7 Habits Psychopaths Have That Are More Common Than You Think
When you think about the traits of a psychopath, you might imagine someone who is narcissistic, deceitful, calculating — and maybe even a little too charming. But the reality is, these tendencies aren't unique to psychopaths, and can actually be spotted in everyday people.
That's not to say that someone is a psychopath if they're charming or deceitful. We're all multi-faceted and have many different personality traits, including ones that aren't always considered positive. It's only when someone has antisocial personality disorder — which is the term psychologists use to label psychopaths — that these traits can really stand out.
For that to be the case, a person must meet the diagnostic criteria in the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which would mean they have three or more of the disorder's defining traits, such as impulsivity, a reckless disregard for the safety of others, a lack of remorse, or failure to conform to social norms, psychotherapist Kevon Owen, MS, LPC, tells Bustle.
Anyone can be impulsive or reckless at times. But for psychopaths, these tendencies define their daily life. "Traits of antisocial personality disorder can often be seen in most adults," therapist Ann Russo, MA.TH, LCSW, tells Bustle. "The distinguishable and diagnosable difference is that the traits impact levels of functioning in the world. For example, the traits negatively effect [their] relationships, career, and society on a regular basis." And as such, truly sets them apart.
With that in mind, read on for psychopathic tendencies that are surprisingly common, according to experts
1. High Levels Of Charm
"Most [psychopaths] are charming and disarming," psychotherapist Jianny Adamo, tells Bustle, meaning they know just what to say to win a person over and get what they want.
"But having that trait alone doesn't make [someone] antisocial," she says. Plenty of people can be charming, witty, and socially graceful. "People who enjoy being with others or are good presenters can [also] be very charming," Adamo says.
It's even a socially acceptable trait people work on developing, in order to be more influential. Only when it's used as a form of manipulation does it take on a darker tone.
2. A Disregard For The Law
"Psychopaths disregard the law," Adamo says, because they just don't think it applies to them. And one way they may go about it is by driving recklessly.
"They don't observe speed limits, drive under the influence, cut people off, oscillate from aggressive driving to not driving fast enough, [and so on]," Adamo says. But the average person can do the same thing when behind the wheel.
Think about how many people speed, or make bad decisions while on the road. While it's not OK for anyone to do, unsafe driving does happen. "You don't need to be a psychopath to be a reckless driver," Adamo says.
3. Impulsive Behavior
"Impulsivity and failure to factor for long-term consequences of our actions is a psychopathic behavior," Owen says. "Or a behavior seen regularly in adolescents and young adults."
Pretty much anyone can make an impulsive decision or act irrationally. But what separates the average person from a psychopath is the pervasiveness of the trait.
As Owen says, one of the diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder is "consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations," which often stems from impulsive behavior.
While it isn't the best habit to develop, lying to others is actually fairly common among the masses, as well as among psychopaths. But the difference is that they're way less likely to ever feel bad about it, Dr. Angela Kenzslowe, clinical psychologist and founder of Purple Heart Behavioral Health LLC, tells Bustle.
Lying in small ways is also considered socially acceptable, which is why pretty much everyone does it. We lie, and are told lies, many times throughout the day. But unlike psychopaths, we rarely lie in order to cause someone harm.
"The psychopath [...] will repeatedly lie, be deceitful, and con others for their pleasure or personal profit all while knowing is causes harm," Dr. Kenzslowe says. "They just don’t care."
"Deceiving or manipulating to get your way is a trait that even very socially admired people have admitted occasionally having the urge to do," Owen says. Of course, there's a big difference between how a psychopath might manipulate others, compared to the rest of us.
A psychopath may go out of their way to deceive others through the use of aliases as a way to gain pleasure or profit, while many others may stick to simpler methods of deception, such as the aforementioned white lies told in order to get their way.
While self-centeredness is a fairly common trait, it becomes a marker for psychopathy when it develops into high levels of narcissism.
In healthy doses, certain forms of self-focus can even be good for you. "Most people think that [being self-centered] is a bad thing," clinical psychologist Dr. Perpetua Neo, tells Bustle. "However [...] self-enhancement, meaning the ability to see ourselves through rose-tinted glasses to a certain extent — can help with our functioning, productivity, and happiness." It's only when that self-centeredness becomes narcissism, which often causes someone to manipulate others for self-gain, that it becomes separate from everyday behavior.
7. Thrill Seeking
"[Thrill seeking] is one of the tell-tale signs of psychopathy," Samantha Morrison, a health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness, tells Bustle. And yet, it's common for folks to want to get their adrenaline pumping to one degree or other, whether it's by watching horror movies, riding rollercoasters, or jumping out of airplanes.
That's why it's important not to assume that having a psychopathic trait means someone is a psychopath. While antisocial personality disorder includes traits that are fairly common, they have to be pervasive and negatively impact someone's life in order to get a true diagnosis.