A friend of mine asked me a while back what my thoughts were on the ever-increasing numbers of self-diagnosed psychopaths in the world. With books galore and memes all over the Internet, it seems that psychopathy (more commonly, the term sociopathy is used) has really taken off as not only a subject of study but as something many want to seem to emulate. Maybe I am an exception. I never sought out the condition; it found me. That is really beside the point, however. The crux of the question posed by my friend was implicit but obvious: ‘does a diagnosis make one a legitimate psychopath or can one be a psychopath and never seek clinical assessment?’
In my communication with many other psychopaths, I’ve found a common theme when it comes to the realization of psychopathy. Once these individuals saw the definition of psychopathy reflected in them, they could not unsee it. It was as if they were previously blind and now had sight. Psychopathy rarely explains everything for an individual with the condition but it does seem to explain a lot. Surely many of the self-diagnosing psychopaths out there have had such an experience, should they be discounted?
On the other hand, there seems to be a fascination with the condition based off fictitious characters in literature and film. Undoubtedly, many of those self-diagnosing types have found an affinity with those characters and try to emulate them or identify a subset of traits and call it ‘enough’. Should those experiences be discounted either?
Having perspective from my involvement in queer circles, I would hesitate to discount either of the two groups above. I’ve seen men seek support for coming out as gay only to be told that they don’t fit the stereotypes and that they ‘should go back to women’. I’ve seen transgender-leaning people denied support because they are not masculine or feminine enough to convince those around them that dysphoria exists. Hell, in every human stratum this phenomenon exists. The “in crowd” is cautious of those that think they share a common requirement of membership.
All of that said, I caution every individual that thinks they may be psychopathic to answer the following questions. What am I gaining by identifying as a psychopath? What am I losing? And regarding documentation of the condition: what consequences are there for having such a diagnosis recorded? I was fortunate in my search. I had no insurance or employer to report to with the results. Yes, the assessment was not cheap, but I found peace of mind. I did not have to struggle with whether I was or was not. I did not have to struggle with identity struggles unsure of what I was. Most importantly, I did not have to come to the understanding alone. Each of us has a story regarding the moment the light bulb came on. Some of us just stumbled more in the darkness than others. Some also never needed that light in the first place. Identify as you wish, but please take such a journey and identification seriously.