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Research and surveys by Donna Andersen

Counseling Intimate Partner Abuse Survivors: Effective and Ineffective Interventions. Scientific article for the Journal of Counseling and Development. Written with Liane J. Leedom, M.D., Mary Ann Glynn, LCSW, and Meredith Barone.

Abstract: This study obtained feedback from intimate partner abuse survivors regarding helpful and unhelpful therapy. The survivors’ (n = 101) narrative accounts and answers to quantitative questions were subjected to quantitative and qualitative analysis. Results suggested that survivors sought to use therapy to understand themselves and the abuse they endured. Therapist diagnoses of codependency or assertions that survivors chose the relationship weakened the therapeutic alliance and reduced the perceived helpfulness of therapy.

In Love With an Exploiter: Sexual Deception Correlates with Increased Harm to Romantic Partners. Research poster presented at the 5th Biennial Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy, June 6-8, 2013, Washington, D.C.

Romantic partners of putative antisocial individuals completed an anonymous online survey. Respondents rated partners according to the criteria proposed in the first draft of the DSM-5 and answered questions about their experience, including harm suffered.

Of all survey respondents, 81.5% said the individual was truthful about sexual orientation, and 18.5% reported that they lied. Analyzing these two groups separately—data about putative sociopathic individuals who told the truth about their sexual orientation vs. those who lied—showed that sexual deception correlated with increased harm suffered by the romantic partner. On almost every measure, individuals who were sexually deceptive displayed more antisocial traits, more antisocial behavior, and caused more harm to their romantic partners, than those who were not sexually deceptive.

The results were particularly striking when comparing sexually deceptive vs. not sexually deceptive in regards to physical violence and sexual demands: Victims reported more physical abuse or injury (46% vs. 33%). They reported having their lives threatened more often (49% vs. 30%). They reported more pets injured or killed (23% vs. 12%). They reported more cheating (87% vs. 72%). And they reported uncomfortable sexual demands (53% vs. 37%).

In Love With an Exploiter: How Age Affects Harm Experienced by Romantic Partners. Research poster presented at the 5th Biennial Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy, June 6-8, 2013, Washington, D.C.

Romantic partners of putative antisocial individuals completed an anonymous online survey. Respondents rated partners according to the criteria proposed in the first draft of the DSM-5 and answered questions about their experience, including harm suffered. In another analysis of the survey data, respondents were divided into two groups—those who were involved in youthful relationships, where both parties were between the ages of 14 and 30, and those relationships were both parties were age 31 or older.

Respondents of both age groups reported two of the top characteristics, manipulativeness and callousness, at similar rates. However, all other traits—deceitfulness, narcissism, irresponsibility, impulsivity, aggression, hostility and recklessness—were reported at higher rates among the younger individuals.

Comparing the youthful vs. mature involvements: Victims reported more physical abuse or injury (54% vs. 29%). They reported having their lives threatened more often (42% vs. 28%). There were more reports of the putative antisocial individual threatening suicide (31% vs. 17%). And the victims themselves more often considered suicide (46% vs. 34%). In regards to financial harm, the youthful victims more often lost their homes (36% vs. 23%), lost their jobs (31% vs. 24%) and incurred debt (69% vs. 56%).

Antisocial/Psychopathic Personality: What do Family Members, Romantic Partners and Friends Report? Research poster presented with Liane J. Leedom, M.D., at the 4th Biennial Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy, May 19-20, 2011, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Aims: The present study examined the construct of DSM V antisocial/psychopathic personality through reports of romantic partners, family members and friends of putative antisocial individuals. Rationale: We maintain that educated informants who have known subjects for a long period of time have important information to share regarding their behavior and functioning.

Methods: Romantic partners, family members and friends of putative antisocial individuals were accessed through a public education website. These informants completed an anonymous survey which included ratings of proposed DSM V dimensions as well as open ended questions regarding their observations and experiences. Respondents were also asked about their understanding of the terms, “sociopath,” “psychopath” and “antisocial personality disorder”.

Results: Respondents (N= 1,378) rated the putative antisocial individuals as quite manipulative, deceitful, callous and narcissistic (in that order). These individuals were also judged to be hostile, aggressive, irresponsible, impulsive and reckless, though overall less so. Males were described as more deceitful, irresponsible and reckless than were females. Contrary to the proposed DSM V language, most respondents indicated that these very antisocial individuals did “articulate love,” and less so, “anxiety.” Interestingly, a minority of the subject antisocial individuals, about 10%, were described as rarely or never articulating love.

Conclusions: Informants who have known subjects well for a long period of time are useful sources of information about those subjects and the nature of the antisocial/psychopathic personality pattern. Antisocial/psychopathic individuals do maintain social connections, often for extended periods of time; they also “articulate love” in the service of these connections, which serve their social and material needs. The public would benefit from an agreed upon, precise diagnostic label for this condition. The proposed DSM V term antisocial/psychopathic type is too cumbersome for public education.

Senior Sociopath Survey. Online survey, posted from September 2016 through May 2017, collected data from 2,120 respondents about people over the age of 50 who they believed were disordered. Respondents described romantic partners, parents, family members, work colleagues and acquaintances. In a related survey, 200 respondents described how they dealt with the senior sociopaths.

Therapy Satisfaction Survey. Online survey, posted from September 2015 through March 2016, collected data from 711 respondents about their experiences seeking therapy from a mental health professional in the context of an abusive relationship.

Female Sociopaths Survey. Online survey, posted September through December 2014, collected data from 1,996 respondents regarding their experiences with females who they believed were disordered. In a related survey, 245 respondents described how they dealt with the female sociopath.

Lovefraud Media Survey. This online survey, begun in 2012, invites people who are willing to talk to the media about their experiences with sociopaths to provide a summary of their stories and contact information. The survey is ongoing, and more than 2,300 people have responded so far.

Lovefraud Romantic Partner Survey. Online survey, posted from February 15 to April 18, 2011, collected data from 1,352 respondents regarding romantic relationships with individuals who they believed were disordered.

Lovefraud DSM-5 Survey. Online survey, posted from February 11 to March 4, 2010, collected data from 1,378 respondents regarding their experiences with individuals who they believed were disordered. Donna Andersen and Liane J. Leedom, M.D., used the data to submit a comment to the DSM-5 committee of the American Psychiatric Association regarding the proposed new definitions and diagnostic criteria for personality disorders.


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