Not all psychopaths are cut from the same cloth as Norman Bates, Patrick Bateman, or Hannibal Lecter. Pop culture might tell you that psychopaths swan through life with a cool, calm exterior, largely unfazed by the world around them. However, this isn’t always the case.
In the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands explain how some highly psychopathic people actually suffer from with surprisingly high levels of stress and anxiety. Others, however, do not have such a problem.
Their research gathered 529 participants through a personality test that measured psychopathic tendencies then quizzed them on their fear of pain, anxiety, and stress. It categorizes people with strongly psychopathic personalities into two groups: "Fearless Dominance," associated with low levels of physical and social fear, and "Impulsive Antisociality," associated with egoism and impulsivity.
As you may expect, people in the Fearless Dominance bracket reported low levels of fear, pain, anxiety, and stress. On the other hand, people in the Impulsive Antisociality bracket were shown to have higher levels of anxiety and stress.
Psychopathy is found in about 1 percent of the general population and is typically characterized by a number of signs, including superficial charm conjoined with dishonesty, callousness, a lack of empathy, and poor impulse control. This study adds to the debate surrounding psychopaths, highlighting that it’s important to consider the variety of psychopaths.
“The present study suggests that the definition of psychopathy given by the media (mass murderer deprived of any form of morality) is quite a stretch from the truth,” lead author of the study, Guillaume Durand, told PsyPost.
“While such people obviously exist, there are other highly psychopathic individuals who have more adaptive traits than maladaptive traits, making them perfectly adaptable in the society.”
Durand explained that the field of psychopathy is currently divided into two camps that argue for and against the idea that psychopathy can include adaptive traits. Some suggest that by default, psychotherapy can not include adaptive traits, but Durand hopes their study will go towards opening up the view that different types of psychopaths exist.
So, try to remember that not all psychopaths are out to get you – some might just want a hug.