When we think of psychopaths, we imagine the most sadist, malevolent serial killers. But research states that one in 22 people is a psychopath. Think about it. That means you and I have come across one. So, if they exist in society, where can we find them? Are there different types of psychopaths and are some worse than others?

What Is a Psychopath?

Psychopaths fascinate us. We wonder what causes individuals to lack conscience and empathy, causing chaos and destruction in their wake? But psychopathy isn’t all or nothing; it exists on a spectrum, and like many disorders, has a variety of characteristics.

Psychopaths use psychopathic traits to get what they want, with little regard for anyone else. The Hare Checklist is used to detect psychopathic traits, such as impulsiveness, lack of empathy or remorse, dominance, predatory nature, charisma, and risk-taking.

Current research into psychopathy suggests psychopathic traits fall into three distinct categories. Professor of Psychology at Florida University, Christopher Patrick, created the ‘tri-archic model’.

Types of psychopathic symptoms include:

  • Boldness: socially confident, adventurous, dominant, emotionally resilient
  • Meanness: lack of empathy, inability to bond with and contempt towards others, exploitative and predatory nature, little regard for others
  • Dis-inhibited: risk-taking, impulsive behavior, irresponsible, problems controlling behavior

Now that we understand psychopathy more, what types of psychopaths are there?

5 Types of Psychopaths

1. The God Complex

Selfie addiction can be directly linked to psychopathic behaviours and tendencies

The types of psychopaths that score highly on traits such as boldness, low anxiousness, and dominance can present with a God Complex. Their fearless nature, coupled with a lack of regard for others makes them ideal candidates for jobs such as surgeons.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, you cannot make life or death decisions if you struggle with your feelings.

Psychopaths don’t doubt their abilities and they certainly don’t care what people think of them. Again, this doesn’t have to be a negative trait, and if you had a choice, who would you want operating on your loved one? The nervous wreck who can’t hold a scalpel because they’re so anxious, or the one brimming with confidence that goes in and gets the job done?

However, a surgeon that lacks ability combined with a God Complex is a dangerous combination. Take Dr Death for example.

Christopher Duntsch was a spinal neurosurgeon operating in Dallas, Texas. In two years, 33 of the 37 people he operated on sustained shocking injuries unheard of in the medical profession. Patients were left with screws jammed into spinal discs, surgical hardware left in their bodies, nerves amputated, vocal cords, veins and arteries cut.

Duntsch didn’t seem to understand basic human biology. He mistook neck muscles for tumors and amputated them. He left spinal fragments inside the spinal canal and routinely botched just about every minor spinal surgery he undertook. He was eventually ordered to stop operating and jailed for life in 2017.

However, in true psychopathic style, he refused to take responsibility. He complained bitterly and vocally that everyone was against him, even writing an 80-page manifesto outlining how his operations were a ‘perfect success’.

2. The Ruthless CEO

Friends Who Take Advantage of You phrases

When we think about types of psychopaths, we imagine the despotic leader, ruling with an iron fist. And we are not wrong. Research confirms 1 in 5 business leaders to have psychopathic tendencies.

Leadership roles offer exactly the environment a psychopath desires, which is status, power, and control. Studies highlight the hallmark traits of a corporate psychopath as fearlessness, inhibition, lack of empathy, anxiety and remorse, and living in an egocentric world view with a willingness to manipulate others.

Some of the most influential people in the last few decades have shown obvious patterns of low empathy and meanness.

For example, Steve Jobs would often bully and berate his employees, making a point of parking in disabled bays. Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes made millions of dollars selling a fraudulent blood test.

Martha Stewart founded a global empire but was a pathological liar and frequently described as manipulative. Courts jailed her for obstruction of justice regarding insider trading. Elon Musk may be a billionaire but acts like a stroppy teenager when people don’t agree with him.

However, where CEOs are concerned, it’s not the psychopathy that’s the problem, it’s how much. Melbourne psychiatrist Carly Dober talks about a ‘sweet spot’ in psychopathy. Too much psychopathy produces fear and stifles motivation and creativity.

“But too little is apparently also a drawback. The boldness associated with psychopathic tendencies may manifest in a leader who is able to make difficult decisions or act in times of uncertainty, when other people are more constrained by fear.” Carly Dober, Director at the Australian Association of Psychologists

Successful CEOs score lower on negative psychopathic traits (contempt for others, exploitative or predatory nature, irresponsible) and higher on the positive traits (socially confident, adventurous, fearless dominance).

