If the word ‘psychopath’ conjures up the picture of someone walking around chopping up bodies, think again. According to forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes, psychopaths are much more subtle than that. And shockingly, because of the internet – and the fact it is possible to remain anonymous or indeed using different email addresses, even make up a different persona – all of us are more likely than ever to come across one.
Writing in The Telegraph Kerry Daynes, who has recently written a book on how to spot one, says between one and three per cent of the population exhibit psychopathic tendencies. To put this in perspective, potentially one in 100 of your Twitter followers could fall into this category.
And what is worrying is that they are not insane and they do not do one single bad act. In fact they may well hold down a very good job. But they possess the following traits – a lack of feeling, a cold and calculating indifference to others that lasts a lifetime and they can be very manipulative and charming.
Years ago people had much smaller circles of friends – they lived in one village or town and simply did not come into contact with hundreds, if not thousands of people ever day – if in a lifetime.
But now with the internet all of us come in to contact with a huge amount of people and therefore we are more likely to come into contact with someone like this.
The psychologist, who has worked with inmates in maximum security prisons as well as high risk people living in the community, explains it is possible to spot the signs of a psychopath using the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCLR). In this checklist 20 qualities of a psychopath are outlined giving a maximum score of 40. Most people sit somewhere – Kerry says she herself as a fine upstanding citizen scores 4. However, a serial killer would score between 30 and 40 and someone is who borderline might score between 20 and 25.
Find out how you or someone in your life scores by asking the following questions:
* When talking about their childhood, they paint themselves as tragic victims or valiant heroes.
* When talking they make a lot of hand gestures to emphasise their point.
* They ‘fall in love’ quickly and then move on just as fast.
* They make the same mistakes over and over again.
* They are slow to recognise fear or disgust in the faces of others.
* When you first meet them, you find yourself revealing more about yourself than you intend to.
* Around them you feel used, dominated and anxious.
* If caught out lying they brush it off without embarrassment or explanation.
* They are enthusiastic about risky ventures such as driving too fast, using drugs, risky sex or extreme sports (or all of these.)
* They brag about petty criminal exploits in childhood.
Incidentally she adds if you think you’re a psychopath you almost certainly aren’t one and you’d need to tick of all of those traits above (and more) to be a psychopath.
She adds our gut instinct about people – particularly if they make us feel uncomfortable – can also be a good guide to avoiding people with psychopathic tendencies.
Is there a Psycho in your Life? by Kerry Daynes and Jessica Fellowes is published by Hodder and costs £6.99.