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Are you dealing with an 'almost-psychopath'? Are you one?

February 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Do you often wonder whether there is something just a little off about one of your friends, family members or co-workers? While they may not suffer from a mental disorder, they could be closer to having a mental "issue" than you think. There are warning signs of what one expert calls "almost-psychopaths."

We all have an idea of what a psychopath is, but some experts argue many of us might be closer to one that you might think. It's a theory that argues there's a very fine line when it comes to discerning mental fitness.

Psychopaths have a chronic mental disorder that causes abnormal or violent social behavior. But psychiatric experts say a large segment of the population operates in the gray areas between normalcy and true psychopathic behavior.

Harvard Medical School's Dr. Ron Schouten labels these folks as "almost-psychopaths," people who show a lack of empathy and an indifference to right or wrong, and don't care about anybody but themselves. Criminal defense lawyer James Silver believes about one in seven people fit the description.

"We're confident that there are tens of millions of 'almost-psychopaths' in the United States," said Silver. "And these are people who you have to deal with."

Schouten and Silver co-wrote a book called "Almost a Psychopath." They say watch out for these signs: superficial charm, arrogance, pathological lying and lack of remorse.

And be careful in relationships: "Almost-psychopaths" may come on strong.

"So suddenly you find yourself in a relationship going much too fast and you are the giver and they are consistently the taker," said Schouten.

Also called "successful psychopaths," at work they may cozy up to you just to steal your ideas.

"They're not really interested in helping the team. They are only interested in helping themselves. And then at the end they try to take credit for more than they should," said Silver.

Psychiatrists agree that people who don't meet the clinical definition of being a psychopath can still be destructive in personal relationships. But diagnosing them might not be necessarily useful because labels don't always contribute to understanding human relationships.

But Silver says it's important for people to be aware of "almost-psychopaths" because they may be hard to avoid.

"I'd say there's no way to never deal with an 'almost-psychopath.' The idea though is to understand that it isn't your fault if you've been fooled."

If you're worried you might be almost a psychopath yourself, relax: The fact that the idea concerns you at all is a good sign that you're not one. But if you take pride in the idea, you could have a problem.


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