I am 15 and I feel like I might have some signs of being a psychopath. I tell lies every day, either to get attention or to get out of trouble and I feel no guilt about it. I can turn my charm on and off to get what I want, and I can be very good at getting people to do what I want. I feel some empathy like I feel sorry for people, but I have very little time for other people’s problems and emotions. I don’t like hurting people and I don’t do it, however, I feel very little guilt about hurting people’s feelings. When people try to tell me their problems I get bored easily and even annoyed. I like having power over people and I also feel like I can act very childish at times. I know I’m not a full-blown psychopath, but I feel like I show some signs and I need to know what to do. (From Scotland)

I wouldn’t be too quick to self-diagnose, but I am very glad that you are reflecting on your behavior and are concerned about your lack of empathy for others. The fact that you feel sorry for others, and also do not like to hurt people is a good thing because that immediately takes you out of the running for being a psychopath. The fact that these concerns are there, even though you override them and can hurt people without feeling much guilt, means that, by definition, you aren’t psychopathic.

While I am not here to offer a diagnosis or label, I think the fact that this set of symptoms troubles you is a very good sign. Psychopaths are actually identified by the mental health professionals as people who have antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) and often have disregard for the safety of themselves or others and are consistently irresponsible. While your style of deceit and lack of remorse isn’t psychopathic, it is of concern because it has some of the features characterized by individuals with ASPD.

This doesn’t mean these concerns shouldn’t be addressed. While they might not meet the criteria for ASPD nor what might be called a psychopath, they can lead to many problems socially and legally down the road. Because you list your age as 15 there are a number of other factors that may influence your behavior and your thinking. Learning about what it is you can do now to change these reactions is all-important. Your age is in your favor as there are many ways to manage and correct these uncomfortable issues. Here is a list of treatment possibilities, which include psychotherapy and self-help.

This brings me to my point, which is that it is time to get some help with this. You’ve done an excellent job by beginning this process and writing us here, and now it is time to ask your parents, or the people at your school for some counseling.

You’ve taken a good first step. Now it is time to continue by asking for some help with this. Use the fact that this style of behavior and thinking bothers you to make changes that will not only help you feel better — it is likely to help keep you out of trouble later on. Your parents or the people at school will know who to put you in touch with to deal with these issues. I admire your bravery in tackling this head-on.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral