Authors reveal aspects of the 'almost psychopath'

The “almost psychopaths” described in the book by Dr. Ronald Schouten and James Silver are all around you: at work, at home, at church, even at your doctor's office.
By Diane Cowen Published: June 19, 2012
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When you first hear the latest title to come out of Hazelden and Harvard Health Publications — “Almost a Psychopath” — you might want to laugh.

But even the quickest look at the book will have you thinking: “So that's what you call those people.”

The “almost psychopaths” described in the book by Dr. Ronald Schouten and James Silver are all around you: at work, at home, at church, even at your doctor's office. In fact, while only one in 100 people are true psychopaths, as many as one in seven people can fit the “almost psychopath” description.

The authors define this subclinical group of the mental health diagnosis as cunning and charming predators who have a profound lack of empathy and a propensity toward immoral and anti-social behavior.

They are often intelligent, but unreliable and prone to lying, without a sense of remorse or shame.

Schouten recently took time to talk about the book, how to spot an “almost psychopath” and what to do about them.

Q: When I first heard about this book, the “almost” concept sounded so odd. But people can start connecting the dots in their lives, thinking about strange relationships they've had, right?

A: This book has ruined many a Thanksgiving Day dinner. We urge caution because people will read it and say, “Hey, that's Uncle Bill.”

When the behavior of someone you know is a little bit off or a friend is constantly asking for favors and never returning them or leaves you in a tough spot, always leaving you with the bill, pay attention to that.

It's the behavior that's critical, not a diagnostic label.

Q: Are “almost psychopaths” inherently that way?

A: It seems to be the case that some people, by virtue of their genetic makeup and brain physiology, are lacking in empathy or lacking in remorse.

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When the behavior of someone you know is a little bit off or a friend is constantly asking for favors and never returning them ... always leaving you with the bill, pay attention to that. It's the behavior that's critical, not a diagnostic label."

Dr. Ronald Schouten

co-author

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