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10 Signs A Psychopath Is Targeting You

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Psychopaths are very dangerous individuals, but perhaps the most dangerous thing about them is the fact that they’re hard to spot – until it’s too late. Too many individuals have been drawn in and charmed by a psychopath, only to realize that a monster was lurking behind their seemingly charming facade. So it’s really important for everyone to learn how to spot a psychopath, especially those who are naturally trusting and friendly. These are the people psychopaths prey on. How do you tell if a psychopath is targeting you? Thankfully, psychopathy has been an area of high interest for many psychological researchers, and they’ve discovered many traits of psychopaths that will give them away – at least, if you know what to look for…

1. Grooming

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Grooming is when psychopaths target and prepare their victims. Grooming can include a variety of different activities and tactics, but the aim is always the same: Win their trust and encourage submission in order to facilitate mental, physical, or sexual abuse. One example was detailed by writer and psychology researcher John Clarke in his bookWorking With Monsters: How To Identify And Protect Yourself From Workplace Psychopaths. He talked of a psychopath who was targeting his female employees at work.

After this psychopath reached a high level within his corporate structure, he had the opportunity to hire assistants. He chose to hire only attractive female employees, and preferred those who had low self-confidence. He then groomed them by convincing them that they were attractive, on the basis that he was willing to have sex with them. After having sex with them, he grew bored with them and made their life a living hell before they were finally forced to resign. That’s one example of grooming, but there are many others.

2. Psychopaths Will Watch You Carefully

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Psychopaths view victims very differently than you or I would look at someone. They see them as little more than prey, and the way they watch their “prey” is not that different from the hunting tactics of a lion. Many reveal that when talking to a psychopath, it seems like they’re not blinking or showing any emotion. That’s because they’re scanning you for any weakness. And one study showed that psychopaths are very good at it.

This study surveyed people who had scored very highly on psychopath tests, and showed them videos of people walking from behind. These psychopaths were very good at identifying the people who were more susceptible to attacks. The people they “chose” had either suffered past attacks or were exhibiting behavior commonly associated with weakness, such as small steps or slow gait. The researchers compared this ability to that of a lion picking out the weakest member of a pack of buffalo.

3. Psychopaths Appear As A Savior

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Sometimes psychopaths watch you carefully to attack in a non-physical way. They will often come to you as a “savior,” pretending to have something you want or need. This was further detailed in John Clarke’s Working With Monsters: How To Identify And Protect Yourself From Workplace Psychopaths. In this book, he wrote that a corporate psychopath would “psycho-analyze” his victims. Once he found out what his co-worker needed, he would give it to them, earning their trust. Then, he would threaten to take that thing away from them, trapping them and leaving them open to manipulation.

For example, this psychopath would find men in his company who “wanted to belong.” This was very common. So he appeared as their leader, and encouraged them all to bully an overweight female employee. Once they had all been brought into this “club,” they couldn’t leave, out of fear of how the other employees would treat them after their bullying behavior. In this way, this corporate psychopath trapped his victims and was able to make them do things they wouldn’t normally do.

4. Psychopaths Will Use An Alias

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A great summary of how psychopaths behave is a scholarly article called The Psychopath: Emotion And The Brain. In this article, they really break down the personality of the psychopath, and propose a two-factor model of psychopathy. This is split into interpersonal items and impulsive items. The interpersonal items include pathological lying and and conning. This is perhaps one of the most interesting traits of a psychopath, and can be a sign of a psychopath targeting you.

This article also proposes an interesting link and possible overlap between psychopath and antisocial personality disorder. Many psychopaths display symptoms of both disorders. Interestingly, the article points out that those with antisocial personality disorder sometimes use aliases when targeting individuals, explaining one of the traits as: “deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.”

5. A Psychopath Will Try To Charm You

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The same article details a psychopath’s use of superficial charm when targeting victims. This is very important to note. When a psychopath approaches a victim, he or she will often seem incredibly charming. But the more sensitive and wary individuals will note that there is something wrong or “off” about this charm. It just doesn’t seem right. That’s because it’s all an act, and the psychopath doesn’t actually care about you.

John Clarke’s Working With Monsters: How To Identify And Protect Yourself From Workplace Psychopaths describes how this works in the corporate world, or any workplace for that matter. Co-workers described a psychopath as “good for a laugh,” and they professed that he was “exciting to be with, there was a real buzz in the air whenever Wayne was around.” This is an example of a psychopath who had convinced everyone that he was their friend, and this is very common.

6. Psychopaths Will Try To Use You

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The end goal of a psychopath is to get something from you. Many times, this is simply to watch you die, or to rape and sexually humiliate you. Other times, it can involve manipulating you into achieving their goals. This usually happens in the workplace, and there have been many examples of it. One example was again detailed in John Clarke’s Working With Monsters: How To Identify And Protect Yourself From Workplace Psychopaths. 

