Seven traits that define a psychopath

Psychopathy is a psychological condition that has not been very well understood and has been distorted by movies.

For instance, just because a person is a psychopath, does not mean he or she is a murderer. Many psychopaths become very successful business executives, politicians and white collar criminals. The main characteristic is ruthlessness, but in what way this is expressed depends upon the individual. Some of them are motivated by violence, but for many others, it is a matter of money, power, success or control in a relationship.

It is estimated that one percent of the general population has psychopathic personality disorder. Looking at the population of Houston, that means there are approximately 23,000 psychopaths living in the city.

What makes someone a psychopath? Generally speaking, a psychopath is a person with the seven following traits:

  • unconcerned with other people's feelings, welfare or needs
  • emotionally shallow, does not feel ashamed or embarrassed or guilty
  • they are good actors and often create fake personas to blend into society
  • prone to lying/conning 
  • have a very inflated image of themselves - extremely narcissistic
  • tend to be impulsive
  • can move toward acts of violence quickly and easily - though this is not always the case

Just as it is a myth that all psychopaths are violent, it is also a myth that they only prey on weak or timid people. In reality, a psychopath, as well as a sociopath, is more likely to be drawn toward strong, successful people, because they find this to be a greater challenge and more rewarding to them if they can dominate that person's life.

Psychopaths tend to have a poor sense of smell when compared with the average person, which means they are less sensitive to foul odors than others.

During a visit to FOX 26 News in Houston, Dr. Darrel Turner, who has consulted for the FBI, other law enforcement agencies, and branches of the U.S. military, explains why a psychopath is not necessarily always a violent person.