Psychopath woman signs

10 Traits of a Female Psychopath

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Published: February 9, 2022 Updated: October 13, 2022

Published: 02/09/2022 Updated: 10/13/2022

Most psychopaths are portrayed as violent, dangerous criminals who lack the ability to feel empathy or remorse, but female psychopaths often don’t fit this profile. Female psychopaths are less physically violent, commit fewer crimes, and also show different traits than male psychopaths.1,2,3. Women psychopaths can be harder to detect because they are more emotional, social, and display fewer antisocial traits than men.2,3

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What is a Psychopath?

A psychopath is a term used to describe someone who has a very severe form of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). People with ASPD have social and emotional deficits that limit their ability to experience emotions or feel true empathy or remorse for their actions. Because of these deficits, psychopaths are more likely to become violent and abusive, and are considered some of the most dangerous people in society.4,5

Male and female psychopaths share certain antisocial traits like a lack of empathy and remorse and a pattern of violating other people’s rights.4,5 Still, men and women psychopaths are different in the way they victimize others, with women using less violent methods of aggression.1 Female psychopath traits and symptoms can also vary, and can include more impulsivity, irritability, and social interest.2,3,6

Below are 10 signs that can help you spot a female psychopath.

1. They Develop Relationships With Their Victims

One of the traits of a female psychopath is the tendency to form relationships with the people they victimize. While male psychopaths usually target strangers, females are much more likely to victimize people they know.2

Some female psychopaths use flirtation or sex to lure in people with money or power and then lie, con, or manipulate these people into giving them things.6 This tendency shows the cold-hearted nature of the female psychopath, who won’t feel bad about hurting or using others, even those closest to her.

2. They Use Indirect Forms of Aggression

Female psychopaths are just as aggressive as males, but they just use different, less direct forms of aggression.1 While male psychopaths are prone to physical aggression, female psychopaths use relational aggression like gossipping, excluding people, or forming alliances against someone.1,3

Some may even threaten to self-harm in order to manipulate other people, or they may lash out at people when they’re upset, name-calling or becoming verbally abusive. 1,6

3. They Play the Victim Card

One of the unique traits of female psychopaths is their tendency to present themselves as a victim in order to get attention, pity, or to emotionally manipulate others to get what they want.1,3 Female psychopaths may use the victim card or play the “damsel in distress” to pull at the heartstrings of people who are empathetic, caring, or generous.

In some cases, female psychopaths paint themselves as victims to avoid getting in trouble or being held accountable for their actions. This is another form of manipulation and deceit that is more common in female psychopaths than males.1,3

4. They Can’t Hold in Their Anger for Long

Male psychopaths can be calm, cool, and calculated, but female psychopaths have a much harder time controlling anger.1,2,3 They are more irritable and prone to angry outbursts.1,3 Unlike a normal (non-psychopathic) person, most psychopathic females feel relieved after they lash out, instead of feeling guilty.

Female psychopaths sometimes even feel entitled to their angry and aggressive responses, placing the blame on the other person.1 Their tendency to act on their pent-up anger and impulses is one of the reasons why female psychopaths have a harder time functioning, and experience more social impairment than men.3

5. They Use Deceptive Tactics to Get What They Want

While male psychopaths are more violent and direct in taking what they want from people, female psychopaths tend to rely more on deception. For example, it’s much more common for female psychopaths to be arrested for fraud or extortion, rather than for physical or sexual assault (unlike male psychopaths).6

These kinds of crimes highlight the deceptive and cunning nature of the female psychopath, who may come up with elaborate cover stories and lies to con or manipulate people.2,3,6

6. They Want Acceptance, but Sabotage Relationships

Typically, people who have antisocial personality disorder develop strategic relationships to get things they want, and not because they have a desire for connection or acceptance. Psychopath females are often more social and some even have a true desire to be accepted by people.2,3

The problem is that because they tend to also be cruel and impulsive, they are unable to maintain healthy, lasting relationships. Instead, they are more likely to sabotage their relationships by victimizing those closest to them.3

One form of relational aggression that’s common among female psychopaths (and also a sign of a sociopath) is the tendency to use personal information about other people against them. Female psychopaths may use secret or personal information about other people against them as leverage to bribe, manipulate or control them.

