Schizophrenia and Psychopathy

The Psychopath TestI’ve heard a lot of loose talk about schizophrenia and (much more) psychopathy. They are not the same thing. They aren’t even all that similar except that they are both pathologies and people suffering from both can be dangerous but in completely different ways. Schizophrenia is a broad term, but in general it causes people to experience things that others don’t. Or perhaps more bluntly: schizophrenics often hear and see and believe things that are simply not real. It is a heartbreaking disease. Schizophrenics tend to live in an uncertain world that is often malevolent.

This is all very different from psychopathy. Psychopaths see the world the way the rest of us do. They just don’t respond to it the way the rest of us do. We’ve all known people with more and less empathy. Psychopaths are people with very little or no empathy. That doesn’t mean they are violent or antisocial. In fact, being a psychopath is very good in certain professions. Globally, about 1% of people are psychopaths, but 4% of corporate CEOs are. And you can well imagine that rescue workers might be better off not having emotional reactions to other people’s suffering.

The Psychopath-Schizophrenic Connection

Psychopaths often are violent, of course. In general, our society is based upon us all not being psychopaths. So much of our social order just comes down to us all caring about each other. And whether they are violent or not, psychopaths can use all of our empathy against us. But outside of that, I have very mixed feelings about them. On the one hand, I could sure use some of their low-anxiety confidence. On the other hand, I think they’re almost non-human—what is it that makes us human but our empathy?

I tend to think these shooters are schizophrenics, rather than psychopaths, simply because they reliably kill themselves. Just the same, the whole murder process in these mass shootings is so systematic they seem psychopathic. And who knows: maybe it is both. Or neither. But I know that we need to try to help the schizophrenics, regardless of their effect on us. I’m not sure there is much we can do about the psychopaths.


I’ve known quite a number of women who have self-mutilated themselves. It is a small example of people behaving in extreme ways that don’t make sense and don’t (in any direct way) lead to the resolutions of their problems. In saying this, I am not justifying killing or self-mutilating. I am only saying that it would be useful to help people before they get to that point. Or at least to try.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

21 thoughts on “Schizophrenia and Psychopathy

  1. School shooters and self mutilators… Sounds bi-polar/borderlineish too me.
    Theese are both emotional actions. Wommen cut themselves to take focus of emotional pain. Pain is soothing to them… And to others aswell.

    My qualified quess is psychopats dont do theese kind of crimes…. Id say sqizzo’s and psycho’s dont fit the profile here ;) but hey, its not your fault your a fucking retard.

  2. @Robin – Thanks for adding such thought and insight to the discussion. The site does get the occasional loon here who simply has unstated ideological axes to grind. Their comments are filled with typos and grammar errors and offensive put-downs. But you are a ray of sunshine here. Thank you so much for your comment!

  3. My sister lacks empathy,manipulates, lies without flinching, rejoices/takes delight at the suffering even death of people she envies, cannot understand the physicall needs of her not feeding, grooming or cleaNing their cages (so they must live in their refuse indefinitely), told me she hates ALL WOMEN because she hates me, mom -(who she starved to death after lieing to get control over her person) & hates my grandmother who was the ONLY person ever to say no to her. She laughed at all parents funerals. Cannot control sudden impulses to attack & attempt murder when angry even, solely due to lack of complete control of person attacked. Does NOT get the least bit upset in any situation. Is sexually promiscuous since 12 years old. Could talk only about how she finds her 2 sons sexually alluring, at my mother’s funeral. Controls family by raging temper tantrums (while growing up & after marriage). How can I possibly deal with her? I need to ask her if she has any copies of my old income tax forms (14 years of which Soc.Sec. is missing & I can’t get my medicare-they have the 9 yrs. Prior to her husband personal friend take over my accounting I do not have any copies as she used perjury to have me & mom evicted from Mom’s house-(then starved my mother to death after falsely accusing me of letting my 200. lbs moms weight to reduce to 95 lbs). I was set up with a lawyer who refused to help, as they were Mafia lawyers, who wanted my commercial property & fraudulently stole it in the wrong county, out of its jurisduction). Sister did this to prevent mom from changing her using mom’s deafness as Alzheimers, which was as untrue as the fact that my 200 lb Mom did NOT weight 95 lbs. I was unable to get proper legal representation due to 2 back surgery leaving me with full bodied RSD. I have PTSD from having been forced to lived homeless for 4 years since the Mafia took control of my property. I have not been able to get my share of the estate, as was unable to get a proper lawyer due to my physical & emotional state. I am afraid I could NEVER get justice. I desperately need copy of even one year of my missing tax report to get full medicare coverage. How can I ask my psychopathic sister, or ever go near her again without protection. I baby sat her kids for 12 years before she tried to murder me, by strangling & beating me, while she visited Mom & I-( which is why Mom tried to change her Will, having witnessed sisters unprovoked attack). I did Nothing but wait on her all my life, but she became infuriated that I had stopped due to my back injuries). She has been bulimic since she was 17, which she blaimed on me, as I weighed less. Think she stopped as she was normal weight at Mom’s funeral. She was so proud of harming me financially that she asked if I had to sell my body to make ends meet, while she chuckled on the phone. Had I realized she was a psychopath, I would have hopefully not allow her to Control & Manipulate me, using both quilt & temper tantrums. I do have part of the money stolen from me back now, but all I can think of is trying to get the RSD widespread Chronic Pain to stop. I am afraid she will kill me to get remaining money I have now (unless write a Will first & do not see her in person without bodyguard, as not only is she much more powerfully physically than me, but her husband & 2 sons are 6’4″ Giants, obedient to her, at 5’4″ & I have shrunk to 4’11” after botched back surgery caused scoliosis. Should I phone her & ask her to mail copy of any of my tax returns if she has them? Meantime just try to pay Medicare to cover my hospitilization. Have NOT been able to purchase insurance due to my age of 66. I have no other family, nothing but regrets. What can I do?

