In response to our recent rash of sniper attacks in the Washington D.C area, and the term “Psychopath” being used indiscriminately, we feel that it is appropriate to truly define this term for our valued members.

Psychopathy is not a clinical term in either the DSM-IV or the ICD-10. The nearest equivalent to it is, in the DSM-IV is Antisocial Personality Disorder, while the ICD-10 uses the term “sociopathy” or “Dissocial Personality Disorder”. With this in mind, I will focus on both the characteristics of the DSM-IV definitions, as well as the general “public definitions” of a psychopath.

These persons, in general, display many of the following traits:

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Need for stimulation, with a proneness to boredom
  • Pathological lying
  • Conning and manipulating behaviors
  • No sense of remorse or guilt
  • A very shallow emotional affect – they display emotions they don’t really feel
  • A lack of empathy for others
  • They are parasitic – they live off of others
  • They are impulsive, and show poor control over their behaviors
  • They tend to be promiscuous
  • Their behavior problems start early in life
  • They cannot form long-term plans that are realistic
  • They are impulsive, and irresponsible
  • They do not accept responsibility for their actions – another caused it
  • Marital relationships are short, and many
  • They display juvenile delinquency
  • They violate probation often
  • Their criminality is diverse

Essentially, they violate social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret in order to take what they want and do as they please.

It is estimated that 1-4% of the population is sociopathic, but most are able to control it within the limits of social tolerability, only being termed “socially obnoxious”.