What Is a Psychopath Personality?

Use this guide to learn everything you need to know about psychopath personality.

Table of Contents

What Is a Psychopath?

Psychopathy or a psychopath personality is a mix of superficial charm, poor judgment, and failure to learn from experience. The personality also involves manipulative, self-serving behaviors and often extensive callousness. Even with the different characteristics of a psychopath, it remains one of the most difficult disorders to diagnose.

In science, psychopathy sparks fascination. Various factors like genetics and brain anatomy contribute to the state of psychopathy. Adults with this condition are typically resistant to treatment, but various programs treat psychopath personalities. 

Often, stereotypes about mental health lead those experiencing symptoms of psychopathy to refrain from seeking treatment. There is an underlying fear of social ostracization or professional or legal retribution when treatment is considered. Therefore, it is important to maintain a humane and empathetic approach regarding psychopathy (or related mental illnesses) to ensure that treatment is administered. 

A Closer Look

An individual with psychopathy may have the following characteristics:

Even though it doesn’t classify as an official mental health diagnosis, psychopathy is a common term in legal and clinical settings. Many psychopath symptoms are similar to antisocial personality disorder, which is a mental health condition ascribed to sociopathy

Nonetheless, not all individuals with antisocial personality disorder are psychopaths. It’s also imperative to note that signs of a psychopath differ from a sociopath. The difference between sociopath and psychopath personalities is clear. 

Psychopath vs. Sociopath

Most psychopaths are cold-hearted and calculating, while sociopaths tend to act more hot-headed. One of the major differences between sociopath and psychopath personalities is a conscience—psychopath personalities do not have one.

Signs of a psychopath are difficult to spot. These individuals are often intelligent, good at mimicking emotions, and charming. Experts typically classify them as skilled actors with a sole mission to manipulate individuals for personal gain. Most psychopaths don’t care about the consequence of their actions, which is a significant risk.

Common Psychopathic Traits

There are many traits of a psychopathic personality. Some of the major ones include:


Most psychopathic individuals are impulsive. Such impulsivity may include lack of planning, positive and negative urgency, and lack of perseverance. In addition, individuals classified as psychopaths often react rapidly to external stimuli with little to no regard for short-term or long-term consequences.

Psychopaths often respond to various stimuli or events based on their immediate reactions like desire or anger. In some cases, impulsivity may not be due to psychopathic personality, while others take impulsive actions without an underlying disease or mental health condition.

When impulsivity causes aggressive behavior, easy distraction, restlessness, and interruptions, it’s important to seek help.


When an individual exhibits traits of a psychopath, they also have narcissistic traits—it’s a major difference between sociopath and psychopath personalities. People with such personalities can’t sense the feelings of others or see the world from someone else’s perspective. In addition, they don’t have a sense of conscience or guilt to stop them from behaving inappropriately.

Narcissists feel superior over the opinions of others. People on the high end of the narcissism spectrum classify as having narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). When a person shows signs of narcissism, it typically follows with charisma and charm. Also, such individuals don’t show immediate bad behavior, even in relationships.

Callous-Unemotional Traits

Callous-unemotional (CU) traits comprise a temperament dimension involving interpersonal callousness, restricted affect, and low empathy. Psychopaths with this trait have a high disregard for the feelings of others. These traits of a psychopath are the significant hallmark feature of psychopathy and are associated with severe antisocial behavior.

Common causes of callous-unemotional traits may include neural mechanisms and genetics. If CU traits are due to neural mechanisms, it signifies low amounts of cortisol in the body, resulting in under arousal. Hence, the individual may experience impairments in fear processing. Note that CU traits may also occur due to sudden emotional triggers.

Lack of Guilt

If a person has high levels of psychopathic tendencies, they may display a lack of guilt and empathic concern. Such individuals may also disregard the impact of their decision on others. Instead of experiencing guilt, they would rather rationalize their behavior and blame someone else. In some scenarios, they may deny those actions outright.

A person that feels no guilt or remorse wouldn’t have a reason to see themselves at fault in any situation. Most psychopaths don’t have the ability to evaluate happenings in a moral framework, which is another difference between sociopath and psychopath personalities. In addition, they can’t develop emotional bonds with others due to a lack of empathy.

Antisocial Behavior

Psychopaths may take actions that harm the well-being of others—antisocial behaviors. Such behaviors are disruptive to others in society and violate basic rights. In most cases, psychopathy describes persistent violations of social norms, including stealing, lying, stealing, and truancy.

Antisocial behavior commonly falls under antisocial personality disorder; however, recent research shows this is linked to psychopathy.

