There's a big misconception – likely spread through TV, movies, and books – that psychopaths are killers, or otherwise out to actively harm or injure others.
This is far from the truth, given that around 1 in 100 people are estimated to meet the clinical criteria for psychopathy. Though they make up around a quarter of male offenders in federal prisons, if all psychopaths were violent or murderers, the murder rate would be through the roof.
In fact, a lot of psychopaths (and sociopaths) can go through life unnoticed, and even have advantages over others in reaching the tops of their professions, with around 1 in 5 business leaders having psychopathic traits.
Quite a few self-described pscyhopaths have explained what it's really like for them living day to day, rather than the sensationalized view you'd get from the media, in response to a question on Reddit.
"My opinions seem to generally upset people"
"For a long time I assumed I was normal, and the people who cried over things were overly dramatic and weird," one user explained. "When people died that I was close to, and I felt nothing, I started to question myself."
"Media sometimes portrays people like me as someone going out and murdering people and feeling no remorse and such. But I've never felt the need to harm anybody. Maybe out of curiousity when I was younger, to see if I would feel bad. But that question has already been answered so there is no need."
The main impact on their life is that they won't own a pet, as the pets they have owned they tended to neglect, not caring enough to put the effort into keeping them alive and well. As well as this, they tend to have to keep quiet on certain topics.
"I think I have very good opinions about controversial topics like abortion, religion, and politics in general but my opinions seem to generally upset people."
"I see every loss as a relief"
One user described how self-interest, inconvenience, and lack of motivation kept them from being like murderous psychopaths portrayed on screen.
"The media does indeed sensationalise the condition to the point where every psychopath is portrayed as a killer," they wrote. "I'm really not a killer, although murder is always on the menu of options as a solution to any particular problem. But even a psychopath knows that that is an extreme solution - like suicide. It ends the problem, but the planning is endless and the consequences are a pain."
Day to day, they find they have to try and mimic those around them.
"Interaction with family and friends is a matter of imitation of what those relationships should look like in order to deliver results," they wrote, adding advice for those who think they too might be psychopaths.
"Bereavement is a good test for you if you're in doubt. I see every loss as a relief - one less dragging ball and chain weighing me down and one less route for exposure."
It's about knowing which mask to put on
A common theme among the replies to the thread is that it's exhausting for the self-identified psychopaths to mimic social interactions, and hide their condition.
We are not robots, we are humans.
A few mentioned that they didn't keep it a secret from others.
"Most of my friends and family know about my disorder and I've personally found that if I tell them before they notice something is a little off, they handle it better," one person wrote.
"It tends to dispel this myth that everyone in our lives are only a play thing and we are just manipulating everything. And while yes, I can be extremely manipulative because I don't get wound up in emotions like everyone else and know how to easily use those emotions to get someone in the direction I want them, it doesn't mean that [I'm] doing it all of the time in fact I try to do it only when needed. And in fact feeling emotions less than others can also hinder me to grow attached to them."
The rest of the thread is fascinating and well worth checking out.