The Psychopath Behind The Mask

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay


“Sometimes mortals can be more horrible than monsters.”  ~Rick Riordan

Hiding in plain sight under the guise of normalcy, they patiently wait to pounce on their next target. The psychopath is a dangerous animal because they are camouflaged to look like you and me, but they lack a key ingredient of what makes us human; a conscience. The main characteristic of a psychopath is the lack of a conscience. Unlike most humans, they have no inner voice helping them distinguish right from wrong. Their moral compass is broken and has been replaced by a desire for self-gratification at any cost. They have an insatiable need for psychological and physical control over others and will use charm, intimidation and violence to get what they want.

Most of us can easily point out the imprisoned psychopath who has been caught and convicted for heinous crimes. They are serial killers such as, Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy Jr., whose evil acts were intensified by their frightenedly disconnected demeanor. Their view of the world is that of a wolf, sizing up a flock of sheep, looking for the most vulnerable one to attack. They view their position in the world as that of an apex predator at the top of an imaginary food chain.

We feel safe and relieved when these real-life monsters are caught and removed from society. But, living among us disguised in the banality of everyday life, the social predator is not as easily spotted. They do not come with a warning label. They do not look like monsters but are capable of committing monstrous acts without regret or guilt.

They are masked in normality and the psychopath in your life may be a spouse, co-worker, neighbor or family member. They may not be caught in sensational headlining crimes but they are as dangerous as any serial killer. If you are unfortunate enough to cross paths with one they will easily wreak havoc and destroy your life before moving on. They will abuse your trust, take your life savings and use you until you have nothing further to give.

It is important to note that although their view of the world is predatory, they are not out of control or deranged. They are actually rational and aware of societal rules. They simply choose to ignore them. The psychopath is not like a psychotic person who cannot distinguish between what is real and not real, and who may act in a violent way unaware of the consequences of their actions. Psychopaths are very aware of the consequences, they just don’t care.

According to James Blair, psychopathy may be a result of an inability to process emotional information. They are not able to read emotional faces and will require more intense facial expressions before they can identify an emotion. When shown a fearful face they are not able to interpret if the person is fearful because they are not able to feel fear. This perhaps may be caused by a difference in brain activity between a “normal” brain and a psychopath’s brain. The brain MRI’s of a psychopath reveals that there is reduced activity in the amygdala, which controls the fight or flight response, where we process fear.

Psychopaths are extremely dangerous because of their inability to feel empathy. The FBI has referred to Psychopathy as the most dangerous of personality disorders. According to Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., who has spent over 35 years researching psychopathy, one person out of a hundred may be a psychopath. The term psychopath and sociopath are used interchangeably and describe the same disorder but reflect the differing views on the origin of the syndrome.

Clinicians who believe the disorder is created by social forces and early experiences will use the term sociopath. The term psychopath is used by those who believe that there is also a genetic, biological and psychological component. This is distinguished from Antisocial Personality Disorder in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) which is primarily a cluster of antisocial and criminal behaviors.

Further, while all psychopaths are narcissists not all narcissists are psychopaths. Both are glib, superficial and exploitive, but a key difference is that psychopaths do not require narcissistic supply unlike a person with NPD. A person with NPD will not want to blow their cover since they need a constant stream of narcissistic supply. Psychopaths are more impulsive, aggressive and deceitful. Further, they are more likely to be career criminals. Some are cold-blooded killers who lack a conscience and kill in a calculated and unfeeling manner, but a large majority are individuals involved in violent crimes, financial scandals and violations of trust.

Psychopaths may look like us but they do not have the normal range of human emotions. Besides lacking a conscience they do not feel empathy. They are color blind in a world full of vibrant colors. They are numb to emotions and only have a shallow appreciation for life around them. If you have been a victim of a psychopath you will not be the only one. Most psychopaths leave a trail of victims as they spread and share their toxicity.

Currently, there is no cure for psychopathy. Being aware of the existence of psychopaths is vital so that you do not become the victim of one. Strong boundaries and trusting your inner voice are essential. In a later post, I will discuss the characteristics that make up this disorder.

Thank you for reading. This article is not meant for you to self-diagnose or diagnose others. This article is for educational purposes only. I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Kindly,
Dr. Perry


CREDENTIALS
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology


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114 responses to The Psychopath Behind The Mask

  1. Maria says:

    Fascinating. It’s almost like they are an alien species. I look forward to the follow up post. Thank you!

