There comes a time in most people’s lives when we start to wonder, “Am I a psychopath?”. Maybe you’ve been watching a lot of serial killer documentaries and you’re now wondering - what actually makes a psychopath? Or perhaps you stood on a snail by mistake and didn’t feel quite as upset as you thought you should. It’s perfectly natural to wonder.
Scientists estimate that between 0.2 and 2% of people can be defined as psychopaths, and those with psychopathic traits tend to be more violent than those without.
However, being a psychopath doesn’t make you a potential serial killer. It also doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be violent, or any sort of criminal. A psychopath can be defined as an individual who displays certain amoral and antisocial behaviours, such as extreme narcissism, an inability to learn from experience, and difficulty developing meaningful relationships. Psychopaths can be charming, intelligent and charismatic, but also ruthless, narcissistic, and lacking conscience.
You might be surprised to discover that the question “Am I a psychopath?” rarely has a yes or no answer. Like many mental conditions, psychopathy lies on a spectrum which we all fall on somewhere. To get an idea about where you are on that spectrum, read and consider the statements below.
If you agree with some of the statements, you probably display some psychopathic traits. But don’t worry, this doesn’t make you a psychopath. You’ve only got something to worry about if you agree with all of them.
Please note: this test is not designed to formally diagnose. This can only be done by a qualified medical or mental health professional. This test is designed to give you an idea about where you fall on the psychopathy spectrum.
Let’s get going.
If I hurt someone’s feelings, I don’t feel bad. It’s not my problem.
If you agree with this statement, it’s quite possible that you have some psychopathic tendencies. And perhaps it’s no wonder you’ve been asking yourself “Am I a psychopath?”.
Psychopaths are often characterised by their lack of remorse and empathy. Certain areas of the human brain are tied with empathy. Usually, when people witness others in emotional or physical pain, those areas are activated, triggering empathetic emotions. In psychopathic people, they’re not. This is why psychopaths often feel no guilt or remorse when they commit crimes.
British serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who murdered at least 12 young men and boys between 1978 and 1983, once admitted “I don’t lose sleep over what I have done or have nightmares about it.” Characteristically psychopathic, he too has a noticeable inability to empathise.
I find it difficult to connect with others emotionally.
As psychopaths lack empathy and compassion, they often find it difficult to make emotional connections with people. If you also find it difficult to make and maintain friendships, you might have a psychopathic tendency.
Psychopaths tend to not get on that well with others because they are self-serving, a trait that isn’t conducive to friendships. This means they often have few friends, and can easily drop those friends if they realise they are no longer serving them in some way.
I often feel bored and have to seek new means of stimulation frequently.
If you feel bored more often than you don’t, you might start wondering “Am I a psychopath?”. Psychopaths face chronic boredom throughout their lives, leading to a persistent need for excessive stimulation. Some suggest psychopaths are hardwired to require more arousal than other people, meaning they need to do exciting things all the time to feel normal levels of arousal or entertainment.
This constant need for excitement can lead psychopaths to relentlessly pursue short-lived thrills, sometimes through petty crimes and sexual promiscuity, or sometimes through acts of violence, aggression and serious crimes.
Some serial killers and murderers claim they kill out of sheer boredom. When Dennis Nilsen explained why he committed his crimes, he said “I wish I could stop but I could not. I had no other thrill or happiness.”
Being prone to boredom and struggling to find ways to alleviate it is a key trait of psychopaths. Does this sound like you?
I’m happy to lie to get what I want.
Psychopaths are pathological liars. Why? Because lying helps them get what they want.
More than anything else, psychopaths are self-serving. They will lie, cheat, manipulate or even kill if they have something to gain from it. As we’ve already discussed, they also lack empathy, meaning they don’t feel any guilt or remorse for deceiving others. If you are comfortable with lying to get what you want, and don’t worry about the consequences of those lies, you might have psychopathic tendencies.
I have many short-term relationships because I quickly get bored of my partners.
Psychopaths usually go through a repetitive cycle of intimate relationships. They idealise, devalue and then discard their partners after they’ve stopped gaining something from the relationship. New relationships are based primarily on the thrill of the chase and the possibility of gaining something from a new partner. This makes it easy to walk away from them, with little regard for the pain they leave behind, when they stop being beneficial.
If you do the same, you might display some traits of a psychopath.
I often act impulsively and like to take risks.
Psychopaths often make spur-of-the-moment decisions and take risks that others would find unreasonable. Do you do the same?
Most people generally avoid activities that might cause physical pain or other negative repercussions. Psychopaths have much less consideration for the consequences of their actions. They do whatever they want with little consideration of the physical and emotional impact on themselves or others.
Scientists believe the reason for this is because psychopaths are not skilled at reasoning and struggle to understand that they can avoid negative consequences by taking various precautions.
If things go wrong, it’s never my fault.
If you tend to blame others for your actions, you might find yourself further along the psychopathy spectrum than you might like.
Psychopaths fail to accept responsibility for their actions. Due to their lack of empathy, shallow emotions and self-serving nature, blaming others for the negative consequences of their actions comes naturally to those afflicted with psychopathy.
Are you a psychopath?
Now that you've reviewed the statements above, you’ll have a better idea about the answer to your question, “Am I a psychopath?”. Did you get the results you expected?
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