Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Hannibal Lecter… When we say the word “psychopath” we almost always get masculine names, but do not there also exist psychopathic women? Studies and the history of criminology tell us yes, but their behavior is quite different from what the world of cinema or literature has been able to teach us.
If you take a walk (it is a saying) by male and female penitentiary institutions, you will discover that the male prisoner population often duplicates the female one. Within these male inmates, a good portion of those who have committed violent acts have behind them a remarkable clinical history, in which psychopathic personality disorder often appears.
Studies, such as that carried out in the Forensic Psychiatry Department of the University of Tromsø (Norway), tell us that 30% of male inmates fulfill the clinical profile of a psychopath. In the case of women, it is estimated that the percentage reaches 17%. These data already give us a clue of something that the experts point out to us: psychopathy appears to a lesser degree in the female gender.
Now, there is another data to consider and that, undoubtedly, is important. Not all psychopaths commit violent acts, not all kill or carry out conducts for which they are legally prosecuted.
This disorder affects 1% of the population, and most of them move between us normally. They can be our doctor, our veterinarian, our lawyer, our best friend or our partner.
Identifying female psychopathy, with its unique nuances, can be of interest and also help.
Psychopathic women: traits and behaviors
Caroline Logan, a forensic psychologist at the University of Manchester (United Kingdom), conducted an interesting study describing the characteristics and behaviors of psychopathic women. Something that makes this work clear is that, on average, there are many myths and misconceptions.
Often, we associate them with the classic femme fatale. Also, fictional figures such as Annie Wilkies, from the book Misery by Stephen King, have contributed to draw in our mind the classic brutal and vengeful woman. However, something that Dr. Logan points out to us is that the behavior of psychopathic women has, above all, a serious impact at the family level and with their closest people.
Let’s see, therefore, which are the most classic dimensions that define them.
A more discreet and sibylline narcissism
Narcissism is one of the defining characteristics of psychopathic personality disorder. Now, in the case of men, it is common that they openly express their feeling of superiority, that they do not hesitate to boast, to humiliate others, to show off their achievements, feats and virtues.
On the other hand, psychopathic women act in a more covert manner. Rarely do they extol or boast in an open manner. What they do often is to praise others, reinforce others’ self-esteem to control those around them.
They perceive themselves as superior to anyone, but they understand that if they treat their partner, friends or colleagues in a positive and attentive manner, they can gain their trust and place themselves in a very favorable position to manipulate them at will.
A more biting, silent and destructive type of aggressiveness
If the male psychopath resorts to violence, this will be a behavioral norm. For example, it is common for children to start their psychopathic behavior by torturing or attacking animals. As they grow, this violence can spread to people in a physical way.
In the case of psychopathic women, the subject goes through other routes. Aggression is not behavioral, it is psychological. For example, they are skilful spreading rumors. They are very effective in displaying the art of manipulation, blackmail, control, humiliation … They can psychologically wear down their victims in an almost devastating way.
Emotional disorders and problems in affective relationships
Studies and works as interesting as the one carried out in the Center of Criminological and Psychosocial Research, of the University of Örebro, in Sweden, indicate something also characteristic to us. The psychopathic women
They also tend to suffer more emotional disorders than the male psychopath.
They present, on average, less emotional regulation. They suffer greater anxiety, stress, depression … Much of that emotionality impacts at a relational level. It is common, for example, that their emotional relationships are violent and traumatic.
Also, something that made this work of Dr. Oliver F. Collins relevant is that psychopathic women often have a history behind sexual abuse and aggression.
Psychopathic women that kill
As we pointed out at the beginning, the percentage of psychopathic women who commit violent acts is much lower than in men. However, the data is there. 17% of inmates with crimes of aggression and / or murder have a psychopathic personality disorder.
The psychologist Marvin Zuckerman highlights 64 cases in a special way. They are a number of women who, due to the seriousness of the acts committed, have passed into the annals of criminology under the label of “psychopathic women”. Thus, the most striking – at the same time sad – of these reports is that 44% of them murdered their own children.
Nannie Doss, example of psychopathic women
This is the case, for example, of Nannie Doss, of Blue Mountain, Alabama. Also known as “Giggling Granny” (laughing grandma) this woman spent nearly 30 years of her life murdering arsenic members of her family. He killed his 4 husbands, his mother, his children and also his grandchildren. One of the many stories that show us that violence has no gender, like mental illness.