16 Ways to Recognize a Psychopath

5 minute read

By HealthVersed

The words insane, crazy, and psycho are thrown around a whole heck of a lot these days. So much so that it’s easy to forget their medical definitions. Fortunately, you can learn everything you need to know about psychopaths with a search online.

It’s a personality disorder that can dramatically impact an individual’s inhibitions, as well as their ability to empathize and connect with others. Psychopathy can present itself in subtle ways, but there are some tell-tale signs.

Early Behavior Problems

Unless you’re reading this article to figure out if your neighbor’s kid is dangerous, it’s safe to say that your psychopath is all grown up. But psychopathy truly is a lifelong struggle that begins in ones formative years. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone with a troubled childhood is a psychopath, but many of the traits that you’ll read about over the following few pages often manifest themselves early in a child’s development. Run-ins with the law, behavioral problems, and even bad grades can be early red flags.

Lack of Empathy

Empathizing with the emotions of those close to you is what makes you human. It really is the foundation of community. So, it’s safe to say that a world full of psychopaths would look very, very different. That’s because psychopaths display either an unwillingness or an inability to identify with the needs of others. They’re unable to perceive your anguish, or they simply don’t care. Either way, don’t expect a psychopath to offer up a shoulder for you to cry on.

Animal Instincts

Psychopaths are primarily driven by their animal instincts. We all need food, water, and, to a lesser extent, sex to maintain a well-balanced, healthy life. But for a psychopath, these basic biological needs override their social desire for community, compassion, and empathy. How does that play out in the real world? Think the office lunch stealer … or the friend who always eats the last slice of pizza.

Verbal Cues

A few years ago, a team of researchers set out to discover a link between psychopathy and speech patterns. They interviewed 52 convicted murderers and analyzed the results. The findings were fascinating. Most notably, the analysis noticed a fairly large increase in “uhs” and “ums” over the course of their conversations. According to one of the researchers, the increased reliance on these common vocal ticks “are about putting the mask of sanity on.”

Inflated Self Worth

The Earth doesn’t revolve around the sun; it revolves around the psychopath. At least, that’s what they believe. Though the symptom may present itself in a variety of different ways, psychopaths truly believe that they are the center of the universe. They measure events, not by how they affect the world as a whole, but by how they affect them personally.


To a psychopath, relationships are just another tool that they can rely on to accomplish their selfish goals. As such, they tend to be very, very manipulative. They don’t empathize with your outrage. They don’t value your time. And they certainly don’t value your money, unless they’re trying to convince you to spend it on them.

Promiscuous Sexual Behaviour

Every act is a measurable attempt to boost a psychopath’s ego. Why would sex be any different? Psychopaths have little use of long, emotionally fulfilling relationships causing them to seek out multiple, short-term relationships. They enjoy the power of sex but have very little time for the varying nuances of a stable relationship. Think lots and lots of one night stands.


This one shouldn’t be much of a surprise. I mean, they lack empathy and value personal goals above all else. Trouble with the law is just par for the course. In fact, nearly 20% of the two-million-plus prisoners currently jailed in the U.S. are considered psychopaths. A lot of those crimes are violent, too. That’s not to say that all violent crimes are the product of psychopathy or even mental illness. More, that a psychopath’s lack of empathy renders every crime essentially victimless in their eyes.

Constant Need for Stimulation

Because a psychopath’s ability to perceive emotion is relatively dull, they get bored very easily. It is a constant struggle. Without continual stimulation, they become restless, impatient, and may even begin to act out. Just a tip: steer clear of a bored psychopath. They can be aggressive, erratic and very, very dangerous.

Being Impulsive

Their need for constant stimulation and fear of boredom leads to unpredictable, impulsive actions. Also, their inflated sense of self worth makes them believe that everything is theirs for the taking. Don’t confuse impulsive behavior for spontaneity.  Impulse Control Disorder (ICD) is a clinical diagnosis that affects an individual’s ability to resist temptation, even in the face of self-harm.

Blaming Others

This one is really just a different shade of manipulation. As we covered earlier, personal relationships are just tools in the tool belt of the psychopath. Tools that should be used and even disposed of when needed. It’s not uncommon for a psychopath to figuratively throw a friend or colleague under the proverbial bus to avoid reproach. Such nice people, those psychopaths.

Shallow Affect

It’s not that psychopaths can’t experience emotion; it’s just that they experience a much more muted version of it. The emotional highs and lows of living are dulled by the psychopath’s inability to fully process or understand them. They also respond to emotional distress with apathy. For most of us, it’s a fairly difficult problem to comprehend. But if you’d like to read more, Jessica Kelly over at Psychogendered paints a fascinating self-portrait.

Superficial Charm

We’ve all seen movies starring charismatic psychopaths. Not only are they able to mask their twisted machinations, but psychopaths often excel in social settings. They’ve been pretending to be someone else for their whole life, so being a social chameleon comes naturally. It’s only after they’ve swept you off your feet and into their twisted world that you’ll notice a lack of real substance.

Lack of Realistic Long Term Goals

It’s not that psychopaths aren’t capable of planning, or that they don’t know what they want. It’s that they’re goals are often so outlandish they’re unattainable. Psychopaths believe that they are the superior in every way. And that self-grandiosity manifests grandiose goals that never truly lead anywhere or to anything tangible.

Pathological Lying

Pathological lying is a complex disorder that can manifest itself in a variety of ways. It can mean puffing up a story to make it sound more interesting.  It can mean completely fabricating stories from start to finish. It also includes deception as a means to a not-so-nice end. Either way, psychopaths lie and lie often.

Lack of Remorse or Guilt

Not only do psychopaths ignore the emotions of others, but they also don’t feel bad about hurting them either. Psychopaths are often characterized by a lack of guilt or remorse. For most people, stealing $20 from the charity box or saying something mean goes part and parcel with guilt and remorse. For a psychopath, they can’t be bothered with your feelings and as such, they never dwell on them either. It’s a dangerous trait that allows them to do pretty much anything they want without any of that messy internal recourse.