3. The Incompetent Criminal

psychotic female killer

Why are so many psychopaths in prison? Yale University psychologist Arielle Baskin-Sommers, PhD, has a theory. Psychopaths with elevated levels of dis-inhibition often have problems with abstract reasoning, planning ahead, and seeing the bigger picture (especially if there is a reward at stake).

Baskin-Sommers describes an “exaggerated attention bottleneck,” where psychopaths are so focused on one aspect, they don’t look at any other details. This targeted focus (on the reward) can lead to mistakes, which eventually get them caught.

Although I’m not including serial killers in my types of psychopaths list, they do present illuminating examples of reckless behavior. One example is the serial killer Dennis Rader or BTK, as he is known. BTK stands for ‘Bind, Torture, Kill’, which is what Rader did to his ten victims over nearly two decades.

Rader liked to taunt the police with letters boasting of his crimes. The police caught him after he asked them if they could trace floppy discs? “Be honest,” Rader said. The police lied and said no. Rader sent the discs which were immediately traced, and the police caught him. Rader’s preoccupation with taunting led to his capture.

Another example is millionaire Robert Durst, the New York real-estate heir. He was on the run from the police under suspicion of murdering his wife (who had disappeared), a crime writer who was writing about it, and his landlord who had recognized him from Wanted posters.

Durst was adept at avoiding police attention, but despite having money in his pocket, he got arrested for stealing a sandwich and returned to jail.

US serial killer Ted Bundy was on the run from police, but instead of keeping a low profile he broke into a sorority house where he killed two students and brutally beat two others.

“Her jaw was actually hanging off one side,” he said. “It was only, only one hinge was still attached. … She was totally incoherent and in shock.” Ray Crew, attending police officer

Bundy had not finished. He was four blocks away, attacking another student. His goal that night was to satiate his bloodlust. Nothing else mattered. He wasn’t thinking about the consequences or the risk to his freedom.

4. The Love Rat

narcissist hoovering

Romance scams are big business. According to a Netflix documentary, Americans lost over $1bn in 2021 from romantic scams. With the rise of the internet and dating apps, it’s not surprising that romance fraud is on the rise.

Romantic fraudsters play the long game, often spending months grooming their victim with love bombing tactics coupled with tales of woe designed to elicit sympathy.

This type of psychopath uses charm and manipulation to shower their victims with compliments, presents or flowers, whilst at the same time weaving their stories of tragedy. The romance scammer is after money or property, but won’t ask for it straight away.

Psychopaths can play the role of devoted lover because they’re emotionally resilient. They don’t bond with people, so it’s easy for them to predate and exploit others. They won’t care if they leave you penniless with a broken heart. The most they’ll experience is contempt for you; you should have known better.

One famous example of an online scammer is Simon Leviev, or the Tinder Swindler. Israeli-born Leviev pretended to be the son of a billionaire diamond and would lavish his victims with expensive dinners, jewelry and designer goods and then ask to borrow their credit cards because someone was after him.

He would use money from one victim to charm the next one. He defrauded his victims of around $10m.

5. The Workplace Psychopath

The workplace psychopath is last in my list of types of psychopaths, but it’s an interesting one. Research into psychopathy has come a long way. We once thought psychopaths were only to be found in prison settings, now we know that many occupy leadership and managerial roles.

But just as all psychopaths are not serial killers, they’re also not in prison, or running a highly successful company. So, are there workplace psychopaths?

One study investigated workplace psychopaths. They sent out a questionnaire to see if employees had experienced negative treatment such as bullying, ridiculing, harassment, gender discrimination, sarcastic comments, or yelling.

The study concluded there was a link between this type of negative behavior and workplace psychopaths. Moreover, this behavior only increases under psychopathic leaders. So, if a manager or supervisor shows psychopathic traits, workers are also more likely to copy them.

The workplace psychopath uses gender discrimination, bullying tactics, and aggressive humor to divide and conquer the workplace to gain control.

Which type of psychopath should you avoid?

So, which of the above types of psychopaths should you avoid? Well, most likely all of them. However, the workplace psychopath is one we’ve all met and had to deal with. Coping with the negative effects of daily and insidious abuse can have terrible consequences for our mental health.

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We spend a huge amount of time with our work colleagues, and having to work in a toxic environment can be severely debilitating. But my absolute top choice of types of psychopaths to avoid is the love rat. Not only can they leave you penniless, but they can break your heart, leaving you wary of trusting others.

Final Thoughts

Psychopaths come in many shapes and guises. They are not just found in prisons or top management, and if you think carefully, I bet you can identify one in your own life.


  1. apa.org
  2. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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