The Unrecognized Problem of Female Psychopaths
The Reality of Psychopathy
Some people do not have a conscience. This is an idea that developed during the last century, based upon psychological observations of male inmates.
Consequently, the anti-social behavior observed in this prison population forms the basis for much of what we now know about psychopathy, or what mental health professionals refer to as "anti-social personality disorder."
Since then, it's been widely accepted that most people with strong anti-social traits are male. Now, though, a handful of social scientists are beginning to question this assumption, pointing out that malignant narcissism, or psychopathy, may take a different form when the perpetrator is a woman.
Male psychopaths may be more prone to run-ins with the law. This is why an estimated 25 percent of male prison inmates seem to fit the clinical definition for this disorder.
Women, it's believed, have developed ways to abuse and deceive people in more subtle and socially acceptable ways, which allow them to skirt the law. They use what's known as "relational aggression" to hurt people. If this happens in the workplace, it typically turns into mobbing and the target is often fired. Although mobbing is evil and heinous, it's not illegal.
Unfortunately, there are very few studies exploring whether some woman are just as motivated to harm others, whether it be for personal gain or just for the sake of doing so. (Sadism and malignant narcissism often travel together.)
We do see the occasional accounts of female serial killers, and female con artists, such as those who bilk people out of a lot of money by claiming to be cancer victims. There are also the stories of black widows who mysteriously lose one husband after another, in rapid succession.
Yet, these sensationalized cases are probably just the tip of the iceberg. What about the female executive who claws her way by lying, cheating and sabotaging anyone who gets in her way?
She's not breaking the law and she won't wind up in jail. But she's certainly not conforming to appropriate social boundaries? She's also displaying all the elements of psychopathy, including shallowness, ruthlessness, deception and lack of remorse.
Research Needed on Female Psychopaths
Female Psychopaths Who Get Caught
There are some very dramatic stories involving women serial killers and others who physically harm people. When they get caught, it is clear that some women without a conscience do operate in a similar manner to their male counterparts.
One of the most notorious female serial killers operated in Florida, during the late 1900s. Aileen Wournos was convicted of killing six men, and was later sentenced to death. She died by lethal injection in 2002.
Although I don't want to label anyone as a psychopath, since I am not privy to their interior intentions, it is fair to say that Wournos' actions are consistent with this disorder.
There have been numerous other accounts of women who have killed others, even their own husbands and children. When this happens, it generates headlines, because this type of female behavior is so rare.
But what about the more "socialized" psychopaths, who fly under the radar, but are still highly dangerous? They may not have a criminal record, but society would be much better off if they were locked up.
Psychopaths are Devious
Females Who Evade the Law
It's possible to engage in "criminal" acts that, technically, aren't illegal, but probably should be.
For instance, consider the case of a middle-aged women who "befriends" an elderly neighbor? She provides much needed companionship. She drives this woman to her medical appointments. Because of failing eyesight, the younger neighbor offers to help write checks. Before long, she's handling all the money.
Unfortunately, the younger person also tries to isolate her elderly friend, who has no children of her own, from her nieces and nephews, who live out of town. Every time they call, they learn their aunt is "sleeping."
Then, there's the will. After their aunt passes, the legitimate heirs learn she left everything to this new neighbor. However, it isn't much, since their aunt has already given nearly everything she had to her "friend," before the younger woman skipped town.
Although pulling this off involved a lot of deceit and subterfuge, the younger woman technically didn't break the law, because she had the full consent of her neighbor, who was of sound mind.
More Socialized Psychopaths
I am not a mental health professional, but I write about malignant narcissism from personal experience, after a bizarre run in with a potential female narcissist I met at church. (Yes, truth is stranger than fiction.) Although I'm not an expert, I agree with those in the profession who believe the number of female psychopaths is greatly underestimated.
It appears as if there is a huge number of socialized female psychopaths walking among us. It used to be assumed that only 1 percent of the population suffered from this disorder. New insights into this condition, however, lead us to believe it's even more prevalent. Dr. Martha Stout, PhD, author of The Sociopath Next Door, believes the incidence of psychopathy is as high as 1 in 25.
If this is true, and the number of female psychopaths is similar to what's found in the male population, then there are many more dangerous women walking among us than we've been led to believe.
Female Malignant Narcissists
Socialized Psychopaths and Malignant Narcissists
The term "socialized psychopath" seems almost interchangeable with what Dr. Erich Fromm described in the 1960s, when he observed individuals with "malignant narcissism." He described their very peculiar behavior as "evil."
This very aptly describes someone who patiently plots to destroy another person, while, somehow, being able to maintain a saintly outward appearance. It's this very ability to move about in society, while not breaking any laws, that makes them so dangerous.
Socialized psychopaths are very adept at appearing normal. Most people who first meet them like them right away, because they are so witty and charming. Oftentimes, they present a "perfect" face to the world. They may be married with children, and they hold a high-powered position as well.
Yet they are very disturbed, despite the fact they appear to function so well.
Symptoms of Psychopathy
Charming and charismatic
Able to elicit sympathy
Your first impression of a psychopath will probably be favorable. You may think they are the "nicest person in the world."
A psychopath has no regard for others.
Lying and psychopathy go hand in hand
Some psychopaths cannot hold a job, and will leach off of others.
Throwing down a "pity card" may be one of the first indications you're dealing with a psychopath
How to Recognize a Psychopath
Female Psychopaths at Work
Malignant narcissists are actors on a stage, so they need an audience. They also need a gaggle of adoring fans. Possessing a mean streak, they also need a target.
The modern workplace provides all three. In America there are no laws against bullying someone in order to destroy their career or drive them out of a job. Efforts by various states to get anti-bullying legislation passed in the workplace have met with no success. It appears as if some women are taking full advantage of this lack of regulation.
According to very good data supplied by the Workplace Bullying Institute, run by a husband and wife team, the number of bullied workers in America is staggering. Right now, about 35 percent of US employees say they've been bullied on the job.
Most of the time, the perpetrator is a male. But in at least 40 percent of the cases, the corporate psychopath is a woman.
Even though workplace bullies are able to stay above the law, they still engage in anti-social behavior characterized by highly immoral actions.
For Additional Reading
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