Do psychopaths kill? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Do psychopaths kill?” and explore psychopathy and the traits and behaviours of psychopaths to help determine if they have the tendency to kill. 

Do psychopaths kill?

Yes, psychopaths do kill. However, not all psychopaths turn into serial killers. Rather, serial killers may exhibit some or all of the psychopathological characteristics. 

The following are 3 insights into why psychopaths kill –

  • Psychopaths lack shame, empathy and remorse.
  • Psychopaths need thrills. 
  • Psychopaths can meticulously plan high-risk behaviours and lack control and concern for consequences.

These 3 insights into why psychopaths kill will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at who a psychopath is.

Who is a psychopath?

A “psychopath” is someone who is ruthless, unemotional, and morally twisted. The word is commonly used in professional and legal settings, despite the fact that it is not a recognised mental health condition.

While psychopathy is not a diagnosis in and of itself, it shares many of the characteristics of antisocial personality disorder, a broader mental health disease characterised by people who regularly act out and defy regulations. Psychopaths, on the other hand, make up a small fraction of those who suffer from antisocial personality disorder.

Common Traits of Psychopaths.

Psychopathic conduct differs widely from one person to the next. Some are serial killers and sex criminals. Others, on the other hand, may be effective leaders. It is entirely dependent on their characteristics.

It’s critical to distinguish between psychopaths and persons who exhibit psychopathic characteristics. It’s possible to have multiple psychopathic characteristics without really becoming a psychopath.

People with psychopathic characteristics don’t always act psychopathically. Psychopaths are defined as those who have psychopathic features and also engage in antisocial conduct.

Psychopathic traits include –

  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Narcissism
  • Superficial charm
  • Impulsivity
  • Callous, unemotional traits
  • Lack of guilt
  • Lack of empathy

According to one study, around 29% of the general population possesses one or more psychopathic traits. Only 0.6 per cent of the population, however, meets the definition of a psychopath.

Signs of a Psychopath.

Psychopathic characteristics can appear in childhood and worsen with time. Some of the most prevalent indications of a psychopath are listed below.

Superficial Charm.

On the surface, psychopaths appear to be likeable. They’re typically skilled conversationalists who tell stories that make them appear attractive. They might also be witty and charming.

Need for Stimulation.

Psychopaths thrive on the thrill of the chase. They want a steady flow of activity in their life and usually desire to live in the “fast lane.” Their demand for excitement frequently entails breaching rules. 

They may relish the excitement of getting away with something, or they may relish the possibility of being “caught” at any time. As a result, they may find it difficult to stay interested in tedious or repeated jobs, and they may be irritable with routines.

Pathological Lying.

Psychopaths lie to make themselves appear nice and stay out of danger. They also lie to cover up their earlier deceptions. 

They occasionally have trouble keeping their stories straight since they forget what they’ve stated. When confronted, they simply alter their tale or modify the facts to suit the scenario.

Grandiose Sense of Self-Worth.

Psychopaths have a distorted self-perception. They consider themselves to be powerful and entitled. They frequently feel justified in following their own set of rules, believing that the laws do not apply to them.

Manipulative.

Psychopaths are masters at persuading others to do what they desire. They may take advantage of a person’s remorse while lying to get someone else to complete their task for them.

Lack of Remorse.

Psychopaths are unconcerned about how their actions affect others. They may forget about an offence or believe that others are overreacting when their feelings are wounded. 

Finally, they have no remorse for inflicting misery on others. In fact, they frequently explain their actions and place blame on others.

Shallow Affect.

Psychopaths aren’t known for displaying many emotions, at least not authentic ones. They may look cold and emotionless for long periods of time. When it serves them well, though, they may present a theatrical exhibition of emotions. These tend to be short-lived and shallow.

They may, for example, display fury to scare someone or display melancholy to influence someone. However, they do not actually feel these feelings.

Lack of Empathy.

Psychopaths have a hard time comprehending why someone else could be fearful, unhappy, or nervous. They are unable to read people, thus it makes no sense to them. Even if it’s a close friend or family member, they’re entirely unconcerned about others who are suffering.

