How to Recognize a Psychopath

Unlike Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, psychopaths don’t usually come across as socially awkward, reclusive and bizarre. On the contrary, they often seem charming, outgoing and normal. That’s a big part of their lure, or “mask of sanity.” Consequently, it’s very important that we inform ourselves about the symptoms of psychopathy in order to protect ourselves from these dangerous individuals.

The main experts on psychopathy, Hervey Cleckley, Robert Hare and Martha Stout provide, essentially, the same list of personality traits to describe psychopaths. They state that such individuals exhibit superficial charm and intelligence. They use these qualities to attract people and to control them. Contrary to other kinds of pathological individuals, psychopaths don’t experience delusions or manifest any “other signs of irrational thinking.” For that reason, they appear to be, and actually are, “sane.” When they commit crimes, psychopaths know exactly what they’re doing. They realize that it’s wrong and know why society considers it wrong. They just happen to make exceptions for themselves and for their outrageous behavior, which, in their estimation, lies above the rules that govern the rest of humanity.

Similarly, psychopaths lack nervousness or any “psychoneurotic manifestations.” Not only are they unlike Woody Allen’s comical antiheroes, but also they stay cool and collected even when a normal response would be to experience distress. Although they sometimes engage in histrionic displays of emotion to gain sympathy, psychopaths remain unflappable during a crisis, such as a break-up or divorce from their significant other (because no other is significant to them), a death in the family, when they’re caught for committing a crime or even when they’re being punished for their illegal activities. A psychopath’s motto in life is: “Bad men do what good men dream.” Psychopaths can’t grasp the idea of conscience and feelings for others except as a form of weakness. They don’t understand that their dreams are normal people’s nightmares.

Such individuals are very impulsive and can fly off the handle with little or no provocation, but nothing rattles them for long. Analogously, they can fulfill their obligations for a short period of time to win their targets’ trust, but are unreliable over the long haul. No matter what promises they make and how important their commitment to fulfill them may be to others, they’ll eventually let people down. In fact, they go out of their way to hurt and betray those who trust them.

Psychopaths pursue short-term goals. They say whatever they need to say in order to get what they want at the moment. Their minds function like a GPS system where they’re constantly punching in a new destination. Whatever direction they take changes upon a whim, as soon as they spot anything or anyone they momentarily perceive as a better or more exciting opportunity. That’s not just because psychopaths are shallow, but also because they’re envious, greedy and power-hungry.  They want whatever other people have that they find desirable. That may be a new partner, a good job, prestige, wealth or a family. They want successful relationships without offering love, honesty or fidelity. To bolster their sense of superiority–without having much to show in terms of personal qualities, talents or accomplishments–they put their partners (and others) down and cultivate their weaknesses. To succeed in their jobs, without doing much work, they charm, intimidate, manipulate and bully their coworkers and staff.  To acquire wealth, they commit fraud or engage in scams. But, generally speaking, psychopaths can’t hold on to anything and anyone because their interests and needs change constantly. Sooner or later, they become dissatisfied with everything they have in life and want something more, or someone different.

Psychopaths are unpredictable even in their unpredictability. Nobody can tell in advance when they’re going to sabotage your life and happiness, or even their own, for that matter. Psychopaths can be highly believable pathological liars. Most people may lie sometimes.  Psychopaths, however, tell harmful lies for the sport of it and with malice. To them, lying functions as a means of controlling others by manipulating their perception of reality. It’s also a form of free entertainment. Because of their shallow emotions, psychopaths get easily bored. Their psychological hollowness propels them into a perpetual quest for new people to use, new sexual encounters, the newest business ventures as well as new and exciting ways to transgress social rules.

Psychopaths manifest poor judgment and fail to learn from experience. Epicurus defined pleasure as the absence of pain. By that standard, psychopaths aren’t Epicurean. They seek positive pleasures: highs, thrills and the sensation of constant euphoria. But they aren’t particularly bothered by pain or by negative consequences in general. They sabotage their own futures and harm others in momentary flashes of anger or for the sake of short-lived fun. A lot of their problems stem from their fundamental narcissism, or what Cleckley calls their “pathological egocentricity and incapacity for love.” To psychopaths, people are objects whose needs and even lives don’t matter except in so far as they can use them.  After using people, they toss them away.