  4. Please just send or keep whatever part of my writing you want. Could shorten to question :
    How can I communicate with my sister, who has shown ALL the characteristics of a Dangerous psychopath. Having attacked me physically(tried to crush my windpipe in unprovoked attack…destroyed me financially when physically killing me did not work). But expects everyone to forget ALL her miss deeds. As she does NOT see anything wrong with completely controlling everyone in her life. I am physical afraid of her, but was hoping to try to get her to give me a copy of my past 1099 copies, so I could straighten out my Medicare, as Soc. Sec. lost my records, of all the years her husband’s best friend did accounting over. Leaving me 1 year short of 10 years needed. I am direct I’ll & need full coverage, can’t even buy Health Insurance coverage without the one year out of the 14 sisters accountant somehow made vanish. Can I try to explain how it would benifit her ?

    • I wish I could help. My experiences have been with schizophrenics, who I think I at least understand to some extent. You might start with a Google search for “dealing with psychopathy.” There are also some interesting books on Amazon. I hope that helps, but it’s a really difficult situation as you know more than I do. I wish you the best. Good luck!

      • I bristle at your cavalier reference to people as, “schizophrenics.” Do you refer to people with cancer as canceratics? It is troubling that someone who works with people who have schizophrenia defines them first and foremost by their diagnosis. Do we call someone with Parkinson’s disease a Parkinsonism? Or a person with heart disease as a cardio myopathy? cardiomyopathy? I

        • First, I wrote, “It is a heartbreaking disease. Schizophrenics tend to live in an uncertain world that is often malevolent.” Second, I am writing about the condition. If I were writing cancer victims, perhaps I should spend most of it talking about their lives that don’t relate to their illness? I wrote a short article five years ago that is clearly referring to something that was happening at the time.

          All your comment is doing is language policing. You might have a point, but it is a minor one compared to my talking about the problems of living with schizophrenia. I did, in fact, live with a woman who suffered from it. It was very sad for her, and it also ended up with my being murdered. But oh, here is Ms Hubbs to complain that I’m not using the right words. Oh how much good you must do in the world! If only we could stop people from using the word “schizophrenics” to designate a class of people, the disease would disappear.

          You aren’t engaging. You just have a pet annoyance and decided to lash out at me. Had you taken a different approach, you might have made more progress on your trivial crusade. Oh, and by the way, just because we don’t refer to people with cancer as canceratics, doesn’t mean we don’t do that with lots of other groups of people. That’s the way English is: inconsistent. And do you really think “schizophrenics” is less kind than “people with schizophrenia”? If you do you are a fool. My experience is that people who suffer from this disease lash out at even the implication that something might be wrong with their brains.

          If you work with people who suffer from schizophrenia, you should go back to it because this little crusade is pathetic. And if you do not work with such people, shame on you for trying to shame me.