Parasitic Lifestyle.

Psychopaths may have sob tales about their inability to earn money, or they may frequently claim to have been abused by others. 

Then they take advantage of others’ generosity by becoming financially reliant on them. They take advantage of individuals to obtain everything they can, regardless of how they may feel.

Poor Behavioral Controls.

Psychopaths frequently struggle to obey rules, regulations, and policies. Even if they want to obey the rules, they rarely do so for very long.

Promiscuous Sexual Behavior.

Psychopaths are more prone to cheat on their relationships since they don’t care about the people around them. They could have unprotected intercourse with random strangers. They might also use sex to acquire what they desire. For them, sex is not an emotional or loving act.

Early Behavioral Problems.

The majority of psychopaths have behavioural issues from a young age. Cheating, skipping school, vandalising property, abusing narcotics, or becoming aggressive are all possibilities. Their misdeeds tend to worsen with time and are more significant than those of their peers.

Lack of Realistic, Long-Term Goals.

A psychopath’s ambition might be to become wealthy or famous. However, they frequently lack the knowledge necessary to make these things happen. Instead, they insist that they will obtain what they want without having to put out any effort.

Impulsivity.

Psychopaths react to situations based on how they feel. They don’t take the time to consider the dangers and advantages of their decisions. Instead, they desire instant pleasure. 

As a result, individuals may quit a job, terminate a relationship, relocate to a new location, or purchase a new automobile on the spur of the moment.

Irresponsibility.

Promises have no meaning for psychopaths. They aren’t trustworthy, whether they vow to return a debt or sign a contract. They may neglect to pay child support, go heavily into debt, or forget about their responsibilities and commitments.

Psychopaths refuse to take responsibility for their own issues. They believe that their problems are always the fault of others. They typically play the victim, and they like telling stories about how others have used them.

Many Marital Relationships.

Psychopaths may marry because it is advantageous to them. They could desire to spend a partner’s money or share their debt with someone else, for example. However, their behaviour frequently leads to divorce as their spouses come to see them from a more realistic perspective.

Criminal Versatility.

Psychopaths typically see rules as recommendations and laws as impediments to their progress. Their illicit activities might be quite diverse. 

Criminal offences such as driving infractions, financial violations, and acts of violence are only a few instances of the wide range of crimes that may be committed. 

Of course, not all of them end up in prison. Some people may run shady enterprises or participate in unethical behaviour that does not result in an arrest.

Revocation of Conditional Release.

When psychopaths are released from jail, they usually do not follow the terms of conditional release. They may believe that they will not be caught again. Alternatively, they may find methods to justify their actions. They could even blame others for “being caught.”

What are these 3 insights into why psychopaths kill?

Psychopaths lack shame, empathy and remorse.

There are several factors that prevent individuals from murdering. Guilt, emotional empathy, societal pressure, the law, religion and morality, emotions, inhibition, and so forth are all incentives. 

Because psychopaths lack shame, empathy, and prophylactic emotions, all you have to do is take away all the other protections, and they’ll kill if it’s in their best interests.

Psychopathy removes a little more than that: they are less concerned with social pressures, are less likely to be religious or adhere to strict moral philosophies, have less respect for the law, fewer inhibitions, and are more confident in their ability to get away with things, but incentives still make murder a bad idea for most psychopaths.

The dangers are immense, and the returns are generally insignificant if they exist at all. Even if a psychopath thinks it’s a fantastic idea, their personal convictions will typically stop them.

Serial killers are frequently depicted as psychopaths. In truth, few psychopaths, let alone serial killers, are killers. Some of them are CEOs of big corporations. Others are workplace bullies from the blue-collar world. 

Others are physicians or attorneys who have never received a college diploma. Psychopathy is not included as a distinct condition in the DSM-5, although it is described as a specifier (or subtype) of antisocial personality disorder.

Psychopaths need thrills. 

Psychopathy is associated with a need for thrills, a lack of empathy and remorse, low neuroticism, low conscientiousness, and a proclivity for hatred and disdain. 

True or main psychopathy is another name for this type of psychopathy. When people think of psychopathy, they generally think of this type of psychopathy. Machiavellianism, narcissism, and sadism are all common qualities in people with severe versions of primary psychopathy.

Secondary psychopathy, like borderline personality disorder and susceptible narcissism, is one of the vulnerable dark qualities. It is connected with antisocial conduct, low conscientiousness, and a proclivity for hate and anger, as well as high neuroticism and susceptibility to negative feedback.

The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), a particular instrument for (primary) psychopathy established in the 1970s by Canadian psychologist Robert D. Hare, contains 20 characteristics of (primary) psychopaths, including some narcissistic and Machiavellian qualities –

  • “Excess glibness or superficial charm;
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth;
  • Excess need for stimulation or proneness to boredom;
  • Pathological lying;
  • Cunning and manipulative behaviour;
  • Lack of remorse or guilt;
  • Shallow affect, for instance, in the form of superficial emotional responsiveness;
  • Callousness and a lack of empathy;
  • A preference for a parasitic lifestyle, for example, living off of borrowed money;
  • Poor behavioural control;
  • A history of sexually promiscuous behaviour, such as a long list of one-night stands;
  • A history of early behaviour problems;
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals;
  • Excessive impulsivity;
  • A high level of irresponsible behaviour, for instance, not keeping promises or consistently showing up late for work;
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions, for instance, by blaming others or circumstances;
  • Many short-term romantic relationships or marriages;
  • Juvenile delinquency;
  • Punishment fails to deter repeat offences;
  • A history of versatile criminal behaviour, for instance, animal torture, theft, rape, murder”

Because of their impaired capacity to detect arousal and fear, primary psychopaths have an abnormally high demand for excitement and thrills. Only the most severe of high-risk behaviours may elicit physiological arousal in a psychopath. Moderately high-risk activities provide neither pleasure nor peril.

Psychopaths can meticulously plan high-risk behaviours and lack control and concern for consequences.

Psychopaths can meticulously plan high-risk behaviours, but they lack the emotional capacity to resist taking such risks or to be concerned about the consequences. 

Their emotions toward dangerous activities are more analogous to the value judgements of a detached observer than the visceral physiological sensations of fear or excitement experienced by their peers. 

If a psychopath lost a lot of money on the stock market after making a hazardous investment, they would consider it a poor outcome, but she would feel no agony or regret about her action.

Psychopaths’ addiction to harmful activities may be explained by their inability to sense physiological arousal unless they engage in extremely high-risk behaviours. However, this does not explain why they are prone to committing violent crimes, including cruel murders.

Psychopaths who commit sexual homicide appear to be driven by hatred, according to psychologists. Sexual murder is not primarily about sex, despite the fact that it has a sexual component. Even sexual sadistic impulses can be satiated in a legal and safe manner. 

Sadistic sex done safely, on the other hand, lacks the one thing the sex killer seeks: Sadistic sex that isn’t dangerous doesn’t entail the type of control that the killer needs. Many sexual homicides, according to forensic psychologist J. Reid Meloy, are misplaced matricides motivated by mother hate. 

The risk factors for sexual homicidal inclinations, he claims, include a history of abuse of women or dreams of attacking women, anger, scorn, or dread of women, and a passion for female underwear and the destruction of female apparel.

This appears to be what drove Ted Bundy, the infamous serial murderer. Despite his assertion that he was simply unable to control his desire to kill, his acts left no question about his contempt for women.

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Do psychopaths kill?” and reviewed psychopathy and the traits and behaviours of psychopaths to help determine if a psychopath can commit murder. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

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Robinson, K. M. Sociopath v. Psychopath: What’s the Difference? (2022, February 14). Retrieved from  https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/sociopath-psychopath-difference

Sederstrom, J. Psychopaths Can Seem Like “Pillars Of Their Community” — How Can You Spot One? (2021, January 12).  Retrieved from  https://www.oxygen.com/an-unexpected-killer/crime-news/how-to-spot-a-psychopath-signs-to-look-out-for

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