What Goes on in a Psychopath’s Mind?

What Goes on in a Psychopath’s Mind?

a man making horrible face

We sit back at home watching the news about a heinous crime that someone Committed and think “How can a person do this to another person?”, “Why did they do it?”, “How can someone take pleasure in torturing someone? “By definition, we know that an individual who commits such heinous crimes without any remorse is called a psychopath, but why? Why do they project such selfish, violent and callous behavior? All of these are questioning the psyche of the person. This article will help you understand what might be going on inside the mind of a psychopath.

Over the years, researchers have tried to find answers to these questions. A study was conducted by scanning the brains of 20 criminals who were diagnosed with psychopathy and 20 criminals who were not diagnosed with it in prison. This was the first study to identify functional and structural differences in between psychopaths and other human beings. They have found that there are reduced connections between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which are responsible for sentiments like empathy and guilt, and the amygdala which mediates fear and anxiety.

Overlap with Conduct Disorder

There is a lack of communication between these two parts of the brain that are responsible for regulating emotions and social behavior which impacts their decision-making skills. Psychopathy is considered a personality disorder, but it has been incorporated under “Anti-Social Personality Disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). There are four diagnostic criteria, of which Criterion A has seven features to diagnose someone with this disorder. A psychopath also has traits of conduct disorder or conduct disorder. Onset of Conduct Disorder is present before the age of 15, but they have to display anti-social features prior to the age of 18 to be diagnosed with the Anti-Social Disorder.

Conduct disorder is if children and adolescents under the age of 18 repeatedly violate the rights of other people and refuse to conform to what is considered normal behavior by the law and society. They indulge in theft, vandalism, aggressive behaviors, lying or violating rules for at least six months. This is a cue for the caregiver to understand that the child needs immediate intervention. It has been studied that there is very little possibility of effective treatment for persons with Antisocial Personality Disorder, so they are within criminal justice institutions. Research has also shown that APD feel a degree of empathy which means some form of training can be beneficial for them. There have been cases where individuals converting religious or spiritual Have reformed themselves to successfully integrate with society, but this is not a well-studied area. APD is incurable but it is treatable.


Ted Bundy is the most spoken example, whenever we read about psychopaths. He was a psychology major student too after he explored other areas of work. He had a successful college life because of his intelligence and social skills. Also, he was successful in having Serious and normal emotional relationships with women during college.

The Cultural Impact

So who would have thought that a man like himself would become a serial killer and a psychopath later in his life? He was a child of a wedlock and his maternal grandparents adopted him, so he grew up thinking his mother was his sister, he was assaulted by his stepfather later when his mother got married to another man. He was rejected by a girl who he really liked. His difficult childhood and rejections are believed as main reasons for psychopathy. He has kidnapped, assaulted, mutilated and murdered numerous women in seven states who gained a lot of attention during that time. His acts and behaviors were so intriguing that movies were made keeping him as an inspiration.

Netflix launched a series called “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” which is an adaptation of the book “Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer Book’’ by Hugh Aynesworth and Stephen G. Michaud. It is believed that he was a narcissist and the 100 hours long tapes that he recorded with an interviewer mostly contain him talking about himself. There are a lot of theories drawn from these tapes as he kept on changing his stories. Since he was electrocuted while on death row, his true motivation or precise causes will never be discovered.

Rehabilitation Over Punishment

We always have choices and we make a choice to commit a crime most of the time. There are triggers and intentions that drive an individual to commit a crime. Researchers and law enforcement officers all over the world are trying to figure out what motivates such criminals to break the law- is it poverty, personality or something else- to make necessary changes to the system. People rarely consider the psychological distress that the individual might be experiencing or a mental illness that rehabilitative measures can cure. But the conundrum continues because powerful individuals end up figuring out loopholes in the system.

It has become easy to escape crimes by faking a mental illness Certificate. All of this has increased the stereotype that all mentally ill people are dangerous and capable of crimes. Severe mental illness can lead to someone breaking a law, but does not imply that they all will end up killing someone else. This is why scientific studies like criminal psychology and forensic psychology are necessary to understand a criminal’s thoughts and behaviors. It is important to bring this to the forefront, and make it more accessible for the public to read and educate themselves.

Leave feedback about this

  • Rating