What it's like living as a female psychopath? Shortage of research gradually remedied

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EXCERPTS: . . . "The world's leading academics have debated the definition of psychopathy," says Abigail Marsh, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Georgetown University, in Washington DC. "You'll get very different explanations of psychopathy depending on whether you are talking to a forensic psychologist or a criminologist."

Marsh says that criminal psychologists tend to classify people as having psychopathy only when they display violent and extreme behaviour. For her, however, the condition displays itself as a spectrum with other, less dramatic behaviour that can vary from person to person.

[...] "Being around a callous or manipulative person is often devastating for people who are close to them, and exhausting for people living with extreme psychopathy," says Marsh.

She says that the majority of studies concerning people with psychopathy have been conducted on criminal offenders. [...] it is a field that is still understudied in the general population, while even less research is conducted on women.

[...] While a number of studies suggest that psychopathy is more prevalent in men than women, Marsh argues this may be due to how the testing was devised in the first instance. "Initial psychopathy scales were primarily developed and tested on a prison population of men in British Columbia by Bob Hare," she says.

[...] One analysis by researchers in 2005 also contrasted core characteristics of women and men with psychopathy. They suggested that women often exhibited traits like debilitating impulsiveness (such as a lack of planning), thrill-seeking in interpersonal relationships, and verbal aggression. The researchers argued that psychopathy in men meanwhile tends to manifest with physical aggression and violence. At the time they stated, however, that not enough research had been conducted into why this may be the case. Seventeen years later, not much has changed.

[...] Ana Sanz Garcia, a psychology PhD student at the University of Madrid, and her colleagues conducted a more recent analysis in 2021 of published research studies that included over 11,000 adults who were evaluated for psychopathy. ... She told the BBC that the studies to date show women with psychopathy show less propensity for violence and crime than men, but more examples of interpersonal manipulation.

[...] Again, there has not been enough research to determine why, but one recent study in France points at a potential answer – coldness and lack of emotion appears to play a far more central role in women's psychopathy than it does with men. Women also exhibit fewer of the violent and antagonistic behaviours seen in male pyschopathy.

[...] Victoria says her own manipulative behaviour began appearing as a way of keeping herself amused.

She was born in Malaysia to a working class family. Her father's alcoholism and lack of personal accountability for the consequences of his drinking made her home an unhappy one. She thrived academically at school but was often bored. For fun she would enjoy passing on confidential pieces of information people told her, secrets she had sworn to keep.

[...] What she does take exception to are those videos that discuss whether people with psychopathy are more prone to harming animals. "Many of us prefer animals to humans," she says curtly, looking down at Gibberish, who purrs out of vision.

[...] The "us" Victoria is referring to is an online community of women like her. It centres mostly around the blog of writer ME Thomas, perhaps one of the most well-known women with psychopathy. Thomas scored over 99% when assessed for psychopathy by John Edens, a forensic psychologist at Texas A&M University.

[...] "I see myself as a formula, not a person," Thomas says. "It's like being an Excel spreadsheet where I work out what to do and say by calculating the possible outcome."

An example might be telling someone she loves them when she wants something from them, says Thomas. It is something she has done a few times, she says, and it has led to the breakdown of several relationships.

One 2012 study at the University of Zurich also found laughter is often used by people with psychopathy as an intentionally manipulative device, helping them to control the conversation, for example. Or at times laughing at, not with, the person they were speaking to.

[...] a 27-year-old German woman. Alice says that it is frustrating to read articles or watch depictions of people with psychopathy as evil individuals who must all be avoided. "We exist on a scale like everyone else."

Like Thomas, Alice is immediately likeable, perhaps because she smiles a lot. She admits early that she is mimicking what she knows is socially appropriate. Alice has done this her whole life. When her grandmother died, she observed her sister's grief and mirrored her behaviour.

She says she also pretends to be sarcastic as it allows her to get away with saying what's on her mind without causing alarm... (MORE - missing details)

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