By | May 9, 2008 253 Comments

Anxiety: An inevitable outcome of involvement with a sociopath/psychopath

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, “anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It helps one deal with a tense situation in the office, study harder for an exam, keep focused on an important speech. In general, it helps one cope. But when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling disorder.” Put another way anxiety is supposed to help us. The parts of the brain that produce feelings of anxiety are similar to the parts of the brain that process pain, another negative emotion. Anxiety and its cousin pain help us by signaling danger and causing us to avoid. Their job is to inhibit behavior. The part of the brain that processes pain and anxiety is called the Behavioral Inhibition System or BIS.

I have observed that anxiety is the single biggest obstacle to recovery from a pathological relationship with a sociopath (psychopath). The aftermath of these relationships leaves a person with terrible anxiety, dread and when anxiety/dread is overwhelming, avoidance sets in. Avoidance coping leads people to withdraw from life and responsibilities and the result is only more anxiety. A vicious cycle sets in where anxiety leads to avoidance, avoidance behaviors get us in trouble, that trouble leads to more anxiety, that anxiety leads to even more avoidance”¦and so on.

Why is a pathological relationship different from all others? Why is the anxiety experienced afterward so profound? I think the roots of the anxiety have to do with 6 things:

1. During the relationship, mind games, undermine a person’s confidence.
2. During the relationship the victim is intentionally isolated from potential sources of support.
3. During the relationship the sociopath/psychopath does things that harm the victim’s relationships with significant people in his/her life.
4. The break-up of any relationship causes anxiety, conflict laden relationships more so.
5. In the aftermath many victims face financial problems.
6. In the aftermath many victims face legal problems.

O.K. , I admit the anxiety is caused by a total destruction of the framework of a person’s life!

I think that our psychological defenses can operate so well that many people underestimate the degree to which anxiety influences their behavior and the level of avoidance coping they engage in. The best indicator of anxiety, in my opinion is this avoidance coping.

Just what is avoidance coping? Avoidance coping means that a person denies or minimizes the seriousness of a situation. He/she uses a self—protective strategy and actively suppresses stressful thoughts. Most importantly, behaviorally speaking avoidance coping means an avoidance of tasks that might in anyway remind us of the stressor and avoidance of doing many of the tasks of life. Since avoidance coping requires so much mental energy, there is not enough left for getting work done. Instead, people tend to get satisfaction through other activities like eating or watching TV.

I got to thinking about avoidance coping this week because I tutor a 15 year old in math and he described his own behavior which is a good example of avoidance coping and its consequences. I hadn’t seen this student for about a year. I worked with him for several years and the last time I saw him he was in 8th grade and was doing very well in that he could solve simple algebra problems. Now in 9th grade, he is failing math so his mother called me. When I tested him, he had regressed. He could not do any of the tasks he could do easily only a year ago.

I asked him what happened. He said, “The things I know I do. When I don’t get something, I don’t want to do it. I get home and feel like I would rather ride my bike, so I do. Then I don’t do my homework.”

The point I want to make to you, is that I worked with him for only an hour and he got a 93 on the next test! Due to this victory, he feels a great deal less like avoiding. So I ask you, are there things you are avoiding that you could actually succeed at if you just stop avoiding? Wouldn’t an A grade at some task that you are avoiding boost your confidence and serve you better than that nagging feeling you are not doing the stuff you are supposed to do.

My student’s mother has some negative words for her son’s motivation. She says he is lazy etc. She just does not understand the degree to which anxiety is producing his dysfunctional behavior. He doesn’t outwardly appear anxious, though inwardly he is. Just that little contact with me reduced his anxiety enough to help him face that which he had been avoiding. Just like my student, even when we don’t appear anxious, our avoidance behaviors often lead to further damage to our already damaged relationships.

If you are avoiding too much, I encourage you to stop avoiding. Confront those tasks that are causing you dread, fear and anxiety. In the end you will feel a lot better. You might get an A grade if you try and not trying always leads to failure-an F. Next week more on anxiety and coping.

