Here's how to know the tell-tale signs.
How well do you ever truly know a person?
Now that words like "gaslighting" and "narcissist" have become common vernacular, more people are recognizing these traits in people close to their friends and loved ones. Or, sometimes, in their friends and loved ones. Or, perhaps, in themselves.
But how can you tell if someone is an actual psychopath? It might be more common than you think. Research suggests that approximately 1% of the population meets the criteria for psychopathy.
Only 1%? That sounds like nothing! But, actually, it's about 1 in 100 people, and most are not running around in a Jason mask like in a "Halloween" movie. Many are in high-power positions — working on Wall Street, in doctor's offices, or even the lawyer living next door. It sounds scarier than a movie.
Dr. Kris Mohandie, a police and forensic psychologist who's been studying violent behavior for more than two decades, talked with Dr. Oz about how to tell if someone you know may be a psychopath. Here's what to look out for:
What Are the Signs Someone Could be a Psychopath?
Mohandie says there are numerous red flags to watch out for when you're in a relationship and possibly dealing with someone who could be a psychopath. But here's what he says is one tell-tale sign:
- They are repeatedly caught in lies, but then they act like nothing is wrong.
"When you have repetitive lies and the person's still lying and denying the lies and turning it around on you, that's a prototypical indicator," Mohandie said. "A person [who's] been caught in lies many different times, yet they continue to act like, well, I didn't do anything, I'm innocent. That it's you, you're misperceiving things."
This is gaslighting behavior, he adds.
"In my opinion, what I see is that with that gaslighting behavior, you find that they are extremely manipulative, that they'll deny your reality, and that they continuously are getting caught in situations that just don't add up," Mohandie said.
Other red flags, according to the NIH:
- Glibness-superficial charm
- Grandiose sense of self worth
- Constant need for stimulation
- Pathological lying
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Callous/lack of empathy
- Parasitic lifestyle (habitually relying on or exploiting others)
- Poor behavioral controls
What to Do If You're the Victim of a Potential Psychopath
Do not deal with it alone, Mohandie says.
"The tendency for us, as people, when we've been taken-in and manipulated, [when] we've been duped, we've been fooled, is to conceal that out of our own personal shame," Mohandie said. "Do not do that. You don't know what this person is capable of. Psychopaths don't have any limits."
It's important to let other people know what is going on so that they can potentially be a part of your safety planning if or when you need to exit the relationship, Mohandie advises.
"Because [psychopaths] thrive on secrecy, 'out' them to your friends so that they know you're dealing with a difficult situation, and create safety plans for yourself as you extract from that relationship as you exit," he said.
And if you are experiencing violence in this relationship or you suspect domestic violence between other people, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.
Are You Born a Psychopath or Does It Happen Throughout Life?
There is research to suggest it could be a little bit of both. Mohandie says there are many people who have difficult childhoods who grow up to become good adults. Others, however, have trauma in their childhood that could spark psychopathic behavior. Some children display this behavior early, while for others, it's almost like a switch gets turned on, Mohandie says.
"I think it's a combination of nature and nurture for most people," he said. "You have that switching mechanism that certain life experiences can activate. I think that some are born, some are made, and most are a combination of the two."
Are Psychopaths Also Murderers?
No — despite what all that true crime may make you think. Mohandie says that most psychopaths are not murderers, and most murderers are not psychopaths. Although there is a strong link between psychopathy and homicide, not all mass killers are psychopaths.
"There is a small subset of people that murder that have that psychopathy," Mohandie says. "But the vast majority of psychopaths don't engage in murder. They engage in other kinds of opportunistic, parasitic, and deceptive behaviors."