Just thought you’d like to know, really. And no, this doesn’t mean you’re doomed to wake up strapped to a cellophaned table with a surgical saw churning over your forehead.
Contrary to popular beliefs (Dexter?), psychopaths are not all violent serial killers. It does mean, however, that you should probably feel sorry for them, as they can’t and never will be able to feel sorry for you.
“What’s Jenn banging on about?”, you familiarly cry. Well, new data from the Mind Research Network has estimated that about 1 per cent of the population meets the criteria, so if you have, let’s say, around 500 pals on Facebook, the probability is that five of them fall under this category.
Speaking to Cosmo Australia, social psychologist Dr Dina McMillan said:
“People often referred to as ‘psychopaths’ are those with Anti-social Personality Disorder.
“Traits include an inflated view of themselves, excessive selfishness, a complete lack of empathy and an unrelenting anger towards anyone who thwarts their efforts, insults them or humiliates them.”
As for actually identifying who your psychopathic mates are, that is rather more difficult, as their traits are broad and can relate to a number of other behaviours and conditions.
Extreme narcissism is one such trait, so that could include oversharers, selfie-takers, and those who self-objectify themselves.
If they are the kind of person who frequently shares status updates about their perfect life, face, family, baby, body, job – you get the picture – they could be displaying some psychopathic traits. See this 2011 study that linked Facebook to narcissistic traits in kids for example. It’s worth remembering too, however, that they could also be extremely insecure and in need of constant approval. We all know someone who presents a saccharine picture of their life online, but is actually struggling behind the scenes.
And then ask yourself: Are they really your friends, or are they more of an acquaintance? Come to think of it, do you know anyone that is actually close to this person, or do they have endless reams of contacts?
Are they still friends with all of their exes? Again, they might just be really understanding, progressive people who appreciate the extensive time they’ve spent with their former partner and look forward to enjoying a different dynamic with them in the future. Or they could wish to exploit vulnerabilities and weaknesses in their former partner, as well as any beneficiary contacts in order to exert their power and control over them for the rest of their lives. Or so says experts of Oakland University, whose paper on that you can read here.
The truth is, however, being a psychopath isn’t all bad. Thanks to their charisma, assertive nature and cool head under pressure, they are natural leaders. We’re looking at you, CEOs, presenters, media folk (*makes shifty eyes*), lawyers and politicians.
They love a good conversation and will never present you with a genuine moral argument about why you can’t do something – unless they’ve learned that humans sometimes do this when they interact with each other – because they don’t actually care.
So before you start scrolling through your timeline in a Miss Marple-like frenzy, relax. They might not be as awful as you think.
Well. Some of them…