• Quote of the Day
    "People are crying up the rich and variegated plumage of the peacock, and he is himself blushing at the sight of his ugly feet."
    Sa'Di, posted by David Baxter

HA

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My psychopathic sweetheart
He may seem the ideal mate, but the romantic predator's narcissism eventually surfaces
SARAH HAMPSON, The Globe and Mail
October 4, 2007

The courtship is always a whirlwind. He is handsome, charming, confident. His love letters are filled with longing. The flattery flows. You are smart. You are beautiful. You are his ideal love.

Master of the grand gesture, he whisks you off on romantic weekends. Mid-Atlantic, he pulls out a little present for you, just as the stewardess fills your glasses with wine.

You have no idea that he is a psychopath: deeply narcissistic, devoid of real feeling, a romantic predator. Why would you? He is your dream man.

He could be a she. The disorder has been studied more in men, but psychiatrists believe female psychopaths are just as prevalent, says Dr. Robert Hare, author of Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, and other books. A retired psychology professor in British Columbia, he is considered a world expert on the condition. He has studied the psychopath who lives next door, who sleeps in your bed, who works in the cubicle next to yours.

Society only points to the extreme cases of psychopathic behaviour, the violently criminal ones, the Paul Bernardos, the Charles Mansons, the fictional Hannibal Lecters.

But there is a garden variety. In her 2005 book, The Sociopath Next Door, Dr. Martha Stout writes that this "non-correctable disfigurement of character" is now "thought to be present in about 4 per cent of the population - that is to say, one in 25 people."

By comparison, the much-publicized disorder of anorexia, considered a significant societal problem, is estimated at 3.43 per cent.

The psychopath is unaware of his condition, of course.

He is not a criminal. He is charismatic, loquacious, intelligent. He thinks he is wonderful.

Your friends are charmed, too. What a sensitive soul, they say. How intuitive. How ambitious. He possesses all the characteristics most admired in people.

You are swept off your feet. "We are not the norm," he might say. You two are the special kind of people, he murmurs. He proposes marriage. Perhaps he drops to one knee on a beach in Bermuda, a diamond ring in his pocket, as if just a pebble. It's like a scene from a movie.

And yes, sure, maybe you hear a little warning voice in your head - that this guy is too much, that he is too smooth - but you ignore it, because, well, you are likely quite young. You are lacking in self-esteem, uncertain, just out of a relationship perhaps, or newly arrived in an unfamiliar city, or you are a single mother.

You are vulnerable in some way, and somewhere deep down you feel you do deserve this, you are special. He is in command, like a real man, you figure. He knows what he wants. He will make your life wonderful. Which is sexy. No one has ever loved you like this before. It's like a drug.

You carry the intoxication around like a secret. It sustains you. Truth be told, you feel a little sorry for other people who don't get to experience this level of passion.

After all, you think, this is how romance should be - overwhelming, undeniable, big.

It's only later, when in a marriage or in the daily routine of a relationship, that you notice things aren't quite right. He blames others for problems he encounters. He spends a lot of money, even when the family is struggling financially.

Perhaps he is in and out of jobs. If he runs into trouble at work, over questions about what he claims as expenses, for example, he blames the accountant. If his contract is not renewed for not doing a job he was employed to do, he suggests the guy who hired him was confused about what he said his skills were. The boss was stupid, he suggests.

He plays people and the system, and never takes responsibility for his actions. He lies. He is highly manipulative and prone to bursts of anger.

You also discover how critical he is of you. The torrent of verbal abuse is as fluid as the flattery once was.

You begin to believe that something is wrong with you. You think if I am just thinner, or if I dress better, he will love me again. Maybe you draw in your journal a picture of yourself with a big hole in your middle. You feel utterly alone.

You read mountains of self-help books, about anger, about love, fear, about making your marriage work. You feel confused. Why did he say that? Why did he do that? What have I done to make him so angry?

