How To Identify and Recognize Psychopathic Behavior
Psychopathic behavior is easy to see when a psychopath is a killer, but psychopaths exist in places outside of prison and their behavior goes beyond killing. The most notable psychopathic behaviors are antisocial, often illegal, ones but psychopathic personality traits also create other notable behaviors for psychopaths. Here are some of the places that psychopaths exist and what some of their behaviors typically are.
Psychopathic Behaviors in the Workplace
Lately, some press has taken notice of the fact that psychopaths exist in the workplace, specifically, in management, in greater numbers than elsewhere. In fact, the latest figures suggest that one-in-ten managers are psychopaths.
If your boss is manipulative, intimidating, totally lacking in remorse or guilt, and yet superficially charming, you could be working for a psychopath. An obvious marker of a psychopathic boss is when he or she makes decisions, such as laying off 100 people, and feels no guilt over taking away the livelihood of all those people. (These 20 signs of a psychopath can also help you identify one.)
Psychopath Behaviors of Con Artists
Hollywood movies are full of psychopaths, characters that con others without the slightest bit of remorse. These are behaviors of a psychopath. These psychopaths use their charm to dupe others into trusting them only, in turn, to take advantage of these people.
The movie, Catch Me If You Can, illustrates a quintessential version of this type of psychopathic behavior in its main character, Frank Abagnale, Jr. (played by Leonardo di Caprio). In this film, based on real life events, Abagnale Jr. uses his charisma and other attributes to pass himself off as a commercial pilot, a pediatrician and a prosecutor all before the age of 19. He was also a skilled check forger.
Behaviors of Psychopathic Serial Killers
Of course, this type of psychopath kills, but more subtly, this psychopath typically preys on his victim and uses his charm to lure his victim in. It's not just the killing that denotes a psychopath but rather how they approach the killing and choose and attract his or her victims.
Psychopathic Behaviors of Chronic Offenders
Rather than becoming killers, many psychopaths choose other criminal acts to pursue. In fact, in one estimate 93% of all noninstitutionalized psychopathic males age 18 or over are in the criminal justice system in some way.
One example of a chronic psychopathic offender is offered in the paper, Psychopathic Personality: Bridging the Gap Between Scientific Evidence and Public Policy:
Robert* "has been in trouble with the law since age 10. As a child, he was seriously maltreated both sexually and physically, both at home and later in foster care. Although of average intelligence, he learned little in school and has never successfully held a job. He binges on alcohol and drugs whenever he can; endeavors to manipulate others (but is not particularly adept at it); has never had a stable romantic relationship; and has been convicted of various types of crimes, both violent and nonviolent. He is anxious, easily upset and angered, speaks in a self-centered way about his situation, and appears indifferent to his victims' suffering. When paroled from prison, he is quickly rearrested, more often for trivial than for serious offenses."
For more information on the specific symptoms of psychopathy, please see the article, Does a Psychopath Test Exist? Diagnosing the Psychopath.
* Not his real name
Last Updated: 21 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD