Can you love a psychopath?

Has he ever loved me? is the title of Liane Leedom’s work in which she analyzes love affairs between psychopaths and their partners based mainly on the testimony of the latter. Liane Leedom’s results establish four phases in this type of relationship: induction, engagement, disconnection and recovery. However, while he explains how an adult can get involved in a relationship with a psychopath, he does not answer the question of whether a psychopath is able to feel the emotion we call love.

On the other hand, Laval University establishes a relationship between the type of condition and the psychopathy. Psychopaths tend to have an avoidant style of affection, which manifests itself in the difficulty of establishing interpersonal relationships with great intimacy. The underlying question we raise here stems precisely from this: Can a psychopath, or simply a surrogate, feel true love? Let’s see.

    Are psychopaths capable of loving?

    A psychopath is able to establish a sentimental relationship and, in it, to manipulate the victim. But this does not contradict the possibility that the psychopath is in love with his partner or loves his family. To understand this, we need to define what psychopathy is and define what love is.


    Primary psychopaths, those who make our hair stand on end and become superstars of crime or the stock market and business world, are characterized by two basic traits: low fear and pleasure in the pain of others. These characteristics show a dysfunction of the brain structures which manage the emotions and, moreover, are those which cause the lack of empathy: fear is the precursor of guilt and pain is the precursor of compassion.

    If a person is unable to feel fear, it makes sense that he should not be afraid of the consequences of his actions and so he doesn’t feel guilty for them, he’s just immune to them. When the pleasure center is activated in the same individual by visualizing the pain scenes of others, it means that their compassion system is deactivated. And that’s how the primary psychopath was born.


    On the other hand, love could be defined as an emotional state which combines, at the psychological level, motivation for affiliation (linked to the need for affection), socially learned attitudes and expectations and overt behavior. All of this is supported on a neurobiological basis which includes different areas of activation in the brain and the segregation of certain neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and dopamine.

    Dopamine is linked to pleasure and strengthening. Their response to psychopaths not only matches that of non-psychopaths when it comes to neutral and calming situations, but their secretion can be a greater, much greater reward in the face of reinforcement (in secondary psychopaths), especially when there is has pain in the middle (in primary psychopaths).

    It seems that the emotional flattening of the psychopath comes up against characteristics and behaviors socioculturally attributed to love. But the two great traits we mentioned have nothing to do with love. The psychopath’s emotional problems have to do with the suffering of others, fear and pain, not all emotions.

    This results in the fact that a psychopath in principle can love, but with his own rules. She may not be worried or upset if her teenage daughter doesn’t get home on time, but she still wants to show up and love her. He may lie and be unfaithful to his partner, but he always feels like he wants to be by his side. Of course, these psychopath’s “rules” don’t have to be accepted by their family or poor society (and indeed, in many cases, they shouldn’t be), but they do exist and there is a certain moral code after them.

    A different emotionality

    The point is that the love of a psychopath does not include the socio-cultural extras associated with this emotion (loyalty, compassion, sincerity …), nor those accessories that come from the emotions of pain or fear. The psychopath is not going to feel love the same way you and I do: in his mind, it is a limited emotion, because the structures involved in emotions, such as the amygdala and the hippocampus, function in such a way. abnormal.

    Outraged, it will be a kind of love with its own branded antisocial facets (Since dopamine is activated in its own way). But love, in a peculiar and crude way, is also a reality in the mind of the psychopath.

    This particular way of loving leads to toxic relationships, where the psychopath’s partner is in constant pain. However, it is possible that for the psychopath these are also unsatisfying relationships in which he never gets exactly what he wants (as in the crimes he commits) due to his own limitations.

    The debate remains open

    It has been shown that psychopaths are able to feel compassion for themselves and feel empathy when asked. For his part, Joe Newman proposes on an empirical basis that psychopaths have a tunnel attention span, while they experience this emotional range, they are for them a secondary condition that can be easily overcome by focusing on one’s goals, a theory that goes well with secondary psychopathy. All this proves that in psychopaths, emotionality is not a mere void, it may be a very dark hole, but it certainly contains something.

    Given these issues, the debate remains to be discerned whether it is possible to call this psychopathic emotion love which seems to imitate only partially, or if love, as romantic idealists argue, goes much further.

    From my point of view, the term “love” is marred by many socio-cultural constructions which correspond to the myths of romantic love and which also do not correspond to the reality of the emotion. For this reason, it is necessary to psychologically and neurobiologically delineate the definition of love to answer this question, and for this reason we may never know. Either way, there is empirical evidence that psychopaths are capable of feeling something that at least resembles love.

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