Heather T. Banis, Ph.D. Victims Assistance Ministry Office
Archdiocese of Los Angeles. 213 637 7650 phone 213 637 6650 fax
“PSYCHOPATHY” refers to a distinctive type of person who is much more likely than others to cause problems for other people, ranging from simple family dysfunction all the way to serial homicide. These individuals wreak havoc, but are often not recognized in time because of their ability to charm and deceive. Other than past violent acts, psychopathy is the strongest indicator of an individual’s potential for violence.
The terms “Psychopathy” and “Sociopathy” are often used interchangeably. Neither is currently an official diagnosis in the DSM-IV-TR. “Psychopathy” is a more robust and predictive construct than the DSM-IV-TR category of “Antisocial Personality Disorder.” The DSM-IV-TR focuses on antisocial BEHAVIORS, but does not include the entire cluster of PERSONALITY TRAITS that are characteristic of the classic psychopath, for example, complete lack of empathy and conscience.
The following list of characteristics is intended to give you an image of the type of person we’re describing. Competent assessment of whether a particular person is or is not psychopathic (and how severe) requires advanced training which is not routine even in psychiatry or psychology graduate school.
Ø Without conscience
Ø Lacks remorse, doesn't accept responsibility for actions, blames others, minimizes harm done
Ø Superficial, glib, charming, “gift of gab,” entertaining, may appear to know a lot about many things but knowledge turns out to be shallow
Ø Grandiose, arrogant, sense of entitlement, self-esteem too high
Ø Deceitful, lies easily and often, no problem spinning a new version, dupes the doctors
Ø Lacks empathy, emotionally superficial, lacks human bonds, callous
Ø Impulsive lifestyle, does not plan ahead, lacks goals, does not persevere
Ø Easily bored, seeks excitement
Ø Poor behavioral controls, especially when angry
Ø Sexually promiscuous
Ø Irresponsible, doesn’t meet commitments to family or employers, doesn’t repay loans, drives recklessly, etc.
Ø History of adolescent antisocial behavior, for example, vandalism, fire-setting, cruelty to animals
Ø Adult antisocial behavior in wide range, may include crimes from fraud to murder: “criminal versatility”
For more information, see Dr. Hare’s book listed in the bibliography.