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Types of psychopaths: aggressive, destabilized and withdrawn

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Today we talk about three types of psychopaths. If you still don't know exactly what psychopathy is, we recommend that you take a look at the article "Psychopathy: what happens in the psychopath's mind?"before you start reading.

Types of Psychopaths: the aggressive (primary), the destabilized and the withdrawn (secondary)

Psychopathy has long been and continues to be an enigma for psychiatry. Due to a failure in the functioning of the processing of feelings, individuals without morals emerge who often end up becoming middle-class criminals and, apparently, normal.

They pose a great challenge for their understanding due to the complexity involved in trying to delve into the motivations of those who seem to feel nothing. Below we will describe the different types of psychopaths categorized by Lykken.

1. Primary psychopath

It is the one that best fits the definition of the term psychopath, which means "psychologically damaged." Its main feature is found in a deviation in its temperament that is very difficult to master since childhood. As dedicated as parents may be, they are not to blame for how complex it can be to deal with their child.

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It should also be mentioned that there are subjects that can be considered psychopaths and sociopaths at the same time, since in addition to possessing these temperamental characteristics from birth, have good family support or a facilitating environment that allows them to channel their conduct. Therefore, their origin can be both humble and middle-class.

2. Destabilized psychopath

Even though they can enjoy normal socialization, they suffer from an organic disorder that when it manifests unbalances them to such an extent of becoming considered less responsible for the antisocial behavior in which they will incur during the duration of said episode.

Epileptic equivalents

Some brain injuries (tumors, for example) can cause abnormal and even antisocial behaviors. David T. Lykken also suggests in this section the idea of ​​a "short circuit" that would occur in the mechanisms of sex and the aggressiveness of the brain of these individuals. He proposes that “(…) the biographies of some serial killers begin with obtaining sexual pleasure when they tortured animals as children and they clearly suggest the existence of a kind of short circuit between motivational systems in brain architecture " (p.63).

Choleric type

Includes those who suffer outbursts of anger. Those who occupy the upper end of the normal distribution would be framed in relation to their predisposition to anger and its intensity. Despite venturing to give a taxonomy of psychopathy and its causes, the author acknowledges how little is known about the relevance of individual differences in this type of disease. questions, wondering if the anger experienced by people who get angry more easily is more intense, or if greater irascibility also causes a greater explosion of fury.


In the same way as with anger, it would exist a tendency toward a more intense sexual appetite. But questions also arise as to whether the frequency of arousal predicts the maximum intensity of sexual appetite; or whether the intensity of sexual arousal during intercourse will determine the number of orgasms it takes to be satisfied. As with the members of the previous subgroup, those that we would find here are also found in situations of constant risk due to being at the upper peak of the normal distribution of appetite and sexual intensity.

Pathological yearnings

They feel the need to satisfy illicit or morally reprehensible pleasures by engaging in risky actions. Various situations of stress They stimulate the secretion of endogenous opiates that help to withstand pain and also contribute to experiencing the so-called “high”. In individuals with greater susceptibility, crimes (and above all, violent ones), these endorphins produce only a pleasant state as there is no pain or discomfort to mitigate. Therefore it is easy to conclude that for them, "the crime itself is their reward" (p.65).

Hysterical type

The basic characteristic here lies in the duality between indifference between the actions committed by these people and the remorse or anxiety that at another time they can feel. Despite being well socialized, a young person who thinks about doing something forbidden and feels discomfort when reflect on the consequences, he is also more vulnerable to being tempted, because he can repress this discomfort. However, this repressive action is prone to exhaustion, so in the periods when it is not active, this type of psychopath will feel resentment and guilt for what he may have done.

3. Secondary psycho

Similar to the primary ones in terms of impulsivity, aggressiveness and low socialization, but with a marked tendency to guilt and withdrawal. According to the neurophysiological model of Fowles and Gray, impulsive and psychopathic behavior may be due to poor ‘Behavior inhibition system’ (SIC) or excessive activation in the ‘behavior activation system’ (SAC).

The first case would lead to a primary psychopathy, while the second to a secondary one. The latter feel overwhelmed, stressed and dissatisfied with themselves and with their lives. In the same way as those of the other group, they carry out crimes motivated by their instincts, but they differ in the remorse and subsequent stress they suffer, which can be even higher than that of ordinary people.

  • You can now visit the article in which we talk in detail about the differences between psychopathy and sociopathy

Bibliographic references:

  • Lykken, D. (1994) Antisocial personalities. Barcelona: Herder.

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