Psychopaths can’t feel anything, not even joy or happiness, very deeply. They exhibit, Cleckley indicates, a “general poverty in all major affective reactions.” Hare states that psychopaths experience “proto-emotions” rather than the full range of human feelings. They feel momentary pleasure, glee or delight when they do or get what they want. By way of contrast, they feel fleeting frustration or anger when their desires are thwarted. But they can’t experience the deeper emotions, such as other-regarding love, empathy, remorse, sadness, regret or even anxiety and depression.

Their main emotion is contempt for other human beings, which they often mask underneath a thin layer of sociability and charm. Upon meeting new people, psychopaths perform an intuitive cost-benefit analysis, to classify them as targets, accomplices or obstacles in the pursuit of whatever they want at the moment. Targets are used as accomplices, and then discarded as obstacles once their usefulness has expired.

Since psychopaths eventually alienate all those around them with their unscrupulous and callous behavior, the only people who continue to find their mask of sanity plausible over time are those who don’t know them well, those who suffer from a similar personality disorder, or those who have an unhealthy emotional investment in them. Those who refuse to face the truth about the psychopath in their lives often become his alibis, sticking by him despite all rational evidence of his personality disorder and his wrongdoings.

Due to their shallowness, psychopaths suffer from what psychologists call “specific loss of insight.” Not only are they incapable of understanding how others function on a deeper emotional level, but also they lack an understanding of their own motivations and behavior. They intuitively know how to deceive and manipulate others. But they can’t grasp why they feel compelled to do it. Because they don’t see anything wrong with themselves and their actions, they also fail in therapy. Improving one’s behavior requires having the insight to see your flaws and the desire to change for the better, especially for the sake of those you care about. Psychopaths lack such incentives. They live only for their own pleasure.

To entertain themselves, they engage in what Cleckley calls “fantastic and uninviting behavior.” This is made worse by various addictions—to sex, drugs and/or alcohol—that are quite common for them, largely because of their low impulse control and need for constant excitement.  Psychopaths thrive on depravity and transgression. After behaving more or less normally for a period of time, they can all of a sudden become boisterous and unruly, pull their pants down in public, hit their spouse or start a brawl without provocation. Cleckley also notes that for psychopaths, “suicide is rarely carried out.” Just as they’re incapable of experiencing a deeper form of happiness which for most people results from leading an orderly life and loving one’s family and friends, they’re also incapable of experiencing a deeper form of unhappiness, which drives some individuals to suicide.

Cleckley and Hare both observe that for psychopaths “sex life is impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated.” Psychopaths can, however, sometimes experience intense attachments without emotional bonding. Some of them have such obsessive infatuations that they may even stalk their targets for an extended period of time. This behavior, however, is not tied to any genuine feelings of love or even to “being in love.” Rather, it stems from a sense of entitlement and ownership. Psychopaths believe that it’s their right to possess the women they momentarily desire and to discard them as soon as they no longer want them. Generally speaking, for psychopaths sexual relationships function as a release and as a form of exerting control over others. They’re not a means of connecting, which, over time, implies shared emotional ties and mutual moral obligations.

Finally, psychopaths are noted for their “failure to follow any life plan.” A few psychopaths may be very ambitious. Yet fewer become powerful or famous. However, most lack the patience to pursue far-reaching goals that require dedication and hard work. Instead, they move from one temporary–and usually destructive–diversion to another, in search of something to alleviate their pervasive sense of boredom.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


Review of Dorothy McCoy’s The Manipulative Man

(See radio broadcast featuring Dr. McCoy):

http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2474626187239&id=1299968029&ref=notif&notif_t=wall#!/profile.php?id=1299968029

Manipulative individuals say and do things to control and undermine others. In its extreme form, manipulation is a form of emotional abuse. The Manipulative Man by Dorothy McCoy, EdD, is essential reading for everyone who wishes to work on problematic relationships with flawed, manipulative individuals who are not full-fledged personality disordered. All human beings are flawed yet most of us still manage to have close relationships with our family members and romantic partners. Many have tendencies of personality disorders; few have full-blown personality disorders, however.

While as Sandra Brown, M.A. explains in How to Spot a Dangerous Man, personality disorders are not fixable and relationships with such individuals are very dangerous and damaging, what do we do about the rest: namely, our relationships with 90 percent of the population, who, like us, has human flaws that can be worked on and improved? This is where Dorothy McCoy’s book, The Manipulative Man: Identify His Behavior, Counter the Abuse, Regain Control, offers very useful coping strategies that can strengthen our ties to our significant others and mend our relationships.

