Psychopathy: What Drives Pathological Selfishness?

The psychopath is a personality disorder. Personality is the stable part and enduring characteristics of a person’s psyche. It is a way of interacting with the world, of apprehending social relations, and of perceiving one’s own emotions, one’s cognitions. 

So instead of adapting to the different situations of daily life, the personality of a person suffering from personality disorders is rigid and unsuitable. 

Personality disorders have long been classified separately because they depend on the individual but also social norms and it is difficult to assimilate them to pathology. 

Psychopathy, also called “anti-social personality”, cannot be diagnosed until late adolescence or early adulthood, although some symptoms may be present from early childhood.

It is characterized by cognitive and motor impulsivity that is, having trouble thinking about actions before acting. often a lack of empathy or compassion towards others as well as difficulty in respecting social norms. 

Therefore “the person often has problems with the law because there is often a violation of social rules which leads him to commit offenses or crimes.” Said by neurologists.

Symptoms of a psychopath:

  • He has a major difficulty in supporting frustrations: he refuses, in particular, to receive orders from authority figures (parents during childhood, justice, or law enforcement in adulthood … ),
  • When faced with a limit (a “no”, for example), the psychopath overreacts tantrums, violent acts, brutal “cut” of relations with the person concerned …
  • The psychopath has difficulty expressing (and verbalizing) his emotions, and this is not related to a disability or mental illness,
  • The psychopath does not feel any guilt and can be manipulative.


The selfishness: a more or less bearable personality, for others:

Far from the common image that people have of a self-centered person who loves himself more than he should, the egoist is, on the contrary, more often than not an individual who lacks self-confidence. 

Finding its roots in childhood, selfishness is forged as much with overprotective parents (centered on the needs of their child, avoiding any frustration, saying yes to all his whims …) as with indifferent parents (not responding to specific needs of the child, themselves centered on their well-being, absent…). 

In the first case, as the child knows no shortage, his future adult self will continue to think that the world is still turned on him. In the second case, this lack of emotional bond with his parents will push the child to forge a shell to protect himself from a possible lack of love from others and he will prefer to close himself off and think only of himself. 

In any case, a selfish personality knows perfectly well how to manipulate others and turn situations to his advantage: calculating, the selfish person plays the cards of his interests perfectly and does not give without being sure of positive consequences for him. Often single and alone, selfish people suffer from their closed character and lack of generosity. 

For those around them who have learned their game, it becomes preferable to move away and no longer hang out with them. On a smaller scale, the egoist can also be seen as a balanced person who knows how to listen to his desires before systematically thinking of others: an attitude that appears beneficial for his well-being.


Selfish: from simple flaw to pathology:

Even if the terms egocentrism and egoism are formed on the same Latin root “ego” which means “me”, these two character traits can nevertheless be differentiated. 

When the egotist manipulates his entourage to serve his interests, the egocentric is mainly concerned with his person and the way others look at his appearance, his existence. 

The egocentric character of an individual develops mainly during adolescence to be confirmed in adulthood. Adolescence is a pivotal period in the construction of his personality: physical changes, hormonal surge, his relationship to others … the egocentric teenager cares more than ever about what others think of him and may even confuse his own. look at him and what others think of him. 

He, therefore, struggles to identify himself as an individual and seeks to recognize himself in the eyes of others. In adulthood, self-centeredness can be accompanied by megalomania and narcissism. 

Megalomania is a propensity of the egocentric individual to overestimate their abilities and believe they are the center of the world. This madness for grandeur is typical of an egocentric personality who always wants to think of himself better than others to the point of denigrating them. 

As for narcissism, it is the paroxysm of self-confidence, making the individual blinded by his image, pushing his admiration into a real fixation on himself. Valuing himself through the eyes of others, the egocentric may seek companionship but carefully select those around him.



It seems that in the case of psychopathic disorders, the choice of psychotherapies is quite limited. Indeed, psychoanalysis does not appear to be effective in reducing symptoms. But it can be useful to the psychopath to understand his life course and his disorder.