Is Psychopathy Genetic?

Interest in the most severe form of character disturbance (psychopathy) has grown rapidly in the past several years, thanks mainly to the research conducted by Dr. Robert Hare of Canada and others.  And one of the more interesting findings to come out of clinical studies on brain functioning is evidence of a possible biological basis for the psychopath’s diminished capacity for empathy.  So does that mean that the most seriously disordered characters among us – or for that matter, all disturbed characters – are simply born the way they are?

It’s been established for some time that genes play a significant role in the makeup of those individuals eventually diagnosed with such conditions as Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD, sometimes also now termed Dissocial Personality Disorder or DPD).  And while the concepts of psychopathy and sociopathy have been around for a long time, neither has been recognized as an official disorder (although it’s likely that the upcoming revision of the official diagnostic manual will include the key aspects of psychopathy as a variant form of APD).  Historically, the evidence for a genetic predisposition to APD has come from studies of monozygotic (identical) twins reared apart.  The fact that the twin of an individual with an antisocial behavior history is more likely to show the same kind of behaviors despite being raised in a different environment argues for a genetic predisposition to the disorder.  And it’s of particular interest that twin studies have shown that the key component of psychopathy (i.e. lack of guilt or remorse and callous use and abuse of others rooted in empathy deficits) also appears to be influenced by biological factors.  The “concordance” rate between twins reared apart for the various traits associated with APD, DPD, psychopathy and sociopathy is not strong enough to confirm a strictly genetic basis, but there can be no doubting a strong biologically-based predisposition.  And one fairly recent study on monozygotic twins reared apart demonstrated that the biological predisposition toward empathy deficiency shows up even in children as young as 7 years old (see: Evidence for Substantial Genetic Risk for Psychopathy in 7-Year Olds).

In the past several years studies of brain activity in individuals meeting the criteria for psychopathy have yielded some groundbreaking findings. CAT scans reveal that with psychopaths, areas of the brain typically associated with emotion, especially the integration of emotion with other mental constructs, do not operate in the same manner as they do with normal individuals.  Show most people a picture of something typically associated with a sentiment (e.g., a wedding ceremony), and areas of the brain that process information about the event as well as areas of the brain involved in emotion both show activity.  But show the same image to a psychopath, and although the area of the brain recognizing the image or event is active, the area of the brain typically associated with an emotional response appears dormant.  Other brains studies measuring different aspects of the integration of emotions with other human experiences have shown the same abnormalities when it comes to psychopaths.

So, what does this all mean?  And would it be fair to say that all the disturbed characters among us are simply born the way they are?  Naturally, the answer is not all that simple.  Suffice it to say that many of the traditional assumptions about traumatic or impoverished environments being the “cause” of some of these conditions have now been rightfully and significantly challenged.  There are biological factors at work and some of these factors are strong contributors to some of our more serious character disturbances.  And there at least appears to be a strong genetic component to an individual’s capacity to experience empathy, guilt, and remorse.  And while all this might come as welcome news to those exasperated parents who used to blame themselves and who we used to blame for raising monsters, there’s still a lot we don’t know about all the factors that contribute to someone becoming a full-blown psychopath.

While for some time I was nearly alone in the field, many other professionals are recognizing the broad continuum of character disturbance that plagues society these days.  And while much of the research of late has focused on the most extreme cases (i.e. psychopathy, sociopathy), we’re gradually coming to understand more about the entire spectrum of character disturbance as well as the various factors, the presence and intensity of which might largely determine the kind of character disturbance that might develop.  We’re also gradually coming to understand the phenomenon of character disturbance within the context of evolutionary history.  There was a time – back in our more primitive days – when two of the factors we now think of as highly problematic:  fearlessness and the capacity for the remorseless perpetuation of violence,  were the very qualities the tribe valued most in its dominant leaders.  The truth be told, psychopaths probably helped us survive and get to where we are.  But in an evolved and civilized world, they have little place.  They’re natural predators, but there are no wild beasts to slay.  So, as Hare notes, they’ve become intra-species predators (which is why in both of my books I suggest that the most appropriate descriptive label for these personalities is “predatory aggressive”).  They’re also not killing each other off in great numbers in tribal wars.  As a result, they’re now estimated to make up between 2 – 5 percent of the population.

In In Sheep’s Clothing, I expose the manipulative characters who fall just short of being true psychopaths.  And In Character Disturbance, I not only outline the entire spectrum of character dysfunction but also address the biological, environmental, and other factors thought to contribute to character development.  And I make the case that the degree to which genetics outweighs other factors as the main causal agent for a disturbance varies.  Suffice it to say, however, that when it comes to severe character disturbance, the evidence is strong that biology might be the greater culprit.  That’s why it’s so important to cultivate good “radar” for the predators among us and to keep a safe distance.  We’re not in caves anymore and we don’t need a champion with ice water in their veins slaying every potential threat for our survival.  And we have to remember, that given their predatory instincts, and the lack of dragons in our midst, if we’re not careful, they’ll prey on us.

Some have suggested that psychopaths might rightfully be considered a different species because they’re so different with respect to the critical attributes that most of us think define us “human.”  But there’s certainly no solid scientific foundation for that notion.  Nonetheless, during my many years dealing with psychopaths, I was most struck by the fact that many considered themselves not only very different from the rest of us, but also clearly superior to us because they did not carry with them the vulnerability that typically accompanies having feelings and a conscience.  And it’s their pathological sense of superiority, a truly malignant narcissism, that gives rise to their sense of entitlement to prey on those they regard as inferior creatures.

Whether it’s the result of genes, a peculiar mindset, an ingrained pattern, or even an evolutionary variation, psychopathy is a very different and dangerous animal indeed.  And according to DeBecker, nature has given us the “gift of fear” (e.g., hair standing up on the back of our neck, uneasiness and queasy stomach, etc.) to alert us when we’re in the presence of a predator.  Unfortunately, some of us fail to trust our instincts and allow ourselves to be taken in by the the great charm of which they’re capable and to fall under their spell.  And by the time the spell is broken, it’s often too late.  That’s why, as I advise in all my writings, it’s so crucial to trust your gut over your heart or even your head.  And when your gut tells you you’re in the presence of a predator, run!

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140 thoughts on “Is Psychopathy Genetic?

  1. Psychopathy is without a doubt genetic. My x-husband is a psychopath . . and my X-son (brought up by me exclusively) is a clone of his psychopathic father. i.e., the lying, the blaming, the aggression, the need to dominate, the need to win, the inappropriate rage outbursts, the constant put-downs, the manipulation, the sense of entitlement, the lack of empathy & compassion, the unbridled narcissism, the sadism…the EMPTY SHELL!

    1. Is there any treatment for this ? My mom was in exactly same condition as you. She divorced my father and i am in her custody. The trouble is i am too a clone of my father(i think that, not her) because i have felt and committed all those actions which make me a psychopath. But i want to change myself, i don’t want her to think that her efforts went in vain. I do not want to end up like my triple-damned father, who used to beat her every night after getting drunk and sometimes for no reason at all. He used to dominate us, abuse us. He made our life hell !! I repeat i do not want to be like him, but sometimes i just can’t stop myself from doing those psycho-things, it makes me feel so helpless. For example – Lying, i don’t know why i lie, i feel like i am on auto-pilot.. PLs help !!

      1. Reckoning with a problem is such an important first step. And yes, there are several help options available. Although I can’t give direct advice here, I can give you some options to consider when seeking the right kind of help that you might find useful. Contact me through the back channel, using the “Contact Dr. Simon” feature.

      2. You are not a psychopath if you are able to realize you’re a psychopath. I think these would be considered sociopathic tendencies, which a significant portion of society suffers from, including my father and myself. I recall my father once sh*tkicking me for serving my own food at the dinner table after he said he was dishing it out. The emotional abuse through my preteen years is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I don’t believe Dad is capable of reconciling his issues, let alone admitting there are any, but I am very aware and swear to never become that. You are obviously on the same path

        1. Ross, Im not sure about the first sentence in your post. I think they do realize it but don’t admit it CERTAINLY! Although some do.

          1. Yeah thats true beca use antisocial people nowdays have information at their hand so they can identify T. Themselves.

          2. As a psychopath myself, I’ll freely identify it to people who care about me. The disorder implies that you’ll do anything to get what you want, which may not be violent. If you can get that by being honest better than lying, any psychopath will admit it.

            The stigma associated with it generally discourages it.

      3. Good for you Kane. Admitting you have a problem and seeking help proves you are not pre-destined because of gentics. You can control your life. Its unfortunate your hardrive got programmed when you were young, but like a computer you can reboot and make a permanent change. My advise…..try yoga. Its something new, deeply spiritual and will create a new part of your brain that will be pure, calm, beautiful and free from the viruses that haunt your old hardrive. Wish you luck!

        1. Hmm…not that his approach to yoga would be more sincere, and Not that yoga isn’t good for some or even all, but I have witnessed first hand a psychopath get into yoga rather religiously and it didn’t do him a damn thing, he was still just as narcissistic and unemotional as ever, maybe he was hiding it better with his yoga phase, perhaps even more so now (seemingly) because he recently stopped doing yoga.. But I think it’s because his yoga phase was fake, it was another type of mask to be this healthy spiritual guru and it was a way to find the prey that he preferred (hot, fit yoga women both young and old) and it made him seem like a leader because he was so into it, but he was manipulating me at this time heavily and I know that he was absolutely disturbed even though he was doing tons of yoga every day, it didn’t make a damn difference. He later found a new type of prey (a different kind of woman to be into that was some how preferable to his own logic) and ceased to do yoga and found something more appropriate to be into to seem more charming for those kinds of women.

      4. You aren’t a psychopath. If you were, you wouldn’t care about being like a psychopath, at best you wouldn’t want to be perceived as one because it might stand in the way of you getting what you want. Normal people can even do crappy things and half of them may not even care much, for you to be disturbed by indicates that you’re good and figuring stuff out.

      5. I doubt that you are a psychopath, as you want to behave differently than your father, but feel compelled to behave as you sometimes do. These are feelings psychopaths don’t have. Some psychoanalytic terms to look up are “reversal of self and object,” and “projective identification.”

    2. Reading your words its like if I my self had written them….I go through this pain every day of my life with my son who has all those personality traits you describe and he is the son of a psychopathic person my ex husband….

    3. Oh my God Sarah. I’m in the same predicament. soon to be ex husband and son. how do you deal with the son if you don’t mind me asking? mine is a young adult.

      1. The key to understanding this is to understand how you were attracted to a psychopath in the first place. It is very likely that you partly created this situation, and that you also see your son as more like his father than he really is.

    4. I hope your not serious. You have ONE personal experience and it MUST be true. Have you ever wondered that maybe your son was just into his father more and developed some of his same qualities due to living with him? Children adapt to their environments. For example, if a child listens to, I don’t know, rock at a young age, then as he gets older, he will have a preference towards it since it’s what he grew up with. If your ex-son was raised with a psychopath, then he may become psychopathic too. What you stated is like someone else stating that they once saw a turtle that was angry around other turtles, and one of those other turtles was also angry.

      1. Points well taken, Alex. As all my articles on the topic assert (as do my book), biological factors are only a part of the picture, albeit in some cases, a greater part than we once thought. I resisted a forceful contest to the comment here because Sarah and I have debated this point before, and quite intensely. But many factors shape personality development (e.g., temperament, biology, early learning and environment, cultural “reinforcement”, etc.) and the extent to which one factor or another plays a more dominant role in someone’s character formation varies. It’s always dangerous to paint with a broad brush or to overgeneralize based on unique experiences (Freud made this very same mistake when fashioning what he thought were general rules about human behavior based on his observations of one very small non-representative group of patients). And one does have to be able to explain why some folks, despite the most optimal of environments turn out horrendously evil whereas others, despite the most hostile and neglectful environments emerge with a most impressive character. That’s why the longstanding “nature vs. nurture” debate has always been a red herring of sorts. It’s not an either-or thing. Both, along with other factors, play roles in character formation, and as I mentioned earlier, the degree to which any factor or cluster of factors plays a more dominant role varies from individual to individual.

        1. Appreciate your point but if there is a spectrum?
          there are some who will develop into extremely callous psychopathic adults no matter how well they are managed or “trained” in their youth.
          What do you get if you educate a true psychopath?
          An educated psychopath …
          more manipulative and some would say all the more dangerous because of this.
          as they now have been given the skills to essentially get away with their awful behaviour whilst avoiding jail.
          They are truly irredeemable individuals once you really know them.
          A “good” upbringing that would suit am empathic child with appropriate and reasonable discipline does not necessarily suit the psychopath, they are adaptable and literal and are adept at feigned innocence , in my youth growing up with my older brother he was the insufferable little adult when the chance came…
          monsters breed monsters and my parents saw nothing wrong with him , they treated us all as psychopathic , they dont trust eachh others words and never will…communication becomes who can sound the smartest and be most “right”….
          growing up round that was a fucking nightmare i tell you…

          the irony being i went to jail for belting a psychopathic cop and read a few books on the subject.

          they can never admit to their psychopathy they dont really have the capacity to quite understand the concept.
          except my brother,,,hes read every book on the subject but he will still call you “fucking crazy and deluded” without knowing quite qwhat flavour of crazy he himself is.
          its genetic and there is no treatment you just got to keep an eye on them and dont trust a fucking word they say.

          1. Psychopaths do understand that they lack a conscience and empathy – they just don’t see it as a problem. If they deny it, it is just another con.

    5. My God! You have described exactly my situation. I am sure my ex husband is a psycopath – there is no other explanation for is sense of entitlement, need to win, lack of emotion, and the pleasure he takes in wrong-footing people (particularly me). My eldest son is exactly the same. The one difference is he seems to be aware of his personality disorder and is seeking psychiatric help.

      I would love to know how you have survived with this situation.

    6. NOTE: THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN EDITED BY THE MODERATOR DUE TO PROVOCATIVE TONE AND CONTENT. Your “ex” son? This seems to me a cruel thing to say.

      (THE COMMENTATOR HERE APPEARS TO ASCRIBE TO THE NOTION THAT ALL BEHAVIOR IS LARGELY LEARNED): I think you may have a bit more to do with both your SON’S (not ex-son) and your ex-husband’s behavior than you’re willing to admit.

      If he was brought up by you exclusively, I have to assume that he learned a great deal of these behaviors from you.

      Ex-son though…. wow… This to me sounds like there’s some dysfunctional all-around in this family.


      1. “If he was brought up by you exclusively, I have to assume that he learned a great deal of these behaviors from you.”

        You might say that, but after watching my adopted nephew grow up form the age of 2 in a loving supportive, caring and non abusive household, I strongly disagree.

        Psychopaths can be made or born. Environment can play a role, but does not have to be involved. For example, my nephew’s psychiatrist informally diagnosed him at 7 as a budding anti is a psychopath who hurts animals, punches people in crowds, lies and manipulates. His parents have gotten his treatment, therapy, specialists and supportive activities to no avail.

        He may conceal his psychopathy better now as a result of this theraputic “training”, but it has not changed who he is as a person. Although his genetic history is unknown due to his adoption, I would bet that one parent is a violent sociopath. This child was born with this brain. No therapy, no treatment environment and no different adoptive parents would change who he is.

        If he were an animal, he would be euthanized for the safety of those around him. As a person, he is allowed to prey on people and live his life while others hope for the best. All I can say is never assume that everyone has some good inside them. That is a cliche. Psychopaths do not have a good side. They are manipulative, cunning and have no remorse unless it serves them to pretend that emotion.

  2. I lived with one. There were a few times when he talked about the roots of his — what we called mental disorder, the dark hole inside him — and he thought it began in babyhood. He *knew* as a small child, suffered from terrible nightmares then, then as he grew just started to run amok, confident that he could game anyone… and did.

    The rest of his family had issues, but were mostly very supportive of him all his life. Nice upstanding folks. Maybe sometimes it jumps generations.

    1. I should add that his parents reported nightmares. It could have been, he was manipulating them with “nightmares.” He manipulated me with “anxiety” as in, ‘why did you lie to me? Well, I got anxious.’ Ha.

  3. 40 Years ago I was awarded my PhD in Psychology on a thesis of the criminal psychopathic offender. I published it in book form in Afrikaans my home language. I am South African and was for 18 years involved with the Prison Department and when I left I was the first prison clinical psychologist and head of the Psychological Department.

    In spite of the fact that genetic and neurological studies were very limited because modern technology was not available I indicated in my book that there are indications of a constitutional (genetic/hereditary) and neurological basis combined with some environmental factors which predispose individuals to psychopathy.
    I plan to update my book with the latest scientific research as indicated in your fascinating article above.

    1. Not sure of the validity of the distinction you’re trying to make here, Dan, or the support you have for your contention. Perhaps you could explain a bit more and clarify. Perhaps it might be a matter of semantics. The link between the predatory victimization of others and impaired empathy capacity or the capacity to compartmentalize empathy, however, is extremely well-established. It’s true that not all persons who engage in some types of predatory behavior are full-blown psychopaths, but a lack of concern for the welfare of others, rooted at least in part in deficient or compartmentalized empathy, is almost always at play in predatory aggression.

  4. Hi Dr Simon. My father is a classic & authentic psychopath. He meets every single definition and criteria for a psychopath (not sociopath). Thankfully I seem to have inherited all his good traits (intelligence, heightened emotional/people awareness, leadership qualities, etc) but none of his psychopathic ones. Which in the end was my saviour growing up as I was able to see right through him when no one else could and it in fact honed my radar for abnormal behaviour saving me from the resultant self destructive behaviour many abuse victims experience. So against all odds, despite the abuse and manipulation I was able to come out of it on the other side damaged certainly but in many ways stronger and more able. There is no doubt that being in a situation like that, if you are lucky enough to come out the other side, promotes a very deep rooted and rapid sense of character development and maturity that take most people half their life to achieve. However, my concern is not for myself but for any future children I may have. Are the odds high that those children (particularly the males, as I know psychopathy is highest in males) will inherit the genetic & brain abnormalities of my father and therefore be pre-disposed to psychopathic behaviours? My children will be raised in a loving, well adjusted and balanced home environment but as per your article, twins raised in separate environments still displayed similar traits, thus this issue is rapidly becoming recognised as a genetic pre-disposition. I don’t want to be selfish and have children if there are very high odds that they will suffer the same fate as my father. I also don’t think it’s fair to expose society or my partner to a potentially dangerous criminal if that could have been avoided, just because I want a family one day. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks.

    1. You might find some of the many articles I’ve written on psychopathy helpful, including not only those I’ve posted on this blog but also other articles posted on popular international blogs (e.g., as I address in these articles the current state of our understanding about the biological factors thought to be at play. Suffice it to say, however, that while it is fairly well-established that there is a genetically-based predisposition for the development of the condition, we still know very little on personality development in optimal environments in a child predisposed to the condition. And we know even less about personality development in a predisposed child where detection has been made early and appropriate early interventions have been employed. We also lack sufficient, reliable data on the probability of passing the predisposition along (especially via genetic contribution through the mother) to advise all children of a genuinely psychopathic parent to not have children.

      It appears fairly obvious that you possess some highly desirable personality characteristics of your own. It would be great if we could reliably predict whether you might necessarily pass those traits on to your children or predict what the most likely combinations of predispositions resulting from the co-mingling of traits of your partner might be. But the state-of-the-science is just not there yet.

      1. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your already busy day to not only answer my question but answer it so fully and promptly. It really means a lot to me and it is greatly appreciated. Based on your response it would seem that at this stage we just don’t possess the required level of understanding to predict accurately whether my children will be at risk. I think in that case the best way to look at it would be the same as assessing any risk in having a child. Which is that, unfortunately, as much as we want them to lead a happy healthy life and as much as each child deserves that, the reality is not everyone is so lucky. We can’t stop having children just because something might go wrong because you can do everything right and it still happens. I just wanted to rule out the option only if it was fairly certain that it would happen but that doesn’t seem to be the case. So I guess all I can do is raise those children with love, fairness, balance and boundaries and hope for the best :) And I will certainly look into those articles you mentioned, thank you for suggesting them. Kind Regards.

      2. As a sidebar, I forgot to mention that all my experiences left me with a really wonderful gift…..a high aptitude for understanding human behaviour coupled with a healthy fascination of how the brain and behaviour works thus leading me to a career in Psychology. I am in the early stages of my degree right now. So you never know, perhaps one day you might be reading my articles on this very topic 😉

        1. I’ll definately read your articles and doesn’t have to be one day, post them now and keep posting the more and more you learn and grow along the way. I instantly related to your situation. A lifetime of being dominated by psychopaths and narcissistic people. It’s all i knew but slowly started to see over years that I and my younger sister as opposed to my two elder siblings were similar in high intelligence and being able to understand human behaviour and see alot more about a person than others but we have empathy. I have too much sometimes and it sounds like i’m tooting my own horn, it’s not bragging, it overwhelms me and I find myself habitually use to the mentality of “i have to help”. I get walked over alot but trying to change this happening and seek as much knowlege as possible and surround myself with similar minded and compassionate people. I have two boys and thought with nothing but psychopaths and narcissists in my life… i swear i’m a magnet and taken many blows but finally becoming aware that it isn’t me, it is them and i need to distance myself from them and seek knowledge on prevention from future revictimization and establishing firm boundaries on what is allowed and not allowed and that respect should be given by both sides, not just one. I look forward to reading both Dr. Simon’s articles and yours aswell. Your going to excel in life. Good luck friend :-)I got my mission to look forward to, spreading awareness and using my experience to educate parents of signs of peodophiles and women about signs of how psychopaths lure women in with a false charm and to help other women with further revictimization as adults. I got my whole 30 years of daily experiences with different ones male and females. They are all i have known in life, but i have true friends my whole life still here to help me handle them and help me recover everytime i’m left picking up the pieces of the chaos around me. I believe your mind turns off auto-pilot and starts to function only when addressed with a problem, i have had 30 years of constant dramas around me. i may have done average at school but this field of experience has given me so much knowlege with depth that others couldn’t possibly understand. Always take a negative and turn it positive. Like my ex’s, negative but my kid’s – POSITIVE! Life is a lesson and will never stop repeating until you learn from it. I’m finally ready and learnt more than many i know could believe and thats without even really knowing the other 90 percent, and it’s time to focus on me and help others with my knowledge. We victims or shall i say survivors whom were once their victims and seen as weak to them are in fact their biggest threat in stopping them and exposing them. It’s our duty to use our knowlege to not only educate others but also ourselves. Keep writing guys. I’ll be reading. :-)

      3. As the empathic child of two psychopaths and a having a psychopathic brother, even though they had me fooled for years in an epic game of cat and mouse, switching roles between them betraying trust and colluding to maintain a sense of emotional confusion that did in fact drive me nearly totally insane until i realised i couldnt trust any of them or even at times any one they had been talking to!
        My life thrives when ive away from them but one call from my father (usually on his birthday or when he has an “event” or something he wants to brag about.) still makes me want too samsh the furniture….their cheek and callousness is unreal.
        Its got to the point you emotionally open up to them and they are just silent, and then ask about the waether or something like it aint no thing they would find my brothers subtle torture of my person so very funny.
        until i belted him and they would then utterly chastise me and molly coddle the little fucker whilst he grinned smugly.
        if you meet or know apsychopath…warn everyne you can and get the fuck away from them,,,they are truly worthless.

        1. Fgfghfh, what a terrible set of circumstances you have been dealt. It makes me angry just reading it and as usual I just don’t understand why people have to be this way and do the damage they do, especially to children. Sounds like you are well on your way to separating from these people and that you do limit your contact. I hope you continue that process because as you have seen yourself, few stand much chance of ever being anything other than what they are. Good luck!

        2. Don’t communicate with your brother and parents. It’s unjustified hope that makes you accept their calls. Giving up hope is harder than it sounds. It’s a taste of death.

  5. Hello Dr.Simon I just want to say I just can’t believe that genes
    have the upper hand in this development. will as we know some people have higher risk to cancer due to their genes but if they take care of themselves they won’t get cancer by god will so their got to be someways to protect those kind of people from becoming psychopath right ??
    And also we know that we all have Spiritual Intelligence which contain • wisdom • compassion • integrity • joy • love • creativity • peace

    • help others and improve society by using a higher dimension of your intelligence .

    1. I think having true spiritual intelligence requires certain emotional development. Something psychopaths, manipulators, bullies and other people with deficient moral integrity don’t have.

    2. It’s the sweeping generalizations (e.g., “we know that we all have”) that get us in trouble, Eman. The biological components of psychopathy (notice, I didn’t say merely genes) and their causal influence in the condition are very well-established. And very few clinicians have spent much of their careers dealing with severely disturbed characters. I know first hand how much easier it is to be and work in the world of neurotics, where “wisdom, compassion, joy, love, integrity,” etc. are more common.

  6. Dr, is there a posibility that, aside from brain trauma, a person could lose the ability to empathize later in life? For example: could a person 40 years of age, after experienceing the loss of a child, or extreme betrayal or abuse by a loved one that resulted in astrangement, be traumatized enough to become a kind of sociopath?

    1. There are many possible scenarios under which a person’s once intact capacity to empathize becomes diminished. An adverse response to extreme trauma is only one possibility. Loss of certain cognitive capacities through disease is another. And while certain behaviors that might result from such an impairment might look like psychopathy or sociopathy, it wouldn’t be fair to say that they’re the same thing.

      1. If it isn’t organic, and there used to be real empathy, it’s what a person won’t face that causes a “blind spot” in an otherwise empathic person. For example, a person who refuses to feel grief over an overwhelming loss that lacks empathy for the grief of others.

  7. Here’s a question I hope you’ll weigh in on. According to articles about research done by Mehmet Mahmut and Kevin Dutton, not all psychopaths are criminals. But, my friend getting a PhD in Psychology says this is incorrect and that these researchers are using the term psychopath incorrectly; they should be using the term sociopath because Hare is the standard and Hare requires one to be a criminal in order to be a psychopath. Is this true? It’s very confusing to us lay people trying to understand the differences and when we see and hear all this conflicting information we don’t know who we should believe. Thanks in advance for any response.

    1. Your friend has Dr. Hare’s assertions completely wrong. Hare points out that while all criminals are not psychopaths, some of the worst criminals are psychopaths. And he definitely does not insist you must be a criminal to be a psychopath. In fact, he was among the first to empirically demonstrate the “2 factor” model of psychopathy (and BTW, he uses the term psychopath as opposed to sociopath) and insists that only the first factor, which is the callous, heartless, remorseless, and senseless use and abuse of others rooted in severe empathy deficits is the essential factor for psychopathy, whereas the second factor or social parisitism, criminal behavior, etc. is a sometimes accompanying feature but not essential to the condition.

      Now as for all the confusion about the terms psychopathy, sociopathy, and antisociality (which are all indeed rampantly misused even by professionals), that’s a whole other matter, and one I’ve written about in several posts on the subject and in my book Character Disturbance. Your friend is right when he says there is rampant misunderstanding about these concepts and terms.

      1. Dr Simon, I have read your article with great interest. I believe psychopathy/sociopathy is genetic. I have two children, raised the same way. One is neurotic, sensitive, conscientious, too feeling; the other meets all of Dr Hare’s criteria for psychopathy. From the time she was born she was different. My question is: how do you raise a teenager with this traits? Tough love, consequences? Easier said than done. I have always been someone who mothers with feeling, but I am now realising this is not the way to go with a sociopath teenager. I am unable to find much literature on raising these children.

        1. Hi Lilly, I have the same experience with my kids. All you can do for either of them is provide guidance and consequences according to your values. The one with the conscience will be able to make the proper self-guided behavioral choices early on. The one with no conscience will *always* need outside controls, way past his childhood. Rest easy knowing that you are doing your job, and you can do no more.

          1. oops, I meant “her” childhood. My daughter, 23 yo, is the psychopath,(my son is not.) She is a lovely person, until the self-ishness makes her betray people who think she is their “good” friend. It is not the way she was raised, but it happens nonetheless. Honesty is not part of who they are, and no amount of consequences will change that. I have seen that getting caught, and being punished, just makes the psychopath perfect their lying ways. Again, I say, just rest easy knowing you are doing your job as mom. :-)

  8. My family is living proof that psychopathy can be traced genetically. It is neurological and I would like to change terminology to something akin to emotional retardation. My observations are that psychopaths simply are born incapable of having a conscience. The state of not having a conscience then manifests different personality issues, (the most prominent being telling lies without remorse.) There are many “successful” psychopaths in my family, and only a couple that resorted to crime.

    Butterflies in the stomach, and goosebumps, and nausea are unknown by psychopaths, which leads me to conclude the neurological aspects of them being physically disconnected from their unpleasant emotions.

  9. Tina, I wonder if they NEED their extreme behavior?? because they have to turn up the volume in life to get it to register? The drama, the sexual deviancy, the tendency to get bored with everyday levels of life, love, etc…. So they need to magnify life in a weird kind of way.

  10. Tina, Do you see any evidence of the psychopaths in your life LOVING others? Like genuine caring behavior? Or do you see them more shallow in their connections to other’s?

    1. One of them have admitted to me that he needs the extremes because the feelings are fleeting, if even present. My brother, (who at first broached the subject by telling me that he thought he had Asperbergers) said that he doesn’t immediately know when something bothers him. Example – troubles with his girlfriend. He said that he gets diarrhea the next day, and that’s the signal that it’s important. But he still can’t feel “bad”. lol. No nervousness during the troubles, he says.

    2. My family is all I know, as far as being “loving” is concerned. It isn’t true love, it is convenience. When it comes down to it, “Out of sight, Out of mind.” But, when you’re around, they show “love.” And with some of them, if you let them know (that you know they are psychopathic), then they will purposely choose not to be around you because they can no longer “fool” you into thinking they understand feelings… they are all different from each other. They have the common facet of being really the most fun people you will ever meet! Darn, because they only can care about themselves.

    3. I asked one of them if he ever “suffered”? He asked, “What does that mean?” He was over 40 at the time, and he only had nausea once in his life – when he was seriously physically injured. He was really amazed by it. Until that experience in his late 30’s, he had thought all his life that people make themselves throw up.

  11. Another tidbit I have gleamed from observing my family and other families like us: The ones who are not psychopaths, tend to be narcissists. It is hard to tell the difference, but what I see as the “test” – Psychopaths enjoy manipulating feelings (it can’t be done to them), so they like easy targets (children and dogs). Narcissists don’t like children nor animals. Just based on my 45 years of study… Luckily (tic), the psychopaths I know are the ones that mostly like to manipulate people into feeling good (telling them what they want to hear), instead of making people feel crappy.

    1. This interests me. I can point only to my personal experiences throughout the years with my wife and her mother (they are extremely similar in displaying levels of psychopathic behaviour) and have noticed that my wife in particular exhibits behaviour that suggests she is narcissistic. She is extremely selfish and seems to have little or no recognition or concern for others. She must always come first and resents the suggestion that others may have issues and challenges to contend with that are on a level with, or even, dare one suggest, worse than her own. In other words, I see her as a narcissist AND as a psychopath (in not having any concern for the feelings of others, any empathy, will never apologise for her actions or display signs of regret).

      Forgive my enquiring, but presumably it is entirely plausible that a manipulative individual can be both a narcissist and psychopath?

        1. To add a bit, here. All of the aggressive personalities, including the predatory aggressive (psychopath/sociopath) are narcissists through and through to start with. It’s a variation on a theme. The pure narcissist knows he’s/she’s better than the rest, the aggressives are out to prove it and dominate those perceived as weaker and unworthy. Now psychopaths have the most malignant form of narcissism in their character. They see themselves as a superior form of the human species. All other humans (those with empathy, conscience, etc.) are an inherently inferior sub-species in their view, and therefore justifiable prey. Victimizing one of these sub-humans is no different than stepping on an ant.

          1. Disgustingly disturbing! But very well worded…..very clear summary Dr. Simon. I need to print that on a business card and keep it in my pocket!

      1. Danny, try this……………..

        “The psychopath will sit back, reflecting on
        his infidelities, and laughing, think, “I’ve
        still got it.” He will mean, “I’ve still got the ability to maneuver these women like a
        puppeteer.” This will amuse him. The narcissist will sit back, and likewise think, “I’ve
        still got it.” But he will mean,“I’m still attractive. Women still find me irresistable. I’m
        okay, for now.”

    2. I know one who wanted people to think he was neurotic if anything, to explain some of his odd or selfish behaviors, he often talked about certain types of trauma but if you either gave him too much sympathy by being angry for him for example he would reprimand you for it and make you feel bad somehow. Yet, if you ever challenged anything he said you wind up feeling guilty. He is also persuasive and often just dying to have power over others and talks about starting new religions for example, or other narcissistic ideas but they always change over the years, nothing is consisting except the manipulation and his personality under the mask. He also would make wildly strange facial expressions to show basic thoughts or feelings, like during a conversation and he was showing that he was thinking for example, so he’d blink a lot and smack his lips, but it was exaggerated and strange, like unnatural and forced, and he goes through phases of different personalities it seems, yet, if you had him alone, and he was eating for example, it would be very caveman like, no emotions, he can eat disgusting things that no one else could stomach, like raw meat smoothies, and even kill a cockroach with his hand and continue eating while doing so, without blinking an eye or hesitating even for a moment with surprise or fear, most of his closest friends will say he either has no emotions or they will give a long spiel about his philosophy or make other excuses but no one ever wants to admit that someone has character flaws like this, and I was included. I always made excuses for him and somehow always found myself feeling sorry for him, weakened, humiliated, and more insecure than ever. And his compliments to me were always what I wanted to hear whenever I was about to leave or he wanted something, othertimes his compliments would start with ‘we’ like ‘we are really talented’ or something, even when there was no evidence that he possessed that which he was complimenting me on

      1. Katie,
        ” I always made excuses for him and somehow always found myself feeling sorry for him, weakened, humiliated, and more insecure than ever. ”

        Yep, I can relate…….they count on this tendency in others.

      2. I can really relate to this: “He also would make wildly strange facial expressions to show basic thoughts or feelings, like during a conversation and he was showing that he was thinking for example,” For me, if I was talking about a struggle, insecurity, problem I was having he would stare a little too intently and nod like he was really listening, but it was very exaggerated. Also he’d have this weird-almost smile on his face, which I thought was unnerving, like he was somehow happy with my struggle. But really who could ever think a person was like that, so I just kind of ignored it or wrote it off as me “reading more into it” than I needed to.

        But now when I look back (or when I forget myself and divulge some current issue with him) I wonder what my gut is trying to tell me; from new insight into his character I truly believe I’m not reading more into it, almost everything about him has a purpose. I know I’m jumping to conclusions, but I wonder if it’s 1) he’s happy that I’m upset about someone/something else and it isn’t him, 2) he’s happy that I’m in distress about something and wondering how he can come out looking like the hero, 3) or he’s happy I’m divulging a problem or insecurity, so he can tuck it away at use it to his best advantage at a later time.

        I know I can’t change this, but I can keep my problems to myself, remain like a stone wall when he is around, give him as little to work with to manipulate me as possible. It is hard, sometimes I forget, and I slip. Oh well, one day at a time, keep moving forward, learn from my mistakes, retrain my brain to remember even though he victimized me, that doesn’t mean I need to BE the victim. But wow, there are so many little things.

        1. Sheri,
          “I know I’m jumping to conclusions, but I wonder if it’s 1) he’s happy that I’m upset about someone/something else and it isn’t him, 2) he’s happy that I’m in distress about something and wondering how he can come out looking like the hero, 3) or he’s happy I’m divulging a problem or insecurity, so he can tuck it away at use it to his best advantage at a later time.”
          He is probably thinking about something else or like a baby…….has a bizarre smile because he has gas or just pooped his pants.

  12. I have chosen to champion the cause of reliable scientific (neurological and genetic) testing of a person’s EQ in cases where a psychopathic person would have the potential to cause lasting damage. (As drug and STD tests are used to determine fitness as desired). My history of bad experiences causes my belief that persons seeking positions of trust – entering relationships (romantic or business), becoming parents, running for political office – need to be asked for their EQ. When people have information on a psychopath’s lack of empathy and conscience, they can have an educated choice about whether to allow the psychopath into their lives. When the gamble is lost, the foreknowledge of their condition will soften the blow. I aim to help prevent the shock that results from total betrayal. Traumatized victims cannot function, and their suffering dominoes upon their families, friends, coworkers, and civilized society. I have created a domain to share my knowledge:

  13. Psychopathy as genetically inherited is an idea based on twin studies, raised apart. That sounds like a sound experiment on face value but is it really? So much ‘evidence’ on inheritance is based on identical twin’s, reared apart, studies. What these studies fail to take into account is that twins share the same prenatal environment. Gene expression is going on like never before during intrauterine life. Genes expressing according to the uterine environment ie the chemicals, nutrients and electricity going on inside the Mother’s body. If the Mother is living with a psychopathic Father, we can relatively safely assume she is a stressed woman. How can this affect her developing baby? I believe there are factors affecting the development of psychopathy that are yet to be recognized. I had two boys to a full blown psychopath and neither has developed into one. The second has had to really work on developing empathy, which I recognized in him around the age of four. He is now a very altruistic person who wants to devote his life to a career that leaves the world a better place than he found it. He was the youngest of three kids until he was six and then had a sibling born. Being in a big family also gave him daily opportunities for experiencing empathy.

    1. Juliette!! I have thought the exact same thing! I was incubated in t toxic alcohol environment and have a much milder version of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome so it’s of great interest to me and possibly why my thinking about the twins studies goes in the direction you describe.
      Are you familiar with Arthur Janov? He is a huge proponent of intrauterine development and how it affects a baby among a host of other beliefs on early child development. He was the author of The Primal Scream which goes way back (no pun intended). He sends out news letters and I think you would be VERY interested in reading his non mainstream thoughts about exactly what you are saying.
      His news letters are called Janov’s Reflections On The Human Condition and I signed up for them a year or so ago.

  14. Thanks Puddle, I did go to the link and sign up. I’m pretty sure I read the Primal Scream in my homebirth-hippy days although I can’t remember any of it! I did a primal regression once during that time at a workshop I took part in, it was pretty freaky. I heard of him again this year, when I listened to the presentations on youtube of Dr Gabor Mate, he quotes Janov and I saw on Janov’s page that Gabor Mate gives a comment on his work. You would really find Mate’s work interesting too. One of his areas of research and specialty is FASD. He has a website and many of his lectures are on youtube. The idea about twin studies isn’t mine, it’s his. When I first heard him say it, I obvious, why hasn’t anyone ever said that before! He is sooo right on so many things. His other big thing is addiction studies and he treats severe addicts in his clinic. I had been on a mission earlier this year as I started to realize I was in another toxic relationship to analyze myself, lol and that’s when I came across Mate. He is so engaging to listen to too. He speaks of attachment, intrauterine life, how stress affects us. So much of what he is saying makes sense for us neurotics. I wonder too how much the two bottles of gin and 40 cigarettes per day affected me. My Mother also vomited non stop for the full pregnancy and couldn’t keep anything down except mylanta. I never received colostrum went straight to a bottle and was farmed out to day care at six weeks. It’s amazing I was born with a working brain at all. How resilient is human life?! I’m interested to know how you feel FASD has affected you if you want to say so but I understand if you don’t, I sometimes wonder if I have any effects. I am almost allergic to alcohol. I get poisoning when most people would get tipsy. It would have to have something to do with what my Mother did, don’t you think?

    1. Juliette, FASD has many ways it affects people whose mothers drank during pregnancy so I don’t know about your intolerance to alcohol. That was NEVER the case with me, I took to it like a duck to water. I don’t think I ever threw up drinking unless it was just volume overload during a drinking game with chugging? Without a doubt though, I had the worst hangovers of anyone I’ve ever known. Even as a child they had to be on the look out with me and alcohol……hit and run beer/ drink thief. TODDLER! I really can not explain how FASD affects me Juliette, not in writing. All I know is that it’s VERY similar to trying to explain the results of being in one of these relationships……the similarities are amazing to me. It was brought to my attention for the first time by the psychiatrist I have spoken about, the one who started crying when I stopped seeing him, the one who straightened me out after the family practitioner had me all messed up on Paxil. I apparently filed it away in my brain somewhere and left it there until this mess with Spathtard when the relationship coach said I needed anger management classes (typical of what the victim goes through?). I got on the internet to look up information on anger management classes and FASD and anger issues was staring me right in the face. Dot’s connected and the former Psychiatrists words came back to me like it was just yesterday he had said them. At that point I started looking into it in earnest. the rest is another complicated series of contacts, education and events ending with neuropsycological testing and an assessment by the genetics clinic where I live. Actual diagnosis is pFAS (partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). FASD is almost in the same league as Psychopathy in a way, a very yet to be fully understood condition. WAY under diagnosed, especially in this country. Canada is the leader in FASD research, diagnosis and “treatment”.
      Juliette, there is just so much to say about it and I’ve been invalidated about it on websites before so……….
      It’s pretty unusual to even get a diagnosis as an adult for a variety of reasons, the first being the tell tail facial feature of FAS often disappear or lessen greatly by adolescence. But like a professional gardner sees weeds in a garden when the casual on looker only sees the beautiful flowers, people trained in what to look for can see what others can’t. The smallest percentage of people who have been affected by alcohol in utero show facial anomalies but that does not !mean what so ever! that you haven’t been damaged. It really is an invisible disease in the majority of cases and the ramifications of that are huge! It is not curable or technically treatable. The damage can be buffered somewhat during a certain developmental window though. Fas brains are not “plastic” and don’t respond to the types of treatments used on other types of brain injuries when a brain that was normal is damaged, strokes, TBI, etc. I have a great link for a talk that was given by a researcher in neuroplasticity from Canada to a group of people who are involved with FASD . The guy kind of annoyed me but you may find it interesting, I did.

      1. Thanks so much for that. I remember hearing something about people affected on the FAS as sometimes being too trusting of people too. I’ve known kids who were clearly Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and had that ‘look’ too, they seemed what other people would label ADHD in their behaviour and one was a girl labelled conduct disorder but when you take into consideration the family environment that bathes the fetus in alcohol to begin with, I’d start looking at the chicken and the rooster too before I blamed the alcohol for everything! There are so many labels these days, that I tend to take them all with a pinch of salt and look with an open mind at people as living breathing examples of the wonders of nature. Bizarre as it sounds after my family history, I was labelled as gifted at 12, with a high IQ and placed in accelerated learning environments at school. Not that it made me smart at all in the true sense of intelligence, quite the opposite probably. I just had a good memory and coordination. I also had a huge amount of altruism as a child, compared to other kids. Later in life I was labelled as too altruistic and told that, that was a problem! When I was a child it was labelled amazing, when I was an adult it was now a dysfunction! lol Considering my prenatal and childhood environment I have no idea how I had a high IQ as a child. So we are all a combination of so many things and the labels just don’t really describe us as individuals or mean much to me at all in the grand scheme of things. Especially psychiatric labels from the DSM and the behavioural criteria for them, I think the whole book is a joke actually. Opinionated crusty old lady I am!

          1. Puddle, I can really understand your reluctance to elaborate too much but I think I’m getting what you say. I’ve read that book ‘The brain that changes itself’ as my introduction to brain plasticity and now that you’ve reminded me I remember hearing Gabor Mate say the same about people on the FASD spectrum, that their plasticity was compromised. Maybe he is one of the Canadians who are championing the cause. Good to know that you got the little p before it! That’s fascinating that you were attracted to alcohol even so young. I have ordered the Continuum concept in paperback. After reading the peek they give you on Amazon I really wanted to read it all. I’m going to give it to my new daughter in law, who has just announced her pregnancy to my son/2nd child. So thanks for pointing it out to me, even though I’m already a convert, I really want to influence this young woman without being the ‘pushy Mother in Law’. I’ll have a look at the fas link you gave tomorrow. I didn’t realize either that Janov had written so many books on his general ideas and not just prenatal development…Ah so many books I want to read now and not enough sleep! :-)

        1. FASD is not a lable or a disorder or a personality disorder or a disease. It’s actual physical brain damage, neuroligical damage, etc. And in some cases the physical damage can be seen in MRI’s. there are tell tail, visible indications, especially in the corpus callosum. another thing that it can look like is Aspergers. I test significantly high for aspergers but don’t exactly meet the profile. But when I asked the state FASD coordinator if someone can have both she said yes, but they can also share many traits.

          The trusting thing for me is very true but I would describe the problem differently and i have just figured this out recently. It’s not a matter of trusting for me, it’s a matter of not being able to apply the lessons I’ve “”learned”” in the current situation. VERY hard to describe. It’s an in the moment, almost hyper focus on just right now. for instance, even during this whole mess with spathtard and the indescribable pain it caused… would think I would LEARN not to talk to strangers openly? Nope, I sing like a bird. I have a perfect example but don’t have the energy to type it all out right now. Anyhow, it’s very weird because I know this about myself and it actually creates suspicion of others in a backwards way but it’s pointless suspicion and distrust because it doesn’t alter my behavior in the moment. Just so hard to explain.

          1. Yeah I get it Puddle! I’m pretty sure that Alcohol Acquired Brain Damage in adult alcoholics does the same thing with applying learning in the ‘now’ amongst other things. Gee, we can tie ourselves in knots trying to reconcile all this knowledge in these types of relationships, trying to look for answers and explanations for theirs and our behaviour. It still goes back to blaming ourselves somehow for being victimized. I still want to know what I could have done better though and to help myself avoid it in the future. I could happily stay single forever at the moment. I truly can’t see myself ever being able to negotiate trust with a man again, it’s going to be too much effort too fragmenting and traumatizing and I’d rather do a million other things that made me feel good and left the world an even better place than I found it.

          2. yeah…..I hear you loud and clear on the single and lovin it front but truth be told, I really don’t WANT to be single…..but I accept it and remain “open”.
            In my opinion, time around someone at a safe distance is the only way to avoid this in the future, a long term plutonic courtship but not even that, a friendly involvement AND having shared friends with this person. The caveat??? They can maintain their mask indefinitely with people who are not REALLY involved with them. BUT……with the safety of a plutonic friendship, you are way less likely to get tangled in their deceptive web. For me it has to be TOTALLY plutonic, like do NOT touch, hug, rub, etc… friendly back/ foot rubs, no holding hands……I am WAY too easily hooked by physical touch even non sexual touch. As I’ve said…….Spathtardx made SUCH a point of “just holding” me the first night I was with him. Just SO transparent to me now.

        2. For clarity, FASD is not a mental disorder and from what I’ve been told, there is little mention of it in the DSM. it’s physiological assault? Damage, not sure what you call it.

          1. Puddle, I read the article and thankyou it really cleared some things for me. Like why maybe I didn’t get my cognition and left/right communication more damaged because I wasn’t bathed in alcohol in the 2nd trimester and also maybe why I do have some difficulty at times understanding humour pitched as sarcasm. Like when people tell a joke with a straight face I have always as far back as I can remember, taken people literally when they joke in this way then end up realizing that I am in fact really gullible sometimes…which could have something to do with me not previously seeing through the masks of CA’s. Btw, I had a platonic friendship with Bambam for 9 months before I let him near me physically, it was one of the reasons I decided to trust him! So who can find a guy that is willing to go for a couple of years now? any takers…I don’t think so. My best bet is to work on my own boundaries, ability to perceive correctly, giving off the signals that I am not easily manipulated and developing the courage to take the risks knowing that I can protect myself when necessary without walking around with my hair standing on end, my back arched and my claws out! lol.

          2. Juliette, there is a chart available SOMEwhere on one of the FAS websites that shows the different stages of pregnancy and what part of the brain can be damaged.
            The humor thing? I can very much relate to. It made me laugh to read that!! :)

            The part about BamBam…..well,,,,,,that is not encouraging news and I personally doubt if I could go the necessary length of time. Touch is a gaping hole in my life because …….well for many reasons….but it is an easy manipulation target for sure and he was on it like a duck on a june bug!

  15. hey, I’m doing a research paper on the topic of ‘Is psychopathy genetic/Inherited?’ If anyone could send me a link of a website that has reliable research papers on this topic or any other useful info please send :)

  16. Besides the studies on twins, it is obvious if you study the genealogy of the largely inbred organized psychopathic dynastic families like the Rothschilds and Saxe-Coburg Gotha, it becomes clear that psychopathy is a trait that can be purposefully bred by carefully selecting breeding stock that clearly exhibits lack of empathy and conscience. This would make psychopathy a genetic disorder.

      1. I think the creation of a secondary psychopath may have some epigenetic factors. But clinical psychopaths seem to be genetically born with the disorder. Unlike schizophrenia that usually comes on in late teens early twenties—psychopaths clearly exhibit traits very early in life–even preschool.

        1. Walt, I’d love to be a fly on the wall of Spathtards childhood. I know practically nothing about it but you are right, the signs are there early on from what I understand. Interestingly, my brother and I are both adopted so there is no way of knowing what genetic factors came into play in the development of his disfunction but I can assure you he had plenty of “nurture” issues that I’m sure didn’t help whatever genetic predispositions he may have had. probably akin to pouring gas on a fire.

          1. Also, I don’t know much about the primary vs secondary psychopath differences. I’ve heard the terms used but haven’t really explored.

  17. I self-identified as a sociopath for a while, but I’ve become increasingly convinced that many of the traits associated with sociopathy, while perhaps somewhat founded in biology, are trained mental behaviors. Personally, I learned to turn off emotion so that I could more easily adapt to stressful situations. I’m sure others have done the same. Moreover, my personal experience and reflection suggests that it is our society as a whole that trains us, and which gives the context for the expression of sociopathic traits.

    For instance, we live in a society in which winning is everything, and in which those with power and wealth are held up as paragons of success. Again, in my experience, a sociopath is merely someone who, for whatever reason, is able to (or unable not to) put all social and emotional concerns to the side while they seek to attain success. In general, they get their idea of what success is from social cues, from the media, and from their families.

    Early on, success is simply a matter of meeting one’s needs (or what one perceives as needs), but those needs become increasingly complex as we develop as social beings. It is my personal theory that the expression of sociopathic traits is so ugly in our society precisely because our society is itself so uncaring and ugly. Assuming that sociopaths are a relatively small percentage of the population, it seems odd that our society itself seems to practice sociopathic behaviors. How else could homelessness persist? How else could the wealth gap be so large? How could so many support the bombing of innocent people in other countries under the label of collateral damage? How could we continue buying products made by children in cramped, poorly-ventilated factories? Ultimately, when confronted by the ‘other’, be another nation, tribe, religion, etc., you see sociopathic behavior emerge in people who show no sign of it in their normal lives.

    What we notice and label as sociopathic in poor individuals is often seen in a more positive light in those who are raised in affluence and who have more socially accepted goals to attain to. One cannot make money speculating on the price of rice in developing nations if you have empathy for the people affected by your actions. One cannot continue to work as a deep-sea oil driller after the series of recent accidents if you have empathy for the sea life, or the livelihoods of the people affected by such disasters.

    Imagine how sociopaths would behave in a society where kindness was the primary currency (instead of the current system where you can be a total jerk to everyone, but if you’re rich you can still prosper personally), and in which the heights of social status came about in response to how helpful someone was. In such a society, the lack of empathy and conscience associated with sociopathy would not necessary be a hindrance. When what society sees as successful is essentially good and benign, then people who are motivated without distraction to attain social success will actually be helpful.

      1. I agree whole heartedly J. I’ve seen it repeatedly in my own experiences with disordered covert agressives, psychopaths. A suposed good deed can be a Trojan horse that merely opens the door for future damage and allows them acesd to what they are really after. It just one of the things you can only see and understand after the fact, one of the jagged pills the victim is left to swallow.
        I met with the lawyer who is helping with the contractor debacle the other day and she was such a perfect example of how hard it is to comprehend these types if you are someone fortunate enough to never have encountered one. I explain things to my trauma councilor and she fills in the blanks effortlessly. She deals with these types all the time but I say the exact same things to someone like this lawyer and she just can NOT grasp that someone like Spathtard and contractor guy could/ would do something so distructive intentionally. The word ” intentional” is the pivitol point.

    1. Michael, that was a very good post and some very good points, things I think about frequently. Value conflicts for me when it comes down to the practical aspects of life. And it’s all so multifaceted, intertwined and complex.

      J, did you read any of the Loyde Demause link I posted? Not sure if I got the name spelled right there.

  18. I am sure that my father is a psychopath. About 15 years ago I could not point my finger at what it is he has and was hopeful that whatever it is there is help for it but I could feel that there could never be help for him because not once did he ever feel remorse or guilt for the pain he caused my mother, myself, my sister and brother… I am sure that neither myself, my brother, nor sister are psychopaths. I myself have too much love to give and the same for my brother. Sometimes I worry about my sister as the abuse from my father has affected her the most and I feel that she is lost and angry and is unable to manage her life, but from the way she cares about weak or poor people tells me that she is not a psychopath either. Now what I am worried about the most is that I am a Mother of a beautiful 10 month old girl and my husband and I would like more children. I also have a feeling that my husbands father was a psychopath as well. I can tell from the stories that he and his mother have told me. Similar to my father, his father hurt them, did unthinkable acts to cause them pain and never felt remorse… What I am worried is that people and doctors are suggesting that it may be genetic, some people even make comments such as it may skip generations… I think it is more complicated than that but at the same time am so afraid! I would not want my children to be psychopaths, I do not want them to go through the hell of psychopathy, to cause others pain, to cause pain to themselves, and so on…. and I also want to finally be free of the darkness that my father has put us through and I want my children to be free of that too! Please advise, should I worry about my children potentially being like my father as it may be genetic?

  19. Michael what you describe is the imperfect human with faults who feels guilty and remorseful for pain and suffering existing in the world, like yourself who questions how we can buy products made by children in a 3rd world country. BUT that does not make us psychopaths because we can feel that it is wrong to have children work and we suffer with them when looking at a product produced in such environment! The psychopaths are those under whose pressure and leadership or due to whose violence children fall under such circumstances and the idea is to remove those psychopaths from our society! If 3 – 5% of the population are psychopaths then that is not a small number at all!!! That is extremely huge given the fact that they are willing to do anything for power! I believe that a lot of the wars, greed, torture, and pain caused in the world is due to the leadership of those insane people! However, as you said, we the rest, who come in very different ways are responsible for what is going on in our world. It is up to us to stop those psychopaths from committing their insanity. And the problem is that while the psychopath has been diagnosed and very well defined the rest of us have not been yet put into clear groups as to what our diagnosis is. There is a huge percentage of people in the world who just wants to be comfortable, sit on their couch and not worry about anything but their stomach, their family, their children, without considering the fact that just because your child is doing well today that does not mean that your grandchildren and their grandchildren will be doing well if things continue at this pace of ignorance. However, this ignorance does not mean that there is no empathy. Perhaps there should be a name for that group who is not interested to fight but does feel and does hurt and does feel guilty for the terrors happening in the world. Also, perhaps, it is part of evolution to slowly move towards recognizing the causes of the injustice in this world and to evolve towards fixing and eliminating evil, and that is if you believe that we are progressing and moving towards a better future for all of humanity and that our journey and suffering is not for nothing. I personally believe that if every single one of us does good and teaches good to their children then that is a move towards a better world and that will aid in eliminating evil. Furthermore, as to eliminating evil that is another subject, as to what does that mean? We cannot just get rid psychopaths for example. We are still responsible for taking care of them and helping them survive but that has to be in a way where they can no longer harm innocent human beings…

  20. You people are silly..a psychopath will NEVER admit they are a psychopath. Period. Done. You’re not special, you just want attention if you state that you are “sadly a psychopath”….don’t make a fool of yourself..SMH.

  21. I have read most of these comments and most are technical and very scientific. I applaud research being done to see wherein lies the cause of the illness. However, there is nothing technical or scientific about living with a psychopath. I was ‘raised’ by one if you can call a childhood without love and full of fear being raised. My father killed his first small pet animal at the age of five, and lied to his mother about what happened. And the rest is my herstory. My father, today at the age of 87, remains an emotional, psychological and physical abuser of all women that have had the misfortune to be in his lair. He is like a lion, he goes for the weakest part of the body, the heart. He destroys girls and women and leaves them in his dust. Men hate him because he lies and manipulates them too. He is all about power and standing on someone’s head after he has put them down. He gains great pleasure insulting races, religions, lifestyles, homes, clothes, pets, cars…housekeeping skills. There is nothing he does not sneer at, even education and career choices. He sits in judgment over all of his, and not his, domain. I would like to see research being done on identifying and believing the kids that are at risk to these freaks. And the women that marry them. There has to be help somewhere for those trapped in the houses of these creeps. The houses are nice the man very well dressed, the women and kids are presentable…but, he is the peacock. There needs to be questionaires in schools about how safe a child feels at home. A wife needs to be asked in a doctors office, or somewhere safe, how safe she feels..and that it does not get back to the husband. I needed a champion, I needed saving, I needed a home and love. I needed someone to listen to me and take me away from him. My mother and sister needed this too…but sadly, none of us made it out in one piece. My mother had her first nervous breakdown when I was 7. HE made her go for electric shock therapy, in the 1960’s. That destroyed her…it was a temporary fix for a problem caused by him. He is the one that should have had EST. She moved right back in with the cause of her illness. She had two more. When I was 13 my 18 year old sister had a nervous breakdown and hid in her room for 2 years with ulcers. Guess who caused it. Guess who did nothing. Guess who was disgusted that the women in his house were ‘sick in the head’. When I was 12 my father held me up against a wall by my throat, with my feet dangling and said ‘if you were a man I’d kill you’. I was an A plus student and had never misbehaved. I was an honors piano student and all of my teachers loved me. This psychopath threatened to kill me. Why you ask. Because I dared to tell the mother of a school chum that my father was mean. I had never voiced those words before. It got back to my father..and a death threat was the result. My mother bless her does not even remember it happening so she blocked it out with many other things he did. She ended up with Frontal Lobe damage and at 82 she remembers little now from my childhood or hers. This waste of skin ruined my mothers mental health then proceeded to cheat on her for years before finally leaving us hi and dry when I was 17, for a woman that was only 3 years older then my sister. I will not bore you with details..but, I don’t care if they find out if it’s genetic or not, I know it is…my sister is a psychopath. She went from a scared hermit to full blown psychopathy, manipulation, lies, cheating, rage. I quit talking to her 4 years ago. I escaped this horrid life destroying gene, thank God. After years of cat and mouse with both of them I disowned them. I am almost 60 and I am finally in the healing process. As a child I was the only kid I knew that did not have love. I lived a completely loveless life..sadly, I picked men that treated me horribly because I just wanted love. It wasn’t, it was ownership. I had 2 divorces from manipulative mean men.I had so much love to give…but my daughter has benefited from all of it. I now can see through the lies, manipulation, anger, threats, snarls, that ‘weird smile’ when they are insulting someone to their face and enjoying it. My father has destroyed myself and my daughter, 3 wives and one long term lady friend who he cheated on. That is when I stood up to him for the only time in my life and told him to do the right thing for once in his life and tell her he was done with her but don’t cheat on another one. Being a narcisstic psychopath he wanted both women. He threatened me to not to tell his lady friend. He never knew if I would or he started a campaign of revenge against me and as a result, my daughter. It was not subtle, it was very obvious. In his arrogant and narcissistic state he thought I was too stupid to see right through him. We rented from him and he started an eviction process, for no reason, that took him over 1.5 years to accomplish. He had no leg to stand on, and you can’t claim a psychopath’s revenge on an eviction notice. I have not spoken to him in 2.5 years. He does not care, he is merrily living his life with what everwoman he has taken up with…no remorse, no guilt, no accountability for causing his own daughter and granddaughter, to have a breakdown over the eviction. It was very difficult to fight a professional liar and manipulator to not be homeless. He pulled every trick in the book…but he forgot I am not stupid. We fought long and hard but he won…but, in the end, we won. We disowned him and he will never see us again, or know where we live. Trust me, I don’t care if they find out if it is genetic…I will not stand over his, or her, grave and weep. The weeping is done..the little girl in me is healing because I had to defend not only myself against him but my own daughter. We won. Run, don’t walk, away from a freak like this if he or she is in your life. Don’t spend your life trying or thinking you can fix them..they don’t want to be fixed. They love who they are whether they know the ‘diagnosis’ or not. A true psychopath does not know they are a psychopath, they think they are brilliant and indestructible. They love power and control and the high they get from hurting others. By the way, my father came from a large, bible believing, loving, normal busy farm family with a mother that was a good woman and a father that all siblings respected. None of his siblings were like him one bit. He thought they were all idiots. Enough said.

    1. Thanks you for sharing this, Lilacorn, and good that you and your daughter have made it out. This shows the meaning of the word ‘hell’ in the purest sense, if there ever was any. It’s beyond dreadful that any human being even can develop without restraints or second thoughts about doing whatever they may come up with and it’s also dreadful that “normal” humans’ minds don’t necessarily stand extremely painful and troubling facts that could prove to be their undoing very quick.

      I myself knew one guy I’ve refered to as Viper here. He not only liked to gossip about and badmouth others, including me, he also assaulted me, telling afterwards that I assaulted him(before changing his story to me and him agreeing to a fight, which I don’t know how many believed). He also, later during senior high, followed and assaulted one other boy, because this boy had accidentally bumped into him in the hallway once. Viper also dated a girl and the relationship became emotionally abusive, eventually escalating to physical violence and in-your-face overt verbal abuse and domination. The girl did escape, though, and got help, even though Viper managed to avoid accountability thanks to some slick lies, evasions and back-up from his female friend whose head he had filled with thoughts like his.

      While I don’t think Viper is a psychopath or a sadist, he’s, beyond any doubt, a callous abuser, bully, pahological liar, control freak and responsibility-avoidant manipulative jerk, who thinks deep inside he’s superior to others. Your father sounds like him in so many ways, except even more extreme and of course, also psychopathic, with control-freakery and malignant narcissism quadruple servings.

      “A true psychopath does not know they are a psychopath, they think they are brilliant and indestructible.”

      Interesting detail here. I don’t know about this. Some could know exactly what kind of a person they are, even if they don’t verbalize or think about themselves in that word. They are still fully conscious of what they are like. Perhaps some could know what the word is that applies to them so perfectly. That varies, but this is all just speculation that we can’t really find out by any realiable means.

  22. My husband is a psychopath hitting all 9 qualifications on the nose. He is presently incarcerated, obviously. We have a 2 month old baby boy (in my care) so naturally I have dedicated myself to research linking psychopathy, sociopathy to genetic predisposition. Some days I feel like we are miles ahead of anything catching up to my sweet little baby boy, other days I am so afraid for him that I sink into depression for days. We all want to pave a smooth road for our children, so their lives are easier than ours were. But I am up against a wall. I keep a very watchful eye out everyday for any kind of sign that he may exhibit that shows he is different. So far his startle reflex is fully functional which is extremely relieving!!! Anything else will take time to gauge.

  23. Hi, I am new here and it does seem that most here have been speaking for some time. I came on here due to wanting to understand what made a psychopath … and if it was genetic. Over the years I came to realize that most likely one or both of my parents were psychopaths. One of the reasons was it appeared that they derived pleasure choosing / or singling out children to make into bad guys. The forms of abuse were holding head under water, while beating with plastic (to not leave a mark). This was one of the best and clearest. It was not to teach it was torture! It wasn’t until a recent conversation with my mother that I felt the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. This incident went back some forty or more years. We were talking about things that happened…and she was in blaming mode. (My father who was a drunk was pretty abusive…so he almost always was put into the role of the bad guy. He is passed and one of the things he said that made me wonder was “You are the closest thing I ever came to love and I am sorry I never showed you , I really didn’t know how.” It was a revelation for me.) In the conversation with my mother she said something about a dog . I wanted her to realize how insane it was for a child of 10 to have to take the dead and rotting body of a dog out of the basement, dig a 5 to 7 ft hole carry the carcass over 25 ft,and bury it! She tells me, “I thought you killed the dog” Like she was saying, “how was your day”… I was stunned and found myself trying to find my mental footing. I stopped and I asked, “what would make you think that?” She said, “that is what your father said.” I know that is not true. I was 10 years old Gigi was a large doberman how could I do this. She said, “That is what your father said.” Well to say the least I felt like hell and didn’t know what to think or feel. I since have realized this woman has been killing animals all of my life! A few years back she had a one eyed cat that she kept in her basement. One day my sons and I went down to clean and feed the cat and there was a ton of this white powder all over the floor. I asked what is this? she said it was to kill the bugs, I said Pirate is down here you can’t put Boric acid on the floor…are you crazy? She is a chemist…she knows! I put the cat in a cage put a mask on my face and started to clean it the best I could. As you must realize one no matter how abused never wants to really see how crazy their parents are. I spent the majority of my life in therapy. Never really telling their secrets. Usually talking about how crazy and horrible I was. How my life situations were always getting worse and worse”r” … no matter how much I tried. I have, had depression and anxiety nearly all of my life. My brother is also badly affected. We were most often the bad guys. My brother for being a boy and me for looking like my father. My brother has been hospitalized several times for schizophrenia/ manic disorder and any other thing they can find… rule out nothing, just keep him medicated. The thing is I was a bad kid, I ran away , I stole, I cut out of school… I Wanted to die or just be invisible since I can remember. I was first told I was borderline and later diagnosis as Depressed. Later told I has PTSD… on and on . I don’t know what I am or have! I have been able to pretty much function well enough to raise two very well adjusted young men. Now at 60…I look at the past and wonder how did I survive? and what did I pass on to my children? I worked very hard at being the best parent I could be . never hit tried to make their punishments fit the crime…and was not belligerent … although I did have outburst most of the time I took myself out of the situation and would come back only when I was able to talk civil! So although this is only a synopsis of what went on are my parents Psychopaths and if so how does one not pass this sort of behavior on? And how do you spot it before it is too late?

  24. Cher, Welcome. Your story is very sad and quite horrific. I commend you for doing your best to rise above it with your own children! You have questions that would be best answered by Dr. Simon and you can contact him through the “Contact Dr. Simon” link below on the right hand side. That is where I think you should start. You are welcome here but your background story is fairly severe and I certainly don’t feel qualified to answer your questions regarding your parents. I do want to encourage you to do some more reading here and feel free to join in the discussions. People will try their best to offer you support.

  25. I honestly came across this website while reading some articles about pyscopathy expecting a well written piece based on research and knowledge, yet all I found was this and I can’t even finish reading all the comments because if they are not 13-years-old being children saying they are a psychopath and need help and then give some silly excuse as to why they believe they are one then they are bitter women saying their ex-spouse is a psychopath because he treated them badly and then go on to point fingers and blame. Honestly, get over it I’m sure all the problems in the marriage wasn’t him and just because now you are hurt and whatever else then you must think he is a psychopath. It’s all whining and/or biased information. I am a 23-years-old woman “diagnosed” as a psychopath since my early teens. Yes, I meet the criterias and then some for say the least. For a dr that is supposed to have 30 years of experience in the field you seem to very biased in the sense that you paint every psychopath to be evil in some way even if not a criminal. I admit that i have not read all the articles you have written in the subject, but the few i have read seem to have the same tone and shameless self pluggin to buy your books for more on the subject.I no longer attend therapy but as a kid I did. I’ve gotten a cat scan done where they showed me pictures and to see my brain activity and how it reacted to the images shown to me. As a teenager all I understood was that they put me in a machine and when they showed me some pictures my brain didn’t “lit up” like a “normal” person’s brain should. Not until I got older and did some research about this things my parents and psychiatrists have been telling me all my life did I truly understood that they had a name for people that were like me. It seemed like I finally understand why everyone else wasn’t like me (and yes, I say that because honestly not once did I wonder why I wasn’t like everyone else because I never wanted to be like “them”) To me the way my brain functions has always been better even before I was old enough to understand psychopathy better. I have the opportunity to make a choice purely based on facts without feelings getting in the way, something “normal” human beings lack. And being a woman something normal women do not well as its been shown women let their emotions play a big role when making a decision even if it is a key part of something. Either consiously or unconsciously it just they way all normal people are wired. I grew up in a very loving and well off family, yet I’ve always had this thoughts and I’ve always been this way. Am I very manipulative? Yes, and in my career it’s only made more successful. Every trait that I have due to my brain lacking the ability to feel empathy and remorse and not having true feelings or as its referred to being a psychopath has made me a better person in every aspect of my life. Everyone gets hurts, everyone has had some childhood trauma or will suffer one later on in life, all humans go thru hardships just because there are some of us that may be the one inflicting this pain or not being victims and simply doing things that we want for any reason doesn’t make us evil. I’m sure if you were to ask my exs-boyfriends they would agree that I am all the things described as a psychopath and even tho some may have some negative feelings about me not one would call me evil and if I wanted to go back each of them would take me. That I know for a fact. I’m currently in a very good relationship were from the beginning he knew what I was and even tho he did say he could never date someone like me at that point in our friendship we have now been dating over a year. Yes, things do always have to go my way but in no sense does he feel like I abuse him to get it. Not every way to get ones own desires fullfilled have to be “evil” he is an all American boy, plays sports, grew up with a large family, likes to work on cars an all around very manly man. Him being aware of what I am only makes him understand me more. Honestly, I know if I were to write down every thing I’ve ver done there would be a lot of saying what a horrible person I am but I know im not a monster. If anything I know in this world only the fittest survive and I will survive. Maybe it’s time to stop playing victims and going for your true nature. We all have some things left in us from the days were truly only the fittest survived. Not all of us walk around killing people, some of us know how to get what we want without those type of actions. And for those of you who say a true psycopath wouldn’t admit to being one or know, well here I am. Why wouldn’t I admit something I’m proud of? It makes me a better person I can be more rational than anyone because feelings don’t cloud my judgement maybe if all “normal” human beings tried being more like us there wouldn’t be so many whining in this comments and this world wouldn’t be what it is.