Dr. McCoy first explains the manipulative personality types and his (or her) strategies of manipulation, which include: excessive flattery (especially at the beginning of the relationship), deceit, bullying, stonewalling, pity play, and projecting blame upon the victim, among others. She then offers a typology of manipulative men that women are likely to encounter and have problems with. These include: the Mama’s Boy (characterized by dependency and need for caretaking and adulation); the Workaholic (who is a perfectionist, often suffers from Obsessive Personality Disorder and defines himself in terms of his work); the Eternal Jock (who relives his glory days and can’t move on and deal with the responsibilities of his life); the Dependent Man (who can’t make decisions and defines himself excessively in terms of his relationship to his partner, thus draining her time and energy); the Antisocial (who engages in risk-taking, transgressive and even criminal behavior, with no remorse, for the thrill of it); the Womanizer (who is often a love or sex addict, whose appetite for new conquests can never be satiated); the Passive-Aggressive man (who wallows in self-pity and constantly  undermines his partner’s self-esteem and accomplishments); the Narcissist (who essentially worships his own altar and views others as a mirror that reflects his perfection and greatness); the Psychopath (the social predator who charms his way into women’s lives with flattery and deceit in order to use and harm them) and the Violent Manipulator (who engages in domestic violence).

The Manipulative Man explains each of these manipulative types by including not only descriptions, but also case studies that offer concrete examples and engage the reader. The book also offers coping strategies for such troubled relationships and outlines the difference between problematic traits and full-blown personality disorders. In other words, the author distinguishes between character deficiencies that can’t be fixed–the best one can do in such situations is escape the relationship with minimal harm–and tendencies that may be able to be improved by working together, as a couple, on the relationship.

Even in those situations that can be ameliorated, Dr. McCoy emphasizes that both partners have to be willing to make changes for the sake of their relationship  and sustain those improvements consistently, over time. The Manipulative Man makes an important contribution to the field of couples’ counseling and offers an excellent supplement to therapy. This book tells readers in a clear and engaging manner how to save salvageable relationships while not shying away from advising not trying to save unsalvageable relationships with personality disordered individuals.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

The Two Phases of Mourning: The Rational and the Emotional

Almost everyone who reads about psychopathy is able to absorb this information on a rational level. We’re able to recognize the symptoms and red flags of this personality disorder, which helps us recognize other people’s psychopathic partners and offer support. But it’s much tougher to absorb this information on an emotional level and apply it to the psychopath in our lives: meaning the person we’re emotionally invested in. This is why weeks, months and even years after ending a relationship with a psychopath, victims still experience moments of doubt, or cognitive dissonance. This may take the form of self-blame, of jealousy towards the psychopath’s other victims or of remembering fondly the psychopath’s luring phase, when he made the greatest effort to hide his deviant acts and to lie to us. Those who stay in close contact with a psychopath risk never getting over the psychopathic bond.

Although nobody gets over a psychopath while still with him, it seems that once they look up the symptoms of his disorder, victims realize, at least intellectually, that they’re dealing with a sick man. The first impulse of a woman living with such a person, once she discovers that the totality of his symptoms comprise a dangerous personality disorder, is to attempt to cure him through her love or with the help of professional counseling.

Her need to change him means that she only has an intellectual understanding of his personality disorder. But she hasn’t yet absorbed the information on an emotional level as well. By “intellectual,” I mean that having done some research, the rational side of her brain has put together the symptoms of her partner’s behavior and seen them as signs of psychopathy. She may be horrified by this discovery. Perhaps a part of her wanted to believe that he was just a regular man, who made the mistake of cheating on her and is sorry about it, who lies sometimes, or who’s impulsive and somewhat childish, but that’s a huge part of his charm, after all. Once you do research on psychopathy you finally realize, on a rational level, the magnitude of his disorder. You also see how much more severe and damaging to others it is compared to “ordinary” cheating, lying or immaturity. You realize, rationally, that you’re not dealing with someone who’s extraordinary, as the psychopath encouraged you to believe. You’re dealing with someone who’s subordinary: with a person who lacks the main qualities that make us human.

When you finally reach this disheartening conclusion, instead of accepting or admiring the psychopath’s behavior as before, you disapprove of it. You also no longer see the problems in the relationship as he presented them to you, as largely your fault. You realize, rationally, that his sex addiction has nothing to do with the fact that you’re not sufficiently attractive or sensual. It has everything to do with his malady. You also see that his constant deception is neither harmless nor normal, as he would like you to believe. It’s pathological and self-serving. Once you realize that the problems in your relationship have much more to do with his personality disorder than with your own deficiencies, you begin to mourn the death of the idealized image of him and of the special relationship you thought you had with him. You also start to ruminate. You obsessively turn over and over in your mind all the lies and inconsistencies he’s told you. But this is not enough to get over the psychopath. You need to absorb this information on an emotional level as well in order to move on.

In her article “Do Psychopaths/Sociopaths Make Choices?” published on May 23, 2008 on lovefraud.com, Liane Leedom draws a distinction between intellectual disagreement with the psychopath’s actions, which is largely a rational process, and emotional disgust with his actions and with him. When you mourn the end of the idealized image of the psychopath only rationally, by disapproving of his behavior, you’re not likely to feel sufficiently repulsed by his identity to want to escape the relationship. You’re more likely to focus instead on improving him, the relationship with him and maybe even your own self (since for as long as you stay with a psychopath, he’ll continue to shift the blame unto to you). You therefore risk remaining under his spell and, therefore, under his thumb. Only once you pass to the second stage of mourning–that of experiencing visceral disgust–do you begin to get over the psychopath, escape his hold on you and move on with your life. Leedom states that you reach this stage once you realize that the sum of his actions is who he is. He is a pathological liar. He is malicious. He lacks empathy. He is completely narcissistic. His harmful actions aren’t normal human mistakes. They reflect the bad person that he is and that he’ll always be, no matter what false promises he makes and how much you may want to believe him.

Since the psychopath knows that, unlike him, you’re a loving person capable of empathy and forgiveness, he may look you in the eyes like a penitent puppy and tell you that the love you feel for him is unconditional. Even though he’s shown time after time that his own professed love for you is nonexistent. What he’s telling you about your own love is, once again, false. It’s a ploy intended to trap you in the toxic relationship with him.

When you go through the process of emotional mourning, you stop liking, respecting and loving the psychopath. After awhile, you no longer even experience anger towards him. Such an emotion still implies some traces of passion, a lingering attraction. He’s sunk so low in your eyes that it’s not even worth hating him. You finally see him as the trivial human being that he is. You’re repulsed by his actions, by all of his malicious lies, by his manipulation of others, by his fake niceness and conditional gifts, by his predatory and perverse sexuality, by everything he does and by everything he is. You reject him deep within your heart, as utterly and completely as one human being can reject another. At that point–and only at that point—are you finally ready to escape the psychopath and the harmful relationship with him that has been your prison.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


Erased But Not Forgotten: Psychopaths and Emotional Memory

Please welcome a post on psychopaths and emotional memory by our guest blogger, Michael Pacitti, who writes both from his personal experience with a psychopath and from his experience as a mental health professional. This article explains a seeming paradox:  how psychopaths can simultaneously move on from previous relationships and discard their partners so unfeelingly, as if their memories of the relationships were erased, yet still continue to harass and stalk some of their previous targets, in a kind of perpetual relationship boomerang. Hence the title we chose: Erased but Not Forgotten. 

I listened to a song playing on the radio quite recently, a U2 track from their album “how to dismantle an atomic bomb”; the song is called A Man and a Woman. As I listened it took me back to a time early in the relationship with my ex when her idealisation of me was in full swing. I remember playing this song for her when we first met, and I had one of those cognitive dissonance moments as feelings of loss, sadness and melancholia came crashing over me. I had another similar moment looking at some photos of the Lake District, and one of the photos reminded me of a camping trip my ex and I went on in mid July of 2009.

We all experience many of these moments throughout our lives when we encounter a stimulus, it could be a piece of music, a place, a smell, a photo, it could be anything that triggers memories of days gone by, and the people who were or are significant in our lives. In those moments of recall a flood of emotion washes over us and it as though we relive those bittersweet moments all over again; we may experience feelings of joy, happiness, contentment, sadness, grief and so on. These are our emotional memories at play.

There is a biological basis for this mechanism that combines and connects emotion with the storage and retrieval of our memories. Psychologists who have researched memory function have noted that recall involves specific memory pathways within the brain and that these pathways interact at specific neurological locations. Pathways that give rise to the experience of emotion work in tandem with memory storage pathways, in that they are woven together, which is why recall of unpleasant events produce unpleasant emotions; likewise recalling memories of pleasant experiences produces pleasant emotions. We are far more likely to be able to access and recall memories that are associated with strong emotions, than events that are emotionally neutral or are lacking in emotional significance.

What is interesting is that our memories are by and large draped over our experience of emotion, and are stored in these pathways accordingly, with neurological cognitive recall pathways running alongside and working hand in hand with emotional memory pathways.  Our emotional memories can be thought of as a little like an internal journal that charts our growth and development as we move through life. Our emotional life forms the core of our own inner narrative and our narrative with others, whether it is family members, friends, or loved ones who have come and gone. Our experience of emotion determines how we store our memories which helps map, organise, and structure our experiences into a narrative or personal story that gives us a sense of internal temporal continuity. This also gives others a sense of temporal continuity of, and with us. Imagine the chaos and instability we would experience in our lives if it were not for this sense of continuity?

And yet this lack of continuity is precisely one of the defining characteristics of a pathological relationship, where contradictions, dichotomies, and non sequiturs continuously keep us off balance. The psychopathic personality construct is comprised of traits that fall along and make up the Cluster B continuum, and central to all of these variations of psychopathy is a poverty of emotional experience. Neuro-imaging has revealed that psychopaths have anatomical differences in the paralimbic systems of the brain which deal with the processing and experience of emotion. What this means is that psychopaths only experience a narrow, primitive, and primordial spectrum of emotion; and what emotions they do experience are very short lived. They are in other words lacking in an emotional memory, which is one of the reasons why psychopaths are notorious for having poor or selective, and contradictory recall; their neurological pathways are not working in tandem. They actually store memories quite differently to the rest of us due their lacking the emotional pegging neccesary for organising their inner experience of events and people. They are limited to stroring memories in small encapsulated packages, or what Robert Hare refers to as “small thought units” in Without Conscience.

They have no true or real consistent depth of emotional experience that provides them with an emotional temporal inner story with either themselves or others; they are quite literally empty black holes. Their own inner experience of themselves falls through them in much the same way that their experience of others does. They may be capable of cognitive complexity, but rest assured if they are disordered there is little or no sign of emotional intelligence or nuance that enabled you to follow and keep track of their emotional story with us. Their script continually changes, or is rewritten and flips in a manner that is severely emotionally disorientating for the victim, leaving us feeling as though we are plucking a never-ending daisy.

Because they are lacking a core self at the helm of their own experience there comes a point when you realise that there is no consensual narrative or consensual reality. They are in a sense lacking in a personal story when it comes to emotional relating, bonding, attachment, and intimacy. We as their partners believed of course that we were living a narrative with them. What we did not comprehend is that everything we shared with them (or thought we shared), no matter how significant has absolutely no currency with them whatsoever. I found it helpful to think about it like this: Imagine you are thirsty and take a glass, you place the glass under the tap and fill it with water, you put the glass to your lips and realise the glass is empty; I could have sworn I just filled the glass under the tap. In an erratic and dramatic manner, their stories are forever changing and lack a smooth seam that charts their transition from emotional position a, to contradictory emotional position b. Their ever changing scripts to us as victims, made us feel like we had a central role in a very important plot, only to find that the plot had suddenly changed and we were never consulted about it. Our role in the plot suddenly ends and the script we were reading suddenly and abruptly no longer apply.

One of the hallmarks that you have experienced a pathological relationship is that you can recall numerous disagreements, when all previous context, history, and emotional narrative were deleted by your partner. Welcome to the bait and switch. Their behaviours that have caused huge damage to the relationship doesn’t form part of their dialogue and narrative, or enter into the equation during such disagreements. Even to the point of talking in the third person as though they have somehow divorced themselves from themselves and their own behaviour. Psychopaths cannot sustain any consistent position over a period of time; they are quintessentially unstable of feeling, emotion and insight. While they are seemingly able to demonstrate insightfulness in the here and now, they are unable to demonstrate insight into their lack of consistent or longitudinal insight or see the bigger picture. They have no bird’s eye view of their behaviour or how their behaviour has impacted upon us. This is one of the encrypted, crazy making, and puzzling conundrums of these personality disordered people that we can become forever lost in trying to the fathom. How is it that they can appear to have such sound insight in the here and now, and yet have no insight at all into their lack of consistency around their ever changing and dichotomised insights across time?    

 The past seems to somehow miraculously disappear, along with their declared feelings for us, and commitments to us, all in the blink of an eye. In the end, we come to realise that any feelings they said they had for us were nothing more than a primitive expression of emotion designed to have whatever needs they wanted us to meet in that precise here and now moment. Once they are done with us and have secured their next victim, they can delete us as though the past never happened and we never existed.  And yet, periodically, they pop up to harass and stalk some of their previous victims, not because they miss them, but because they need those dominance bonds to feel empowered and alive. 

Michael Pacitti   

The List of Psychopathy Symptoms: Hervey Cleckley and Robert Hare

“I knew in my heart something was wrong with him (or with her)”. This is what nearly every victim of a psychopath has felt, usually early on in the relationship. The over-the-top flattery. The quick pace of the relationship and demands for instant commitment. The lies and inconsistencies. The callousness towards others. The disregard for social norms. The sense of superiority (absolute narcissism), without having much to show for it or justify it. The aimlessness and lack of responsibility. The random oscillations in mood and behavior, to exert power over others. The demands for isolation from loved ones and friends. The sexual deviancy. The control and possessiveness. There are always very disturbing signs in the psychopathic bond, signs that we tend to ignore or rationalize until the toxic relationship, like a disease, takes over to destroy our lives. 

I’d advise anyone who feels this way to start researching on the internet the symptoms they see wrong because this information about psychopathy, and finally paying attention to the red flags and our intuition, has saved each and every one of us. The first –and last–step in recovery from the psychopathic bond is getting information; recognizing the nature of the problem. This is why knowing how to identify the symptoms of psychopathy is so important. Information can save us from denial, false hope, gaslighting and the illusion that a psychopath is likely to foster in victims. It can give us the strength to leave the toxic relationships, substantiated by facts as opposed to just feelings. Psychopaths can manipulate our feelings. But the symptoms of this personality disorder are clear as psychology–which is, after all, a social rather than “hard” science–can identify.

Today I’d like to repost a list of the symptoms of psychopathy, offered by two of the main experts on psychopathy, to whom I’ve often alluded so far: Hervey Cleckley (author of The Mask of Sanity) and Robert Hare (author of Without Conscience, Snakes in Suits and The Psychopathy Checklist). Obviously, their lists are very similar since Robert Hare built upon Hervey Cleckley’s ground-breaking research.

Hervey Cleckley’s List of Psychopathy Symptoms:

1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.

2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.

3. Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms. Considerable poise, calmness and verbal facility.

4. Unreliability, disregard for obligations, no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.

5. Untruthfulness and insincerity.

6. Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.

7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior.

8. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience.

9. Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness and an incapacity for real love and attachment.

10. General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.

11. Lack of any true insight; inability to see oneself as others do.

12. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness and trust.

13. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking. Vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks for facile entertainment.

14. No history of genuine suicide attempts.

15. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.

16. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way  (unless it is for destructive purposes or a sham).

Robert Hare’s Checklist of Psychopathy Symptoms:

1. GLIB AND SUPERFICIAL CHARM — the tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. He can also be a great listener, to simulate empathy while zeroing in on his targets’ dreams and vulnerabilities, to be able to manipulate them better.

2. GRANDIOSE SELF-WORTH — a grossly inflated view of one’s abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings.

3. NEED FOR STIMULATION or PRONENESS TO BOREDOM — an excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky. Psychopaths often have a low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.

4. PATHOLOGICAL LYING — can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative and dishonest.

5. CONNING AND MANIPULATIVENESS: the use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one’s victims.

6. LACK OF REMORSE OR GUILT:  a lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted and unempathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one’s victims.

7. SHALLOW AFFECT:  emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness and superficial warmth.

8. CALLOUSNESS and LACK OF EMPATHY:  a lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.

9. PARASITIC LIFESTYLE: an intentional, manipulative, selfis, and exploitative financial dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline and the inability to carry through one’s responsibilities.

10. POOR BEHAVIORAL CONTROLS:  expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.

11. PROMISCUOUS SEXUAL BEHAVIOR: a variety of brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of numerous, multiple relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity (rape) or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits and conquests.

12. EARLY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS: a variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol use and running away from home.

13. LACK OF REALISTIC, LONG-TERM GOALS: an inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking direction in life.

14. IMPULSIVITY: the occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations and momentary urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic and reckless.

15. IRRESPONSIBILITY: repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.

16. FAILURE TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR OWN ACTIONS: a failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate others through this denial.

17. MANY SHORT-TERM RELATIONSHIPS: a lack of commitment to a long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable commitments in life, including in marital and familial bonds.

18. JUVENILE DELINQUENCY: behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.

19. REVOCATION OF CONDITION RELEASE: a revocation of probation or other conditional release due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation or failing to appear.

20. CRIMINAL VERSATILITY: a diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with crimes or wrongdoings.

These lists have been compiled by angelfire, on the link below:

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


A Painful Incredulity: Psychopathy and Cognitive Dissonance

Almost everyone involved with a psychopath goes through a phase (and form) of denial. It’s very tough to accept the sad reality that the person who claimed to be your best friend or the love of your life is actually a backstabbing snake whose sole purpose in life is humiliating and dominating those around him. Rather than confront this reality, some victims go into denial entirely. They aren’t ready to accept any part of the truth, which, when suppressed, often surfaces in anxiety, projection and nightmares.

At some point, however, the evidence of a highly disturbed personality shows through, especially once the psychopath is no longer invested in a given victim and thus no longer makes a significant effort to keep his mask on. Then total denial is no longer possible. The floodgates of reality suddenly burst open and a whole slew of inconsistencies, downright lies, manipulations, criticism and emotional abuse flows through to the surface of our consciousness.

However, even then it’s difficult to absorb such painful information all at once. Our heart still yearns for what we have been persuaded, during the luring phase, was our one true love. Our minds are still filled with memories of the so-called good times with the psychopath. Yet, the truth about the infidelities, the constant deception, the manipulation and the backstabbing can no longer be denied. We can’t undo everything we learned about the psychopath; we cannot return to the point of original innocence, of total blindness. The result is a contradictory experience: a kind of internal battle between clinging to denial and accepting the truth.

Cognitive dissonance is a painful incredulity marked by this inner contradiction in the victim’s attitude towards the victimizer. In 1984, perhaps the best novel about brainwashing that occurs in totalitarian regimes, George Orwell coined his own term for this inner contradiction: he called it doublethink. Doublethink is not logical, but it is a common defense mechanism for coping with deception, domination and abuse. Victims engage in doublethink, or cognitive dissonance, in a partly subconscious attempt to reconcile the contradictory claims and behavior of the disordered individuals who have taken over their lives.

The denial itself can take several forms. It can manifest itself as the continuing idealization of the psychopath during the luring phase of the relationship or it can be shifting the blame for what went wrong in the relationship from him, the culprit, to ourselves, or to other victims. In fact, the easiest solution is to blame neither oneself nor the psychopath, but other victims. How often have you encountered the phenomenon where people who have partners who cheat on them lash out at the other women (or men) instead of holding their  partners accountable for their actions? It’s far easier to blame someone you’re not emotionally invested in than someone you love, particularly if you still cling to that person or relationship.

Other victims project the blame back unto themselves.  They accept the psychopath’s projection of blame and begin questioning themselves: what did I do wrong, to drive him away? What was lacking in me that he was so negative or unhappy in the relationship? Was I not smart enough, virtuous enough, hard-working enough, beautiful enough, sexy enough, attentive enough, submissive enough etc.

When one experiences cognitive dissonance, the rational knowledge about psychopathy doesn’t fully sink in on an emotional level. Consequently, the victim moves constantly back and forth between the idealized fantasy and the pathetic reality of the psychopath. This is a very confusing process and an emotionally draining one as well. Initially, when you’re the one being idealized by him, the fantasy is that a psychopath can love you and that he is committed to you and respects you. Then, once you’ve been devalued and/or discarded, the fantasy remains that he is capable of loving others, just not you. That you in particular weren’t right for him, but others can be. This is the fantasy that the psychopath tries to convince every victim once they enter the devalue phase. Psychopaths truly believe this because they never see anything wrong with themselves or their behavior, so if they’re no longer excited by a person, they conclude it must be her (or his) fault; that she (or he) is deficient.

Because you put up with emotional abuse from the psychopath you were with and recently been through the devaluation phase–in fact, for you it was long and drawn-out–you have absorbed this particular fantasy despite everything you know about psychopaths’ incapacity to love or even care about others. But with time and no contact, the rational knowledge and the emotional will merge, and this last bit of illusion about the psychopath will be dissolved.

Cognitive dissonance is part and parcel of being the victim of a personality disordered individual. It doesn’t occur in healthy relationships for several reasons:

1) healthy individuals may have good and bad parts of their personalities, but they don’t have a Jekyll and Hyde personality; a mask of sanity that hides an essentially malicious and destructive self. In a healthy relationship, there’s a certain transparency: basically, what you see is what you get. People are what they seem to be, flaws and all.

2) healthy relationships aren’t based on emotional abuse, domination and a mountain of deliberate lies and manipulation

3) healthy relationships don’t end abruptly, as if they never even happened because normal people can’t detach so quickly from deeper relationships

4) conversely, however, once healthy relationships end, both parties accept that and move on. There is no stalking and cyberstalking, which are the signs of a disordered person’s inability to detach from a dominance bond: a pathetic attempt at reassertion of power and control over a relationship that’s over for good

Cognitive dissonance happens  in those cases where there’s an unbridgeable contradiction between a dire reality and an increasingly implausible fantasy which, once fully revealed, would be so painful to accept, that you’d rather cling to parts of the fantasy than confront that sad reality and move on.

Relatedly, cognitive dissonance is also a sign that the psychopath still has a form of power over you: that his distorted standards still have a place in your brain. That even though you may reject him on some level, on another his opinions still matter to you. Needless to say, they shouldn’t. He is a fraud; his opinions are distorted; his ties to others, even those he claims to “love,” just empty dominance bonds. Rationally, you already know that his opinions and those of his followers should have no place in your own mental landscape.  

But if emotionally you still care about what he thinks or feels, then you are giving a disordered person too much power over you: another form of cognitive dissonance, perhaps the most dangerous. Cut those imaginary ties and cut the power chords that still tie you to a pathological person, his disordered supporters and their abnormal frame of reference.  Nothing good will ever come out of allowing a psychopath and his pathological defenders any place in your heart or mind. The schism between their disordered perspective and your healthy one creates the inner tension that is also called cognitive dissonance. To eliminate this inner tension means to free yourself– body, heart and mind–from the psychopath, his followers and their opinions or standards. What they do, say, think or believe –and the silly mind games they choose to play–simply does not matter.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Perfect love is… a fraud

So many of us are looking for a perfect love. Not perfect in general–something too vague to be imaginable–but perfect for us. Someone who accepts and even prefers us with our imperfections. Someone who instead of criticizing our neuroses and bad habits finds them cute and quaint. Someone with whom we have an instant connection. Someone who shares our interests and finds them exciting. Someone who promises fidelity and commitment, for life. Someone who knows us so well that he or she can divine our thoughts and finish our sentences. Someone with whom communication is engaging and effortless.

Anyone who tells us “you’re perfect in every way” we’re not likely to believe. We know we’re imperfect and we know what our flaws are. But someone who tells us “you’re perfect in my eyes, flaws and all” or “I love you just the way you are” seems much more believable and seductive. This is the extraordinary nature of the psychopathic lure: a complete acceptance of our imperfection, which means a complete acceptance of who we are. Let’s face it: most of us want what is too good to be true and extraordinary over what is imperfect and requires effort and compromise. Unfortunately, as many of us found out through very painful life experiences, the kinds of people most likely to offer all of the above are personality disordered individuals: particularly psychopaths.

This is because normal love, like normal individuals, aren’t perfect and don’t promise to offer perfection to anyone. We all know, rationally speaking, that perfection is an illusion: especially this perfection of the imperfection; the perfection of being accepted by another human being as we are, imperfections and all, unconditionally and for life. Even the wedding vows qualify to allow room for imperfection: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse. No normal individual offers such a perfect love precisely because all human beings are imperfect and, in real life, connecting and communicating with other imperfect individuals, like ourselves, takes effort and isn’t always easy or pleasant. In an imperfect world, perfect love is… a fraud.

However, emotionally, many of us prefer to imagine such a perfect imperfection: a person who loves and accepts us exactly as we are, without much effort on our part. This emotional dream isn’t necessarily unhealthy. It’s a horizon of possibility: something to aspire to in our imperfect relationships to make them better. This wish or dream becomes dangerous only when we expect it to be fully realized in reality. The  human beings most likely to mirror us so perfectly and to present an image of perfection are psychopaths, narcissists and other personality disordered individuals during the idealization or luring phase of the relationship. Generally speaking, normal human beings will not jump into a relationship offering eternal love and commitment before even knowing you. They will not love or even like everything about you. They will not have more in common with you than your own image in the mirror. They will not say you’re ideal: because you’re not.

Conmen lure their victims with promises of easy money and huge profits that never pan out and waste their resources. Psychopaths lure romantic partners with promises of perfect love, lifelong adoration, fidelity and commitment and a mirrored image of their own perfect imperfection. It’s almost impossible to resist a bond that seems to fulfill, so easily and so instantly, everything you’ve ever wanted in a partner or in a romantic relationship. But usually in these cases, keep your eyes wide open, because the red flags will start waving. Because real life doesn’t work that way and a love that seems to be too good to be true is often…a psychopathic fraud.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction