What Is A Psychopathic Personality?

Before we consider what is a psychopathic personality, let's check first what a personality is. There is no generally accepted definition but it is basically the collection of a person's behaviors, thinking patterns and emotional expressions. It also includes interests, motivations, criteria, attitudes and a sense of self. The way all these things are expressed differentiate one person from another.

A psychopathic personality, therefore, is one that has psychopathic traits throughout each of the facets of the personality. So what are psychopathic traits?

Let's do the technical bit first.

Psychopathy, or antisocial personality disorder, is defined by impaired functioning of the personality, in relation to oneself as well as in relation to others.

The impairments in self functioning show up as identity issues where there is egocentrism, the inability to accurately understand any perspective other than one's own, and self esteem is gained from personal gain or power. Other issues arise from setting goals based on personal gratification and a lack of internal "prosocial standards" which means they fail to conform to lawful or culturally accepted norms. In other words, there is no inner policeman to stop them doing bad things.

There is also interpersonal malfunctioning because of a lack of empathy. They lack any concern for the needs or feelings of others. They lack guilt or remorse after injuring others. The lack the capacity for intimacy and they relate to others through exploitation. Their relationships are based on domination and coercion in order to control others.

They also have pathological personality traits which come in two categories, antagonism and disinhibition.

In the antagonism category we have:

Manipulativeness: They frequently use subterfuge to control others. They use seduction, charm, ingratiation to get what they want. Think "mind control!""

Deceitfulness: They are dishonest and fraudulent. They frequently misrepresent themselves, making themselves out to be successful, intelligent, better than others etc. They embellish and exaggerate. They lie a lot!

Callousness: They lack concern for others. There is no remorse for any negative effects of their actions on others. They can be sadistic.

Hostility: They have a vicious temper and they can be mean, nasty and vengeful. There is often anger or hostility in response to minor slights or insults.

In the disinhibition category we have:

Irresponsibility: There is a disregard and ignoring of obligations and commitments, financial and otherwise. There is no sense of obligation in following through on their promises and agreements.

Impulsivity: Lots of acting on the spur of the moment with little or no consideration of future consequences. There is often difficulty in following plans of any sort. Think 'instant gratification'.

Risk taking: These types often engage in dangerous, risky behavior and even potentially self damaging activities. They are prone to boredom and will do all sorts of things to alleviate that boredom. They often ignore their own limitations and deny the reality of potential danger.

So apply all those traits to the different aspects of a personality and what do you get...?


What is a psychopathic personality?

The above is a summary of the definition of antisocial personality disorder taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. What does it all mean? How does this show up in real life?

A person with a psychopathic personality basically does not have any emotions, or extremely shallow emotions. There is no caring, love, remorse, guilt, embarrassment, shame, fear or empathy. All those things that allow one human to bond to another. They never feel bad for anything they do. How is this significant? Well, it means that they can do anything and it does not bother them in the least. They can lie, cheat, steal, abuse, destroy, take advantage of and generally ruin the life of another and it has no emotional impact on them.

So if they are so bad, how do people get caught by them? Why can people not spot them instantaneously? Because they can be very good actors. They are full of themselves, there is no shame or embarrassment if they are caught out and they are professional liars. They are very good at pretending to be something they are not. They will pretend to be loving, caring, friendly and helpful at the start of a relationship. They play the role of Mr. Right, or Miss Perfect, tremendously well. They will offer their target exactly what the target is looking for, whether this is a job, relationship, education, coaching or whatever. The victim believes that they have met someone with whom it makes sense to continue in a relationship, whatever that relationship may be. In other words, the victims are tricked into starting a relationship, and the person they get into the relationship with does not actually exist. The persona has been created by the psychopath to lure the target into their trap.

From the word go, the psychopath is creating a relationship with a power imbalance present. They carefully orchestrate the situation to make it easy for the victim to make the decision to take the next steps in the relationship. They create a reality for the victim to step into where the victim wants to take the next steps.

However, when the victim has committed, or when the psychopath recognizes that they have a certain level of control, the behavior of the psychopath changes. All the time and attention of the psychopath on the victim becomes conditional on the victim doing or saying different things, those things that the manipulator wants. These may be small changes at the start, where the victim considers it normal in any relationship that there are some compromises to be made. Then those compromises get bigger and bigger, until the victim ends up doing things that would have been unacceptable and/or unimaginable before.

There are major shifts in the relationship as time goes on. Instead of all the attention being given to the target, the relationship becomes all about the psychopath. The victim is expected to put the wants and needs of the manipulator before their own. The victim spends most of their lives making sure the psychopath is comfortable, has what he or she wants and makes sure not to upset the psychopath. The psychopath often has a nasty temper (yes, anger is one emotion that the psychopaths display, although many times this is an act, too!) and the victims are terrified of upsetting them. Life is very unpleasant when the psychopath is upset. The difficulty is that the victim never knows when the manipulator is going to get upset (remember the idea that the psychopath gets hostile even at the perception of a slight or a challenge to their dominance). This means that the victims are often 'walking on egg shells', afraid of their lives to do or say anything that might upset the psychopath.

Fear and guilt are the two major motivating forces that the psychopaths use to coerce and bully their victims. Interestingly, many victims don't realize how much fear and guilt they are living under until they actually leave the relationship and have had some time to settle down.

Another tactic of the psychopathic personality is to criticize people at the level of identity. They may be talking about something the victim did, but what they are actually doing is making the person feel bad about who they are for having done that particular thing. There is a difference between, "That was a stupid thing to do," and "That's just you all over, doing stupid things again!" The latter makes the victim feel like a flawed human being and they want to fix themselves in some way so as to gain the approval of the manipulator and to avoid the criticisms in the future. I know that sounds twisted but that is what happens in relationships with psychopaths.

The big picture situation is that the victim in a relationship with a psychopath has a false personality, or pseudopersonality, imposed on them. The manipulator changes the person's perceptions, thinking, beliefs, decision making, emotions and behavior patterns. This basically amounts to a personality change in the victim. This is why friends and family members say that they hardly recognize their loved one any more. It explains why victims often say that they lost themselves in the relationship, that they no longer know who they are.

This pseudopersonality is nothing to do with the psychopathic personality, it is a separate entity that psychopaths impose on their victims. But it is useful to understand if you are dealing with a psychopath.

The pseudopersonality is programmed to be subservient, obedient and loyal. It is programmed to trust and believe the manipulator, to take care of the manipulator, to make the life of the manipulator comfortable. Think slave! It is also programmed to be dependent on the manipulator.

You can read more about how the pseudopersonality is developed in this article about narcissistic boyfriends.

Of course, in an abusive relationship, there are insults, name calling, humiliation, belittling, threats, emotional abuse and mental abuse as well as financial and sexual abuse. All of these things are to be expected in a relationship with someone who has a psychopathic personality. They are all part of the control and domination exerted by the psychopath over the victims.

In fact, the relationships of these people is based on coercion and exploitation. They are driven by power and control. Their interest in money and sex is to increase their power over others.

Some psychopaths want control over large groups or powerful groups, such as political organizations or large companies. Others are content to manipulate their family at home. And others set up their own cults to take advantage of the members. There is no stereotypical psychopath, which makes it harder to spot them.

Do they know what they are doing? Absolutely. Do they know right from wrong? Again, absolutely. They just don't care! They can choose wrong over right and it does not upset them in the slightest.


What is a psychopathic personality? More reading

If you think you might be in a relationship with a psychopath, and it can be difficult to decide when you are just leaving the relationship, then you need to do something about it. The psychopath is not going to change, no matter what they promise. You have to put a stop to the abuse.

Step one is to educate yourself. You have to learn what you are dealing with.

You can read more here about what makes someone a psychopath, what a controlling relationship is, the stages of an abusive relationship, the signs of someone being manipulative, the signs of verbal abuse, how to leave and recovering from a psychopathic relationship.

Like this page?


Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?

If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Available now!

54 tips image
54 Practical Tips For Dealing With Psychopaths and Narcissists

You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...

Find out more

Mind Control Manual

mind control manual s

Vital concepts about mind control, cults
and psychopaths

Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?

This manual will give you a different perspective!

What Is Narcissism?

what is narcissism small

A practical guide to protecting yourself

Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?

Learn how to break free, and why you need to!

Tips for dealing with psychopaths and narcissists

Fortnightly newsletter with practical tips and ideas
Learn more...
'7 Vital Do's and Don'ts of Decision Making' when you subscribe!