Help! I Have an Almost Psychopath in My Life

Recognizing an Almost Psychopath is the first step. Next, try to document the person's behavior and get him or her help — but realize that the situation may never improve, and you may just need to walk away.

Here’s what to do if the Almost Psychopath is …

Your child: New research suggests that psychopathic traits may be found in kids as young as five. Engage with your child about the behavior you’re witnessing and set firm but reasonable limits. Visit your pediatrician for a diagnosis and help with finding the appropriate therapy for your child.

Your spouse: Tell your partner that you need to have a talk, and then proceed based on the response. Questions like “What do you mean?” provide an opening to express your concerns. A “How dare you” is significantly less promising. If the relationship is broken, confide in someone you trust about how best to get out.

Your boss: Talk to coworkers or HR about what’s going on. Frame your issues not as personal attacks, but as concerns that affect the company at large (involving, say, productivity or morale). File a complaint with documentation, if possible. When all else fails, dust off your résumé and start looking for a new job.

Your friend: You can defriend some-one on Facebook, but it’s much harder in real life. Do it subtly by not returning e-mails or phone calls, or more overtly by saying, “I’m not interested in spending time with you.”

Your parent: An adult child should call out a parent for abusive, demanding, hurtful, or duplicitous behavior. Say something like “Maybe you don’t realize it, but when you say and do those things it really hurts, and it can’t continue. If you have a problem or something’s upsetting you, let’s talk about it, because I would really hate to lose our relationship.” In extreme cases, breaking off all contact may be required. (Keep in mind that medical issues — medications, dementia, or depression — could be behind any personality changes.)