‘Psychopath’ is a term that refers to a person who is insensitive and cruel to others, does not emote, and does not have morals. Psychopathy is a condition with symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. However, the classification of a psychopath is only a tiny percentage of people with an antisocial personality disorder.
What is a psychopath?
A psychopath is a person who displays several antisocial characteristics like callous behaviour towards others, possessing an unemotional mindset, and exhibiting morally depraved behaviour. Psychopathic behaviour is associated with psychopaths, varying significantly from one person to another.
There is a difference between psychopaths and psychopathic traits. Psychopathic traits are cruelty, callousness, immorality, and an unemotional mindset. There are many instances where people exhibit psychopathic traits, but they are not psychopaths by definition or do not necessarily engage in psychopathic behaviour. Psychopaths are those people who show not only psychopathic traits but also antisocial behaviour.
What are the signs of a psychopath?
Doctors do not consider psychopathy a medical condition; hence, there is no diagnosis for psychopaths. However, some clear signs indicate a person might be a psychopath. These are:
- Conflicting behaviour with social rules and norms
- Showing a disregard for other people’s rights and freedom
- Being unable to perceive what is right and wrong
- Being unable to show remorse and empathy
- Possessing the habit of lying frequently
- Manipulating and hurting others repeatedly
- Tending to break the law often
- Showing a disregard for safety and responsibility
- Being unable to control anger
- Being narcissistic
Additionally, people with an antisocial personality disorder may lack remorse, not react as if they have hurt someone, and may be impulsive or abusive.
How do psychopaths view the world?
It is scarce for a psychopathic person to spend time with others. Psychopaths have a problem understanding other people’s emotions and being considerate of them, which brings out the traits of callousness and narcissism. Below are some ways psychopaths view the world and other people:
- They view others as inferior to them in every aspect, whether intellectual or physical.
- They dislike other people’s ability to manifest emotions and cannot process a situation when someone shows them any emotion.
- They cannot comprehend that others are willing to help others by politeness or good manners.
- They believe that feelings like “Emotions”, “conscience”, “morality”, “ethics”, and “guilt” are weaknesses.
- They consider their lack of emotions an advantage that will help them in their life and make them better than others.
- They do not care about other people unless they have their benefit vested somewhere.
- They view people with emotions to get easily manipulated.
- They do not care about rules or morals in the world.
The consequences of psychopathic behaviour
Psychopathic behaviour has its adverse consequences. Psychopaths tend to be abusive and cruel. They lack empathy, which is not socially suitable. Below are some results of psychopathic behaviour:
Source of Sadness
Unlike the widespread belief that psychopaths do not emote or process their feelings, they undergo emotional pain for multiple reasons. Like ordinary people, psychopaths develop a deep desire to be loved and cared for, which remains unfulfilled because of their apathy and cruel nature. Hence, psychopathic behaviour is a source of sadness for some of them.
Violent Acts and Emotional Pain
Because psychopaths are socially isolated and lonely due to their condition, they might act violently, committing criminal offences. They believe that it is them against the world, that they are alone and therefore entitled to privileges and rights that apply only to them. It results in psychopaths committing violence. Hence, the consequences of psychopathic behaviour are emotional pain and violence.
What are the causes of psychopathic behaviour?
Below are the causes of psychopathic behaviour in people:
1. Genetic factors
Although no gene in the D.N.A. responsible for psychopathic behaviour exists, many researchers believe parents can pass psychopathy on to their children. Even if the parents are not psychopathic, they may have a genetic variation that causes psychopathy in their children.
2. Environmental risk factors
Many environmental risk factors contribute to psychopathy in people, like:
- Smoking, drinking, or excess stress during pregnancy
- Birth complications
- Not receiving enough love and warmth from parents during childhood
3. Differences in the brain structure
Many psychopaths have a deformed or abnormal brain structure. The amygdala in a brain is involved in empathetic behaviour, fearful encounters and social responsiveness. As a child, a person’s amygdala might develop different from others, causing them to become a psychopath.
What is the treatment for psychopaths?
The treatment of psychopathy is multi-model. Below are some treatment methods for psychopathy:
Medications have proven to control the psychopathic traits in psychopaths. Because psychopaths generally lack serotonin, a hormone responsible for happy thoughts and emotions, they are medications that increase the level of this hormone. However, these medications do help reduce their psychopathic traits.
2. Individual therapy
In a one-on-one therapy session with a psychopath, a therapist interacts with them to bring out their subdued feelings. The therapist may then prescribe certain medications based on their assessment.
3. Group therapy
A group of psychopaths can be treated together in a session conducted by a therapist. All the patients share their feelings with the entire group. The therapist may also prescribe medications to the patients depending upon the assessment.
How to protect yourself from psychopaths?
Psychopaths tend to commit violent crimes and break laws. Even though most serial killers and criminals are psychopaths, not all psychopaths are violent or dangerous. Nevertheless, you can follow these steps to protect yourself from a psychopath:
- Keep your emotions in control in front of a psychopath.
- Do not show a psychopath that you are afraid or intimidated by them.
- Do not believe them easily.
- Try to have a conversation about them rather than you.
- Try to maintain distance from them and have online communication whenever possible.
- Do not venture into secluded places with them.
What is the future of psychopathy?
Psychopathy is concerned with behavioural traits rather than being a disease. Currently, there is no definite cure for psychopathy. We do know that psychopaths tend to become violent criminals and serial killers. However, to compare every psychopath to a serial killer is unfair. For the betterment of psychopaths and society, every psychopath accepts their condition and gets treatment through therapy. Therapy helps keep many psychopathic traits like anger, cruelty, and apathy. Society must remove the stigma from the term ‘psychopath’. Close friends and family members of psychopaths must encourage them to go for therapy sessions and make them feel loved and welcomed. Those aware of a person’s psychopathy must consider how to behave with them to aid this process.
Psychopathy is a complex condition generally caused by genetic factors or ill-treatment meted out in childhood, resulting in emotional trauma. While psychopathy does not yet have a definite cure, there are a few steps that both the psychopaths and society can take not to trigger psychopathic traits. With awareness and sensitivity, the path to a cure gets closer.