For example, they might threaten to expose information about a previous affair or substance use problem their boss had unless they agree to pay them more. Some will also gossip or spread rumors or lies about other people who they want to discredit, which is another form of relational aggression.1,8

8. They Get Other People to Do Their Dirty Work

A female psychopath is better at forming strategic relationships to get people to do things for them, especially their “dirty work” they don’t want to do. While they aren’t usually physically violent, female psychopaths engaged in crime often have male counterparts who “handle” the violent aspects of their crimes.6 They may also con or convince other people to commit other illegal or immoral acts on their behalf, often so they can declare innocence later or have a scapegoat later on.

9. They Are Emotionally Unstable

Another common trait of a female psychopath is emotional instability. While male psychopaths often have a restricted range of emotions which makes them cool and detached, females with this disorder may not show this trait.2,3,4 Research shows women psychopaths are more likely to struggle with depressive symptoms and mood problems, and also more likely to struggle with anger and jealousy than males. 2,3

10. They Are Good at Pretending

Psychopaths and sociopaths both can use superficial charm or charisma to lure people close to them, but women may be better at this than men. For example, male psychopaths tend to display more narcissism but female psychopaths often seem friendly, charming, and even passive at first.1,2

The deceptive tactics used by a female psychopath makes them harder to detect, and more successful at forming relationships.7 Unfortunately, they will often end up using, abusing, or taking advantage of those who they end up getting close to.3

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Differences Between Psychopathy in Men & Women

Most research shows that men are three to five times more likely to become psychopaths than women. 2,3,7 However, some experts believe that the gender disparity isn’t actually this large, and note that signs of a psychopath female are different and harder to detect.2,3 For example, female psychopaths are less likely to be physically violent and also more social and emotional, which contradicts the classic portrayal of a psychopath.1,3

Some of the main differences between male and female psychopaths are:1,3,6,7,8

  • Male psychopaths use physical aggression or behavioral aggression while females use indirect or relational aggression
  • Male psychopaths commit more crimes than female psychopaths, and specifically more violent crimes than females
  • Male psychopaths show less interest in forming relationships or being liked and accepted than female psychopaths
  • Male psychopaths are more likely to be cold, detached, and unemotional, and female psychopaths are more emotional, dramatic, irritable, and impulsive
  • Male psychopaths show earlier antisocial traits and behaviors (before the age of 10) than females do (usually in their teens)

How to Deal with a Female Psychopath

Psychopaths have the most severe form of antisocial personality disorder, and are dangerous because they lack the ability to feel empathy or remorse. 4,5 While female psychopaths tend to be less physically violent, they are still dangerous people who are very likely to lie, steal, cheat, and manipulate other people.

Female psychopaths are more likely to develop relationships with people before they victimize them, making them even more of a threat to those who allow them into their lives.1,3,7

For these reasons, it’s recommended to cut ties with a female who shows signs of being a psychopath. When this isn’t possible, limiting interactions, setting boundaries, and keeping your distance from them is recommended. Those who have had relationships with a sociopath or a female psychopath may also benefit from seeing a therapist, especially if they’ve been victimized. Using an online therapist directory is a good starting place because it allows people to narrow their search and choose a therapist with a specific speciality in APSD.

Final Thoughts

Psychopaths are considered some of the most dangerous people in society because they lack empathy and remorse, making them highly likely to victimize other people. 1,3,4 Female psychopaths aren’t common, but this may partly be because their antisocial traits and tendencies are different and harder to spot.1,3,7 Being able to spot the signs of psychopathic traits in women can help people avoid letting these dangerous individuals into their lives.

Additional Resources

Education is just the first step on our path to improved mental health and emotional wellness. To help our readers take the next step in their journey, Choosing Therapy has partnered with leaders in mental health and wellness. Choosing Therapy may be compensated for referrals by the companies mentioned below.

BetterHelp (Online Therapy) – BetterHelp has over 20,000 licensed therapists who provide convenient and affordable online therapy. BetterHelp starts at $60 per week. Complete a brief questionnaire and get matched with the right therapist for you. Get Started – Receive help from a caring professional. The standard plan includes a weekly 45 minute video session, unlimited text messaging between sessions, and self-guided activities like journaling. Recently, they added Yoga videos. Get Started

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Choosing Therapy’s Directory – Find an experienced therapist specializing in anxiety. You can search for a therapist by specialty, availability, insurance, and affordability. Therapist profiles and introductory videos provide insight into the therapist’s personality so you find the right fit. Find a therapist today.

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For Further Reading

  • The Aftermath is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing information, resources, and support for victims of psychopaths, including articles, podcasts, support forums for survivors, and workshops.
  • Psychopath Free is one of the most popular books on healing from psychopathic abuse, but also has become an online forum for survivors of psychopathic abuse to share their stories and find recovery resources.
  • Psychopath Victims website has many articles and resources for those wanting to learn more about psychopathy

8 sources

Choosing Therapy strives to provide our readers with mental health content that is accurate and actionable. We have high standards for what can be cited within our articles. Acceptable sources include government agencies, universities and colleges, scholarly journals, industry and professional associations, and other high-integrity sources of mental health journalism. Learn more by reviewing our full editorial policy.

  • Smith, J. M., Gacono, C. B., & Cunliffe, T. B. (2020). Female psychopathy and aggression: A study with incarcerated women and Rorschach aggression scores. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 29(8), 936-952.

  • Cunliffe, T. B., Gacono, C. B., Smith, J. M., Kivisto, A. J., Meloy, J. R., & Taylor, E. E. (2016). Assessing psychopathy in women. In C. B. Gacono (Ed.), The clinical and forensic assessment of psychopathy: A practitioner’s guide (pp. 167–190). Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

  • Alegria, A. A., Blanco, C., Petry, N. M., Skodol, A. E., Liu, S. M., Grant, B., & Hasin, D. (2013). Sex differences in antisocial personality disorder: results from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 4(3), 214.

  • Johnson, S. A. (2019). Understanding the violent personality: Antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy, & sociopathy explored. Forensic Research & Criminology International Journal, 7(2), 76-88.

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Am Psychiatric Assoc, 21.

  • Wynn, R., Høiseth, M. H., & Pettersen, G. (2012). Psychopathy in women: theoretical and clinical perspectives. International journal of women’s health, 4, 257–263.

  • Verona, E., & Vitale, J. (2018). Psychopathy in women: Assessment, manifestations, and etiology. In C. J. Patrick (Ed.), Handbook of psychopathy (pp. 509–528). The Guilford Press.

  • Odgers, C. L., & Moretti, M. M. (2002). Aggressive and antisocial girls: Research update and challenges. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 1(2), 103-119.

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How to Identify a Female Psychopath

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In an earlier post, I discussed how to spot a psychopath by looking for three distinctive traits. Now, when we hear the word psychopath, we usually think of men. When it comes to psychopaths, most examples are of men. This is true of fictional characters, like Hannibal Lecter and Jim Moriarty, and it is also true of real-life psychopaths, like Charles Manson and Ted Bundy.

But what about women? Is there such a thing as a female psychopath?

The truth is, we don’t hear a lot about female psychopaths. They are rarely depicted in fiction—the only notable exceptions I can think of are Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction, Annie Wilkes in Misery, and Amy Dunne in Gone Girl. And they are rarely studied in the scientific literature. But that doesn’t mean that female psychopaths don’t exist.

In fact, the few studies that have been conducted tell us that an estimated 17% of incarcerated women fit the criteria of a psychopath (compared to 30% of incarcerated men). But what about outside the prison system? What are the odds that right now, you have a female psychopath lurking in your life?

In truth, the odds are fairly good. An estimated 1 in 100 people fit the definition of a psychopath. But most are not deranged killers. In fact, most psychopaths evade detection. They may be your doctor, your lawyer, your boss, or your co-worker. So the chances are good that you have at least one psychopath in your life, and that person may well be a woman.

But here is the problem. Because we rarely discuss female psychopaths or see them in the news or in the movies, we are not as good at spotting them as male psychopaths. In part, this is because female psychopaths don’t necessarily look and act the same way as male psychopaths do.

It is important to keep in mind that psychopathy is a personality disorder. As such, it is classified as a mental illness, and many such illnesses manifest differently in men than in women. For example, the symptoms we usually associate with a heart attack—chest pain, tingling in the left arm, sweating—are symptoms that are most common in men. When women suffer a heart attack, they tend to experience different symptoms, like shortness of breath and nausea.

The stereotypical signs of a psychopath, including animal abuse in violent psychopaths and superficial charm in "successful" non-violent psychopaths, are far more indicative of male psychopathy. Female psychopaths exhibit different and often less violent signs. As a result, female psychopaths are more likely to go undetected.

So, if you want to be able to spot a female psychopath, you need to know how female psychopaths may differ from males. Here are two key differences:

1. Differences in Narcissism

All psychopaths are high in narcissism. This means they see themselves as superior to those around them. But how this narcissism is expressed differs for men and women. Male narcissists tend to shout their self-praise from the rooftops. They tend to brag about their accomplishments and their superiority on social media. They have no problem telling you to your face that they are better than you.

Female psychopaths are different. They’re more covert about their narcissistic tendencies. They smile and praise you face-to-face but think they are better than you behind your back.

2. Differences in Aggression

Male psychopaths tend to display their aggression behaviorally. They engage in physical assault, abuse animals, or commit violent crimes. This helps explain why the percentage of psychopaths in male prisons is double that of female prisons. Since male psychopaths are more likely to engage in violent behavior, they are more likely to get caught and locked up.

Female psychopaths are better equipped to fly under the radar. This is because they tend to display their aggression relationally. They spread gossip about you at work. They gaslight you to the point that you doubt your own sanity. They leech off you and manipulate you into doing their bidding (think Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character in the movie Single White Female). If you refuse to go along, they threaten to harm themselves in response. They are master puppeteers, pushing everyone’s buttons and pulling people’s strings to get what they want.

In the end, the difference comes down to this: Male psychopaths throw punches; female psychopaths throw shade.

So what should you do if you suspect there is a female psychopath lurking in your life?

The first step is to identify them, which is harder than you may think. Despite what the movies lead us to believe, most psychopaths are not psychotic, raging killers. Instead, most are what psychologists call “successful psychopaths”—they’re your CEO, doctor, lawyer, or beloved celebrity (all of which are professions with high percentages of psychopaths). So that’s the good news: If there’s a psychopath in your life, he or she is not likely to kill you. But here’s the bad news: They are likely to make your life miserable and harm you in less obvious ways. This is why detection is key.

But before you start feeling paranoid, know this. Not every woman who gossips or threatens self-harm is a psychopath. Psychopathy is a narrowly defined disorder made up of a combination of three traits, not just one (to learn more about the three traits you can use to identify a psychopath, see my prior post).

But what if you have identified a psychopath in your life?

In truth, there’s little you can do to change a psychopath. Being a psychopath isn’t a choice, it is something that is hardwired into people’s brains. For example, when people view distressing images or immoral behaviors, psychopaths (both male and female) show reduced activity in the amygdala, the part of our brain that controls and processes emotions, compared to non-psychopaths. This explains why psychopaths are unaffected by the suffering of others; their lack of empathy runs deep within their neural architecture. In a sense, psychopathy is a disease of the emotional circuitry of the brain, especially the part that deals with interpersonal emotions.

So if you can’t convince the psychopath in your life to change, what can you do? Unfortunately, it is often the case that the only way to beat a psychopath at their own game is to refuse to play. Don’t engage in their petty gossip. Don’t take the bait when they push your buttons. Stand your ground and don’t let them intimidate you. And if all else fails, do what victims in all those serial killer movies do. Run!

Facebook image: Pascal Krumm/Shutterstock

Self-love and inner emptiness: how to recognize a psychopath

It is almost impossible to understand how a female psychopath thinks, because it is contrary to human nature, writes Winifred Rule, author of Born to Destroy: Female Psychopathy As It Is.

The personality and behavior of such a woman is made up of sheer paradoxes. Here she lies masterfully, but now she cuts the truth-womb. He deliberately says nasty things to his face, but immediately repents and asks for forgiveness. He sincerely sympathizes, gives advice, sympathetically offers to help - and suddenly refuses his own words under a plausible pretext.

She is indefatigable if she wants to get her way, but she is a master at dodging other important things. What other features do these women have?

A mixture of delight and contempt

Deceiving people, psychopaths experience a strange mixture of contempt and delight. They are surprisingly perceptive and know exactly which “buttons” to press in order to make someone suffer, and count another victory for themselves. Even their own children get it. After all, everything is done calmly and coolly, as if it should be so.

Psychopaths intentionally torment and upset others in order to revel in their success and feel superior. However, the enthusiasm passes quickly. Soon such women begin to get angry: "Here's a simpleton, it's so mediocre to get hooked!"

Pathological pride

Mostly psychopaths are aware that they are behaving inappropriately. To compensate for this flaw, they try to be the center of attention. For example, they pretend to be the soul of the company in order to charm everyone and win universal sympathy.

In fact, they prey on simpletons who are ready to serve their selfish aspirations. They wander through life, looking for someone to use for their own purposes, and then plan how to do it. And they often call it "friendship. "

Sharp mind

Do not consider them mentally handicapped. They are exceptionally intelligent and do not suffer from mental illness at all. The CT scans clearly show that the brains of most psychopaths show no abnormalities, except for minor differences. Their amygdala, the region of the brain associated with emotions, is slightly smaller than normal.

Why are they like this? Nobody knows. Psychopathy is called a disorder, a deviation, a defect. But at the same time, psychopaths are quite rational and know what they are doing. Moreover, studies show that their behavior is the result of free choice.

Emptiness inside

What is going on in the soul of such women? Many of you have probably heard how psychopathic heroines in the movie say: “There is emptiness inside me.” Although this feeling is clearly associated with a misconception of oneself, most often it is fleeting and fickle.

As Winifred Rule notes, she has seen such mood swings more than once: “A psychopathic relative in desperation blurted out this phrase aloud and looked genuinely upset. A minute later, as if on click, she was chatting animatedly on the phone, laughing and gesticulating. And this happened regularly.”

You shouldn't feel sorry for them

If suddenly you feel sorry for psychopaths, don't. Behind this screen, albeit a very plausible one, are predatory and prudent intentions. Give up, you will be destroyed - verbally, emotionally, psychologically or physically.

It's not easy to recognize them. From afar, they are charm itself. But if you look closely, you can see the true insidious nature. Just be careful and don't get too close.

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Psychopath woman is quite smart. It can be difficult to understand what she is thinking.

We can say that these are just unscrupulous people who do not understand the emotions of others, they have no empathy. In addition, their behavior is somewhat antisocial.

1. Psychopathic woman wins people over with the help of charm

Psychopathic woman talks very well. They have such a loose tongue that they can talk for hours, forcing others to listen.

However, a female psychopath, unlike other speakers, tries to amuse her pride by demonstrating her oratorical talent to others. And whether her oratorical skills will cause emotions in people, it does not matter to her.

2. Such women need psycho-emotional stimulation

A quiet life does not suit such women. They need the plot to spin more steeply than in the movies.

The psychopathic woman wants life to constantly move around them. They don't care what it is. The main thing is movement.

3. Psychopathic women do not like to work

Even if women are forced to work, they choose such activities in order to have maximum rest. However, they do not want to be controlled.

Home work is more suitable for female psychopaths because there is a free schedule.

4. Women-psychopaths can observe brief romances

If such women get bored with a man, ladies start dating others. Such women do not need a family, but if they decide to marry, then their partners are unhappy with such ladies.

5. Psychopathic women manipulate people

6. Such women have a very developed narcissism

Such women spend a lot of time on their appearance. In addition, they often take pictures and post photos on social networks.

Such women spend a lot of time in the virtual world to show off their beauty.

7. Such women often lose their temper

Such people turn on from half a turn and cannot relax for a very long time. They do not remember whom they offended, but they perfectly remember the insults inflicted on them. They are ready to listen to apologies, but they themselves will never apologize.

8. Women-psychopaths cannot stand restrictions

Such people consider themselves above the norms and laws.

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