5 Myths About the Psychopathic Personality

Not everything you might have heard, read, or seen about psychopathic personality disorders is true. Learn more about 5 myths about this disorder to better understand it.
5 Myths About the Psychopathic Personality

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Not everything you might have heard, read, or seen about the psychopathic personality is true. Today, we’d like to explain 5 myths that people think are true but actually are just fiction.

Mental disorders like bipolar, depression, or anorexia are often treated lightly.  “You’re so bipolar” or “He’s a real psychopath” are unfortunately common phrases.

However, we shouldn’t use these words so flippantly. Most of the time, we’re completely wrong about the disorder we’re mentioning.

Today, we want to take a look at 5 myths surrounding psychopathic personality disorders.

Myths about the Psychopathic Personality

1. They don’t have any empathy

psychopathic personality

It’s commonly thought that people with psychopathic personalities don’t have empathy. However, that is untrue.

Psychopaths manipulate, and in order to do that, they have to understand how the other person is feeling at the time and what kind of reaction they’ll get from what they say. That’s how they trap their victims.

Being empathetic means understanding the other person’s mood or how they’re feeling. This is called cognitive empathy, and psychopaths have it.

What they do lack is emotional empathy.

What does it look like to lack emotional empathy?

It’s when individuals aren’t able to feel regret, guilt, or pain from manipulating other people.

2. They’re crazy

This term is definitely the most inappropriate when it comes to describing a psychopathic personality.

Psychopaths aren’t crazy. Craziness implies a lack of control, disconnection with reality, and doing things without thinking.

Psychopaths are conscious of what they’re doing. In fact, they exert a great deal of control over things in order to get what they want.

3. Psychopaths are criminals

Psychopaths don’t necessarily break the law. That’s not their goal. They want to get things, but to do that they don’t necessarily commit crimes; they use people.

If someone with a psychopathic personality borrows things from you, then takes advantage of your niceness and doesn’t return them, it’s not a crime.

You allowed it, and the psychopathic person doesn’t act like other people. They don’t know when to stop because they’re not aware they’re crossing a line.

So throw out the idea that psychopathic people steal, kill, and do terrible things. They actually don’t like to be the center of attention.

4. They grew up in a dysfunctional family

This big myth may be around because we really don’t know much about psychopaths. Psychopaths aren’t made, they’re born.

Psychopaths are the way they are because parts of their brains are different or are not activated, which is an innate, biological condition.

On the other hand, when someone’s brain is functioning normally but they haven’t acquired the tools they need to socialize with others in a healthy way, it’s called sociopathy.

In this case, they may have been raised negligently: sexual abuse, lack of affection, and other kinds of situations that have kept them from developing properly.

5. They’re very cold people

While it’s true that psychopaths don’t feel emotion, this doesn’t mean they look emotionless.

They generally seem like nice, friendly people. You may feel like you can trust them and can get close to them safely.

This is indeed just appearances. Their niceness is a weapon they use to attract their victims so they can manipulate them and use them for their personal gain.

A psychopath never seems cold or arrogant and doesn’t try to stand out. It’s the opposite: they often have to appear warm and trustworthy in order to inspire trust.

Before you go, we recommend: 7 Foods that Support Mental Health

It’s important to throw out these myths about psychopaths so you can get closer to understanding them better.

Mental diseases or disorders are not the same as being crazy, and they’re not the right way to talk about people who commit crimes or are “weird.”

Many people with psychopathic personalities live among us and we don’t even realize it. They’re normal people; they just see the world differently. For them, other people aren’t people but rather objects they use to get what they want and need.

Psychopathy can’t be cured, but it can be treated.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Universidad de Alicante, Características de los Psicópatas. 2007 Departamento de Psicología de la Salud. rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/4097/3/Microsoft%20PowerPoint%20-%20Tema%203.pdf
  • Decety, J. & Jackson, P. H. (2004). The Functional Architecture of Human Empathy. Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience Review, 3(2), 71-100.
  • Britton, P. C. & Fuendeling, J. M. (2005). The relations among varieties of adult attachment and the
    components of empathy. J Soc Psychol., 145(5),519-530.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.