How do I know if I’m a psychopath?

arjai101 asks: I read a book on psychopaths a few months ago. I learned about all of the characteristics and the development of the definition and diagnosis on psychopaths. However, when I read this book I couldn’t help but notice that I possessed several of these characteristics. More curious, I took several test on psychology websites and most of them suggested that I might be a sociopath. In fact, I scored 97% higher than the average person. When I started telling people about the research I had done they started to point out that my way of thinking and personality highly resembled a psychopath. They say that if you’re worried about being a psychopath that you aren’t one. But I don’t think I’m worried I feel more curiosity than anything. I’ve been asking you for advice for quite a while now. Do you think that I am psychopath? If so, how should I deal with this?

Hi arjai101 –

Psychopaths and Sociopaths are both people who have something called Antisocial Personality Disorder.  The difference between them seems to be about how they interact with others.  But fundamentally, they both have this condition, which is marked by complete disregard of the rights of others, a lack of conscience, and criminal and aggressive behavior.

Is this really you?

Let me make this clear.  Every person, and every dog, in the world, has some aspects of APD.  Each of us can also get depressed, can get kind of manic, can explode in anger, and can hear things that aren’t really there (haven’t you noticed those times we pooches will start barking furiously at what you can clearly see is nothing?!).  And each of those is the hallmark of a serious mental disorder.

The issue with these diagnoses is that Severity Matters.  In other words, having a little of it makes you normal, but having a lot of that quality is what can get you labeled as having a true Mental Disorder.

My human friend Handsome (who is helping me a lot with this answer) went to Psychology school, and told me that, when they had the class on Mental Disorders, every student there saw every disorder listed as being either about themselves or about someone they had been close to.  Exes, especially!  The issue is that they were looking at the qualities of these things, but not how severe they were.  This was totally normal, and harmless, unless they started actually believing it.

So you ask me if you’re a Psychopath.  And I have to say, I have no idea.  I don’t know you (and I’m a very bright dog, but I’m not psychic), and you’re not telling me exactly what it is that makes you think that.  But I’m going to make a guess.

I’ll guess that sometimes you can be very selfish, and not think about how others feel.  I’m guessing that sometimes you say mean things to others, and maybe have even taken some things that weren’t yours.  You get angry easily, and have started some fights.  Maybe you’ve even gotten in trouble with police.  Is this true of you?

That’s funny – ME TOO!

Yep, I can be very self-centered, and rude, even to Handsome.  I bark horrible things, sometimes at people who really don’t deserve it.  I’ve stolen things from people and dogs that I knew weren’t mine.  I’ve picked fights with dogs I was jealous of, or just to show I was tough.  And I was in jail when I was three months old.

So am I a Psychopath?

Not at all.  I’m just a dog.

The essence of true pathology is that it really interferes with your life.  This has to be something you can’t control, that’s part of who and what you are.  Serial killers, arsonists, and dogs with rabies… that’s what a Psychopath looks like.  Kids who take something they want that they can’t afford or aren’t allowed, teens who say something really awful to a friend that they later regret, or dogs who chase delivery people?  No, those aren’t Psychopaths.  Those are just normal.  Not the best side of normal, but normal.

So if you’d like, feel free to write me more about yourself, and maybe I can tell you what I think.  But most likely – waaaaaay most likely – you’re just giving yourself a bad rap, and you’re actually perfectly sane and normal.

All my best,


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