Psychopath: You or Someone You Know?

Do you know anyone who’s a psychopath? Yourself, someone in your home, someone in the House—as in the White one? (There are opinions on the latter. It’s Google-able.)

Maybe you don’t know. Psychopathy is actually among the hardest diagnoses to discern. Some of the traits (

  • “The psychopath can appear normal, even charming.”
  • But “underneath, he lacks conscience and empathy, making him manipulative, volatile and often (but by no means always) criminal.”
  • “She is an object of popular fascination and clinical anguish: adult psychopathy is largely impervious to treatment…”

Psychologist Kevin Dutton (The Wisdom of Psychopaths) spells out eight parts of the psychopathic personality:

  • Machiavellian Egocentricity–your own personal needs rule over all else
  • Impulsive Nonconformity–neglect of social norms
  • Blame Externalization–things are not your fault
  • Carefree Nonplanfulness–you often don’t plan ahead
  • Fearlessness–lack of fear or anxiety
  • Social Potency–extremely charming
  • Stress Immunity–difficult circumstances don’t blow your cool
  • Coldheartedness–no guilt or remorse

Robert D. Hare, author of Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, offers his own description: “Psychopaths often come across as arrogant, shameless braggarts—self-assured, opinionated, domineering, and cocky. They love to have power and control over others and seem unable to believe that other people have valid opinions different from theirs. They appear charismatic or ‘electrifying’ to some people.”

His Hare Psychopathy Checklist is considered the best test for measuring psychopathy, but it’s lengthy and can only be administered by professionals who’ve studied it.

On the other hand, as Susan Krauss Whitbourne (Psychology Today) recently reported, there’s now a reasonably reliable “super-short psychopathy scale” via research by Collison et al. It’s the Elemental Psychopathy Assessment (EPA) Super Short Form (SSF), making it the EPA-SSF.

If you take this little test, either on behalf of yourself or someone else, rate each item on a 1-5 scale (disagree strongly to agree strongly). Questions two, five, and fourteen are significant if you rate them on the low end, whereas all the others count more if you go higher.

I have no further details on how to score it, but I’m confident nevertheless that the EPA-SSF will improve your ability to understand what makes a psychopath. The statements to consider:

  1. I deserve special treatment.
  2. I care a lot about my relationships with others (reversed).
  3. Feeling sorry for others is a sign of weakness.
  4. When someone does something nice for me, I wonder what they want from me.
  5. People would say I am a reliable and dependable person (reversed).
  6. I quit things pretty easily.
  7. I could make a living as a con artist.
  8. I have more important things to worry about than other people’s feelings.
  9. My temper has gotten me into trouble.
  10. I am known as a bit of a rebel.
  11. “Act first, think later” describes me well.
  12. I like doing things that are risky or dangerous.
  13. When I’m upset, I will do things I later regret.
  14. I am a bit of a worrier (reversed).
  15. I’m not the type to get depressed about the things I’ve done wrong.
  16. I remain cool, calm, and collected when things get stressful.
  17. I often emerge as the leader in a group.
  18. I’m pretty comfortable when meeting new people.
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