John Clarke talks about a situation where the psychopath he studied, Wayne, used his employees. He would bully and humiliate his workers for creating “substandard” work, and then he would turn that same work in, claiming it was his own. This is just one example that perfectly details the kind of manipulation that’s common among psychopaths.

7. You Might Never See A Psychopath Coming

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The most disturbing thing about psychopaths might well be their ability to blend in. This makes them difficult, if not impossible to detect. We’ve already talked about how psychopaths can reach high levels in the corporate hierarchical structure. But there are many examples of other well known people in history that have since been identified as exhibiting psychopathic behaviors. One example discussed in an article about “successful psychopaths” was Lyndon B. Johnson, ex-president of the United States. He is well-known for manipulating many people and doing whatever it took in his quest for power. Some even suggest that he might have been responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy.

The point is, you might not be able to tell if someone is a psychopath. Remember, they can appear anywhere, even in positions of power and responsibility; positions that are supposed to be occupied by people that can you can trust. In fact, I would go one step further and say that psychopaths can appear anywhere – especially in positions of power. Because as you probably know by now, psychopaths are drawn to power more than anything.

8. A Psychopath Will Talk In A Certain Way

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Another key feature of psychopaths is impulsiveness. This is another factor proposed in the articleThe Psychopath: Emotion And The Brain. Psychopaths have trouble controlling their desires, and this can manifest itself in a very visible way. Psychopaths often seem very impulsive, and are unable to focus on one thing for a long time, especially if they are attracted to numerous things at once. This can become obvious in the way a psychopath talks and communicates.

John Clarke points out a great example of this in his book, Working With Monsters: How To Identify And Protect Yourself From Workplace Psychopaths. The psychopath he studied, Wayne, had a very distinct way of speaking. He would shift rapidly from one topic to another, which would confuse people. But John Clarke pointed out this wasn’t just an accident, or a result of Wayne not being able to control his impulses. This was a deliberate effort to confuse his victims, and to portray himself as an expert in many areas – when in reality, he only knew one or two things about each subject.

9. Learned Helplessness

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“Learned Helpless” is an interesting phenomenon. It’s defined as “a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression.” This is a commonly used tactic by psychopaths to psychologically “break people.” If you can instigate learned helplessness in someone, it will destroy their self-esteem, and deeply humiliate them.

But how do you force someone to experience learned helplessness? John Clarke shows a stunning example in Working With Monsters: How To Identify And Protect Yourself From Workplace Psychopaths. Wayne would assign his employees tasks that he knew were impossible. Then, when they had devoted hours and hours to completing this impossible task, he would tell them that it was too late and all their work had been for nothing. This would humiliate them and break them psychologically. This is one thing to look out for if you think you’re dealing with a psychopath, especially in the workplace.

10. They Will Isolate You

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Another thing that psychopaths will often try to do is to get you alone. This is because psychopaths can better manipulate you or harm you when you’re in a one-on-one setting. They know that individuals, especially shy ones, will be more submissive and more likely to obey when they don’t have the safety of others to turn to. In addition, psychopaths know that they’re more likely to get away with their crimes if no one is watching.

John Clarke talks about this extensively in his aforementioned book. In one situation, he talks about Wayne bringing his shy female assistants with him on business trips, where he knew they would be more likely to accept sexual advances out of fear – both of losing her job and of Wayne himself. The fear was heightened because they were alone together. This is something you really need to look out for when dealing with psychopaths.

 

 

20 Comments

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  1. This article had everything I like in an article! Sources, good resources listed, and detailed examples and descriptions. This could be very, very helpful for some people to help avoid abusive people or relationships. Although I do want to know if it’s possible to be a psychopath and live a completely normal, non abusive life. Just because I see so many articles and so much media describing them as horrible and evil.

  2. I liked the detail and the examples that were used to illustrate the different signs of a psychopath. They kept me engaged and made things much more relevant. Although, I would suggest that if one main source is going to be used, to support every example or many of the examples given in the article, that it be written in the introduction. In that way, the reference does not need to be repeated in nearly every single paragraph describing a different idea. Additionally, I agree with the commentators that mentioned the distracting nature of the photographs used to increase engagement and emphasize the main idea of the particular signs of psychopathy. One or two striking photos would have been fine, but right now I seem to remember the ominous feeling of the photographs more than the actual sign they were referring to.

  3. This was an interesting article, and I liked how there were examples of when a psychopath was exhibiting different traits. It might be useful to add possible ways to get away from a psychopath in the workplace.

  4. I wonder what country the author of this article is from ? 🙂 I am interested because, depending on where you live, the diagnosis criteria defining a psychopath may really vary ! For example, “american psychopaths” have nothing to do with the french ones. The cultures are very different, so signs do not express themselves in the same way, and the pathologies themselves may not refer to the same things.
    This could explain why I felt confused while reading this article : in my country, we hear about psychopaths in fiction, but they do not seem to be “everywhere”, and we see way more victims from abusive sociopaths than from psychopaths (but maybe there are countries where the two things are considered the same ?)