    Liked by 8 people

  2. Mrs.H says:

    I know they are dangerous but I feel sorry for them ( from afar!) I cannot imagine not being able to feel emotions. What a horrible life.

    Liked by 16 people

  3. Marcus B says:

    I can’t say I have ever known a psychopath. I can say with confidence now that I will be forever on the lookout to avoid these characters. It’s hard to think that I would label them as bad or evil but… It’s just scary the way they operate. Thank you for the post Dr. Perry

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Hi, thank you for this article, it was very informative. I read a great book that really outlines what the differences are between psychopaths and sociopaths and narcissist. It is by Michael Arntfield and is called Murder City. He also wrote one called Mad City about Madison, WI.
    It seems it is trendy to call everyone a narcissist right now, and while we are in the time of the “me”, as I understand it (from my medically untrained perspective), it is quite a leap from selfishness to narcissism so a little more real information about what these terms actually mean is always a good thing. Anyway, thanks for the great blogs. I don’t always comment, but I do read them and find them interesting. Have a great day!

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      You’re welcome. Please note there is a vast amount of information on this subject. This post is just an introduction✨

      Liked by 2 people

      • Trupti says:

        Yes Dr. Perry, I agree.
        I am fortunate that i have never experienced such situation and this post will help all of us to be more vigilant. Thank you again.
        Your posts work as “guideposts” for us.☺️

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Jennifer Anne says:

    Excellent article as always. I dated one and all of this is true. It was the most stressful and draining relationship I’ve ever had.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Sunshine24/7 says:

    Excellent article! I love that you pointed out that’s sociopath and psychopath describe the same traits. I think people get confused by these terms and think a psychopath is a deranged person. Thank you for taking the time to write your excellent blog!

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      You’re welcome. Yes I believe there is some confusion on the terms Sociopath and Psychopath, along with, Antisocial Personality Disorder which is also referred to as sociopath by some individuals. Thank you for reading✨

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I was taken aback to read the complete information. Dr. Perry, you explained each aspect of psychopathy so clearly. I myself had been a victim of psychopath, who tried to ruin my life in every possible way. Luckily, I am out of his trap now. But as i was reading the article, i could relate each symptom mentioned to the psychopath, whom i met in my life. Thanks for sharing information and spreading a word of awareness.

    Liked by 6 people

  8. Lee says:

    Wow I love how much information you packed into a blog post. Thank you sharing your knowledge and making us aware of individuals like this. I enjoy how you describe them like wolves. Highly skilled predators. Scary.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Erica Herd says:

    My husband and I were “taken” for years by a psychopath who posed as a friend and teacher. He stole a good deal of money from us, constantly called and texted, and basically made our lives hell. I will not go into any more detail, but we actually moved out of town to get away from him. He is exactly as you describe in this article.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Thank you for your concise and very clear explanation. 🙂 Given that there is no current cure, and it is believed that there is a genetic and biological component, it seems like these individuals are quite possibly born with no chance at any path other than destruction. I can’t help but feel some empathy toward psychopaths, as hurtful as their actions may be. They didn’t choose to be born with a brain that’s different from the rest of society…they are really doomed from the second they enter the world. It seems as though before they’re even able to speak, their destiny is already determined for them: they will never have genuinely positive connections with other humans. It’s sad for them, and sad for all of the people they will hurt in their lives. 😦 I know most people focus on how evil they are, and I completely understand why they do; psychopaths do cause so much pain and destruction for others. But I just wanted to bring forth the controversial thought that their genetic makeup was not their conscious choice…and I believe this can be applied to any genetic/biological diagnoses. Thank you again, Dr. Perry, for providing this thought-provoking information. 🙂

    Liked by 8 people

  11. unangreyna says:

    Technical but very practical, too! While what they do is synonym to evil, I want to understand why they do it. It’s such a blessing being able to read your blogs for free. If it’s for a fee, I may not be able to afford it. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your expertise to the world, Dr. Perry! May God bless you with all the desires of your heart. ❤ –Arlene "Len" Mindoro, Philippines.

    Liked by 6 people

  12. Brilliant article, well written. I am looking forward to the next one. Quite interesting that they have reduced activity in the amygdala. So would that mean they do not store fearful memories, perhaps that is why they cannot recognize the fear in another? Do they have the same chemical release that someone who had a typical fight or flight response? It truly is amazing how the brain works.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you Lisa. They do not experience fear in the same way that we do. It may be a mild discomfort to them. Therefore, if they see they have caused fear in someone else they may see it as not a big deal. There is ongoing research on the psychopaths brain activity and how it differs from a normal brain. The research indicates that it is different. Their brains do release the same chemicals, perhaps just lesser amounts.

      Liked by 3 people

  13. Seren Wild says:

    Have known a psychopath, in fascinating position of being his victim. It ultimately turned out well but I learned a lot.

    My brother once told me I spent too much time with the base of humanity, haha. Good read, enjoyed this!

    Liked by 6 people

  14. “Strong boundaries and trusting your inner voice are essential.”
    Very true Dr.Perry . Thank you for shedding some light on this toppic. It can really save lives.

    Liked by 8 people

  15. Great Article. What’s really sad when the honest and sincere person believes in the fake person and not the real person not knowing the difference. Devastating in both situations. Thank you for your free articles. I have no doubt you have blessed many individuals with your kind heart

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I love the part about creating strong boundaries it’s important. I was thinking how sometimes this causes them to be aggressive. I have someone in my life I feel has these tendencies, I’ve also noticed that they are charming and keen to sense when you remove attention from them. Hum…very interesting post. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  17. AboutMnimi says:

    Such people should undergo “brain alteration” if it’s possible . . . just to change their lives for good. We should stay away until then. Thanks for sharing, Dr. Perry!

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Branded says:

    Thank you for this post. I tend to be naive and trusting to people, even beyond my better judgement. I’m a slow learner but learning. I believe I’ve had direct interactions with both narcissistic and psychopathic personalities, over the past twenty years or so. One of them ended up in prison last year. Though I kept offering friendship over the years, this time I just couldn’t. But in the last week, I felt pity. I don’t think there will be forgiveness, though.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. SomewhereinCali says:

    I think of psychopaths/sociopaths as as Narcissitic personality disorder on steroids! I had one come into my life when I was younger. He was everything I ever wanted in a mom until he cleaned me out financially, emotionally and mentally. It took me about 5 years to get over a 4 month “relationship” they are truly reptilian!

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Sylvia says:

    I don’t think I have ever met one. Or at least I can say I have never been harmed by one. This is a good topic to bring awareness to as I don’t often hear it talked about. Thank you for shedding light on this subject Dr. Perry. I always learn from your blog. I love it!

    Liked by 5 people

  21. Jenny says:

    I cannot understand how anyone can lack empathy. But having been married to a psychopath, I know that every word you have written here is true. Only in hindsight do I see how he would put on different masks for different occasions. He would pretend to cry, when it served him, but no tears would ever fall. It’s truly frightening how these people operate. I got out early—but still, I haven’t been on a date in three years because of my experience!

    Liked by 5 people

  22. Grale Irithe says:

    This is so very good. I have had the unfortunate luck of knowing both a psychopath and a narcissist. A psychopath being my first husband and I can tell you some horror stories there.The narcissist was a 13 year relationship. From those experiences I can tell the difference between the two. A psychopath is a predator in a very real sense. Cold, calculating, and looks at people like a different species. They don’t need us in their world per se, we’re for amusement and how we feel towards them means nothing unless it gives them power so they can continue their games. A narcissist is a wounded child lashing out for emotional survival in a situation where they cannot fill the void no matter how much they take from others. I see the similarities are the lack of empathy and a desire to manipulate for gain.
    It seems a psychopath lacks empathy in a very cold way, possibly born without it, where a narcissist is so occupied with getting emotional supply that they have no time to stop and focus on empathy, they are too wounded inside. Both are dangerous.
    I often feel that although I believe in a free world, that if there is a way to identify both psychopaths and narcissists that would hold in law, that they not be allowed the responsibility to raise children, pets, or any job that requires care of another living being, and anyone wanting to marry them would have to be notified, similar to a registered sex offender.
    I hear some brain scans can identify the grey matter associated with lack of empathy.

    Liked by 5 people

  23. A very well written article Dr. Perry. Your example explanation of “They are color blind in a world full of vibrant colors” is easily understood. I do not know if I have ever known a true psychopath, but I have known a few NPD types. I appreciate the work you do and the articles you share. Thanks!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you very much. I’m happy you like my blog and that it is useful to you✨

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Great article and very insightful.

    I’ve known a guy for 30 years who I’m sure has a personality disorder and I wonder if he’s a psychopath or a sociopath. He’s super charming and married my friend, but I’ve seen behind the mask over the years and he’s a terrible person when you cross him or if he loses control over something. I have a laundry list of his wrongs. The sad thing is he’s very successful and respected and this helps him get away with things. I warned her about him before they married but she always made excuses for him. He’s able to convince most people he’s a thoughtful, charming soul, but he actually frightens me. He fakes empathy but I don’t think he feels anything. One night over drinks, 25 years ago, he told me in a cold, dead tone what he’d done to people who had crossed him. Nothing truly violent, but the calm way he said it and the potential for greater evil chilled me. And there is plenty of other anecdotal evidence of his misdeeds from others including a relative.

    He was very controlling and mentally abusive and my friend eventually divorced him. Then he stalked her and her daughter online and eventually used this info to manufacture a case and drag them through court to get custody over her grandchild who he helped raise. He made my friend squander everything she got in the divorce settlement over that struggle. Not for the benefit of the child, mind you, but because he wins at all cost and he knows how much it hurts my friend who is a very caring and loving woman–and he saw the settlement money as rightfully his. He basically bankrupted her and he won. He is wealthy and has one of the best lawyers in the state who basically helped him stack the deck. My friend didn’t have the financial resources. And now he refuses to let my friend or her daughter or anyone see the grandchild. He won’t even let the girl see her friends. It seems to be all about control and hurting others who defied him. When the granddaughter saw my friend in the grocery store by chance, she bolted away and threw herself into her arms and the ex was livid. Cold anger is the one emotion he has.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. pjlambert says:

    Thanks for this article. We need to warn people about the danger of psychopaths!
    When I was 34, I met a gorgeous, charming, intelligent, talented guy. We dated for 2 years, got married, bought a house and a dog and had a little over 2 more years in wedded bliss. He was amazing. Then he wasn’t. I spent the next three years fighting for my life and my sanity. He was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as a psychopath. A psychopath uses your mind for a playground. They love to cause confusion, gaslight, make you think you are the crazy one and my husband was also an abuser. He almost took my life several times. However, he didn’t know who he was dealing with and ultimately I (by the grace of God) won…by escaping and not only surviving, but thriving and making others aware of the danger of abusers. Thankfully, he took his own life in 2013 and that was the end of him terrorizing women. Without Conscience, the book by Robert Hare was what set me free from wondering what I could have done to help my husband. The answer was absolutely nothing. Knowing that was liberating.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. There is so much “meat” here. I find I have to keep reading it all again and again. It is wonderful how you explain the differences between sociopath, psychopath, and narcissist. I have run up against such an individual – to my sorrow. Yet, I have learned a few things, mostly to avoid this person as much as I can. This line particularly struck a chord: “They have an insatiable need for psychological and physical control over others and will use charm, intimidation and violence to get what they want.”

    I have seen this demonstrated time and time again and woe to the person who dares to challenge this individual in any way. this person is smart enough to use only charm and intimidation – no violence (at least not that I am aware of). Watching the way this person made life pretty much intolerable for the one who did challenge them made me very wary. Yet, my very avoidance of them put me on their radar. It seems they are happiest with people who kowtow to their every whim – which I cannot do. Thanks to your blog posts I have learned ways to deal with them that make me feel safer. I always appreciate your posts, but this one is especially useful to me. thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. catnipmurphy says:

    Fascinating and insightful As an extremely lay person I have wondered whether it is the storage and accessing of semantic long term memory via the hippocampus and emotional memory via the amygdala, and therefore damaged circuitry that might be the root of certain issues. Only from the perspective that empathy is an evolutionary asset (being a source of altruism) therefore an absence might not be a deficit but an inaccessible store which treatment can liberate ? (Though I have emerged from my natural habitat of the ‘shallow end’ and am splashing around in open, theoretical waters. Happy to be corrected on any flim-flam and gibber-jabber I might have picked up)

    Liked by 3 people

  28. StainedbytheSpirit says:

    One of my first courses at university, was an elective. It was the best course I ever did. It was called War and Agression by Elliot Layton, the author of Hunting Humans. This man could get you inside the mind of people. Thank for posting! Awesome read!

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Windswept says:

    An “innocence” is lost by those who encounter a psychopath. Your life and the way you love is never quite the same. Thank you for your posting. One has to live “this” to fully understand it.