          • I don’t mean to be so harsh. But I understand what it is to have schizophrenia better than most people who doesn’t have it. It is not my intention to be cruel to them. It would be amazing if you lived in a world where you were never certain if what you are experience is the same as what other people are. Szasz saw it as people just seeing the world differently — that their perceptions were as valid as anyone’s. But in practice, it doesn’t work that way. I didn’t use the word “heartbreaking” lightly.

            As for your comment that they are more than their diseases. Of course! I write for a very intelligent audience. There’s a reason I lived with a woman with schizophrenia for six years. They are some of the most interesting people around. I suspect we agree far more than we disagree. And I appreciate that you are trying to help those so afflicted. But I’m not the enemy, and we have much bigger fights. So let’s fight them because many of them will really help those people who suffer from this terrible disease.

          • Mr. Moraes, I believe I hit a nerve! I am firm in standing against defining people by their illnesses. I think that nomenclature is important in how we describe and relate to others. What if someone used a racially pejorative term to describe working with a certain group of people that they claimed to care about? Would it be acceptable? Or word policing? What if we called people who preferred the term “little people;” “midgets,” instead? Or, referred to Asians as “Orientals?” It is insulting, right? So, we need to take care not to do this with people with schizophrenia. Please do not extrapolate beyond my point. I respect that you are a caring person with a valid point of view.

            • Indeed no! You just annoyed me. I’m still not sure that your point is correct. We refer to “cancer patients.” Would “schizophrenia patient” make any real difference? I don’t think so. But given that someone finds the word “schizophrenic” (as a noun) objectionable, I will drop it. I don’t want to get distracted by the point I was making.

              Note, however, that this is language policing, which, like “tactic policing,” is a known tactic (not that I think you are meaning to do this) to sidetrack the point at hand. We see this in, for example, Black Lives Matter, where instead of engaging with their ideas, opponents simply complain about their tactics (as if people didn’t do exactly the same thing to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s).

              And let me close with the fact that this article needs to be seen in context. It was written the day after the Sandy Hook massacre. It was just a short article about my own attempt to process that event. If you look at the articles written around this time, you will see that I wrote a lot about guns and mental health. Please understand that my wife suffered from minor borderline personality disorder that became totally out-of-control when she began doing speed. Had we had guns, there is no doubt in my mind that we would both be dead now. As it was, she explicitly tried to kill me on a number of occasions. So none of this is abstract to me.

    • You should get the police and or hospital involved, call PETA or any animal protection society to help her pets, and get the government to take her kids to a foster home unless they are older than eight teen.

  5. Just because your schizophrenic no one believes your side of the trauma, I as being schizophrenic have suffered rape all my life and its hard to go forward to the police with it especially when the people who done it keep me trapped in the system and use stigma to idealise there lack of empathy and characteristic, so when something goes wrong its eaiser to blame the schizophrenic. It very dangerous to play about with someones mind knowing all the while the responsibility you are not taking, I find death a very hard thing to accept my brain hurts thinking about it, Yet it happens every day of our lifes. I’m sorry susan for whats happeneing with your sister. and I do apolosgise for the spelling or grammer mistakes as I never got a decent education due to stigma. Your sister sounds like she needs someone to reach out to her and it all sounds very bitter too me, but I am not your age susan, I’m only 35 and have only expeianced 35 years of trauma so far. I adimire you for coming on here to try to get the help you need for your sister, have you tried all possible avenues with her about medical resources, and support work that she may be lacking. Please don’t give up on her. You don’t know her full story, its to hard to be a schizophrenic and speak about our lifes trauma that has got us into this horrible tendencies. To be honest it kind of enraged me your sisters story, it sounds like she has never had the proper help she so deservingly needs and its bringing clashes down on your familys existence. I hope you can approach the situation with empowerment and care my love. and you can all get the help you need. family councillors are good also you can ask a c.p.n or a psychiatrist about the situation. I’m sorry again for what you have all been through. and I’m sorry for the way in which it has made you view schizophrenia.

    • My experience with schizophrenics is that they live in a world of terror because those around them tell them that reality is not what they think. Of course, my experience is with people with relatively mild schizophrenia. Regardless, Thomas Szasz saw schizophrenia as a sort of disease of society. Who is to say that just because the majority of people see reality one way that it is True. Truth is not the result of democracy. As Shakespeare wrote, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” I personally don’t believe time exists except as a structure that allows our consciousness to process a static universe. (Why? Partly just revelation, but also the nature of quantum mechanics with its infinite matrices and the general absurdity of what we now believe about the universe.) But few people even understand the concept, fewer still think it makes any sense. Ultimately, your reality is your reality and you must accept that. If people don’t believe you, don’t tell them things they won’t believe. As Descartes noted, we can only really know that we exist. Anything else is open to debate. The famous dog-internet cartoon is ontologically profound. In the universe, nobody knows you exist.

