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Dear doctor Saltzman,

I am a 14 year old male from Missouri. After some fairly extensive reading on psychopaths, I believe that I might be one. For years I have isolated myself from social situations. I have no interest in other people or their problems and will usually only talk to them at school to pass the time. When I do talk to people, I usually make them laugh and many people seem to like me. I love stealing (especially from my mom's purse) and frequently lie to others. I often catch myself telling effective lies and stealing impulsively without any guilt afterwards. I can also be quite manipulative. I sometimes mingle with my brother's friends, make them laugh, get on their good side. In fact, I often hear my brother tell me how much his friends like me, however, I only do that to milk them for their cigarettes, beer and marijuana. I have some desire for the opposite sex, but would only want a relationship if it meant she was good looking and I got lots of sex. I only really care about myself.

One of the earliest possible indications of psychopathy in my childhood was when I was about 7. My friend from the house across the street had found a nest of baby birds in a tree in his yard and for some reason, I grew jealous of this. One day I took one of the baby birds out of the nest, brought it to my backyard, and after a few moments of studying it, I impulsively snapped its neck and tore it to pieces without a single shred of guilt. I actually found it quite exiting and would continue to experiment with guiltless zoo-sadism for many years. Recently I found a chipmunk struggling in my pool water, so I pushed it underwater with a stick to watch it drown. I frequently have thoughts about homicide.

I can also be quite malicious. In sixth grade I psychologically bullied another kid who wronged me for months and promised myself not to stop until I made him cry, and I did. He switched schools the year after. At camp one year, I tormented a kid who pushed me, and again, I didn't stop until I made him cry. I think you could have guessed by now that I am not sorry for doing either.

However, the reason I have some doubts that I'm a psychopath is because I think I have a small sense of sympathy. I often see people who could be easily ridiculed, and I do so in my head and laugh, but the thought of ridiculing a stranger who has not wronged me to their face seems incredibly rude and I hate being rude. My uncle died recently, and upon hearing, I did not care much. At his wake my only thoughts were "get me the hell out of here", but I did cry some at his burial when I saw my dad begin to cry. I think the tears may have been genuine.

If you would like to know any more specific details I would be happy to give them to you, as i cannot possibly include all in one email.

Thank you very much.

ask dr-robert


Based on the details in your letter, I would say that you are frankly psychopathic. The few details which seem to show some traces of sympathy are not inconsistent with that. Some psychopaths cry at funerals, for example, but then could easily kill if it served their purposes. And your not wanting to be rude seems to be about you (what you want and don't want), not really about any compassionate interest in the person who would be hurt by ridicule. However, without a personal interview, I can never be one hundred percent confident in making a diagnosis, so you might want to seek the opinion of a mental health professional in finding out more about your personality. If your apparent psychopathy is troubling to you, or if you think it could be dangerous to others, such a person might also help you better to deal with your situation.

Be well.

ask dr-robert

Dear doctor,

Some things I forgot to mention in my previous email was that I am not 100% uninterested in people. There are a few people (and I stress few) that I genuinely enjoy being around. I find these few people intellectually stimulating and they usually share most of my beliefs and my personality, but I still would not care about their personal problems and if they ever went against me, they would be garbage to me. I actually would like to find a girl for a genuine relationship, but essentially, she would have to be the female version of me, only more attractive. I also find myself doing favors and other nice things for other people. They are usually fairly simple tasks and it would seem rude not to do them. I also forgot to mention that I can get pretty nervous when confronted by an authority figure, and I read that psychopaths generally don't get nervous when being confronted. Sincerely, John

p.s. I don't appreciate that picture you put under my previous email.

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page last modified January 10, 2009

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