Can Psychopaths Love, Cry or Experience Happiness?
Psychopaths are known for their lack of emotion but can psychopaths love? Can psychopaths cry or experience happiness? Emotional incapacity is well documented in psychopaths but some psychopaths may show some normal and even some hypersensitivity to some emotions. When answering "can psychopaths love?" it's also important to take into account how severe the psychopathy is in the individual. (How To Recognize and Identify Psychopathic Behavior)
Psychopaths and Shallow Emotions
Having shallow emotion and a lack of empathy, fear and guilt altogether are diagnostic symptoms of psychopathy. However, this still means that psychopaths can experience emotions like happiness to a smaller extent and in a fleeting way. These are not emotions to the intensity that the normal person would experience, but they are there. Rage may be an exception to this rule as rages appear to be something that psychopaths can feel.
Can Psychopaths Love?
The answer to this question may lie in how severe the psychopathy is. Psychopathy is typically measured on Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) and individuals are given a score out of 40. Those that score over 30 are considered classic psychopaths like these famous psychopaths. (The typical criminal who is not a psychopath scores around a 22 while non-criminal, non-psychopaths score around a two.)
The lower on the scale a psychopath is, the more likely they are to develop some sort of love for people such as family members. Psychopaths are much less likely to develop deep bonds with others, however. Interestingly, psychopaths may still want to be loved even if they are almost incapable of truly loving another. However, psychopaths typically experience many shorter-term relationships or even many marriages (Are you dating or married to a psychopath? Check this out and see).
Can Psychopaths Cry or Experience Sadness?
There are some areas where psychopaths may experience normal emotions and grief is one such area. In response to death of a person with whom there is a bond, some psychopaths can experience sadness and this may even bring about feelings of guilt which are otherwise impossible to feel. Crying may be a part of this. Exposure to trauma may also bring about emotions that would normally be suppressed in a psychopath.
It is also known that psychopaths are aware of the emotional separation between them and the rest of the world and this can cause them great dissatisfaction and suffering. Suffering may also be as a result of a desire for attention.
There are other areas where psychopaths may actually be hypersensitive to emotions due to a history of abuse or neglect - which is common in psychopaths (Psychopathic Personality and How It Develops). Examples of this can be experiences of disrespect, rejection by others, changes in circumstances that are not under their control and loneliness.
Can Psychopaths Experience Happiness?
There is little research on whether psychopaths can experience happiness, per se, but one could assume that psychopaths experience some positive emotion when they commit antisocial acts (one psychopathic serial killer calling killing a "high") thus being part of the reason they continue to commit them. Additionally, psychopaths constantly strive for stimulation and this may be a way of seeking positive emotions as well.
Last Updated: 21 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD