Is my _________ “a psychopath”?

(fill in the blank above with mother/father, wife/husband, son/daughter, brother/sister, other relative, lover, friend or associate)

People who come to this site are looking for answers to questions like:

What is a psychopath?

Is my loved one or associate a psychopath?

Does psychopathy explain this particular person’s abusive and hurtful behavior?

You may want to understand why a loved one or associate is so hurtful and abusive. Often people wonder if it is “normal” for someone to hurt and abuse others to such a degree.

We want to start by assuring you that pervasive hurtful and self-centered behavior is not the norm for humans. By pervasive we mean ever present and out of proportion to any good done. Most humans can love and cooperate. It is this loving and cooperative behavior that most defines us and has enabled us to achieve great things working together.

Unfortunately, a small percentage of humans have great difficulty loving and cooperating. Those researching psychopathy have traced this difficulty to abnormal brain function.

By studying psychopaths, researchers have learned about the parts of the brain that determine our ability to get along socially and to love.

Researchers studying psychopathy have also found out other things you should know:

1. Psychopathy is a spectrum; it is a cluster of signs and symptoms that may be different in different people.

2. Because psychopathy is a spectrum, it may be present to greater or lesser degrees.

3. The more symptoms of psychopathy a person has, the more disordered and harmful his/her behavior towards others becomes.

These findings have many important implications for you. First, stop trying to diagnose your loved one or associate. If you are being abused and you determine that your loved one has the symptoms of psychopathy, stop blaming yourself. Consider that the abuse in combination with the signs of psychopathy means you are likely in a relationship with someone who is dangerous to you.

The more signs and symptoms a person has the more dangerous he or she is likely to be. The slide show above contains a list of the traits that make up psychopathy. These traits have specific definitions and have been well-researched. For more about these traits from Dr. Robert Hare see This Charming Psychopath.

Many people feel an enormous sense of relief when they first discover that a loved one or associate may be psychopathic. The discovery helps them to stop blaming themselves for all the problems with the other person and with the relationship. That is what we hope the discovery will do for you.

Once you stop blaming yourself, consider that you may be in jeopardy. The more “without conscience,” self-centered and abusive the person is, the more dangerous they are likely to be to you. Consider that the harm done to others by psychopathic associates, friends, lovers and family members is more than physical. Psychopathic people harm others emotionally, psychologically, socially, legally, financially, spiritually and sexually.

Please consider that if your life has been touched by a psychopathic associate, friend, family member, or lover you may have been traumatized more than you know. We encourage you to seek professional help and to consider how best to limit any future harm.

For more discussion of psychopathy see these resources:

A Primer on Psychopathy — David S. Kosson, Ph.D. and Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.

What “Psychopath” Means: It is not quite what you may think — Scott O. Lilienfeld, Ph.D. and Hal Arkowitz, Ph.D.
Reproduced with permission. © 2007 Scientific American Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This Charming Psychopath: How to Spot Social Predators Before They Attack — Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.
Reproduced with permission. © 2007 Psychology Today All Rights Reserved.

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