Psychopaths are charismatic and persuasive people who seem brilliant, but their illness means that they can be particularly dangerous to know.
One per cent of the population is believed to suffer from the mental illness, but rather than raving and trying to murder everyone with an axe, most function pretty normally in society… or as well as you can when you have no sense of empathy for your common man.
For those interested in how these people act, Jacob Wells, a self-confessed psychopath, who claims to have scored 34 on the Hare checklist which is used to diagnose psychopathy, answered questions on Quora on what it’s like to have his particular illness.
So here’s his checklist for spotting the Patrick Bateman in your life.
Does the person act perfect?
Wells says that first impressions are important to him and he usually presents himself as normal at first. However there are exceptions, in academic settings Wells will try to present himself as either a good student, or in a romantic setting he’ll try and act perfect, but unaware of it. He’s worst in competitive settings, where he’ll act humble but intimidating.
Does the person try their best to be interesting?
Psychopaths usually have narcissistic tendencies and think of themselves as better than ‘normal’ people, which ‘often leads to them wanting to be the centre of attention’. In social situations Wells says, ‘If I haven’t already, I will subtly show some intelligence, I will behave a bit abnormally, as that is more comfortable, and I will try to be become the most interesting person they know by telling them a true story about myself.’
Does it seem like the person will say anything to draw you in?
Psychopaths live a parasitic life and are experts at using people. This often leads to them lying to get what they want, the have an ingrained need to control people. Wells says: “On the outside, I’m whatever I want you to think I am. I can be normal if need be, or if I’m bored I can be eccentric, a genius, or whatever else to get some reaction or provoke interest. Now on the inside I’m different. I need control. It hurts to be powerless.”
Is the person keen to help you?
As part of their parasitic lifestyle and need to control, psychopaths will do you favours so you feel obliged to help them in future. Wells claims he will offer to solve people problems, in any way possible. He’ll also do his best to keep secrets, and tell others fake secrets to gain their trust, and once they trust him. However once his victims trust him Well’s will ask for favours, reminding them he helped them in the past. He claims ‘I can get literally anything from them, which is incredibly useful.’
Are they keen but poor leaders?
Psychopaths have a desire to succeed, partly because they believe themselves to be better than the rest of us. This often leads to them taking leadership roles as they’re likely to get the credit for others achievements. Wells describes his mental illness as ‘a useful set of traits,’ and claims that without empathy, guilt or emotional thinking, he can succeed where others fail. Unfortunately for psychopaths, they’re also prone to boredom and have unrealistic goals which makes their leadership poor in the long term.
We’re not sure we trust Mr Wells, psychopaths are famously good liars so maybe we should take everything he says with a pinch of salt.