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More women may be psychopaths than previously thought

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When it involves a normal psychopath, the perfect and booted Patrick Bateman from the radical American Psycho may spring to mind, but, in line with one expert, the wide variety of ladies with the neuropsychiatric sickness might be a long way extra than formerly thought.

Psychopaths are commonly taken into consideration to lack empathy and guilt, show off delinquent behaviour, lie regularly and be ruthless, narcissistic and manipulative.

“Psychopaths are after money, power and control,” said Dr Clive Boddy, from Anglia Ruskin University, who is an expert on psychopaths in the corporate world.
While the idea of psychopaths as violent, antisocial criminals has given way to a more nuanced view – with Boddy among those to argue they are often found in big business – the idea that they are mostly male has remained.

“The behaviour of female psychopaths seems to be subtle enough and less obvious than male psychopaths and therefore they’re not recognised as much,” Boddy said.

“A small but mounting body of evidence describes female psychopaths as prone to expressing violence verbally rather than physically, with the violence being of a relational and emotional nature, more subtle and less obvious than that expressed by male psychopaths,” he noted, adding that may include spreading rumours and lies for personal advantage.

Boddy said one problem was that part of the assessment used to identify psychopaths – known as the Levenson self-report psychopathy scale (LSRP) – was skewed towards identifying the disorder in men.
That, he said, was because while the first part of the assessment looked at how emotionally detached, selfish, uncaring and manipulative a person was, the second part – which covered the psychopathic lifestyle – focused on violence and antisocial behaviour.

“The secondary element, and the measures for it, were largely based on studies of criminals who were in jail at the time and psychopathic – so the feeling is, among researchers these days, that those measures are just not suited to identifying female psychopathy.”

There had also been fewer studies looking at psychopathy in women than in men, he said, and assessors may be reluctant to label women as psychopaths.

Some estimates have suggested there could be a 10:1 ratio of male to female psychopaths, but Boddy’s work, using only the first part of the LSRP, suggested the figures were very different.

“It’s almost one to one,” Boddy said, although he noted large-scale studies of randomly chosen adults would be needed to get a more definitive picture.

Boddy, who is due to give a talk on female psychopaths at the Cambridge festival next month, said that while an estimated 1% of men were psychopaths, the diagnosis sat at one end of a spectrum.

“Estimates [using the first part of the LSRP suggest] there are about 23% of men who, although they’re not categorically psychopathic, have enough of the traits to be problematic for society,” he said.

Boddy’s own research, based on surveys of white-collar workers, suggested such traits were not uncommon in females. “Around 12% to 13% of females have enough of those traits to be potentially problematic,” he said.

Recognising psychopathy in women and men was important, Boddy said, not least because such individuals could have a huge impact in the workplace, with employees sidelined, abused and bullied. In addition, he noted, businesses led by such individuals could lose direction, and it could affect how people viewed large organisations.

“They see the greed, untruthfulness and ruthlessness of those at the top and this undermines democracy and the rule of law,” he said.

Boddy advocated for screening to be applied to job applicants to help protect employees.

“Especially the higher up you go in terms of seniority – therefore you have more power and control – the more those sorts of screening tests and psychometric tests are needed,” he said.

Imperial Hospital Sylhet
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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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