Most psychopaths are portrayed as violent, dangerous criminals who lack the ability to feel empathy or remorse, but female psychopaths often don’t fit this profile. Female psychopaths are less physically violent, commit fewer crimes, and also show different traits than male psychopaths.1,2,3. Women psychopaths can be harder to detect because they are more emotional, social, and display fewer antisocial traits than men.2,3
What is a Psychopath?
A psychopath is a term used to describe someone who has a very severe form of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). People with ASPD have social and emotional deficits that limit their ability to experience emotions or feel true empathy or remorse for their actions. Because of these deficits, psychopaths are more likely to become violent and abusive, and are considered some of the most dangerous people in society.4,5
10 Signs of a Female Psychopath
Male and female psychopaths share certain antisocial traits like a lack of empathy and remorse and a pattern of violating other people’s rights.4,5 Still, men and women psychopaths are different in the way they victimize others, with women using less violent methods of aggression.1 Female psychopath traits and symptoms can also vary, and can include more impulsivity, irritability, and social interest.2,3,6
Below are 10 signs that can help you spot a female psychopath.
1. They Develop Relationships With Their Victims
One of the traits of a female psychopath is the tendency to form relationships with the people they victimize. While male psychopaths usually target strangers, females are much more likely to victimize people they know.2
Some female psychopaths use flirtation or sex to lure in people with money or power and then lie, con, or manipulate these people into giving them things.6 This tendency shows the cold-hearted nature of the female psychopath, who won’t feel bad about hurting or using others, even those closest to her.
2. They Use Indirect Forms of Aggression
Female psychopaths are just as aggressive as males, but they just use different, less direct forms of aggression.1 While male psychopaths are prone to physical aggression, female psychopaths use relational aggression like gossipping, excluding people, or forming alliances against someone.1,3
Some may even threaten to self-harm in order to manipulate other people, or they may lash out at people when they’re upset, name-calling or becoming verbally abusive. 1,6
3. They Play the Victim Card
One of the unique traits of female psychopaths is their tendency to present themselves as a victim in order to get attention, pity, or to emotionally manipulate others to get what they want.1,3 Female psychopaths may use the victim card or play the “damsel in distress” to pull at the heartstrings of people who are empathetic, caring, or generous.
In some cases, female psychopaths paint themselves as victims to avoid getting in trouble or being held accountable for their actions. This is another form of manipulation and deceit that is more common in female psychopaths than males.1,3
4. They Can’t Hold in Their Anger for Long
Male psychopaths can be calm, cool, and calculated, but female psychopaths have a much harder time controlling anger.1,2,3 They are more irritable and prone to angry outbursts.1,3 Unlike a normal (non-psychopathic) person, most psychopathic females feel relieved after they lash out, instead of feeling guilty.
Female psychopaths sometimes even feel entitled to their angry and aggressive responses, placing the blame on the other person.1 Their tendency to act on their pent-up anger and impulses is one of the reasons why female psychopaths have a harder time functioning, and experience more social impairment than men.3
5. They Use Deceptive Tactics to Get What They Want
While male psychopaths are more violent and direct in taking what they want from people, female psychopaths tend to rely more on deception. For example, it’s much more common for female psychopaths to be arrested for fraud or extortion, rather than for physical or sexual assault (unlike male psychopaths).6
These kinds of crimes highlight the deceptive and cunning nature of the female psychopath, who may come up with elaborate cover stories and lies to con or manipulate people.2,3,6
6. They Want Acceptance, but Sabotage Relationships
Typically, people who have antisocial personality disorder develop strategic relationships to get things they want, and not because they have a desire for connection or acceptance. Psychopath females are often more social and some even have a true desire to be accepted by people.2,3
The problem is that because they tend to also be cruel and impulsive, they are unable to maintain healthy, lasting relationships. Instead, they are more likely to sabotage their relationships by victimizing those closest to them.3
7. They Leverage Secrets & Personal Information
One form of relational aggression that’s common among female psychopaths (and also a sign of a sociopath) is the tendency to use personal information about other people against them. Female psychopaths may use secret or personal information about other people against them as leverage to bribe, manipulate or control them.
