How to Spot a Psychopath

Here’s the scary thing about psychopaths. We could spend a few minutes here reading all about the typical body language and speech ‘tells’, but in the end the psychopath is a master manipulator; if they want something from you, they will find a way to get it. Those who have encountered a psycho describe the feeling as having ‘been under a spell’.

Here are seven things to consider if you are writing a character who is a psychopath!


Out of Sorts

Many people describe simply feeling that a psychopathic person is ‘out of harmony’ with their surroundings. This is because they can blow hot-and-cold in an instant in terms of their thoughts and opinions about a subject; it would not be uncommon to fly off in a rage before appearing fine seconds later. Or it might be completely contradicting themselves on an opinion in a short space of time.

This description of feeling ‘off’ could also describe the plainly disingenuous facial expressions and body language apparent in the psycho, if you know what you’re looking for.

Psychos also tend to make flippant remarks without regard for others feelings, simply because they don’t care about them.


It’s All in the Eyes

Psychopaths are often described as having ‘dead eyes’. These are the kind that looks straight ahead as they are speaking, with no personality or emotion shown in the eyebrows or tiny eye movements. When under stress, the eyes begin to blink faster than normal. For a psycho, the stress of maintaining the facade of a lie perhaps, could lead to increased eye movement that others can percept.

This great video by The Dialogue shows examples of ‘dead eyes’:


Don’t Stand So Close to Me

Psychopaths have a tendency to stand too close to you, invading your personal space. That’s because they don’t understand personal boundaries like the rest of us are acutely aware of.


Details in the Speech

For some reason, a psychopath is more likely to fill a silence by saying ‘uh’ and ‘uhm’. You may also notice the use of past tense a lot when speaking, and speech is slow and calm.

A psychopath tends to refer to a crime they have committed in the past tense because they are emotionally detached from it; they feel no remorse.

Psychopaths are very concerned with their basic needs of eating, drinking and their money, and as such will talk about them A LOT.


The Confident Psychopath

Psychopaths have an air of confidence about them. This is apparent in the way they hold their heads high but also in the way they talk about things. A psycho likes to discuss their achievements, particularly business and sexual exploits; psychos are often into extreme sports or enjoy having sex in public places. The thrill of the risky situation is particularly enjoyable for the psychopath.

They are also generally intelligent and possibly well-educated; they are often described as also having ‘street smarts’. Psychopaths often appear quite charming and people can feel drawn to them; Ted Bundy, who killed thirty women, is thought to be the most charming serial killer ever, luring women with ease due to his charming personality and handsome good looks.

Psychopaths believe themselves to be superior to the rest of the human race, and this feeling of contempt tends to reveal itself in a specific micro-expression when speaking to others; the slight asymmetrical smile.


It’s Just Emotions

Psychos are able to mimic emotions but they cannot describe them in detail, because they do not actually feel emotions themselves. This is in part due to reduced activity in the amygdala, responsible for emotions. For example, psychopaths experience a reduced reaction to fear and tend not to flinch when startled.

Due to the fact they can understand emotions at an intellectual level, they are able to manipulate emotions in others for their own gain such as use of guilt tripping and emotional blackmail.


What’s That Smell?

Oddly, psychopaths are thought to have a poor sense of smell, often struggling to differentiate between smells. This is an odd fact, right?! Perhaps this will help you whittle down the people in your life you suspect to have psychopathic tendencies!


Over to you

Have you experienced a psychopathic character? Tell us in the comments!

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