    Liked by 3 people

  30. EmmyAngela says:

    Approximately 17 years ago I had a friend who became very close to my family. I actually loved him like a family member. He was perfect in almost every way. He was courteous, attentive, protective and always willing to help out in any way possible. He also felt like we were his family, it’s almost like he adopted us. I always had a soft spot for him because he had been abused as a child, he “hated” his mother’s boyfriend and didn’t like being in his own home. He had been in the military and was going to college. He was just so “perfect” but one day he snapped when one of my family members rejected him as her boyfriend and he spent that night on a rampage. The next morning as I’m sitting at the nail place I get a phone call to learn he had broke into a strangers home and stabbed them, took a child and had him captive for hours, went on to crash his car on the highway. I found out through the media later on that he had been dishonorably discharged from the army and that he called his mother at the scene of the accident to ask for her forgiveness. He was diagnosed as a sociopath and as such has been locked up all these years in maximum security. My question is, why works he ask his mom for forgiveness if he had no conscience? I never got closure! I thought about visiting him at the time this happened but I was warned it would have been a dangerous idea. I just can’t believe that young man had us all fooled. Thank you for this great article, this is actually the first time I’ve talked about it in so many years!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you had to go through this✨

      Liked by 3 people

  31. Susi Bocks says:

    Thank you for posting this, Dr. Perry. I had the unfortunate experience to have dealt with a psychopath. And true to form, it was determined after a financial scandal. Everything finally made sense. It was a hard lesson and hope one I will never have to endure again.

    Liked by 4 people

  32. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this as we don’t realize how common this disorder is in our society. Thank you for also describing what the difference is between psychopaths and sociopaths (very confusing when I took a psychology class in high school). 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  33. TheRisingTide says:

    Hi Dr. Perry, I am revisiting your article this evening to let you know that lately I have been much more perceptive of the fact that there are in fact people out there who exhibits these traits you described. The psychopath is quite a terrifying personality that exists. I generally drive with a lot of road rage but I am realizing that this may in fact be something I need to let go. I am potentially putting myself in harms way in case the slim scenario does occur that I encounter a psychopath who wouldn’t think twice of doing harm to me. Thank you for this write up. It is helping me to make more intelligent decisions about how I interact with the world around me. I want to make sure I am around for a long time for my family. Thank you again Doc. I love your blog and gain a lot of value from it. I hope you always choose to write and share thoughts. I also hope that it brings you great joy in your life to know you are helping others with your words.

    Sincerely,
    Andrew K.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you for your kind words of encouragement Andrew. I am happy to hear this post resonated with you✨

      Liked by 1 person

  34. inhiscare753 says:

    This post was very insightful, I found it resonated with many things in my past. I am so grateful for you sharing. I’m very intrigued with Psychology.
    InHisCare🙏😊💜

    Liked by 3 people

  35. Gina says:

    Thank you for sharing the information on both psychopathic and sociopathic behaviors. As a lay person, I have always been confused by the two terms and assumed they were used to describe two unrelated conditions.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. sandymancan says:

    This brought back memories sociopathic behavior, working gang units in Calfornia’s Prison system my sociopaths were usually enforcers for drug dealers, they collected debts got rid of other drug dealers. Over 28 years the depravity hardens a man but in my case, that wasn’t needed or required, I had watched people like that destroy whole communities as a kid growing up, they give no quarter on the streets, I give them no quarter in the prison but at a terrible price of self. With repairs fully in place, I try not to think of that period of life even though it had encompassed almost half of my life. Those were violent times in the 1980s and 90s I was a violent man who cloaked that violence in the warm blanket of right and justice. Six years removed from that life sometimes I still wonder who was that person and how could that have ever been me.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Marc B says:

    Such a well written and Illuminating post. It’s as if real life monsters walk among us. Thank you for writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. aroughguidetolife says:

    It is a shame we are not educated about the right things early on in life, if we were it may potentially equip us to be better prepared to protect ourselves from such destructive creatures. Your post was a gentle reminder of people I’ve encountered who are sadly this detached being.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Tiffany says:

    Very interesting read! I tend to find a lot of Psychopaths work in high powered jobs and are often the Top dog. I know I have met my fair share of them and been on the receiving end for example in a board room, when you leave thinking how do they sleep at night (quite frankly probably very well since they lack emotion).Though not all psychopaths are killers, in a work environment, they often have that cut throat mentality which gets them further in their careers! It’s scary to think!!

    Liked by 2 people

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