Psychopath: definition, test, how to talk to him?

Psychopathy is a personality disorder, characterized by antisocial behavior, lack of remorse and empathy. How to recognize a psychopath? What is the difference with a sociopath? How to talk to him?

The psychopathy is a personality disorder. Personality is the stable part and the enduring characteristics in a person’s psyche. It is a way of interacting with the world, of apprehending social relations and of perceiving one’s own emotions, one’s own cognitions: “Thus, instead of adapting to the different situations of daily life, the personality of a person suffering from personality disorders is rigid and in fact, maladjusted.“, explains Dr. Aïda Cancel, psychiatrist and doctor of neuroscience.

Personality disorders have long been classified separately because they depend on the individual but also on social norms and it is difficult to assimilate them to a pathology. Psychopathy, also called “anti-social personality”can only be diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood, although some symptoms may be present in early childhood.

It is characterized by cognitive and motor impulsivity (that’s to say “the fact of having trouble thinking about your actions before acting,” explains Dr. Cancel), often by a lack of empathy or compassion towards others as well as by a difficulty in respecting the norms Therefore “the person often has problems with the law because there is often a transgression of social rules which leads him to commit offenses or crimes.” says Dr. Cancel.

“The psychopath does not have the possibility to think about the consequences before acting and to control his actions, exposes Dr. Cancel. It is really impulsiveness that dominates. There can also be manipulation since there is often a lack of ability to put oneself in the other person’s shoes, to feel their difficulties or their pain. The psychopath is quite often someone who uses social relations in his interest, to achieve his ends.

We are talking about psychopathic personality disorder when these difficulties (impulsivity, lack of empathy, etc.) are permanently present and cause suffering for the person or those around them.

The psychopath behaves with women as with anyone around him.“, explains Dr. Cancel “with impulsiveness and sometimes lack of empathyVery often this impulsiveness and this violence will be increased with addictive behaviors and the partner of the psychopath will be more exposed. Impulsivity in romantic/sexual relationships possibly potentially dangerous: violence, STIs, etc.

The diagnosis of psychopathy is medical and is made by a psychiatrist or general practitioner. “The diagnosis of a personality disorder is a difficult diagnosis“explains Dr. Cancel. We can have punctually behaviors that resemble those of a person with personality disorders and this can lead to misdiagnosis. “To talk about personality disorders, you really need a stable disorder over time, outside of any psychiatric episode.“ continues the psychiatrist.

Online tests are unreliable and the results must, in any case, be examined by a professional, in a context and a life history and by ruling out other psychiatric causes, apart from the acute phases of psychiatric episodes and toxic intakes.

To speak to a psychopath, one must, as Dr. Cancel advises”be aware of the difficulties and impulsiveness they experience while being vigilant about certain behaviors which can be manipulation since the psychopath will often have a utilitarian vision of social relations“. Thus, she continues: you have to know how to set limits and not accept or tolerate that it crosses the limits of the law or the rules. When there is violence, even occasional, you have to know how to protect yourself, keep a distance and file a complaint if necessary”

Currently, there is not much difference between “psychopath” and “sociopath”.

We do not know the exact causes of psychopathy., acknowledges Dr. Cancel. In contrast, “the childhoods of psychopathic people are often chaotic, exposed to violence or an upbringing where there are no limits and where one does not learn to tolerate frustration“. Thus, often, psychopaths have experienced a violent childhood (physical, verbal, precarious…) or have had absent or particularly lax parents.

Very often, psychopathy-related disorders decrease with age.

The mainstay of treatment is psychotherapy, explains Dr. Cancel. The goal is to find tools that allow you to temporize impulsiveness, to understand others better or to grasp the consequences of your actions.“Very often, psychopathy-related disorders diminish with age.”From the age of 40, things start to settle down“says Dr. Cancel.”There is generally less impulsiveness, less violence.”

There may be drug treatments because psychopathy is a risk factor for psychiatric illnesses, including depression or addictive behavior. “The treatment will be that of these comorbidities” explains Dr. Cancel. In the most severe or disabling cases, we can also offer treatments to reduce impulsivity: antidepressants, anti-impulsive antipsychotics

I don’t see violent and very impulsive psychopaths who would have succeeded in life”, explains Dr. Cancel, “it’s still disabling.“Famous serial killers aren’t really psychopaths in that, while they lack empathy, they aren’t impulsive.

Thanks to Dr. Aïda Cancel, psychiatrist and doctor in neuroscience.

Psychopath: definition, test, how to talk to him?