Signs of a Psychopath Personality

Traits of a psychopath typically emerge during childhood and gradually worsen. Some of the significant psychopath symptoms include:

Manipulative behavior

Tendency to lie often

Superficial charm



Difficulty showing remorse

Recurring problems with the law

Promiscuous sexual behavior

Shallow emotions

Causes of Psychopathy

According to early research, most psychopath symptoms are from issues relating to parent-child attachment. Parental rejection, lack of affection, and emotional deprivation increase the risk of a child becoming a psychopath. Here are the major causes of psychopathy:1

Causes of Psychopathy

Emotional Deprivation

Lack of interpersonal relationships that provide love, affection, interest, and affirmation can cause signs of a psychopath personality. Children who experience emotional deprivation and show a lack of empathy and guilt may show psychopathy traits in adulthood. Such children can also display antisocial behaviors like bullying and aggression early, developing psychopathic tendencies.

Parental Rejection

Parental rejection describes the absence of parental love towards the children, such as significant withdrawal of warmth and care. Children who grow up experiencing parental rejection may have psychopathic tendencies. When rejection occurs, individuals should deal with the pain, build other strong relationships, and understand they are not the cause.

Lack of Affection

Another name that describes lack of affection is “skin hunger.” It describes a person that is significantly deprived of affection. Some people may feel significantly deprived of meaningful human contact or relationships. Such individuals tend to experience psychopath symptoms, including depression, worsened health conditions, and stress. 


Maltreatment during the early stages of a child’s life can cause psychopathic traits. Child maltreatment describes any behavior to a child that falls outside the norms of conduct. It also causes a significant risk of emotional and physical harm, which builds psychopathic tendencies.


Children or teenagers who grow up with certain events of abuse may become less sensitive to painful or anxiety-related experiences. Most times, individuals who experienced abuse end up less emotionally and physiologically responsive to others’ needs. Such individuals also end up being callous and lacking empathy, remorse, and guilt.

Insecure Attachments

There are various signs of insecure attachments, including fear of emotions, intimacy, and emotional closeness. Certain childhood experiences can increase the chances of an individual developing insecure attachment and other signs of a psychopath personality. Insecure attachments typically cause early separation from a parent, troubled childhood, and instances of mistreatment. 

How Is Psychopathy Diagnosed?

Psychopathic personality doesn’t classify as a mental health disorder, making no difference between sociopath and psychopath personalities. For this reason, mental health professionals can’t perform a direct psychopath test or use a psychopathy checklist.

Mental Health Evaluation

For psychopath diagnosis, mental health professionals, counselors, or psychologists perform checks to fully understand how an individual feels. 

A mental health evaluation or test using a psychopathy checklist typically helps diagnose various mental health conditions like anxiety disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder; for diagnosing psychopathy, mental health experts look out for psychopath symptoms (such as those listed above).

Medical History

Before having a final psychopath diagnosis, mental health experts typically ask specific questions to discover the individual’s medical history during a psychopath test or psychopathy checklist. For example, licensed professionals may ask questions relating to abuse in the past, maltreatment, insecure attachments, parental rejection, and emotional deprivation.

Evaluation for Conduct Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Conduct disorder is a behavior disorder that describes a child with antisocial behavior. Some of the common signs of conduct disorder include not caring about social norms, ignoring the rights and feelings of others, and hurting animals. Oppositional defiant disorder is similar to conduct disorder, with additional symptoms of noncooperation and defiance.2

Treatment for Psychopath Personality

Treatment for psychopathic personality involves specific techniques, including therapy and medication. Here’s what to know about psychopathy treatment:

Barriers to Treatment

Stigma is one of the most significant barriers to psychopathy treatment in both children and adults. Society may often blame families for a child’s behavioral problems and sometimes rule out the importance of treatment. 

Many individuals also believe in the myth that psychopathy doesn’t respond to proper treatment. Hence, there’s a general unwillingness to cover treatments for psychopathy.

Treatment Options

Here are some of the advisable treatment options for psychopathy:3

Individual-Focused Therapies

Employing individual-focused therapy after a psychopath test is helpful for individuals of any age experiencing psychopathic personality. Using a therapist for psychopaths involves identifying maladaptive patterns of emotion regulation, thoughts, and behavior. The treatment works to develop skills to treat them. An important therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Family-Focused Therapies

This type of therapy helps affected children develop skills for managing emotions, psychopathic behavior, and relationships. Note that this therapy doesn’t aim to criticize parents of struggling children. Instead, it is collaborative and non-judgmental, helping families provide necessary needs for the child.

Residential Treatment

In this method of treatment, the individual resides at the treatment center after a psychopath test or use of a psychopathy checklist. They can go about their daily lives in a healthy and supportive environment among others within the facility. In the treatment center, the individuals also get support from doctors, expert therapists, and other mental health experts.


Depending on the severity of the condition, doctors may recommend antidepressants to reduce maladaptive traits relating to psychopathy. It’s imperative to avoid self-medication after a psychopath test and consult the doctor before taking any medication.4

Get Help Today for Psychopathic Personality

A psychopathic personality may seem difficult to diagnose, but treatment can be straightforward. Two of the most important steps are admitting the condition and the willingness to get help. Contact The PAC Program today to learn about the next steps for treatment.


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

Related Content

Learn More

In-Network with Most Major Insurance Providers

Fill out our free and confidential form to see how your insurance could cover the cost of treatment. No commitment required.