If you mention your distress to friends, and the fact that you're considering a divorce, they all say: "Oh, if you leave him, he'll be snapped up in a minute. He's such a great guy." To them, he is, of course. The shrinks call this "impression management."

What you must do is read Hervey Cleckley's book, The Mask of Sanity, written in 1955 and still considered the seminal text on the syndrome. It will all start to make sense. You will be shocked. You consider yourself intelligent, and yet you missed this. Your partner was a textbook psychopath, and you didn't see it. You thought he was the love of your life.

Dr. Hare disagrees with Dr. Stout about 4 per cent of the population having this syndrome. Using PCL-R (or Psychopathy Check List, Revised), a precise measurement of the cluster of behaviours that together allow for a medical diagnosis of a psychopathic personality, he says the prevalence is more like 1 per cent of the general population.

"Whether one is a psychopath or not depends on how many of these characteristics one displays," he explains. But he admits: "A person may not have to have all of them to be a real problem in a relationship."

The psychopath is a parasite, looking to get something from you - sex, money, stability or status, Dr. Hare says. "People have weak spots, vulnerabilities, and buttons that can be pressed, and these psychopaths are looking for the buttons to press."

Here's the good part, though. It may be difficult to ditch him (he will turn on the charm again when he senses you might leave; he will do what he can to manipulate you into staying), but when you stand up to this emotional bully and get free, you can be assured of one thing. He will quickly move on. He will replace you. He won't think about you and he will become someone else's problem.
 

David Baxter

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Dr. Hare disagrees with Dr. Stout about 4 per cent of the population having this syndrome. Using PCL-R (or Psychopathy Check List, Revised), a precise measurement of the cluster of behaviours that together allow for a medical diagnosis of a psychopathic personality, he says the prevalence is more like 1 per cent of the general population.

And I'll disagree with Dr. Hare, who is the author of the Psychopathy Checklist. Although the PCL is widely used, the fact remains that it does a poor job of identifying psychopaths or predicting dangerousness in noncriminal psychopaths.

The PCL, as short as it is, has two factors: The first is a criminal behavior factor. The second is the psychpathic personality factor. Of these, the weakest is the second factor.

What the scale seems to do is identify a certain type of criminal with a high risk for reoffending. Are these criminals psychopathic? Hard to say, since the scale is poor at measuring the psychopathic personality. Does the PCL identify non-criminal psychopaths? Almost certainly not. Thus, Hare's contention that other estimates of psychopathy are too high, based on his PCL scale, is hopelessly confounded.

I would note that the PCL factor 1, the criminal behavior factor, is largely based on past criminal behavior. As such, it's not even the best predictor of criminal recidivism. All the PCL really tells us is that one of the best predictors of future criminal behavior is prior criminal behavior.
 

HA

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Putting the PCL aside, I find it hard to believe that 4% of the population have this disorder. I have most definitly met one in my life and a friend may have an exhusband that fits that criteria but if the stats were as high as 4%, you would think we would be hearing about them more often.
 

David Baxter

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The thing that characterizes the psychopath is not criminality and not narcissism, but rather the absence of empathy, remorse, or genuine feelings, combined with good intelligence and a remarkable talent for mimicry (acting, portraying feelings they don't actually feel).

The ones we know about tend to be the least intelligent or least skilled, or in some cases those that have not found their niche in society. The ones we don't know about tend to be corporate managers, CEOs, entrepreneurs, people who don't mind clawing their way over the backs of others to get what they want - people who have found a niche where those characteristics are admired and who outside of the niche use their charisma to charm those around them.

Most of us won't recognize the successful psychopath. At least not until he screws up, if that ever happens.

The other problem with psychopathy estimates is the vague and blurred distinction between antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy (most people who meet the criteria for APD are not psychpaths in the classic sense). Indeed, at present, psychopathy is not recognized as a separate disorder in DMS-IV-TR.
 

sister-ray

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Interesting article HeartArt, it reminds me of some people Ive come across on internet dating sites!
 

