Could this mean be a charming psychopath?

Do You Know a Charming Psychopath?

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Is There a Psychopath in your Midst?

First, the diagnosis “psychopath” is no longer listed in the bible of the mental health profession, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition {DSM  IV). However, I will use that term because most of us are familiar with it and it still applies to this life philosophy and behavior. The DSM IV placed psychopaths under the catch­ all “anti-social personality.” There are distinct differences. Don’t think just because the diagnosis has been erased that there has been a mass extinction. Oh no, psychopaths are still with us. Do you know someone who is a psychopath? You may. One in every one hundred people meets the diagnostic criteria. I am not referring to the serial killers from whom you hide under your seat at the movies. They are exceptionally rare.

“It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.” Mark Twain

One writer described psychopaths as “soulless beings.” This description conjures up images of long white fangs, a deathly pale complexion and a black opera cape. Psychopaths look just like the rest of us. In fact, they are often considered quite attractive by the opposite sex. Dr. Hervey Cleckely wrote a classic volume, The Mask of Sanity. Dr. Cleckely uses adjectives and terms such as likeable, charming, intelligent, great success with the ladies. And on their dark side, he says they are irresponsible and self-destructive. Dr. Cleckely is a master of understatement.

I’ll add my own attributes. Psychopaths are often fun, witty, charming and charismatic. Some are extremely intelligent and highly educated. How are psychopaths different from other annoying people? They have no conscience. Their emotions are shallow and egocentric. Other human beings are simply props for their performance. Where will you find a psychopath? Anywhere. You are apt to find a psychopath in a boardroom, pool hall, college classroom (teaching), prison, operating room, or pulpit on Sunday morning. They adapt well, considering their emotional limitations, and they can be found in all socioeconomic and educational levels.

No matter where you might find one, you can be certain he will be leaving misery, bewilderment and heartbreak in his wake. Dr. Robert Hare says of them, “They are . . . likely to be men and women you know who move through life with supreme self-confidence-but  without  a conscience.” Dr. Hare continues to paint the psychopath’s image: “He will choose you, disarm you with his words, and control you with his presence. He will delight you with his wit. He will smile and deceive you, and he will scare you with his eyes.” If eyes are the windows to the soul, look into the eyes of a psychopath and you will see darkness where a soul should reside. I have looked into those soulless eyes. What could possibly be more disturbing? When they look back …

Below are the behaviors of a psychopath. Do they fit someone you know? Could you be a victim of a psychopath? Answer “True” or “False” to indicate whether or no someone you know exhibits each of these 17 behaviors.


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1. Inconsistencies between expressed emotions and body language.
2. Numerous lies-which are denied.
3. Bigger than life and charismatic.
4. A spotty employment history.
5. Says things that are cold and callous, and then says, “I was just kidding . . .• (probably after seeing your reaction).


© 2016, Dr. Dorothy McCoy. All rights reserved.