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How to spot a psychopath (telegraph.co.uk)
45 points by ALee on Sept 2, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 18 comments

I'm a diagnosed borderline-psychopath. (Some non-complex emotions, in contexts where strong emotions would be expected).

The article does get caught up in it's continual comparisons to killers.

But for those with no criminal history? I'd still call it a disorder.

I find it exceptionally difficult to interact with the average person on a daily basis. Well, more tiring than overly difficult.

I'm not normally interested in how your day is, so why should I ask?

Fantastic, you had a child. I've accepted that, no need to keep talking, I'm sure you're proud. I feel something akin to pride in my own daughter as she learns to clap and walk. But I don't know why you'd care to listen to me saying that.

To be part of society though, I've developed rules, and they help me fit in. Smiling, laughing, being quiet and sympathetic.

Unfortunately, I also need to regulate some heavy self-control.

I should attempt to convince someone of the right choice. They're a human being, they deserve their independence.

But it's so much simpler to manipulate them into doing what I want.

It can short-circuit days of discussion with clients.

But, the system of rules I made myself don't allow it. I had to include morality in these rules, because if I have worth, then others must, from a rational view.

I'm not free of morality - but it does require active effort to abide by it.

It's funny, I agree 100% on being totally uninterested in those topics (i.e. small talk), yet I think I'm on the other side of the spectrum -- an empath.

I don't care about your child or your day, but if something's bothering you, I'll most probably notice it and.. empathise with it.

I wish I could be you. Life would be much simpler.

I can't empathise, I can only sympathise.

It becomes a bit obvious and somewhat awkward when trying to reassure friends and family.

I can usually tell what's bothering a person before they can, but it's difficult to "cheer up" someone (without ignoring their right to feel) when you can only vaguely understand the pressures of their emotion.

Though I guess you might not always enjoy being able to feel what others can.

(edit: not sure who downvoted you)

Life's complicated whatever's the emotional spectrum.. Being an "empath" helps making friends, putting people at ease and being a good listener. Although being aloof doesn't help at all :)

I think I might've known a couple people I could bet they're borderline psycho/sociopath, but they definitely didn't seem to understand other people, and they just steamrolled through them and life, lying, manipulating, without ever noticing. So seems to me you're quite functioning compared to them.

After all, being unable to totally and completely understand other people is part of the human experience.

It's always good to hear about others, and the way we all seem to move through life haphazardly, and create this wonderful thing called society. Maybe even make it better, with all our variations.

> So seems to me you're quite functioning compared to them.

Good to hear it. I was lucky, diagnosed at a young age, and people around me to help teach me how to fit in, and the patience to keep trying.


Always nice to hear stories from another perspective.

> After all, being unable to totally and completely understand other people is part of the human experience.

I couldn't agree more.

> (edit: not sure who downvoted you)

Shrug. This kinda stuff tends to be sensitive to people. Internet points aren't important enough to get in the way of a good conversation.

"If someone’s brain lacks the moral niceties the rest of us take for granted, they obviously can’t do anything about that, any more than a colour-blind person can start seeing colour."

That might be "obvious", but isn't necessarily true.

Many people these days believe that the brain is the mind, or the mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain, and that psychology and brain function are intimately connected, or even the very same thing. On this view, to the extent anyone has free will and is able to change anything about themselves, they are changing their brain.

One method of change that would be interesting to explore is seeing what effect "empathogenic" drugs like MDMA (or perhaps other psychedelics) have on so-called psychopaths. It might just be possible that they are in fact capable of feeling empathy, but those feelings aren't consciously acknowledged or easily accessible to them -- but some powerful psychoactive substances like MDMA or psychedelics might be able to grant them access to their subconscious and to learn to be aware of emotions they've either been unaware of before or have denied.

Of course, such attempts should be tried only under the supervision of an experienced therapist trained in psychedelic therapy.

> but some powerful psychoactive substances like MDMA or psychedelics might be able to grant them access to their subconscious and to learn to be aware of emotions they've either been unaware of before or have denied.

Sorry, with the end of your sentence you discredit yourself.

In a psychopath there is no brain activity in some parts of the brain. See story of James Fallon as mentioned in numerous sources on the subject, including this article. Psychopaths don't 'deny' themselves emotions. Psychopaths are unable to experience the full spectrum of emotions. Examples of emotions include love, empathy, anger, despair, fear. They learned to mimic the emotions they're unable to experience, in detail, so a psychopath will seemingly be able to experience fear (acting as if they do often referred to as 'wearing the mask'). They're like predators in a land of prey, constantly on the hunt, yet well disguised (I attribute that sentence to Hintjens' theories on the subject). Neurotypicals normally do not detect them. A person who denies themselves emotions is someone with deep-rooted psychological problems. That's not a psychopath as psychopaths are unable to experience the full spectrum; that's someone who likely has a personality disorder or (if a young person) is developing one. Personality disorders cannot be cured. A personality disorder is for life. It may become worse or better, therapy such as CBT or drugs can make the personality disorder bearable, but it never fully goes away. That theory makes it unlikely full-blown psychopaths can be cured, while the corner cases stay in disguise.

As for being 'unaware' of their emotions. There's evidence psychopaths can recognise emotions better than neurotypicals [1].

We should also seriously consider the long-term effects of MDMA in relation to health. E.g. neurotoxicity. Quora contains an entry on this subject [2].

[1] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/surprise...

[2] https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-long-term-side-effects-fr...

In case anyone else is wondering, this isn't generally available as an option. Yet.

MAPS has a goal of 2021 for prescription.

>MAPS is undertaking a roughly $25 million plan to make MDMA into a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved prescription medicine by 2021.


It might not be legal or sanctioned by the mainstream psychological community yet, but it's definitely an option (if you can track down a therapist willing to do it).

Psychedelic therapy has been practiced virtually since psychedelics started to be widely used in the mid-20th century. In the 1950's and 60's, LSD and other psychedelics were used therapeutically. In the 1980's, efore MDMA became known as a party drug, it was used therapeutically. Indigenous people have traditionally used psychedlics in a sacramental context in which goals and results could arguably be seen as therapeutic.

When these drugs were made illegal, the above-ground therapy stopped, but some therapists dared to continue their work despite great risk to themselves. To give just one example, a book called *"The Secret Chief Revealed"[1] chronicles the work of one such underground psychedlic therapist, Leo Zeff, who led hundreds of therapy sessions with MDMA.

Today the practice of psychedelic therapy continues, and there are even university programs that teach it. It's still mostly underground, but is starting to rise aboveground and becoming a real option as research in to psychedelic therapy gets positive results and positive media coverage, as more doctors and patients become aware of it, and as the so-called Psychedlic Renaissance grows.

[1] - https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Chief-Revealed-Myron-Stolaroff...

Here's a very interesting interview with a researcher that works with MDMA:


I always find these articles interesting, especially the idea that most psychopaths aren't particularly dangerous. If we look at mental illnesses as a whole, I feel like untreated depression and bipolar disorder are FAR more costly for American society.

Also, I think it's somewhat dreadful that the tech industry seems to elevate/celebrate psychopathic traits such as ignoring rules, impulsiveness, and lack of empathy. I'm pretty sure that are people with psychopathic tendencies at the top of the ladder of some of the giants.

> If we look at mental illnesses as a whole, I feel like untreated depression and bipolar disorder are FAR more costly for American society.

Yes, of course, reportedly psychopath % is 4% of society, but the number of serial killers is a mere fraction of that 4%. Psychopaths or not, the number of serial killers is also very small compared to the number of depressed Americans, or obese Americans for that matter. What matters is: 'can a person function in society?' If no, that's a loss for that individual as well as for society. The victims of the serial killers are just [often] innocent to the victim which clouds our judgement on severity. Compare terrorism victims with traffic accident victims.

> it's somewhat dreadful that the tech industry seems to elevate/celebrate psychopathic traits such as ignoring rules, impulsiveness, and lack of empathy.

3/3 match with antisocial personality disorder. Quoting Wikipedia:

"Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), also known as sociopathy, is a personality disorder characterized by a long term pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others. An impoverished moral sense or conscience is often apparent, as well as a history of crime, legal problems, or impulsive and aggressive behavior." [1]

It also doesn't help Hare mixes up sociopathy and psychopathy in his works.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisocial_personality_disorde...

Tech industry elevates lack of emphaty for the same reason as any industry flooded by money - money and power attracts that kind of people. The other reason is early years assumption of some institutions that "disinterest in people" predicts good programming skills. That tilted culture and caused disproportional self selection of people who don't care about others.

Article is a book plug.

I recommend The Psychopath Code by the late Pieter Hintjens [1]. It is frighteningly analytical & accurate with many analogies, examples and references to work with. Bonus points for using security terminology (he refers to the psychopath as Mallory). The book is freely available as PDF, and a physical copy can be bought as well. Changes can be suggested at gitbook [2], though the author (a long-term member of the open source community) passed away oct 2016.

Although anecdotal I also enjoy reading posts from self-proclaimed psychopath "Athena Walker" on Quora on the subject.

[1] http://hintjens.com/blog:_psychopaths

[2] https://www.gitbook.com/book/hintjens/psychopathcode/details

The Psychopath Code is a fantastic reference for how to deal with toxic people, but Hintjens (as he readily admits) had no knowledge of modern psychology or psychological research and no training in that field aside from self-teaching and "in the wild" experience. His definitions for who a psychopath is and how they behave are thus completely out of sync with how the rest of the world identifies such persons. He does not distinguish, for instance, between different kinds of personality disorders - Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, etc. - and psychopathy, even though they are quite distinct. It is not accurate to call the people Hintjens describes "psychopaths," but simply "toxic" or "pathological."

That doesn't mean the Code is not valuable - it is extremely useful. But it is not a good reference for learning about psychopathy in particular.

(Full disclosure: I personally had some brief communication with Pieter Hintjens a few months before his passing, where we discussed precisely this issue in the context of some family members of mine diagnosed by professionals with certain disorders, none of them psychopathy. While the conversation was fascinating, it ended when I suggested that it was valuable to ask not only "what does this person do that harms people?" but also "what motivates them to do this?"; a psychopath does not share motivations with a narcissist or someone with BPD, for instance, and it didn't seem he was willing to accept that distinction.)

Psychopathic individuals do have boundries. Most want to avoid prison and have friends.

My mother was severely ill with schizophrenia and thought Nazi's lived in our attic and were going to kill us. They talked to her about how they were going to do so.

Living in this situation I find myself different then others. No desire to kill or go to prison though.

Of course to make sure, you have to tie them up and throw them into a pond. If they float, they're a psychopath. If they drown, then they weren't.


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