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Psychopathic Behavior as a Child

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I am looking for some insight on a very personal matter that no body knows about me. Not even my parents. I have seen numerous posts on reddit that detail early signs and symptoms of psychopathy and I’m just a bit concerned. I do by no means believe I am a psychopath but I am aware that I may be a bit more prone to mental illness (My granddad and Aunt were Manic Depressive). I know I should seek proper counseling and not ask questions online but I’m curious to hear your opinions on the matter.
What it boils down to are my actions as a child. It began even before my stepfather (who played a huge role in my teenage turmoil) came in to my life. I have a memory (it grows weaker by the day) of being around 4-5 years old and sadistically chasing my mums canaries around a room with a hammer. Although I don’t remember killing them I do remember running around the room with the hammer and also when my mum asked me what happened to them. I asked her about this recently and she said she cant remember anything. The next instance was when I was 9 years old. My Stepfather had a baby boy with my mum. There were multiple occasion where I would twist his arm to make him cry, the crying would irritate me and I would twist it more because of this. Unfortunately I broke his arm one time (This my parents found out about of course). I don’t want any judgement on this please. The baby was only maybe 8 months old and of course I am disgusted by what I did but I’m looking for insight not j
udgement. The last sadistic behavior I remember was at about 10-11 years old. One of my cats gave birth to 4 kittens and I am pretty sure I caused the death of all four. I would be in the room on my own and I would press down on their stomachs to make them squeal. Although they never died on the spot they passed away pretty quickly and I am sure I caused some major internal injuries.
I remember some of the moments very clearly but what I remember mostly was the guilt. In particular when my brother would scream in pain I would have the feeling wash over me instantly and I would keep doing it for some reason. It was the same feeling I got from telling him that his mam and dad weren’t ever coming back (Parents gone in to the shop, me and brother in the car)
I will finish up by saving that I consider my self a normal young adult right now. I have some issues with anxiety but I put that down to smoking grass. But I’m just wondering if this behavior as a child could manifest itself again in my later years when my mental health starts to deteriorate.
P.S I have a great relationship now with my family and stepfather who actually provided my mum with two more kids after this. They mean the world to me so I’m curious as to where this behavior stemmed.

Psychopathic Behavior as a Child

Answered by on -


I don’t think there are easy answers to your questions. Part of the problem in providing a definitive answer is that memory is fallible. Your first memory is fading and cannot be corroborated by your mother. Therefore, it may not have actually happened.

Your childhood behaviors are concerning, but they may not be indicative of psychopathy. There are many reasons why children behave the way they do. You could’ve been acting out of frustration or curiosity. It’s important to remember that children and adults are very different. Children are not mini-adults. Developmental science supports that view. Children are still developing and maturing and therefore are held to a different standard than adults. Children, who commit crimes, are typically adjudicated under laws that apply to children and receive a much less severe punishment than when adjudicated as an adult. They are held less responsible because they are less responsible.

Psychopathy is not a diagnosis that can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5), the book that mental professionals use to diagnose mental health disorders. If psychopathy is suspected in adulthood, they might receive the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. If psychopathy is suspected in childhood, a diagnosis of conduct disorder may be given. Conduct disorder represents a group of behavioral and emotional problems including: aggression to people and animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness, theft, and violating parental and societal rules. Simple displaying one of these behaviors would not be enough to warrant a diagnosis of conduct disorder.

The fact that your problematic behaviors have faded is a good sign. There’s also evidence that you felt guilt. Psychopaths typically don’t feel guilt.

You may never know why you did what you did but thankfully those problems seem like a thing of the past. However, there is one concern that you seem to be minimizing, which is the anxiety associated with marijuana use.

Recreational marijuana use is becoming more acceptable but that doesn’t make it any safer. Anecdotally, I receive many letters from people who smoke marijuana and have developed a host of negative symptoms including anxiety and derealization. Scientific studies have indicated that marijuana use increases the possibility of psychosis. Continuing to use marijuana is risky. It can be difficult to stop using drugs. You might consult a therapist who can help. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Psychopathic Behavior as a Child

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). Psychopathic Behavior as a Child. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 30 Apr 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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