HA

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Interesting article HeartArt, it reminds me of some people Ive come across on internet dating sites!

That's scarry, TTE.

I found the comments left after the article to be interesting. Just click on the article title and scroll to the bottom where it says comments.
 

Mari

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I found the comments left after the article to be interesting

The comment by D K from Canada made me laugh - which I need right now.

the absence of empathy, remorse, or genuine feelings, combined with good intelligence and a remarkable talent for mimicry (acting, portraying feelings they don't actually feel).

That is a perfect description of my nemesis which is what has me so fearful right now. Hopefully I am worrying for nothing. :huh: Mari
 

HotthenCold

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This makes me wonder who out of the people I pass by on a daily basis is a psychopath. I seem to see a lot of these behavioural traits in a lot of people though, and they can't all be psychopaths. Is there any research on people exhibiting psychopathic behaviours that are considered acceptable because of their social status? I would be interested to know, as I have encountered "group" psychopathy on many occasions, though it might not qualify since it's probably more of a really negative groupthink mentality than actual psychpathy (i.e, a bunch of people sitting around saying extremely derisive and heartless things about people who have done nothing to wrong them but who happen to be different in some way)
 

David Baxter

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It is very likely that there are psychopaths who have found a niche where their ruthlessness and lack of empathy works for them without bringing them into direct conflict with the law. Some are probably quite successful businessmen.
 
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Quote: "Here's the good part, though. It may be difficult to ditch him (he will turn on the charm again when he senses you might leave; he will do what he can to manipulate you into staying), but when you stand up to this emotional bully and get free, you can be assured of one thing. He will quickly move on. He will replace you. He won't think about you and he will become someone else's problem. "

I'm curious though, how do we explain the husband or boyfriend who continues to stalk his lover or wife, either eventually killing her, or getting arrested? What would be a psychopath's motive for doing this? Or could it be an overlap of some other disorder combined with the psychopathy?
 

David Baxter

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Men who stalk and kill spouses or ex-spouses are not necessarily psychopaths. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if the majority were not - rather, thay tend to be obsessive and controlling and simply cannot let go.
 
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I've taken the psychology courses and have done a lot of extra reading on this syndrome (that undying curious nature of mine), and I think i've come to somewhat of a conclusion for diagnosing a psychopath, (and I am obviously not a professional, and could very well be wrong or off in my reasoning).

But it seems that in all of the reading I've done, everyone seems to agree that psychopaths very rarely if ever express genuine anxiety or fear, or at the very least, it is not noticeable or detectable. I would think that narcicists are capable of experiencing anxiety, fear, and of course anger, but psychopaths always seem to have an almost unreal and disturbing air of coolness about them, as if they are completely incapable of being shaken up by anything. Maybe this could be their hallmark trait? Of course the lack of empathy would follow along with this as well. It makes sense because in order to have any kind of anticapitory feelings, we would have to be connected to others or at least the world around us in some way.
 

white page

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Quote:

I'm curious though, how do we explain the husband or boyfriend who continues to stalk his lover or wife, either eventually killing her, or getting arrested? What would be a psychopath's motive for doing this? Or could it be an overlap of some other disorder combined with the psychopathy?

This is a good point , there have been several horrendous cases in my country recently , where the husband has killed his ex wife and children , in some cases
attempted to take his own life as well , I think this might be as tempered tense says some kind of overlap , most of these men were considered to be model fathers and citizens .Certainly there is a feeling of horror and disbelief when a father kills his innocent children. We understand maybe more easily the passionate crimes of men and women .
sorry if this is going off topic a little !
 
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David Baxter

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Again, the majority of people who kill their own children are not psychopaths. I've seen a few in my career and all were cases of psychotic depression.
 

white page

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Thanks Dr Baxter, this clears up a certain confusion , I have just reread the topic, and I realize that I misread and missed certain parts. Not a bright day !!
 

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