A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

15 Sneaky Signs of a Psychopath

That person may seem like your best friend with your best interests at heart. But that may just be what they want you to believe.

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They’re not Hollywood stereotypes

People often associate the word “psychopath” with a menacing and easily recognizable villain in a Hollywood movie. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, according to Psychology Today. The most chilling thing about psychopaths is most do not come across as violent or frightening like Hannibal Lechter or Norman Bates. Often they can seem perfectly normal and not exhibit any extreme or violent behaviors.  Learn the state in America where you’ll find the most psychopaths.

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They weaponize charm

Who doesn’t like flattery and attention? With laser beam focus, a psychopath hones in on his/her prey, seducing with compliments and praise to gain that person’s trust. A psychopath is like a black widow spider, laying out a web of sugar-coated deceit. Psychopathic cult leaders like Jim Jones and David Koresh are examples of master manipulators who had the uncanny ability to enrapture and ensnare susceptible people with words that slid right off their silver tongues.

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They can be leaders

Psychopaths don’t have friends—only victims. Because they need to be in control, they can be both ruthless and charismatic and may end up in a leadership role; many CEOs have psychopathic traits, according to Business Insider. They see people as objects to use for their own personal gain, and they derive satisfaction from changing others into the distorted mirror image of themselves. Make sure you know these 9 types of anger.

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They lie effortlessly

If you catch someone lying effortlessly and without flinching, be very alarmed. Psychopaths can pass polygraph tests because they don’t experience telltale reactions like an elevated heart rate when they lie. A University of Wisconsin-Madison study revealed that “psychopaths have reduced connections… between the part of the brain responsible for sentiments such as empathy and guilt, and the amygdala, which mediates fear and anxiety.” Study author Michael Koenigs, an assistant professor of psychiatry, says the study demonstrates “both structural and functional differences in the brains of people diagnosed with psychopathy.”

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They’re outstanding actors

Psychopaths are the equivalent of method actors, and they will play whatever role they think you want them to play so they can use you. They get a thrill out of tricking people into believing that the image they project is real when really it is a mirage, according to Inc. They are skilled performers who hide behind masks and are adept at mimicking emotions they can never really feel. One of their known tricks is manipulating others into feeling sorry for them.

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They prey on kindness

Extremely caring and sensitive people (“empaths”) are particularly vulnerable to being preyed upon by psychopaths. “Empaths'” tend to be in helping professions such as teaching or nursing, and psychopaths take advantage of their kind and giving nature. “Empaths” exemplify everything in a heightened way that the psychopath is not. Psychopaths lack empathy, and they set out to target and destroy those who can.

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They will cheat

Psychopaths are serial cheaters in romantic relationships. They are only after power and sex; love is important (though a psychopath excels at faking love). Because they can’t form real bonds with others, psychopaths will quickly go through friends and lovers without feelings of remorse, according to Psychology TodayPsychopaths are disloyal, impulsive, and are typically promiscuous. Make sure you know these 9 signs of a toxic relationship.

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Depressed woman

They will gaslight

This insidious tactic and 2022 Merriam-Webster word of the year gets its name from the 1944 film Gaslight: Ingrid Bergman plays the wife of a man who slowly convinces her she is paranoid and unwell. He dims the gaslight while convincing her she is imagining it, forcing her to question her own sanity. This tactic, also known as “crazymaking,” is instinctively used by psychopaths and narcissists to control and manipulate others. Gaslighting leaves people feeling worn down, confused, ganged up on and defenseless; an unstable person is easier to control.

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15 Sneaky Signs of a Psychopath

They’re narcissists

Psychopaths are in love with beauty, power, and social status. As extreme narcissists, they often suffer from delusions of grandeur. They believe that only certain “exceptional” people can understand them and deserve to be graced by the psychopath’s presence. John M. Grohol, PsyD, writes on PsychCentral that, “A delusion of grandeur is the fixed, false belief that one possesses superior qualities such as genius, fame, omnipotence or wealth.”

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close up on red roses

They know how to love bomb

You’re being bombarded by attention and gifts—it’s tempting to believe this person truly adores you. In a column for Psychology Today, Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, describes a phenomenon she calls love bombing as “the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction.” It’s natural to indulge the fantasy of sudden, intense, and undying love—but it’s not healthy or realistic. Psychopaths tend to knock down our boundaries and our common sense. Real love is not sudden, confusing and drama-filled.

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They’ll be your fake soul mate

Psychopaths often mirror the people they are targeting; they profess to have similar morals and values; their personalities and characteristics seem oddly familiar. Donna Anderson, the founder of Lovefraud, a website that teaches people to recognize and recover from destructive relationships, explains that, “Sociopaths understand the importance of compatibility. They understand it so well that they make themselves just like you. This is the ‘chameleon’ aspect of their character or lack of character. Since sociopaths have no real internal substance no beliefs, no values, no emotional connections to people or principles they can put on a new persona as easily as you put on a new coat. They mold the persona to match you.” Take a look at how this test can predict if you’re a psychopath.

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They follow cycles of cruelty and kindness

Romance with a psychopath starts out as a fairytale that unexpectedly escalates into a nightmare, warns Healthy Place, a website devoted to emotional well-being. No one wants to believe the person they fell in love with is really a monster, but once the psychopath’s mask slips and the truth is revealed, you can either cling to denial or get out fast. If you stay, you risk becoming trapped in the cycle of abuse; psychopaths alternate between cruelty and kindness. Make sure you don’t miss these 17 silent signs that you’re the toxic one in your relationship.

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They may have a traumatic past

A psychopath’s childhood is typically unstable and abusive. Psychologist, psychoanalyst, and author Nancy McWilliams says, in her book Psychoanalytic Diagnosis, that “early neglect, abuse, and maltreatment can affect the development of the orbitofrontal cortex, which seems to be the moral center of the brain.” It’s strange and conflicting to feel compassion for people who are evil, but that’s also what makes us human and different from psychopaths.

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They’re often empty inside

Psychopaths go through life hiding a deep, dark secret—they can’t feel emotions or attachments like normal people do. Anna Lamden, co-founder and clinical psychotherapist at Locus Therapy Center in Chicago, explains that psychopaths are “extremely perceptive and good at reading other people’s emotions—they use their knowledge of feelings as an ultimate goal of manipulation. They are unable to really connect on an emotional level with others and lack primary attachments.” Behind the charming façade, psychopaths are empty and bored. It is as though they are mimes, constantly mimicking and always performing, and always missing out on the very essence and meaning of life.

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Trust your instincts, gain knowledge

Anderson, the founder of Lovefraud, reports that just about 100 percent of the women who write to her about being romantically involved with a psychopath ignored their gut feelings at the beginning of the relationship. Psychopaths may lie with ease and pretend to be someone they’re not, but the one thing they can’t trick and deceive is your innate instinct to protect yourself. Next, here are 9 things you can do if you think your boss is a psychopath.

Eve Glover
Eve Glover is an arts and culture/lifestyle writer who has covered psychology, alternative medicine and animals for Reader’s Digest. Her work has also been published in The Jerusalem Post, Israel National News, The Jewish Press, JW Marriott’s in-room travel magazine, JWM Magazine, Hawaiian Airlines’ in-flight magazine, Hana Hou!, Aspen Peak, Boston Common, Beverly Hills Magazine and Luxury Lifestyle Magazine, among other publications. A great passion of hers is music, and as a lyricist, she has collaborated on songs with Grammy, Emmy and hit music producers. Eve earned her BA in psychology from Boston University.