Psychopathy remains a poorly understood condition.  While narcissists appear to lack empathic concern for others, psychopaths primarily lack emotional depth.  

It seems clear that people who are often labelled as psychopathic are really a variety of narcissist, given their competitive or dominant nature.  

Here, Athena Walker and Dr Natalie Engelbrecht present their findings of the latest research on the subject, on  

The most recent information about the genetics and brain structure of psychopathy




Psychopaths and emotionsAthena Walker on

“What emotions can a psychopath actually feel?”

Athena Walker identifies as a psychopath, and here she describes her own emotional landscape.  




Psychopaths and morality – Athena Walker on

“What relationship do psychopaths have towards morality?”  

Athena Walker talks about morality and ethics.  


Lack of emotional depth is, without a doubt, part of the psychopathic hallmarks. We literally lack the wiring for deep experience and expression of emotion. It’s simply physically impossible.

As for a sense of justice, most of us do have something called a code of conduct. It is based off what we ourselves have decided is wrong. For instance, I never cheat. It violates my trust if a partner did it to me, trust is exceptionally important to me, therefore if I expect it, I must decide to give it.

A good number of us decide the code of conduct based on what we consider weak action. What qualifies for me would be taking advantage of someone that has no adequate defense. A child, someone elderly for example. If you have to stoop to the level of victimizing people that are incapable of mounting a defense against you, you are not skilled, and that makes you weak.

We don’t have disrespect for the law, we just think that laws are arbitrary and often pointless. If they are in our way, and it doesn’t violate our code of conduct, they are able to be disregarded. They’re great for everyone else though. Bang up job, really.

Morals are a choice. We have our own. I call mine a code of conduct. They are things that I consider unacceptable behavior.

We have a strong sense of justice. Granted, it is our own justice, but it is still something that is part of a hard wiring. There are different things that are on the no list for each of us. Some do not have a slice of sympathy for animal abuse, despite what Hareiots would have you believe. For others it's sexual abuse of a child, that would be one of mine.

It could be a lot of different things. These decisions aren't based on the moral implication of the act for me. Instead it is how I view the person that would do something like that and what it says about them in terms of character and trustworthiness. If you find a child sexual in any way and are willing to act on it, I don't see how I would ever be able to trust your judgement. You show that you have a need to prey on the weak, which makes you far weaker than your victims. Pathetic indeed.

Morals, if anything, should be a decision you make because you can see what about an action is good or is bad. What reasoning you ascribe to the meaning of good or bad might change. I have a distinct lack of empathy. Born that way, and nothing that I say or do will change it. However, I have a code of conduct. Not cheating would be on it. It is not the worst thing, nor the lightest thing on it, but it’s relatable.

So, cheating. I don’t like it. I will not accept it from my partner. It’s a deal breaker. If I don’t like it and won’t accept that from my partner, I cannot logically allow it for myself. That’s part of my code. Some people call that a moral, for me it’s a logical choice. I can make those based on what I think of as acceptable behavior.

Really, if we think about what makes up the morals of some people, it is pretty obvious that they don’t put a modicum of thought into them. If I had a dollar for how many times I heard something along these lines I would be a wealthy woman.

What prevents an atheist from raping and murdering everyone that they know. Without God there is no morality. If you aren’t afraid of hell then you can do whatever you want.

Insert psychopath where atheist is and I have heard that plenty of times as well. So, in other words, if they didn’t believe in God and have the bible, they would feel the urge to rape and murder everyone they know. Not only that, that apparently is what they want to do and the fear of hell is all that keeps them inline. Nice, right.

Morals are a decision, and one that is easily reached through the careful consideration of a situation and you as a person with measured thought and logic. Emotions really have little to do with it. Logically, if you don’t want to be murdered in your sleep, don’t murder people in their’s. Simple.


If you are competing with anyone other than yourself, you have already surrendered the game.


Q.  Athena, I identify three basic moral principles in your answer (as well as others): justice, the Golden Rule, and reciprocity. (Would you agree?)  Reciprocity is a “personal” principle, in that we can only reciprocate in person. But justice and the Golden Rule are more abstract. Do you feel that these two apply to strangers as well as people you deal with personally?  

A.  Indeed I do. I think these aspects apply to strangers. They are important pieces to a functioning society.


Q.  Hi Athena. What do you think about the much-talked-about "grandiosity" in psychopaths?  

A.  I think that they mean that we don’t have self doubt. That’s all I can figure. I know what I am capable of, and I am not going to be needlessly humble. However, I know what I suck at as well, and I am not going to needlessly make myself sound better than I am. I think it is the first part that that trait is created from.  



To me, Athena demonstrates at least the following ethical attitudes:  

you > me  

“Helping in response to need”: for example, in helping me with this project; and in viewing picking on the weak as bad.

you = me  

Fairness, self-other equivalence, mutual respect, and mutual deservingness (based on exclusion of free riders).

we > me  

Honesty, commitment to a promise, responsibility to others, society-wide social contract for all to cooperate for the good of all.    

Moral identity

It is clearly important to Athena to be an ethical person and she judges herself impartially as she would judge anyone else.  

Therefore I conclude that her ethical compass is intact, and similar to a “neurotypical” person’s, except: 1) it is probably better thought out; 2) it contains a lot less emotion.  

Athena says that her moral compass is best characterised by the Golden Rule.  I would agree with this, and add “character” or “virtue ethics” to the analysis.

She sums it up like this:  

Probably more like;

“Treat me well, and I’ll treat you better. Treat me badly, and I’ll treat you worse.”

Athena Walker



Athena’s answer to “What’s the difference between a pro-social and an anti-social psychopath?”  here

Athena Walker on the term “pro-social psychopath”  here



Some life lessons from psychopaths






Checklist – are you dealing with a sociopath?

12 Symptoms of an Undercover Psychopath  

Philpott murders

Confessions of a sociopath

We Talked To A Diagnosed Sociopath To Figure Out If We Were Dating One

Sociopath World  



Popular information about purported psychopaths


Transcripts of TV and radio programmes


  1. “Meet the Psychopaths” episode 1: “Psycho Killers” – Joanne Dennehy, Noel Smith, John Cannan
  2. “Meet the Psychopaths” episode 2: “Psychopaths in Power” – Jimmy Savile, Robert Maxwell, Enron Corporation, Global financial crisis of 2008, Colonel Gaddafi of Libya, Adolf Hitler  
  3. “Meet the Psychopaths” episode 3: “The Psychopath Next Door” – Philpott fire, Psychopathic traits can be useful in society, Noel Smith (including possible diagnosis and treatment), Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center, Wisconsin, USA
  4. The Philpott Fire - Five Years On  
  5. Dennis Nilsen obituary

Confusion between psychopaths and toxic narcissists  

I believe that Mick Philpott and Adolf Hitler would be better described as toxic narcissists with zero empathic concern, since they both strongly show(ed) self-directed, egocentric emotions (i.e. emotions about their own interests).  

Dennis Nilsen could well be a narcissist with schizoid and borderline adaptations.