I’m not a Psychopath… are You?

The term psychopath. We hear it, we use it, do we misinterpret it? You could have crossed a psychopath in the streets yesterday and you would not have realized it. The reality is that psychopathy is among us in our everyday lives and is often under diagnosed and misdiagnosed. There are tests that exist for it to help the average joe self test and to help specialists diagnose it. Often times people mistake antisocial personality disorder for psychopathy making the proper diagnosis of this mental disorder a real tricky feat. I’m going to briefly discuss the disorders and discuss the tests that exist.

Someone who is a psychopath is someone who does not feel guilt. He or she is someone who does not feel empathy, love and they normally do not have meaningful intimate relationships. A psychopath is someone who often gives an excuse for their outrageous actions, and placing the blame on others instead. Finally, a psychopath is someone who does not often learn from mistakes or improve from negative feedback.

How does this differ from Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)? Like psychopathy, someone with APD feels little to no empathy towards others and often shows a disregard toward people’s rights. It is clear that the two can easily be mistaken for one another and can even be misinterpreted. A big difference between the two is that psychopathy can easily go undetected in daily life whereas those with APD have difficulty keeping up with financial responsibilities among others making the person more detectable. Think of Dexter Morgan from the TV show Dexter. He is a psychopathic forensics specialist working for the Miami police and he goes completely undetected in his daily life. Goes to show that a psychopath can be present among us at any time.

Unlike psychopathy, APD is a diagnosable mental state and is found in the DSM-V. It includes a list of criteria including that the person must be 18 years of age, they must meet certain symptomatic criteria and that they can’t be experiencing things as a result of drug use. What is available to us to discover if someone is psychopathic is the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R). The PCL-R was designed to measure the degree of people’s psychopathic tendencies. I have done the checklist (and passed… don’t worry) and although most questions could illicit a valid result, some of them are tricky and could lead to a person obtaining a score diagnosable for psychopathy. Although there are skeptics, there have been many studies that have praised the PCL-R and use it to predict the likelihood of future violent behaviour.

The mere existence of a test makes it very easy to believe false ideas about psychopathy. For my final thought, I will leave you with a few myths about the disorder. Psychopathy is testable and many people can have it and live life undetected. It doesn’t mean that there’s 100 Dexter Morgans exploring Montreal, but it doesn’t mean they’re not there.

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