For example, they might threaten to expose information about a previous affair or substance use problem their boss had unless they agree to pay them more. Some will also gossip or spread rumors or lies about other people who they want to discredit, which is another form of relational aggression.1,8
8. They Get Other People to Do Their Dirty Work
A female psychopath is better at forming strategic relationships to get people to do things for them, especially their “dirty work” they don’t want to do. While they aren’t usually physically violent, female psychopaths engaged in crime often have male counterparts who “handle” the violent aspects of their crimes.6 They may also con or convince other people to commit other illegal or immoral acts on their behalf, often so they can declare innocence later or have a scapegoat later on.
9. They Are Emotionally Unstable
Another common trait of a female psychopath is emotional instability. While male psychopaths often have a restricted range of emotions which makes them cool and detached, females with this disorder may not show this trait.2,3,4 Research shows women psychopaths are more likely to struggle with depressive symptoms and mood problems, and also more likely to struggle with anger and jealousy than males.2,3
10. They Are Good at Pretending
Psychopaths and sociopaths both can use superficial charm or charisma to lure people close to them, but women may be better at this than men. For example, male psychopaths tend to display more narcissism but female psychopaths often seem friendly, charming, and even passive at first.1,2
The deceptive tactics used by a female psychopath makes them harder to detect, and more successful at forming relationships.7 Unfortunately, they will often end up using, abusing, or taking advantage of those who they end up getting close to.3
Differences Between Psychopathy in Men & Women
Most research shows that men are three to five times more likely to become psychopaths than women.2,3,7 However, some experts believe that the gender disparity isn’t actually this large, and note that signs of a psychopath female are different and harder to detect.2,3 For example, female psychopaths are less likely to be physically violent and also more social and emotional, which contradicts the classic portrayal of a psychopath.1,3
Some of the main differences between male and female psychopaths are:1,3,6,7,8
- Male psychopaths use physical aggression or behavioral aggression while females use indirect or relational aggression
- Male psychopaths commit more crimes than female psychopaths, and specifically more violent crimes than females
- Male psychopaths show less interest in forming relationships or being liked and accepted than female psychopaths
- Male psychopaths are more likely to be cold, detached, and unemotional, and female psychopaths are more emotional, dramatic, irritable, and impulsive
- Male psychopaths show earlier antisocial traits and behaviors (before the age of 10) than females do (usually in their teens)
How to Deal with a Female Psychopath
Psychopaths have the most severe form of antisocial personality disorder, and are dangerous because they lack the ability to feel empathy or remorse.4,5 While female psychopaths tend to be less physically violent, they are still dangerous people who are very likely to lie, steal, cheat, and manipulate other people.
Female psychopaths are more likely to develop relationships with people before they victimize them, making them even more of a threat to those who allow them into their lives.1,3,7
For these reasons, it’s recommended to cut ties with a female who shows signs of being a psychopath. When this isn’t possible, limiting interactions, setting boundaries, and keeping your distance from them is recommended. Those who have had relationships with a sociopath or a female psychopath may also benefit from seeing a therapist, especially if they’ve been victimized. Using an online therapist directory is a good starting place because it allows people to narrow their search and choose a therapist with a specific speciality in APSD.
Psychopaths are considered some of the most dangerous people in society because they lack empathy and remorse, making them highly likely to victimize other people.1,3,4 Female psychopaths aren’t common, but this may partly be because their antisocial traits and tendencies are different and harder to spot.1,3,7 Being able to spot the signs of psychopathic traits in women can help people avoid letting these dangerous individuals into their lives.
For Further Reading
- The Aftermath is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing information, resources, and support for victims of psychopaths, including articles, podcasts, support forums for survivors, and workshops.
- Psychopath Free is one of the most popular books on healing from psychopathic abuse, but also has become an online forum for survivors of psychopathic abuse to share their stories and find recovery resources.
- Psychopath Victims website has many articles and resources for those wanting to learn more about psychopathy