A classic sign of psychopathy is cruelty towards animals. I’ve heard horror stories of psychopaths callously killing kittens, dogs and other animals. My psychopathic ex-husband, however, liked animals. He walked my dog every morning and brought home exotic pets. So he did not fit that stereotype. This observation is a small indication that psychopaths, antisocials and narcissists are not all the same. In fact, Dr. Theodore Millon, who was one of the great theorists of personality and personality disorders, identified 10 subtypes of psychopathy.
His work does much to explain why some psychopaths plot deliberate, complex schemes and others act on impulse with no regard for consequences. It explains why some psychopaths are meticulous about their health and appearance, whereas others, like my ex, are overweight, diabetic and won’t take basic steps to care for themselves.
So if you see a psychopathy checklist, and some items fit the person who is tormenting you while others don’t — well, that person could still be disordered.
Psychologist Theodore Millon
We share Millon’s view that PDs (personality disorders) cannot be exclusively reduced to scores on self or informant reports of personality traits, or specific cognitive schemas, or specific constellations of defenses, or specific relational patterns, or DSM PD criterion sets describing discreet groupings of observable maladaptive behaviors and dysfunctional life circumstances. To understand and treat PDs, one must understand and treat the whole person.
The key point: personality disorders are complex.
10 subtypes of psychopaths
Millon edited a book called, Psychopathy — Antisocial, Criminal and Violent Behavior. With Roger D. Davis, he wrote a chapter called, Ten Subtypes of Psychopathy. Yes, psychopaths exhibit similar behavior. “All psychopaths,” Millon wrote, “exhibit certain commonalities, notably a marked self-centeredness and disdain for the needs of others.”
Still, Millon saw differences. In defining the 10 subtypes of psychopathy, he suggested that they are rooted in other disorders of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), such as narcissistic, antisocial, borderline or histrionic personality disorders.
Following are the 10 subtypes of psychopathy. Millon’s original descriptions are much longer and more detailed. I selected excerpts that seem to highlight the differences among the subtypes.
The Unprincipled Psychopath
“These psychopaths exhibit an arrogant sense of self-worth, and indifference to the welfare of others, and a fraudulent social manner. There is a desire to exploit others, or at least to expect special recognitions and considerations without assuming reciprocal responsibilities.”
Seen most frequently in conjunction with narcissistic personality pattern.
The Disingenuous Psychopath
“They attempt to persuade themselves that their intentions are basically good, and that their insincerely motivated scheming is appreciated for its intrinsic worth. Throughout these mixed internal messages, nevertheless, the disingenuous psychopaths persist in seeking what is most important to themselves, always angling and maneuvering to acquire it.”
A variant of histrionic personality.
The Risk-Taking Psychopath
“The next type of psychopath often engages in risk taking for itself — for the excitement it provides, and for the sense of feeling alive and involved in life, rather than for such purposes as material gain or defense of reputation.”
This subtype is a commingling of both antisocial and histrionic personality features.
The Covetous Psychopath
“They are driven by envy and a desire for retribution — a wish to take back what they have been deprived of by destiny. Through acts of theft or destruction, they compensate themselves for the emptiness of their own lives, dismissing with smug entitlement their violations of the social order.”
Includes essential features of DSM’s antisocial and ICD’s dyssocial personality disorders.
The Spineless Psychopath
“These personalities commit violent acts as a means of overcoming fearfulness and of securing refuge. For them, aggression is not intrinsically rewarding, but is instead essentially a counterphobic act. Anticipating real danger, projecting hostile fantasies, spineless types feel it is best to strike first, hoping thereby to forestall their antagonists.”
Derivative of avoidant and dependent personalities.
The Explosive Psychopath
“The explosive psychopath is differentiated from other psychopathic variants by the unpredictable and sudden emergence of hostility. These ‘adult tantrums,’ characterized by uncontrollable rage and fearsome attacks upon others, occur frequently against members of the psychopath’s own family.”
Similar to that of individuals described as “sadistic borderlines.”
The Abrasive Psychopath
“More than merely angry in a general way, these persons are intentionally abrasive and antagonistic. Abrasive psychopaths have incessant discords with others, magnifying every minor friction into repeated and bitter struggles. They may have few qualms and little conscience or remorse about demeaning even their most intimate associates.”
Features usually associated with the negativistic and paranoid personality disorders.
The Malevolent Psychopath
“These individuals are particularly vindictive and hostile; their retributive impulses are discharged in a hateful and destructive defiance of conventional social life. Distrustful of others and anticipating betrayal and punishment, they have acquired a cold-blooded ruthlessness, an intense desire to gain revenge for the real or imagined mistreatment to which they were subjected in childhood.”
Characteristics blend with those of sadistic or paranoid personality (or both).
The Tyrannical Psychopath
“Tyrannical psychopaths seem to be stimulated by resistances or weaknesses, which encourage attack rather than deter it o slow it down. Some are crudely assaultive and distressingly vulgar, whereas others are physically restrained, but overwhelm their victims by unrelenting criticism and bitter tirades. This variant derives a special sense of satisfaction from forcing victims to cower and submit.”
Purest type of classical psychopaths, but exhibit features of sadistic and negativistic personality disorders.
The Malignant Psychopath
“They are characterized by their autocratic power orientation and by their mistrust, resentment and envy of others. Underlying these features is a ruthless desire to vindicate themselves for past wrongs by cunning revenge or callous force, if necessary.”
Features frequently blend with those of paranoid personality disorder.
The bottom line
Theodore Millon’s description of the subtypes of psychopathy do not at all resemble the descriptions of antisocial personality disorder in the DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association.
This shows that experts do not necessarily agree on the definition and description of personality disorders. The DSM-5 still does not list psychopathy as an official diagnosis. Instead, “Emerging Measures and Models” section of the manual includes a description of “antisocial personality disorder(ASPD)/psychopathy.” Many researchers have concluded that ASPD/psychopathy is superior to the current diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder.
Please understand that personalities, and personality disorders, are messy. People don’t always fit neatly into categories — even with the 10 subtypes of psychopathy. So if someone is causing problems for you but doesn’t necessarily check all the boxes, he or she may still be disordered. It just may be a mix of disorders.
The bottom line, therefore, is that if you are consistently seeing bad behavior, you should do what you must to protect yourself, whether or not the person seems to fit a particular disorder.