  5. I like the way this article was presented, with the images along with the text. However, psychopaths aren’t all dangerous or bad. Psychopathy is a personality disorder, and there are traits that can actually help people in their lives. Note, “The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success.” By Andy McNab and Kevin Dutton for information on this.

    • I agree with what you’re saying. Many of the world’s most successful people probably had or have psychopathic personality disorder. This article was meant to me guide to spot when and IF a psychopath becomes dangerous. It is implied that the psychopath has already become a danger – we’re excluding “good” psychopaths from the discussion here right from the get go. But maybe I should have made that clearer.

  6. An interesting read. I liked the clear way the text was written in, though I would have appreciated less of the repetitive mention of John Clarke’s book. It would have been fine enough if you’d mentioned it perhaps twice, and then after that just referred to John Clarke, and continue on with what he wrote. Having the title of the book repeated so often almost made it sound like it was being advertised to us, instead of simply putting it out there as a reference point.

    I would have also liked to read about the neurological differences in a person that would make them stand out and be considered psychopathic, even if it would just be a short paragraph; that way there might be a better understanding of the motives/reasons behind the points mentioned in this article [or perhaps in general merely explain what is psychopathy first].

    Otherwise, a pleasantly short, albeit general, view on how to spot psychopaths.

  7. Covered psychopathic modus operandi that aren’t generally known! I am a true crime conisseur & have read profiler books, familiar with DSM manual etc, and the inclusiveness was a big surprise to me! I was once married to a sociopath who confused me so much , I had to record everything I said! I really liked the emphasis about how they are everywhere!
    What I learned from my ex sociopathic spouse is do not trust those who seem perfect, aka Bundy!
    Nobody has it all !
    I agree with some of the other comments regarding writing errors, however, the content and explanations are so strong that these errors didn’t take away from the worth of the article!

  8. These traits overlap with what I’ve read to be traits of domestic abusers and malignant narcassists. I believe that the general notion is that a narcassist may not be a psychopath, but a psychopath is narcissistic. It’s a little unfathomable to me how it is that something so volatile as the possession and illusion of power
    control is to dysfunctional behavior.

    You did a great job with explaining each trait. I noticed that you didn’t mention empathy, or behaviors that would be subtle cues of lack of empathy, such as not picking up a yawn.

    Do you believe that not being susceptible to yawning is a useful indicator for possible psychopathy?

  9. This is not a topic I have ever read about before, so this was a very interesting read. Most people don’t think about the fact that psychopaths are more than just villains in books and movies. I have never actually considered the idea that I may have met one at some point in my life. That being said, I feel like there are certain parts of this article that could be rewritten more eloquently, one instance that stands out being the blunt usage of the phrase “watch you die.” Although this may be true, a less blunt approach to the topic will be more inviting to the reader. Also, although there were multiple sources used, the repetitive use of John Clarke’s book makes this article start to feel like a paper analyzing his work towards the end. I would recommend using his data more sparingly. Another thing I would change would be the images used. They feel a bit too creepy and horror movie-esque for the topic. Lastly, I think the inclusion of the conspiracy theory that Johnson had anything to do with Kennedy’s assassination was completely unnecessary.

  10. This article may have been informative but I think the basis of the information was a little unrealistic. The thing about a psychopath is that they operate not to be detected by their prey. If you are being targeted by a psychopath the chances are very low that you’re actually going to realize it until its too late. These are like “third- person” signs. These are signs someone from the outside can see. The way the article is worded makes me feel like these should be “Second-person” signs or signs that “you” can see. A person being targeted by a psychopath will not be able to see these signs, same as the people of Jonestown could not see the signs until it was too late.

  11. This was a great article and really informative. This is such an important topic to cover, and should definitely be discussed more. Psychopaths aren’t always like the ones you see in movies, there are psychopaths we encounter in daily life as well. All of the information in this article was great, I loved that it explained how to spot a psychopath so people can watch out for the signs. I would be curious if there are specific things you can do when dealing with a psychopath though to keep yourself safe.
    Over all, it was written really well and very intriguing and informative!

  12. Great article! Everything about this article was well done. I liked the way you open this article about how to really spot a psychopath and questions like how do I tell if a psychopath is targeting me or not? You also did a great job at providing appropriate evidence that ultimately back up your facts. On top of that you also opened my eyes to an interesting book that Ill have to check up on. Keep up the good work.

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Written by Sosa Manuel

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Elliot Figueira has had a passion for writing since he was extremely young. He's also very interested in psychology, and is an admirer of Carl Jung. He enjoys writing about all kinds of subjects, because every day he learns something new.

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10 Signs A Psychopath Is Targeting You