      Obviously, it’s easier to be an insider than an outsider. And if someone harms you, people won’t believe you. Of course, the same is true of ex-felons (and the list goes on; it’s true of all minority groups, to one extent or another). Unless someone else sees the crime, it never happened. What you’re talking about really isn’t about schizophrenia; it’s about being on the outside — being “the other.” You have every right to feel bad about your treatment; but never feel bad about yourself; never blame yourself because your version of reality is different than others’.

      The best thing Lou Reed ever wrote was this, “Some people have no choice, and they can never find a voice to talk with or even call their own; so the first thing that they see that allows them the right to be, they follow it; it’s called bad luck.” I’ve come to see that of life generally. It’s all about luck. If you’re a junkie (as in the song) it’s because of bad luck; and if you’re a billionaire it’s because of good luck. And psychology is coming to that conclusion after decades of believing really ridiculous notions like some people having more will power than others.

      Good luck with everything. Your life is harder, but you can see that as a gift. I know that I only really woke-up when my life fell apart. Before then, I was just a happy zombie. Not that I’m implying my hardships compare to yours. Again: good luck.

  6. The main problem with paranoid schizophrenia from an experiential point of view is that there is no line to determine where consensual reality ends and subjective delusion begins. The delusional beliefs that develop over time seem inherently normal to the sufferer … they seem innately logical and therefore appear, in every way, to be based upon objective fact, and not subjective delusion. One of the most difficult aspects of acknowledging your own schizophrenia is in determining where your illness ends and your personality begins. Indeed, it is sometimes impossible to distinguish between the two because often, as in my case, onset occurs early in life.

    Auditory hallucinations too can seem inherently real in a number of seemingly physiological ways, in addition to the widely acknowledged cognitive ways. Whilst I know on an intellectual level that the auditory hallucinations I experience are manifestations and abstractions and exaggerations of my own thought processes combined with inappropriate signal transmissions to and from areas of my brain and physiology related to speech and linguistics, the actual sensation and experience of ‘hearing voices’ is identical to that of sound and speech and auditory phenomenon occurring in the immediate and wider environment …. there is simply no difference on an experiential level. In trying to determine the origin of my own ‘voices’ I’ve deliberated all manner of things, including reverberation of the eardrum in response to sound. Working on the assumption that the voices and other auditory phenomenon that I experience are indeed erroneous artifacts that shouldn’t rightfully be present, I assumed that they would be unable to interact with my eardrum in the same acoustic way that sounds from the environment do. Unfortunately the hallucinations are so inherently ‘real’ to experience that it would appear that the same eardrum reverberation/acoustic physical response occurs in response to the sound/voice/phenomenon. Put briefly, the ear physiologically reacts to the sound as if it were real … or, at least, it appears to. That’s one of the things that makes it especially difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is not real for a schizophrenic … there is seemingly no line of differentiation.

    As a seasoned paranoid schizophrenic I tend to only stab people who look at me funny. The rest of you are safe. Have a nice day.

    • I deeply appreciate your sharing this perspective. My father has schizophrenia, it’s never been managed successfully, and I’ve always had difficulty understanding where he was coming from.

      If I’m reading you correctly, it’s not that the visual & auditory hallucinations come out of nowhere. It’s more like missed signals in a baseball game. Private thoughts or strange sounds/sights become misinterpreted by the brain as 100% observable reality. That’s not unlike autism, where the sensory perceptions differ from “normal.” What’s regular volume to you or me can seem unnervingly loud/quiet to someone with autism; same with light levels, firmness of touch, etc. Like Google Translate making a mistake on the subtleties of language.

      Even if I’m reading this quite wrong, congratulations and good luck to you on being so aware of the challenges you’ve had to face.

  7. if I suspect that I have schizophrenia, should I get that checked at an early age or wait until I finish college? Should I involve the people I care about? Would they care if they were people who thought mental health was overrated?

    • If this is a serious comment, you should seek help from a professional. I definitely am not.

      I’m curious to know if people can realize they are mentally ill. Of course “mentally ill” is a curious concept that is less concrete than we would hope. Some people, like Thomas Szasz, don’t see it as manufactured and simply a system of control.

      But really: if you are concerned, see a doctor. I have seen how relatively minor drugs can be a life-saver.

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