Could You Be Dating A Psychopath And Not Know It?

This weekend, I watched a National Geographic documentary called 'Science of Evil'. In it, experts described the forces behind the worst of human conduct-situational suggestibility (i.e. prisons), self-preservation, brain defects, etc. One word that came up quite often was psychopath. While it's no surprise that a person like Ted Bundy or the BTK killer would be given that label, I found it interesting that many psychopaths can go through society relatively unnoticed. They might not be killers, but they have no conscience and can easily hurt someone through emotional, sexual and financial means without a second thought. Psychopaths make up less than 1% of the population, so most of us will not come across one. They are, however, very charming and can cause untold damage to any woman they get involved with. The 'true crime documentary' nut in me finds this both interesting and scary at the same time. I'm not trying to scare anyone, just inform.

Let me make something clear: although many people use the terms interchangeably, there are slight differences between a psychopath and a sociopath. For instance, psychopathy is thought to be something a person is born with ('nature') whereas sociopathy is thought to be influenced by a person's environment ('nurture'). Also, while neither will feel remorse or guilt for their bad acts toward humanity as a whole, sociopaths can form emotional attachments and thus feel bad for things that hurt those particular people. Psychopaths, being much more 'calculating' and deliberate in their misdeeds, cannot. It's very difficult to prove these things, of course, but these are some of the ideas psychiatrists have come up with in recent years. Since I'm talking about 'shared' traits, I'm using the term 'psychopath'.

The list varies according to who you ask, but here are some of the common characteristics of psychopaths.
  • Using charisma or superficial charm to attract and lure potential 'victims'
  • Shallow emotions, often 'faking it'
  • Complete inability to take responsibility for their own actions, often 'projecting' blame onto others. This often leads to poor job performance, recklessness with money, the law and/or sex, etc
  • A constant need for excitement (i.e. hurting people for the 'rush')
  • Having a 'short fuse'-getting very temperamental over trivial things
  • Deceitful and manipulative with little regard to being 'found out'
  • Jekyll/Hyde tendencies-drastic change from decent to violent with little warning
  • No feelings of guilt or remorse of any kind
  • An inability to love or form emotional connections
  • Extreme egocentricity and selfishness
  • Complete lack of regard for rules, norms, other people, etc
  • Lack of empathy in general
It's important to remember that we all do some of these things at some point in time. I know I've lied to get out of trouble, 'faked' emotions, experienced schadenfreude* or projected things onto other people. The difference is that 'normal' people do these things occasionally while psychopaths do them all the time. Also, we probably feel bad if we hurt someone. Psychopaths don't. They know right from wrong; they just don't care.

Before you think, 'why in the world would I get involved with someone like this?', psychopaths can be very charming when it suits them. Ted Bundy, for instance, was smart, handsome, successful-attractive by most women's standards. He used this to his advantage in a big way. However, remember that psychopaths aren't necessarily violent or become serial killers; they do, however, get under people's skin, use them and then toss them aside once they are no longer useful.

Here's a rather interesting article:

Like I said, it's very unlikely that you will meet a true psychopath. I've met people who come pretty close, though, and I'd rather you not have that experience.

*Schadenfreude-taking pleasure at someone else's misfortune.

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