. That would only worsen matters for you. The psycho will use his natural tactics to convince your boss that the problem lies within you.

Best way to handle these kind of people is to first study them, get to know their strengths and weakness. Avoid them as much as possible and don't fight with them unless they initiate it. But if they strike, you need to strike back in a calm yet logical way. That is why it is so crucial to know their vulnerabilities. Once they realize that you can also hit below the belt, they will steer clear of you.

3. Mean relative or friend

If you have a friend or relative who constantly takes advantage of you but never returns the favor, you are just being a doormat. If that person criticizes you frequently or intentionally hurts you, he obviously hates you inwardly. Break up the friendship as nothing good can come out of it. Unfortunately, we cannot choose our relatives but we can definitely avoid them. If you run into a mean relative at a get-together, try not to get into a conversation. If possible, try to escape with a polite smile from a distance.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Learn one quality from psychopaths - filtering what they need and discarding what they don't. Likewise, identify the positive traits in a psychopath and follow them to improve your life. At the same time, keep your distance and know when to protect yourself from the negative traits.

© 2014 Ritu Temptor


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    • sadstill22 profile image

      Poca 3 years ago from Hubpages, My World

      awesome post

    • IndependentMind profile image

      IndependentMind 3 years ago

      Oddly enough i was just recently drafting an article to post on H.P. citing the differences between a psychopath and a sociopath. After reading yours and looking at the positive and negative traits i decided it would be more of an autobiography than not. So i have decided to abandon that idea. L.O.L.

      Well written and an interesting read.

      voted up, interesting and awesome

    • temptor94 profile image

      Ritu Temptor 3 years ago from India

      @sadstill22 Thank you for reading and commenting!

    • temptor94 profile image

      Ritu Temptor 3 years ago from India

      @IndependentMind LOL :D That's a good one! I would be really interested to read the auto-biography :)

      Thank you for your comment and votes! I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who finds this topic fascinating :)

    • profile image

      Adelle Landman 3 years ago from Johannesburg, South Africa

      I believe a lot of what we experience from others are a part of ourselves. Who we attract in our lives, somehow magnify an issue inside ourselves.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The thought of such types scares me away a well informed hub on these characters.

    • temptor94 profile image

      Ritu Temptor 3 years ago from India

      @Della30 Yes, you are right. Many of the times, we tend to get drawn towards the wrong people because of certain inadequacies within us. Experiences with selfish and manipulative people should be an eye opener on how we can overcome our own weaknesses that pulls us to these people in the first place.

    • temptor94 profile image

      Ritu Temptor 3 years ago from India

      @DDE These characters are scary indeed. The only problem is that most of them blend too well in the crowd. But the first red alert we spot should keep us away from there on.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 3 years ago from Midwest

      It's very good to see this pointed out in such an easy to understand way. Most people immediately have negative thoughts when they hear terms like sociopathic or psycopath etc. and assume deranged serial killers etc. Having known a couple of these people in my own life, I can attest that they often have both positive and negative qualities and that they can function well in society and not be criminals - but still impossible to live/deal with a lot of the time. Always shades of grey in life, all of us probably have some of these traits if we're honest.

    • temptor94 profile image

      Ritu Temptor 3 years ago from India

      @ChristinS That's so true! We all have some psychopathic traits in us, human nature is never black or white, there's a lot of grey area. The hard-core folks just happen to use them more efficiently than the rest of us.

    • lyoness913 profile image

      Wendi Pembridge Skilling 2 years ago from Overland Park, KS

      Very interesting. I think my co-worker displays 3/4ths of these traits. Now, I am trying to think of others I know- and there are several- who are the same way! I guess I always thought of 'Dexter-ish' people.. Great article, voted up, useful and interesting!

      -Wendi :)

    • temptor94 profile image

      Ritu Temptor 2 years ago from India

      Thank you Wendi :) Maybe it is better to steer clear of your co-worker then, unless he is like Dexter of course :) Unfortunately the socios we see around us are not as justice-driven or moral-code driven as Dexter.

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