What Is Psychopathy?

Psychopathy is among the most difficult disorders to spot. The psychopath can appear normal, even charming. Underneath, he lacks conscience and empathy, making him manipulative, volatile and often (but by no means always) criminal. She is an object of popular fascination and clinical anguish: adult psychopathy is largely impervious to treatment, though programs are in place to treat callous, unemotional youth in hopes of preventing them from maturing into psychopaths.

Psychopathy is a spectrum disorder and can be diagnosed only using the 20-item Hare Psychopathy Checklist. (The bar for clinical psychopathy is a score of 30 or more). Brain anatomy, genetics, and a person’s environment may all contribute to the development of psychopathic traits.

The terms “psychopath” and “sociopath” are often used interchangeably, but in correct parlance a “sociopath” refers to a person with antisocial tendencies that are ascribed to social or environmental factors, whereas psychopathic traits are more innate, though a chaotic or violent upbringing may tip the scales for those already predisposed to behave psychopathically. Both constructs are most closely represented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Recent posts on Psychopathy

Psychopaths Have Regrets: Can Early Help and Love Save Them?

By Rita Watson MPH on November 30, 2016 in With Love and Gratitude
If children with antisocial tendencies could be raised in a loving atmosphere or receive early intervention, perhaps full-blown psychopathic and violent tendencies might be curbed.

How Early Can We Identify a Psychopath in the Making?

New research suggests just how early in life the psychopath’s traits can be spotted.

The Machiavellian Boss

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on November 18, 2016 in A Sideways View
How do we define and understand the Machiavellian approach to life? Is it a personality trait or a belief system? What does psychology have to say about this 500-year-old concept?
James Bond Wikia

What Is the Link Between Heroism and Antisocial Behavior?

Research suggests a seemingly paradoxical link between antisocial behavior and heroism. Psychopathy has been suggested as a linking factor, but this seems unlikely.
used with permission from iclipart.com

3 Tips to Stay Safe When an Ex Becomes a Stalker

By Joni E Johnston Psy.D. on November 15, 2016 in The Human Equation
When a stalker is a former lover, the victim must be aware of the psychological blind spots that can increase her risk.
K. Ramsland

Serial Killers and Celebrity TV

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on November 13, 2016 in Shadow Boxing
A clip of a TV show that features a killer now on trial for four murders brings to mind other murderers who got their 15 minutes of TV fame.
K. Ramsland

This Week in Murder

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on November 06, 2016 in Shadow Boxing
A new textbook in forensic psychology that focuses on homicide offers an updated and substantive reference.

Could Vampires Be Real?

Another psychiatrist describes how a woman stored her own blood to look at it in times of stress, as this calmed her.

When Anxiety Means Suffering, Can Therapy Really Help?

By Tom Bunn L.C.S.W. on October 23, 2016 in Conquer Fear Of Flying
Some therapists intuitively help clients develop right brain self-regulation. Therapists who are not relationally intuitive apply "paint-by-numbers" therapy learned in grad school.

Diagnosing Psychopathy

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on October 23, 2016 in Wicked Deeds
Psychopathy is a continuum ranging from those who possess all of the traits and score highly on them to those who have the traits but score lower on them.

Are Creative People More Likely to Be Psychopathic?

Psychopathy, a trait associated with antisocial qualities, may show up in a prosocial form among creative people. New research shows the physiology supporting this intriguing link.

Psychosis and the Creation of Poetry

By Albert Rothenberg on October 22, 2016 in Creative Explorations
Poetry creation is often thought to result from the upsurge of unconscious process. As characteristic of schizophrenic thinking, such upsurge must be molded by creative cognition.

Hunting the Japanese Hospital Serial Killer

By Joni E Johnston Psy.D. on October 10, 2016 in The Human Equation
A serial killer is stalking senior citizens at a Japanese hospital. What kind of person would do this?
Mugshot: public domain

Who Wants to Be Ted Bundy?

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on October 09, 2016 in Shadow Boxing
A girl in England wanted to copy Ted Bundy. So did a boy. Bundy remains a darkly contagious figure for those who aspire to black deeds.

President Trump Releases His Tax Returns

By Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A. on October 05, 2016 in Just Listen
What if a President Trump releases his taxes and what he's hiding is so reprehensible—but legal—and we just have to live with it?
Pixabay

Eye Rolls, Shrugs, and Why Trump Is So Provocative

By Karen L Smith MSS, LCSW on October 03, 2016 in Full Living
Some folks have a knack for riling us up. It isn't magic.

Serial Killers Do Not Want to Get Caught

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on October 02, 2016 in Wicked Deeds
It is not true that serial killers want to get caught. Most of them love their work far too much for that to be true.

Coffee: Warding Off Dementia and Identifying Psychopaths

By Rita Watson MPH on September 28, 2016 in With Love and Gratitude
Coffee may ward off dementia and coffee preferences can help identify antisocial behavior.

Good Deeds, Sinister Motives

Good deeds can have a dark motive

5 Ways of the Corporate Psychopath

How ruthless predators infiltrate and compromise organizations.

6 Things Predators Already Know About You

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on September 16, 2016 in Shadow Boxing
The basic principles of social influence and persuasion are effective tools for predators.

The Macabre Appeal of Serial Killers

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on September 12, 2016 in Wicked Deeds
Serial killers are transformed into culture celebrities through the efforts of law enforcement authorities, the media and the public’s appetite for the macabre.
K.Ramsland

Serendipity and the Serial Killer

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on September 06, 2016 in Shadow Boxing
A series of coincidences made possible a unique approach to a serial killer's narrative.

Terrorism: Criminality in Search of a Target

Focus on the personality, not the after-the-fact justification

Murder of Mississippi Nuns Echoes Homicide From Long Ago

A suspect has been arrested—but did he know right from wrong?

The Strange Allure of the Killer Living Next Door

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on August 21, 2016 in Wicked Deeds
A serial killer is frequently an unassuming everyman who could easily be a next door neighbor or co-worker.

Narcissist or Sociopath? Similarities, Differences and Signs

Narcissists and sociopaths are often confused for one another, can be tough to spot, and can wreak havoc on your life. Here are 7 reasons why that's so and how to see them coming.
D. P. Lyle

Walk in My Shoes, Said the Serial Killer

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on August 09, 2016 in Shadow Boxing
As I discuss "Confession of a Serial Killer" on "Crime and Science Radio" this week, I'm reminded of how complex this 5-year project from a killer's point of view was.

Donald Trump as High in the Dark Triad

The dark triad has emerged as a powerful framework for understanding people. Here’s an application of this concept to presidential candidate, Donald Trump.