    1. May, the Darwinian concept of the fittest surviving has recently been overthrown, in favour of more sophisticated understanding of complex organization. Studies show that even on a simpler biological level, coordinated effort; being able to act from mental maps that rely on empathetic response is favoured over the ‘go it alone’ route. Mushrooms, for example, rather than competing, expend far more energy cooperating through mycelial networks. And they not only cooperate together, they cooperate with trees and other plants, who btw, also cooperate more than compete with each other.

      What is so tragic is that the psychopath thinks him or herself very strong and independent, yet often leads a parasitic existence, where they have to fake care and concern so that they appear to be symbiotic.

      I am so sorry for your brain damage but realize that there is some small comfort for you, growing up in a society that rewards hyper competition and the wondrous philosophical efforts of fascists like, Ayn Rand.

      Bless you and thanks for tuning in!

    2. May I’m not so sure that being a psychopath makes someone the fittest to survive. It is emotion, perception and sensation that come into play for survival. And many full blown psychopaths end up alone and on the scrap heap. Not exactly survival of the fittest! Also they cannot stand to be alone. Emotion is exactly what keeps people from being alone, it helps form connections on a deeper level. Even so I do wonder does your boyfriend mind that you don’t have real feelings of love for him? I would think that in the end is what fizzles out all relationships, and he may move on but of course you will be equipped to deal with that as you say. One thing though I would add you say you don’t harm people which is good so I would think you have some moral conscience which is something full blown psychopaths lack and is probably the worst trait in what makes psychopaths “evil”. I know people who are not exactly compassionate people and don’t let their emotions get in the way but they have a conscience and that does not make them a psychopath. Their brains just work differently and they are not nasty people either. There in lies the difference, someone who is nasty is harmful, simple but the truth, regardless if their a psychopath or not! I am no expert but I’d probably ask for a refund from your psychiatrist!

  26. And I could add to my post or go back to fix the grammatical errors but after all it really does seem like only children read it so its not like its going to matter anyway.

    1. May, that would take too much effort now wouldn’t it? I’m realky not sure why you found your post realivant to anything anyone here has been discussing but I dont. Thank you for not adding to your post or correcting your grammatical errors, I think it’s perfect just as it is.

      1. I think anyone can understand even something this basic. I wasn’t writing to the comments or even trying to add anything to the whining fest going on. So yes, you are welcome. I’m glad it wasn’t taken like every other whiny boo hoo I had a horrible thing happened to me and now I’m either blaming the other person or I think I’m “broken” please help me. My comment was a comment meant to stand on its own. You are welcome, and even my phone that has a mind of its own with auto correct couldn’t stand to keep going.

      2. And as it turns out, your post was actually very helpful May because it spurred the lovely people here to respond to it and they made some beautiful points about, in spite of the at times “down side”, why we are grateful for our emotions and would not have it any other way. Thank you May!

        1. Puddle, Tori,

          I think , too, that May, does have emotion, as primitive as it must be. She has expressed irritation and annoyance about ‘whiners’. Being irritated, particularly in the extreme, is an emotion. And although she doesn’t get parasitism, I wonder if she can appreciate irony. She is whining about so called ‘whiners’.

  27. How exactly is it that most psycopaths live a parasitic lifestyle? Isn’t a parasite an organism that’s feeds off of another organism harmining them in the process and its not a mutual relationship. One the parasite benefits therefore the other one is being harmed or at least having some negative effects. So unless they recently changed the meaning of that too, I don’t see at all how it would apply to me and/or people like me. From a young age I learned how to “mirror” other’s feelings and I’ve lead my life like that applying that technique in every relationship in my life being professional or personal. Not once did I harm anyone by doing so and since it was something taught to me at first from my psychiatrists it was not one sided or just beneficial to me. Not only they were the ones teaching me, but I know they also learned from me to help other psycopaths that may become their client later on. Every dr I’ve ever had was very interested in the way my brain functioned and from no point were those relationship parasitic.
    And there is no reason to be sorry for my “brain damage” as there is not any brain damage. I would find that rather insulting if it wasn’t because I know that all the people that come here are only reading negative information about the subject. If anything my brain functions at a better capacity than other people because I don’t have things like feelings getting in the way. So no I’m sorry to you for having to be a slave to your feelings even tho its been shown that feelings aren’t exactly the best thing to let you influence your choices. There is not one example anyone can tell me that would lead me to believe being “normal” and having feelings is better.

    1. Feelings and emotions are just fine May and it is possible, and not uncommon, to be able to have feelings and emotions yet also make decisions using your brain as well. At least we have the option, you don’t. If you truly are a psychopath and you can’t experience emotions and feelings, then how do you know not having them is preferable to having them? I couldn’t name one person who is able to experience emotions who would want it any other way.

    2. To chime in a bit here: most psychopaths don’t in fact lead a parasitic lifestyle (antisocial personalities, or as some would label: sociopaths do, but psychopaths often don’t), which is why such lifestyle characteristics are not essential for the diagnosis. And it’s the capacity of many psychopaths to be both charming and socially quite high-functioning that is often the doing-in of their victims. Now I know you assert yourself to have been diagnosed a psychopath (whether you truly are or not I have no way of knowing), and I also understand that you take issue with my expertise on the subject, but I’m confident the research backs me up on this, as it does on my other assertions, and if you wish, I can provide you additional information if you contact me via the back channel.

      1. Dr. Simon, This kind of threw me…….
        “most psychopaths don’t in fact lead a parasitic lifestyle (antisocial personalities, or as some would label: sociopaths do, but psychopaths often don’t), which is why such lifestyle characteristics are not essential for the diagnosis.”
        I’m wondering what your definition of parasitic is? Do you mean that most are employed, live independently, etc?

        1. Yes. That’s what I mean. And I suppose it’s all a matter of semantics and definition, but Robert Hare has written extensively about this. While all psychopaths use, abuse, and exploit in various ways, which would technically qualify as parasitic (and predatory) behavior, it’s not central to the pathology that they lead socially parasitic lifestyles (i.e. doing nothing for themselves, freeloading and mooching off others). That’s why you can have folks like Bernie Madoff or various heads of corporations, political leaders, etc. appear so socially well-adjusted yet be so dangerous. The core of psychopathy is not social parasitism but rather, as Hare asserts, “the callous, senseless, and remorseless use and abuse of others,” rooted primarily in the psychopath’s deficient capacity for empathy or their incredible capacity to compartmentalize empathy. Does this make sense?

          1. Dr Simon, thank you SO MUCH for that clarification. I think I will print it, laminate it and carry it in my wallet! 😉
            I hope you are well and thank you for stopping in!

          2. Dr Simon the compartmentalization of empathy is something I’ve wanted to know about. Some time ago you mentioned it on your Character Matters program and I really wished I could ring in but couldn’t to clarify something. If they have the capacity to compartmentalize does that mean at times they can show some form of empathy but at others can switch it off so they can do the horrible things they do?

          3. That’s exactly it, Tori, and it’s an insidious quality few authors highlight. I’ve written several posts about this both on this blog and on the site. And I expound a bit about it in my book Character Disturbance as well. If you want to witness a most chilling example of this based on real life events, rent the movie or read Truman Capote’s landmark book In Cold Blood. I reference this in some of my posts on the subject and also frequently at workshops. There’s a scene in which one of the invaders of an unsuspecting rural family shows compassion for an old woman who is frightened and has the chills and who kindly puts a shawl over moments before coldly taking her life (merely because he doesn’t want to allow for the possibility of being identified). Predatory, homicidal pedophiles are notorious for this kind of behavior as well.

          4. Dr Simon, couldn’t it be that there is a difference between “showing compassion” and actually having and feeling compassion? Acting compassionate because it furthers your agenda and fleshes out your mask or serves some roll in convincing your target that you really do care about them would is different than actually feeling compassion and producing the behavior that goes along with genuine compassion, no?

          5. Dr. Simon,

            Thank you for making the distinction between parasitic and predatory behavior. There is such a cloud of confusion about so many of the finer details of psychopathy. Then, there is further confusion regarding properly defining and differentiating the two strategies.

          6. Thank you Dr Simon for that clarification, and you’re right about very few writer’s making that clear distinction and it’s one that I think is a stand out and as insidious as you say. I’ve seen that compartmentalization at work and it is insidious. As anyone involved with one of them doesn’t see what’s coming, they are taken completely off guard. Your sketch from In Cold Blood illustrates that perfectly at the high end of their violent behaviour. It sends chills up the spine.
            As LisaO said it’s at the heart of the confusion they create.

          7. Dr. Simon, I think it does come down to semantics or splitting hairs as far as what constitutes “parasitic”, but not quite. It seems like there is a lot on the table with this topic. I think I’m starting to see another side to this but there are so many variables as well! When you have someone like Bernie Madoff or a high ranking politician thrown into the mix, compared to someone like a body parts collecting serial killer it certainly makes for a very hard to piece together picture. I’m really not sure I’m picking this
            “compartentalizing empathy” aspect either. It always seems, even after this long trying to understand what they are really all about, it always just beyond my reach! Like trying to catch a soap bubble, as soon ss you do it pops.

  28. That’s where you are wrong, you do not have the option. Because to do such a thing or even be capable of doing something like “turning off” your feelings would mean that you no longer qualify as a normal healthy human being. Therefore, no you people that call yourselves the normal and the standard have to realize that if you have gone thru such a traumatic event where you are actually capable of doing such a thing then something must have changed radically in the way that your brain works. I on the other hand can choose to take other’s feelings towards it or even acknowledge what a “normal” person would be feeling in such a situation and assess it that way. I can’t speak for everyone that is a psycopath but we are capable of learning how to “mirror” emotions that if chosen to we can and we do use them on a regular basis. As many articles love to point out we are very good at hiding and charming people, we can’t be that good and not learn how to apply those so called feelings you seem so fond of.

    1. May, you are inacurate in many of your observations and conclusions. Also, showng a lack of understanding about how the encounters some of us here have experienced “function”.

  29. May, even ‘normals’ lose empathy for people who they deem dangerous, incorrigible, who they feel are cruel. It would be a very limited existence to have this void of feeling for everyone, though, on a permanent basis.

    I imagine most people have experienced this state of apathy or no feeling, for everyone, at one time or another usually due to stress or illness. We have also experienced ego dystonia and ego inflation to some degree at one time another, too, usually due to unique and temporary circumstances. I am using the royal we, hoping that most here would agree. They are all unpleasant states of being for normals, because these states drive a wedge between us. It is our connection to others that extends and expands our emotional reach, bumps up our joy. Imagine May, if you could not only experience your own excitement but could also experience ecstatic states through the empathetic response. You can live your own emotional life and the emotional life of others. It is a very rich experience as compared to the cramped austerity of the pathological. Of course the downside is normal also feel their own pain and the pain of others. It’s a trade off they/we/I are happy to make.

    Who paid for your psychiatrist, btw? I imagine your parents did. That would make the relationship between your parents and shrink symbiotic. Your parents had the money. The psychiatrist provided the service. Beautiful! Perfect clownfish– anenome relationship. Now you, being the recipient of all of this largesse would actually be what we would call a parasite. You dig?

  30. May, I welcome your comments and knowing it isn’t emotionally biased is refreshing. I think we can all use another’s perspective and it helps me to take a step back and look at the situation. I completely agree people need to embrace both sides before labeling others. Labeling comes from not understanding or willingness to put yourself in the other’s shoes. I feel that blaming others is not taking accountability for your participation in the relationship.

    I feel that ‘mirroring’ can be a good thing. Adapting is making others more comfortable in social situations is being considerate. I’m in a 10yr relationship with a sociopath and love it. Lack of emotions isn’t lying, manipulative, etc. We all process things in different ways. EVERYONE manipulates in some form or another. An infant uses it to obtain needs. We manipulate schedules to accommodate changing plans. I think of it as learning to interact with others. I know it can be used in horrible ways. I am here because of interaction with someone who is borderline and have witnessed what people are capable of.

