Was it the superficial grin that gave it away? (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/dave g/Flickr)

Much like the deviously disguised aliens that haunted “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in the 1988 John Carpenter film “They Live,” psychopaths live and work among us. In fact, you may even be a psychopath and be completely unaware. According to author Jon Ronson in his new book “The Psychopath Test,” mental health labeling has gone so far afield that nearly anyone can qualify as a psychopath. Yet authorities proceed with blinders on, seemingly ignorant to the damage such pat labeling causes.

Know your score on the Robert Hare checklist

Criminal psychologist Dr. Robert D. Hare developed the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) as a 20-point series of mental health patterns. Individual answers are assigned either 0, 1 or 2 points, ranging from “not at all” to “definitely.” If subjects score 30 or more out of a possible 40, they qualify as a psychopath under the standard definition of psychopathy: An abnormal lack of empathy hidden behind an outwardly normal manner. No treatment is deemed effective, and the subject is labeled a danger to society, if the test is administered by authorities.

In The Guardian, Ronson shares an excerpt from “The Psychopath Test” in which he interviewed a young man he calls “Tony.” Tony has been living in an English mental health facility for 12 years, since he was 17 years old. Tony admits to having faked being crazy so that he could go to a psychiatric facility rather than prison after committing a violent crime. However, the facility won’t let him leave because he posted a high score on the PCL-R.

How to spot a psychopath

Straight from the PCL-R, here are the mental health patterns that indicate whether someone should be labeled a psychopath. See how you — and perhaps even your office mates — would score.

  1. Glibness/superficial charm
  2. Grandiose sense of self-worth
  3. Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  4. Pathological lying
  5. Cunning/manipulative
  6. Lack of remorse or guilt
  7. Shallow affect
  8. Callous/lack of empathy
  9. Parasitic lifestyle
  10. Poor behavioral controls
  11. Promiscuous sexual behavior
  12. Early behavior problems
  13. Lack of realistic long-term goals
  14. Impulsiveness
  15. Irresponsibility
  16. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  17. Many short-term marital relationships
  18. Juvenile delinquency
  19. Revocation of conditional release
  20. Criminal versatility

Getting away with it used to mean something

In a world where too many mental health professionals are quick to label a child and prescribe medication so the drug company kickbacks can flow, one wonders whether the concept of “psychopath” means anything more than a payday for the psychopathy industry. The Robert Hare checklist is filled with commonly exhibited behaviors. Leaving a person’s life to the PCL-R interpretation of a disinterested mental health professional who may be on the take is enough to drive anyone crazy.

Sources

Guardian.co.uk: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/21/jon-ronson-how-to-spot-a-psychopath

Hare Psychopathy Checklist Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare_Psychopathy_Checklist

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/17/books/the-psychopath-test-by-jon-ronson-review.html

Psychopathy Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy

Without Conscience: http://www.hare.org/

Jon Ronson asks, “Are you the 1 in 100?”

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