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Ben Carson doesn’t really know what a ‘psychopath’ is

Ben Carson speaks at National Harbor, Md., in February.  (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

In GQ's profile of Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon and potential 2016 presidential candidate called President Obama a "psychopath."

Calling politicians you aren't fond of psychopaths feels like an unfortunately routine part of our political landscape today, but Carson did more than just name call. In the interview, he pointed to Obama's neat appearance as proof he's a psychopath ("That's why they're successful. That's the way they look. They all look great," he said.).

Carson is a doctor, but I talked to some professionals to see whether they agreed with him.

Lisa Kays, a licensed clinical social worker in Washington, said in a phone interview that to clinically be described as a psychopath, someone must show signs before age 15, and must meet three criteria from a list that includes things like deceitfulness, failure to plan ahead, consistent irresponsibility and a lack of remorse.  There's also the possibility of anti-social behavior, increased risk of violence, failure to conform to social norms and saying things for shock value.

"We don't see a whole lot of violence [in politicians]," Kays said. "They're not impulsive."

Psychologist Deborah Stokes, PhD, said there is the concept of  "the charming sociopath," which may be more of what Carson was going for in his description of Obama.  "They lure people in with their charisma," Stokes said. "We see that with politicians, with cult figures and so forth," she said, and in politics, "you have to be a little bit self-centered."

But — and try not to act too surprised — neither woman thinks Obama is actually clinically a psychopath.

"I do think we toss this word around casually," Kays said. "It certainly doesn't apply to everyone wearing a suit."

Seems Ben Carson misdiagnosed this one.