Psychopath and sociopath are popular psychology terms to describe violent monsters born of our worst nightmares. Think Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs (1991), Norman Bates in Psycho (1960) and Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990). In making these characters famous popular culture has also burned the words used to describe them into our collective consciousness.
Most of us fortunately will never meet a Hannibal Lecter but psychopaths and sociopaths certainly do exist. And they hide among us. Sometimes as the most successful people in society because they’re often ruthless callous and superficially charming while having little or no regard for the feelings or needs of others.
These are known as ‘successful’ psychopaths as they have a tendency to perform premeditated crimes with calculated risk. Or they may manipulate someone else into breaking the law while keeping themselves safely at a distance. They’re master manipulators of other peoples’ feelings but are unable to experience emotions themselves.
Sound like someone you know? Well heads up. You do know one; at least one. Prevalence rates come in somewhere between 0.2% and 3.3% of the population.