What is the definition of a psychopath? If you are a fan of “slasher” movies, you probably think a psychopath is the homicidal maniac character who happily spends ninety minutes of viewing time dispatching his victims in imaginative and gruesome ways, but in fact the definition of a psychopath is a little more complicated than that, and it is entirely possible that there is a psychopath in your neighborhood, your office, or even your home…
According to the dictionary, the psychopath definition is: “a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.” However, not all psychopaths are prone to violent behavior and there are thought to be a high number of undiagnosed psychopaths living amongst the normal population. So what exactly is psychopathy and beyond the realm of the movies, how can a psychopath be defined?
It is not always very unhelpful to pin labels on people, but it is fair to say that psychopaths tend to exhibit certain traits, albeit not necessarily the homicidal violent tendencies beloved of Hollywood moviemakers.
What traits make up the definition of a psychopath?
According to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist – Revised, a psychopath will use and victimize others ruthlessly for their own selfish purposes, whether through charm, deceit or violent acts. Other traits of a psychopath include pathological lying, no conscience and an inability to feel guilt, egocentric behavior, a tendency to flout the law, sexual promiscuity, impulsivity, irresponsibility, plus superficial emotions. However, psychopathic traits can exist at different levels, and whilst one person might be an all-out psychopath another may exhibit a lesser degree of psychopathy in their behavior.
Hare Psychopary Checklist
The Hare PCL-R is considered to be the definitive guide to assessing and diagnosing a psychopathic personality and is basically a tick list of twenty different symptoms associated with psychopathy, each of which is assigned a rating level. Based on ratings accorded to each of the symptoms present, the presence and extent of psychopathic behavior traits presented by the patient can then be diagnosed. In order to be clinically defined as a psychopath based on the Hare PCL-R, the patient must score 30 or above (the maximum score is 40).
The PCL-R test for psychopathy was originally devised to assess individuals for psychopathic tendencies for research, legal, or clinical purposes. Today it is commonly used to assess violent or repeat offender prison inmates and criminals to help the courts decide how much of risk they are and how long their sentence should be. But although it has been estimated that as many as 25% of male prison inmates have psychopathic tendencies, psychopathy is not only found in the criminal fraternity, and scientists believe that approximately 1% of the general population are psychopaths.
Psychopaths exist in all walks of life and many psychopaths are very good at masking their true natures: a psychopath could be the ruthless and successful CEO with a Machiavellian approach to conducting business and a taste for annihilating his competitors or the charming but cold individual with an inflated sense of their own importance you meet at a party…