Just recently I was watching an old episode of Criminal Minds that was on the TV at my gym. Hotch and his trustee sidekicks were investigating a young boy’s disappearance and trying to put all of the pieces together—but the case ultimately went back to the suspicious parents. By the end of the episode, the parents admitted to covering up their son’s death after their other son “accidentally” killed him. They explained that they couldn’t lose both of them, so they hid the body and covered up the horrific doings of the only son they had left. The detectives were, understandably, at a loss for what to do or say; they wanted to comfort the parents, but they instead had to tell the two that their living son was a psychopath.

After spending one-on-one time with the boy, the investigators quickly realized he wasn’t any average kid. He showed marked aggression, betrayed the closest person to him, and felt no remorse over his brother’s death—just a few characteristics of psychopaths. After explaining these observations to the boy’s parents, they collectively decided it was best for him to go away; because while there is no known cure for psychopathy, there is hope for stopping the development in juvenile psychopaths.

The parents of this child had no idea they were raising a psychopath, despite his violent tendencies. Nobody wants to believe that they know a psychopath or that they are a psychopath themselves—but it’s important that we do recognize the tell-tale signs; the following indicate that you may be dealing with a psychopath:

  • They’re a charmer or sweet-talker. This may come as a surprise, but psychopaths can be rather charming and charismatic. These individuals base their charm on what their target appears to appreciate or engage with. For example, if they find that their target appreciates honesty and sensitivity, honest and sensitive is exactly what they’ll become. In this way, psychopaths are very much like chameleons—they adapt to their surroundings and reap the subsequent benefits.
  • They lie consistently and often for no good reason. Psychopaths can’t resist a good lie—even if the truth would benefit them in the long-run. They grow accustomed to morphing into whoever they need to become and lying about their actions, motives, and/or general information. And if you call them out on their lies, they will likely deflect your accusations and turn it around on you. ‘You’re just being paranoid,’ they say.
  • They appear incapable of feeling guilt. Even if the boy’s brother’s death was an accident, a normal individual would feel horrible about their part in the unfortunate event; however, the kid in Criminal Minds shows no remorse. Instead, he appears to feel good about what he’s done. Psychopaths realize that their actions hurt others—that’s the very drive for their behavior. They get a thrill out of, it makes them happy. So while they are capable of feeling regret, they lack remorse and are unable to learn from their mistakes.
  • They turn their backs on those closest to them. Because psychopaths feel no remorse, they have no problem turning on their closest allies. This was apparent in the aforementioned episode of Criminal Minds, in that the boy turned on his very own brother. You might think that you’ve made a connection with someone or developed mutual feelings of love, but that holds no weight when it comes to psychopaths. They likely reeled you in with their charm and charisma—but they could ditch these efforts and betray you without a moment’s notice.
  • Their presence is poison. When a psychopath enters your life, you may notice weird changes start to take place: perhaps you feel more negative, or you find yourself being mean to people for no reason. Psychopaths are known to swoop in and manipulate people into acting, feeling, or thinking a certain way. You might also start doubting your abilities and subsequently relying on the psychopathic individual for reassurance and fulfillment. Psychopaths are capable of making you do and feel just about anything.

Even if you’re aware of these psychopathic giveaways, it can be difficult to identify a psychopath: it’s not so easy to tell if someone’s truly nice and funny or if they’re just trying to gain your trust, just like it’s tough to recognize if someone’s lying or telling the truth. The best you can do is familiarize yourself with these tell-tale signs and if you find that your friend, your coworker, your boyfriend or girlfriend meets more than a couple criteria…distance yourself. Psychopaths are poisonous and will only have a negative effect on your life.