    I am concerned about rather aggressive replies to others posters giving their opinions. I’m not seeing May’s comments directed at anyone personally. On a site that promotes learning about others and oneself, I would like to believe we should welcome other opinions. It doesn’t happen often, but I think it’s incredibly shitty to make judgemental remarks about a persons financial/social status in obtaining care. How can you make those comments and not expect the same. I have been reading a long time and I was really put off by the response to trying to participate in the discussion. (Not that I’m whining. LOL). I like this site and what it has to offer. As I have said before, “Sometimes you have to ask yourself, Maybe I’m the Asshole”. Thank goodness NO ONE is perfect.


    ~I also guilty of mislabeling myself. I had misinterpreted antisocial as having social anxiety and not the textbook explanation. whoops.

  31. I have just stumbled upon this very interesting website. What a difference from 50 years ago when
    I tried, from the age of 15, to find out why I was so incredibly unhappy. I am 68 now. My only recourse was to try and read as many books as I could lay my hands on. I live in South Africa and my home language is Afrikaans. I could barely speak three words in English. There were not any books on psychology and related subjects in Afrikaans at the time, bar lots of religious literature, since there was no separation between church and state and the official government sanctioned
    Afrikaans churches had a field day with constant indoctrination through religious publications.

    Over the years, as my English improved and I read many books on psychology, philosophy, medicine and anything that was deemed to be helpful, a picture started forming like a huge puzzle on the wall.

    Both my parents were psychopathic and/or sociopathic individuals. My childhood was horrific, with constant beatings, being called every insulting name in our language, and having been beaten unconscious at the age of 5 by my father. He also hit me on the forehead with a walking-stick-like Zulu weapon when I was a baby of 18 months old. It should have killed me but it didn’t.
    My older brother told me my forehead was black and blue for weeks after. I was not taken to a doctor. My mother went totally insane on me when I was about 12 years old. Her blatant hatred for me was very destructive.

    I forced myself to read books that seemed very difficult at first, but I persevered, eventually understanding a lot of what I read, but not all of it. Books included Summerhill by A.S, Neill;
    The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff; All of Alexander Lowen’s books; Several books by
    Alice Miller and finally the one that changed my whole life: The Primal Scream by Arthur Janov.
    I read 7 more of the 16 books he has written so far.

    In 1980 I arrived in Los Angeles to undergo Primal therapy. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. During the open-ended sessions in a room with nothing else in it but the carpet and the thick padding on the walls, and a therapist who gently listened 98% of the time and may
    sometimes have uttered fewer than twenty words during an entire session. I was not labelled or analyzed. I was not given advice about how to live my life. My feelings were not explained to
    me. I was not interrupted when I connected with deep painful feelings that resulted in untold rage, beating all sorts of shit out of the padded walls, then dropping to the floor, wailing like a baby for
    as long as it needed to be, often for an hour or more with silent moments in between. Then the anger again, then the wailing, and so on. The relief I felt afterwards is indescribable.

    Dr. Arthur Janov does not believe in the labelling of neurotic afflictions and I agree, now that I
    have been able to express the severe trauma I suffered as a child, by connecting with my feelings
    and having been able to let the pain flow out through my emotions. It is a slow journey that can
    takes hours, days, weeks, months and years. Nothing is forced. Given the right conditions, our
    mind-body knows exactly how, when and how much pain to expel. The secret lies in being able
    to help a patient reach what is called the feeling zone, where one is neither in too much pain nor
    too well defended. This may be done either by prescribing medication for one patient, or with
    a different approach for another patient.

    Above all, what I learned, is that parents should allow babies to cry their pain out by being with
    them, holding them if they want to be held, not shushing or shaking them, with total silence, no
    matter how long it takes. The same with toddlers, small children, teenagers and also adults.
    Never ever lock a baby in a room by itself to “cry it out” ! That is a double whammy of trauma.
    Allow so called “temper tantrums” by quietly sitting with the child, and letting her have her hour
    or two of crying and anger. Doing the above will cure any baby, child or teenager of pre- and postnatal trauma, the pre-cursors of psychosis and all other neuroses. If all parents can do that, then just that alone will bring us so much nearer to creating healthy humans.

    1. Welcome Fanie! What a beautifully writen post. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your journey of healing. I receive Arthur Janov’s newsletter and I KNOW what he teaches and what you have summarized is 100% true. I feel it in my inner being so strongly.
      I’m sorry for your horrendous child hood abuse and trauma. I’m just so sorry. What a survivor you are, just an amazing story Fanie.
      Your English is excellent and I honor your strength and determination to heal.
      I would love to go to Janov’s facility and hope to someday, I know it is expensive and I have animal to care for right now but someday maybe.
      There is no doubt that the person who tried to distort me for some twisted reason zeroed in on a very very primal wound of mine, several probably. He ripped that wound open and then spit in it.
      I wish you continued healing and happiness Fanie. Thank you again for sharing.

    2. Fanie, thank you for sharing your story with such dignity and courage. I’m so sorry you had to live through such horrific trauma as a child but I am glad you found a way to healing. Also thank you for sharing your way to healing and I only know a little of Dr Janov and read a book on Primal therapy and must admit I don’t know all the ins and outs with it but what you explain seems to me a healthy way to express pain. It always made sense to me that urge to let it all out in a safe place, I think there is something very natural to that but our society frowns upon it because we must be in control. I’ve read a lot about listening therapies and empathy based therapies that allow people to talk about their experiences and move through to another phase of therapy on their own accord like CBT. I think it’s important to be heard or to at least express all the built up pain.
      I also agree very much with your ideas on caring for babies and children. I’ve never agreed with the leaving of baby to cry it out, if a baby cries it needs attention. I remember with my first child the nurse telling me I need to get my baby into a routine. Feeding four hourly and letting it cry because otherwise I wouldn’t have a moment to myself and I would spoil my child. That didn’t make sense to me then nor now and I think things have changed now.For some reason human beings like a nice neat respectable package that fits with our lifestyles. Going back to the basics of nurture with love can only make for a healthier society that’s where it all starts. Thank you for sharing your lovely thoughts Fanie and I wish you continued happiness. :)

  32. Thank you Puddles and Tori for the welcome. I somehow lost this site and it took me a while to find it again. I would so love to be able to make everyone aware of the wonderful work of Dr. Arthur Janov. He was slated by mainstream psychologists and psychiatrists at the time his first book became an international best seller. Just to give those who are interested an idea of how things have changed, I am posting reviews of his latest book “Life Before Birth” , by other professionals:

    Quotes for “Life Before Birth”
    “Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
    He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
    Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

    Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
    Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
    Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
    Washington State University

    Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
    Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
    Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

    In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
    Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

    An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
    K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

    A baby’s brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child’s life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
    Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

    “I am enthralled. Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
    PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any “New Age” pseudoscience,
    this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
    downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche.”
    Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

    His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
    One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child’s physiology. Baby’s born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
    In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
    After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
    “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.

    1. Fanie,
      As a general rule, I am sceptic of heavily advertized path breaking theory/therapy that “revolutionize” something.
      One thing that comes to my mind is that it is very easy to advertize and sell anything with infant association. So, any therapy that goes even before that and promises “life-long” “rewards”, will be good bait for full-time rich mothers.

      I thought limbic system is reptilian brain. Something that produces animal behavior of fight or flight. It sounds very odd that some childhood trauma affects the reptilian brain… something like a calf getting a scare from tiger and growing into neurotic cow? I will probably wait for 30-40 years of statististical proof or scientific proof for revolutionary psychotherapy, before submitting myself to such unknown, benevolent, and godly powers.

      Good to know it helped you.
      Sorry, but some type of big claims require analyzing with sharper katanas.

  33. Hi Andy,
    It is good to be sceptical of everything out there, especially these days, where anyone can post absolute rubbish on the internet and instantly procure a million followers. I will not be able to convince you of the simple fact that Primal therapy is a cure for neurosis. You may find one day
    that your scepticism is actually the one thing that prevents you from ever finding a cure for your own neurosis. You need to listen to your heart, if you can.

    Also try to educate yourself fully with the latest findings by researchers who are independently qualifying these day what Dr. Arthur Janov postulated over 40 years ago.

    We have three brains:
    1) The reptilian brain or viscera, our earliest brain that develops during the first trimester of gestation. Any intrauterine trauma during that period gets laid down there as a very deep imprint. Imprinted trauma on this level compounds (amplifies) any other hurts that may follow. This is is the largest component of any pre-cursor for the development of psychopathy.

    2) Then during the second trimester the limbic system develops, which is our feeling brain, and which allows us to love and develop attachment to others etc. Children who were not allowed to express any feelings, e.g. anger and crying, or who were not held and loved by a caretaker, may exhibit one or more of a whole range of neuroses, such as depression, ADHD, bipolar, etc. Some may also become intellectuals or even pre-psychotics.

    3) Our cortex/neo-cortex develops during the third trimester and continues to develop for some time after birth. Damage can also occur here and you have someone who gets labelled “intellectually challenged”, or there may not have been enough (or too much) intellectual stimulation during her formative years.

    Talking to someone who is hurting simply does not and cannot help at all. You are talking to the wrong brain, i.e. the intellectual brain, and totally ignoring the imprints that lie deep down in the other brains. Those brains do not talk, but they have ways of expressing the trauma. If allowed to
    do so, then healing will take place.

    The buzzword amongst researchers these days is Epigenetics. Six weeks after conception, when an actual life is now forming, the total condition of the mother, e.g. emotional- physical- any and all kinds of serious stress such as financial stress etc. can and will affect the foetus. Her diet, whether she smokes or drinks lots of coffee, takes in alcohol or drugs, will all feed into the new life that is growing inside of her. Also her unfelt trauma from her own childhood.

    “Epi” means after, or on top of. The phenomena of epigenetics alters the already established gene structure within the foetus, altering the set points. All of the above-mentioned trauma is experienced by the human organism as PAIN. Pain is destructive to any organism. However, evolution saw to it that we have a built-in “repair kit” if I can call it that. A new-born baby cries immediately upon exiting the womb because of a history of pain. If it is allowed to cry as much as it needs to, then the acquired pain will leave its system. If it is only able to cry that pain out (and all other trauma and hurt that has accumulated through its lifetime), then it is called primalling.

    Arthur Janov’s work resonates entirely with those who are still in touch with some of their feelings. Not only did it work for me, but for many thousands to date. Have you read any of Janov’s books before criticising his work? I wish you well in your search.

  34. Why is there so little information out there for adults who grew up with a psychopathic parent? I would appreciate any direction anyone has to offer…I have seen some blogs out there, but overall they lack substance.
    The genetic and hereditary aspects of this disorder are of interest to me. I am sure that my father is a psychopath, and it seems that my half brother (father’s son), and my full brother display psychopathic traits. However, my younger brother and older brother display milder behaviors and traits.
    In regards to my father’s psychopathy, he was well socialized (he is in prison now). In that, my grandparents were very loving individuals who did their best to improve his behavior. They sent him to Catholic school, and summer programs, and they indulged, protected and nurtured him. So, my father was highly abusive, but also well groomed, and charming. Furthermore, he considered himself a “family man”. So, he was always taking us on some fun activity, buying us things…But if I broke something he bought me I might get beat. Or, he might tell me have told me I was fat and stupid after we went out on the family boat…It was all very contradictory.
    I do think that my father’s sister is not very emotionally intelligent, and have some strange behaviors themselves. It is almost like she has a great many blind spots which has rendered her incapable to fully relating to people on an emotional level. The psychopath may be the one in the family who has the highest degree of expression of psychopathic genetic influences. But, I believe that other people within the family can have mild to severe psychopath-like traits without the full-blown disorder. I wonder if there are any studies out there that look at the brain structure of family members of the full psychopath? I don’t know if technology is strong enough to detect weakened functioning in areas of the brain vs. severe deficits.

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