Psychologists Share Which Red Flags Made Them Realize They Were Treating A Psychopath


Always keep an eye on the exits when certain people are around....

Crazy is everywhere. Well to be honest we are ALL a little nuts, that's what makes us so special and entertaining, but then there are those of us where crazy goes into danger level. Doctors and therapists literally put their lives on the line on the daily confronting some people. And we need them to let us in on what signs to be aware of when roaming the streets with these people.

Redditor u/DespondentDavid was hoping psychologists would spill some creepy tea with us about their patients by asking.... Psychologists of Reddit, what made you realize you were treating a psychopath?

this "predatory" stare....


I am a mental health professional working in corrections (max security facility). In my experience, psychopaths will have this "predatory" stare, especially when they are trying to manipulate you. It is completely unnerving and hard to describe to someone unfamiliar with this population. They also tend to be narcissistic and overly charming, making a point to be overly friendly with you.


In the Eyes....

The eyes when they believe they're supposed to put on an emotion. You have to understand. It's going ouch when you bang your funny bone, even though it doesn't hurt, because all your life, people have cried out in pain when they've banged their elbow. You meet enough people like that and you find yourself hating any obligational situation in your life when you have to lie, like being asked how you are and saying good when you're not, simply because all you can associate it with, is them.


The Classics....

I typed out a long response to this but then deleted it because I couldn't really describe it without giving too many details away. One thing I will say is that psychopaths aren't all your classic murderous criminals. Sometimes the nicest people you'll meet are psychopaths, and it's all an act to manipulate you to do what they want, or think a certain way about them, because that makes them feel like they've won and/or are superior to you. Watch out for the nice guys.


3 Emotions....

I'm not a psychologist but I know a few, have studied it extensively and my sister works with MH in the police.

He told me he tried to care how people feel but he doesn't know how that would even come about. How do you know you care for someone? How do you not feel indifferent? He just said he has 3 emotions indifference, anger and pity.



This article from the NYTimes still haunts me: Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath. I often wonder where the kid is now. What options would the parent have?


Great Disdain...

When describing some of the awful things he had done to people, he didn't express remorse, regret, or even anger - he expressed disdain. He was disdainful of people that he had irreparably harmed because he did not get enough out of it - he used them for his own ends and he genuinely believed that they had failed him.


He just didn't care.​....


They were talking about a disagreement they'd had with their partner. An accidental spillage of water onto some electronics, it could honestly happen to anyone. As calmly as if he was describing... I dunno... changing a channel... he started saying how he pinned his partner up against the wall and started trying to strangle her. No emotion, no change of tone. Just as if it were a normal thing.

I was a trainee at the time and NOT qualified to deal with DV, needless to say I transferred the client to another therapist. However I was not allowed to end the session and had to sit with him for another ~20 minutes. I've never been so scared in my life. I felt like a small prey animal trapped in the room with a predator. He just didn't care.

However, if you met him you'd think he was just a normal, successful kinda average dude.

I am 99% sure he was a sociopath, because he kept trying to get certain reactions out of me, kept changing his tactics, kept trying to 'charm' me, and when I wouldn't rise to it became weirdly, coldly irritated. I've never had a client like it before or since.


High Functioning. 

I've always wondered how many high functioning psychopaths are out there. Like people with murderous/creepy impulses and they are just able to suppress because they know how to function in society.


Feel the Vibes....


Therapist here - a good sociopath will, on the surface, seem totally invested in treatment - they kind of schmooze you/try to impress you. Then eventually you catch on that they're manipulating you to think one way while they're totally thinking/behaving opposite of what you think. Also, if you're an empath and really pick up on people's moods/"vibes", sociopaths/psychopaths just give you a big gut feeling that something isn't right - you almost feel slimy after talking to them. That's my experience anyways🤷🏻♀️.


Early Stages. 

I had one and it was so bizarre and haunting— I was doing a psych evaluation on a tween (I think he was like 12yo) and was in the early stage of doing the clinical interview with him and his mother. The mother described various acts of violence the child had done (in addition to other things) and I listened to the child's explanations of why. After I walked them out of the office, I remember talking to a colleague that this was the first time I had encountered a sociopath in the making.


"That" Feeling.


I had a one time client that gave me "that" feeling. After some agonizing I reported a threat they made (towards someone in their life) to the police but it was too vague to be actionable as they were clever enough not to disclose names to me. Never saw them again but I've carried a pocket sized stun gun since. I've never been more scared in a visceral way.


A Comfortable Chair. 

Current psychologist working in a prison here...

I've worked with three individuals I dare say would have met the criteria for anti social personality disorder within the last 2 weeks. One commonality is that they use behaviors as tools to benefit only themselves. Self harm not because they wish to hurt themselves but to use it as a tool to lure staff into the cell to incite violence/gain extra medication/be sent to the SHU which comes with a status boost.

One person offered to get me a comfortable chair when we were in a session, not for my benefit but so that they could ensure I stuck around for longer to talk with them. A lot of positive impression management also, sometimes you feel they care but there's unfortunately an ulterior motive.


Dear Mum....

I was in the room where my mum was being evaluated.

Well I wasn't in the room, it was like a police interrogation room with the one way glass. I was there because they needed to interview me for an outsiders perspective. Anyways, my mum got arrested on suspicion to commit a violent crime. To set the scene, she was handcuffed to a table and she was angry.

She's always had volatile anger issues due to heavy drug and alcohol use. She was being talked to, questioned, all this other stuff, I was there for about 3 hours. She kept running this lady in circles to divert her from the actual problem. She was insanely calm answering questions about various things that would scare a normal person. She barely showed empathy for anything and it was terrifying for me to watch. I knew she wasn't right in the head anyways, she was abusive to both my brother and I.

But seeing how she handled the situation at hand, I'm glad I got out of there or it would've gotten much worse.

I haven't talked to her in about four years but she's tried to get in contact. I cant trust her and don't think I ever will again.


​The PCL-SV....


That and when he was describing how he murdered two kids. He had no affect. Didn't name them. Justified his actions as not serious etc. Took a few sessions to acknowledge the murder of the second child. He was in denial, assuming I wouldn't like him if I knew he killed the other one too.


Lame Animals.


When telling that "he kept thinking about how killing people would be more fun than "lame" animals" (stray cats and dogs and everything else he could catch). Only 11 years old.


She couldn't take it....

When i was a student we had an interview with a lady that killed her baby child with a handgun because it cried so much that she couldn't take it. At first we weren't told that she was a psychopath and we were just told to listen to her side of the story. She was reading us from her journal that she made while she was in the institution.

Not once did she mentioned that she was sad that her baby died, or how what she did was bad. She was just reading angry thoughts about her husband that left her and turned her in the police about what she did. She was justifying the killing because the baby was so unbearable and once she mentioned that she was angry and mad that her husband did not believe her that she didn't have any other choice but to kill the baby. She was very smart and well spoken and the whole time she was speaking she was trying to make us feel sorry for her for being locked up.

We later learned that sometimes she was lying about not killing her baby and other times just brag about it, depending on who she was speaking with. Very normal looking person and very good speaker.

Edit: Wow, was not expecting this much upvotes. So to answer some of your questions. I am not from the US and I don't think her name will matter to any of you. She was not schizophrenic nor had postpartum psychosis (if she did she would have felt any kind of remorse about what she did, which she did not)... when I said normal person I meant it in a way that if I was talking to her in any other situation but this (in a mental institution) I would have no idea that she is a psychopath. She killed her baby only for one simple reason, at the moment it just wouldn't stop crying. She didn't try to hide it or anything, at first she lied to her husband that it was by accident but than she admitted.


Barry the Boring. 

Everybody always thinks of psychopaths as some clever, devious, silence of the lambs types but what about the ones that are thick as two short planks? Plenty of them getting locked up in prisons every day. It's less "oh no my primal fear receptors" and more "oh no, I have to listen to Barry the boring c*nt wax lyrical about himself for another hour."


Outta Whack.

One time I had a pt who was brought in after trying to break into a families house while they were home. He was on my telemetry unit because his electrolytes were outta whack and he was acting like he didn't remember trying to bust into an entire families house with them home.

He was getting antsy, but the hospital I worked at had a stupid fall-risk policy that kept patients in bed, even if they were young/healthy/capable of being responsible for their fall. Mental health patients like to pace, especially when they start to feel like they're using it. So, anyway, I'm trying to keep dude in bed because if his feet touched the floor a loud alarm would go off, pushing his crazy closer to the edge. So, I'm in there trying to talk to him and deescalate. We're talking and he tells me he is a bad person, that his cat was mutilated and his sister asked what happened to it and he told her the dog did it. But, he told me that his secret is that he did it.

He killed the cat so bad that it looked like a dog ripped it to pieces! He also shared with me that he knew what he was doing when he tried breaking into the family's home, and that he wants to hurt people. Of course, I shared this info with the hospitalist and the psychologist and, naturally, he was discharged free and clear the next day. No follow up with the law or outpatient psych. Gotta love it.



Okay so what's the difference between psychopathy and narcissism? People seem to be only focusing on how most psychopaths are narcissistic, but they're not really mentioning anything else.

I'm autistic, and, because of my very low empathy, I come across as mildly psychopathic. However, I have very low self esteem. I do not manipulate people, as far as I can tell.

My former roommate, on the other hand, was a narcissist to a trash-steeped tee, to the point where she abused and manipulated me in so many ways over the course of a year.

Yet the descriptions in this thread are conflating. So what other traits of a psychopath are there? What differentiates us?


'duping delight.'


Often there is a particular face they make when they are relating a story, usually about how clever they are. One of the Ted talks on how to spot a liar calls it 'duping delight.' Sometimes they can't contain their rage and you see them switch.



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