How is psychopathy diagnosed?

Joni Johnston

There is no actual diagnosis of psychopathy in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  The best diagnostic instrument to date is the Psychopathy checklist-Revised, is designed to evaluate the recognized characteristics of psychopathic personality and behavior:

  • glibness/superficial charm
  • grandiose sense of self worth
  • need for stimulation/prone to boredom
  • pathological lying
  • conning/manipulative
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • shallow emotional response
  • callous/lack of empathy
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • poor behavioral controls
  • promiscuous sexual behavior
  • early behavioral problems
  • lack of realistic long term goals
  • impulsivity
  • irresponsibility
  • failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
  • many short term relationships
  • juvenile delinquency
  • revocation of conditional release
  • criminal versatility

The PCL-R assesses these traits with a clinical rating scale of 20 items. Each item is scored on a three-point scale of 0, 1 or 2, according to specific criteria that is obtained through file information and structured interviews. A value of 0 is assigned if the item does not apply, 1 if it applies somewhat, and 2 if it fully applies. Anyone who scores over 30 is diagnosed with psychopathy.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.