What do you think of when you hear the word psychopath?

For most people, the first thing associated with psychopathy is violence. So when you think of a psychopath, you envision a ruthless killer hunting people down with a knife. However, psychopathy is a mental health problem. While some argue that it is a subset of antisocial personality disorders, others claim it is different. Nonetheless, it’s a complex issue that we know very little about.

That’s why psychopathy is one of the most misunderstood mental disorders. There is a heavy stigma around it, planted in our minds through books, TV, and media in general. Psychopaths in pop culture are represented as these evil spawns who go around and kill for fun. And eventually, we start believing the media. If you hear that someone is a psychopath, you wouldn’t want to be around them, right? That is because you fear them. And you don’t just fear the specific individual. You fear the predisposed idea about them that is created in your mind. The stereotype we see in media about psychopaths makes us feel threatened by the sole existence of a psychopath. You don’t know them. You have never interacted with them. You know that if they’re a psychopath, they are dangerous.

While it is true that psychopaths tend to be much more criminally active throughout their life than other types of offenders, and are more violent, overall than non-psychopaths, in reality, psychopaths most often look just like anyone else. Sometimes they are even more charismatic and likable than the average person. The difference between a psychopath and you is that they lack some of the emotions you would feel. No fear, no remorse, nor guilt. This doesn’t make them violent, but if they were to engage in violence, they would do it more efficiently. They just don’t have any type of moral compass to hold them back. Their actions are not based on emotional motives such as achieving happiness or finding love. Their goals often include manipulation or obtaining power. Money is also a big thing in their minds. Depending on the individual, a psychopath might resort to violence if you’re standing in their way.

In most cases, though, they opt for a less radical way of getting what they want.  The thing psychopaths are definitely good at is dealing with people. Not befriending and creating genuine connections but rather manipulating. If you’re ever arguing with a psychopath, there is an excellent chance that you will come out of the argument thinking you were wrong to begin with. Despite not feeling emotions, psychopaths are very good at playing with other people’s feelings. If they have to, they will exploit your biggest fear, your greatest regret, and your darkest desires. They are capable of convincing you almost anything, and you wouldn’t even know you are being manipulated. Their charismatic nature and calculated responses will create a sense of credibility that will make you doubt your own beliefs.

So how do you know you’re walking amongst psychopaths?

Around 1 percent of the overall population may be categorized as a psychopath. If you’re in the financial sector, 10% of all people in your industry can be classified as psychopaths. This means it is more than likely that one of your colleagues, friends, or family is a psychopath. All those mentally ill people have in common are that they can make even the sanest person think they are crazy. Demonstrating charisma, intelligence, and kindness, the daily life psychopath manages to stir up some drama at the office and make you out to be the bad guy in front of the boss. Keep in mind there is also a chance they are actually your boss.

When you think of a psychopath, don’t think about the bloody killer in movies. Think about the cold stockbroker on Wallstreet, the CEO of a big company, or the best lawyer in your city. Think about someone who has to achieve their goals, no matter the price.

They are everywhere, and while you can’t see them, they see you perfectly. They know how to behave, what emotions to show, even when to demonstrate compassion. It’s possible to actually start liking them.

You probably meet at least one psychopath every week. They are all around us. We can not recognize them right away, let alone avoid them, so we just co-exist with them. We see them at the store, at the office, and even at the courtroom. Our lives are infiltrated with master manipulators, and we don’t even suspect it. So don’t worry about how often you encounter psychopaths. Because even if you meet one, you won’t know it. 

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