yes, therapy helps!
Types of psychopaths: the aggressive, the destabilized and the withdrawn

Types of psychopaths: the aggressive, the destabilized and the withdrawn

April 1, 2024

Today we talk about the three types of psychopaths . If you still do not know exactly what psychopathy is, we recommend that you take a look at the article "Psychopathy: what happens in the mind of the psychopath?" before you start reading.

Types of Psychopaths: the aggressive (primary), the destabilized and the withdrawn (secondary)

Psychopathy has been for a long time and remains an enigma for psychiatry . Because of a failure in the functioning of the processing of feelings, individuals without morals emerge who often end up becoming middle class criminals and, apparently, normal.

They represent a great challenge for their understanding due to the complexity involved in trying to delve into the motivations of those who seem to feel nothing. Next we will describe the different types of psychopaths categorized by Lykken.

1. Primary psychopath

It is the one that best fits the definition of the term psychopath, which means "psychologically damaged". His main feature is in a deviation in his temperament very difficult to master since childhood. Regardless of how dedicated the parents are, they are not to blame for how complex it can be to deal with their offspring.

It should also be mentioned that there are subjects that can be considered psychopaths and sociopaths at the same time, since in addition to having these temperamental characteristics of birth, they do not have a good family support or a facilitating environment that allows them to channel their behavior. Therefore, its origin can be both humble and middle class.

2. Psychopath destabilized

Even though they may enjoy normal socialization, they suffer from an organic disorder that when manifested unbalances them to the point of becoming considered less responsible for the antisocial behavior they will incur during the duration of that episode.

Epileptic equivalents

Some brain injuries (tumors, for example) can cause abnormal and even antisocial behaviors. David T. Lykken also suggests in this section the idea of ​​a "short circuit" that would occur in the mechanisms of sex and the aggressiveness of the brain of these individuals. He proposes that "(...) the biographies of some serial killers begin with obtaining sexual pleasure when children tortured animals and suggest in a clear way the existence of a kind of short circuit between the motivational systems in the brain architecture" (p. .63).

Angry type

It includes those who suffer cholera outbursts. It would frame those who occupy the upper end of the normal distribution in relation to their predisposition to anger and the intensity of it. Despite venturing to give a taxonomy of psychopathy and its causes, the author recognizes how little is known about the relevance of individual differences in this type of questions, wondering if the anger experienced by people who are angry with more ease is more intense, or if greater irascibility also causes a greater explosion of fury.


In the same way as with anger, there would be a tendency towards a more intense sexual appetite. But questions also arise as to whether the frequency of arousal predicts the maximum intensity of sexual appetite; or if the intensity of sexual arousal during intercourse will determine the number of orgasms needed to be satisfied. As it happened with the members of the previous subgroup, those that we would find here are also in situations of constant risk due to being located in the upper peak of the normal distribution of appetite and sexual intensity.

Pathological longings

They feel the need to satisfy illicit or morally reprehensible pleasures by engaging in risky actions. Various stress situations stimulate the secretion of endogenous opioids that help to withstand pain and also contribute to experiencing the so-called "high". In individuals with greater susceptibility, crimes (and above all, violent ones), these endorphins produce only a pleasant state when there is no pain or discomfort to mitigate. Therefore it is easy to conclude that for them, "the crime itself is its reward" (p.65).

Hysterical type

The basic characteristic here lies in the duality between indifference between the actions committed by these people and the remorse or anxiety that they may feel at another time. In spite of being well socialized, a young man who thinks about doing something forbidden and feels uneasy when reflecting on the consequences, is also more vulnerable to being tempted, because he can repress this discomfort.However, this repressive action is prone to exhaustion, so in periods when it is not active, this type of psychopath will feel resentment and guilt for what he may have done.

3. Secondary psychopath

Similar to the primaries in terms of impulsivity, aggressiveness and low socialization, but with a marked tendency to blame and withdrawal . According to the neurophysiological model of Fowles and Gray, impulsive and psychopathic behavior may be due to a poor 'behavior inhibition system' (SIC) or to an excessive activation in the 'behavior activation system' (SAC).

The first case would lead to a primary psychopathy, while the second to the secondary one. The latter feel overwhelmed, stressed and dissatisfied with themselves and their lives. In the same way as those of the other group, they carry out crimes driven by their drives , but they differ in remorse and the subsequent stress they suffer, which may even be higher than that of ordinary people.

You can now visit the article in which we talk in detail about the differences between psychopathy and sociopathy

Bibliographic references:

  • Lykken, D. (1994) Antisocial personalities. Barcelona: Herder.

Department of State Briefing with Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook (April 2024).

Similar Articles