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I had some form of anxiety thru out the relationship, now that I can look back with a clear head. Because of this anxiety both my oldest child and I did avoid her because we never knew what would set her off. I now know this as “walking on eggshells”. The thing that I now see is that my avoidance was not only of her, but also the many issues that I saw happening between the children, her and me. In short, anxiety was telling me something and how I wish I was listening. This form of anxiety was ready to increase once the relationship ended.

Anxiety was something that I suffered very much from in the beginning (or should I say the end) of my end relationship with my ex-sociopath. I feel that anxiety bring with it; it’s own form of depression. Anyway, when our breakup first happen, I thought that I would be able to (this of course was way, way before I even knew what a sociopath was) just work with her and that we would together (what a joke) make this transition period easier on the children. None of this happens of course which only cause me more anxiety, frustration and my own mild case of insanity. After learning about the many lies, manipulation and lack of concern for the children she left behind. My anxiety increased and deep depression became the norm. Thinking that I could manage my depression was just not a reality for me and I had to be prescribed AD (anti-depressions) Does involvement with a sociopath causes anxiety? Yes it does. Past, present and future…


“If you are avoiding too much, I encourage you to stop avoiding. Confront those tasks that are causing you dread, fear and anxiety. In the end you will feel a lot better. You might get an A grade if you try and not trying always leads to failure-an F. Next week more on anxiety and coping.”

Oh, sorry to say that in this I got the F grade. But I am learning! Great information, Thanks.

Ox Drover

Dr L, this is a wonderful topic and one that really hit home with me after my husband’s tragic accidental death and my step-father’s death from cancer shortly afterwards (6 month) during which time he required much care and support.

The “avoidance behavior” went to the extreme with me after this—I just didn’t care if I did anything or not, not even normal household chores, it is amazing that I had enough energy or even cared to feed the dogs, but the floor went unmopped, the dishes unwashed, and some days I forgot to eat (I lost 35 pounds) much less cook. I was aware this was going on, I even talked about it with my son D, but just DIDN’T CARE. I could play solitaire on the computer for 16-20 hours a day…anything to just NOT think. NOT feel. NOT do. I didn’t FEEL much of anything except sadness and guilt that I didn’t even care if the floor was mopped, but no positive coping or recovery during this period, though.

I realize there was a lot of depression in this as well, but even though I had high doses of antidepressants I wasn’t dealing with anything–it was like I was in “hibernation” emotionally, and maybe I was. One physical illness after another (a couple of them very serious infections) added even more stress.

Avoidance of unpleasant task produces Guilt, guilt then made me feel more anxious/depressed, so I did less, which increased the guilt which made me do less, which increased the guilt–ad nauseum. A vicious circle.


This is really true with me. The thing is I rarely feel anxious and all my friends tell me how laid back I am, but it is because when I start to feel that dread about something, I immediately turn it off by distracting myself. I get caught in that vicious cycle but I’m getting better because now I recognize what I do so I can change my behavior.

Now I try to face my anxiety by picturing the worst case scenario and trying to think of what I would do if it happened. Usually the thing I picture in my head is so crazy and unlikely to happen that anything less than that seems doable. Sometimes I even write about what it is I’m dreading and that also makes it seem less scary. Forcing myself to face what I was avoiding really helps me to feel more responsible and less guilty. It’s hard though because I’ve had this habit all my life.

This article is really spot on. It totally explains where this comes from. I was “walking on eggshells” my whole life until a couple years ago. Old habits die hard.


Dear Dr. L.,

I am happy to say that the anxiety has slowly gone away. I went through a period of time about 6 months ago where I felt like everywhere I looked, I saw men with shallow expressions and I felt as if they were predators. I was reading A LOT at LoveFraud at that time and what happened to me was sinking in that much deeper. But, for some reason, this phase has gone away. Thank God for that. I was getting a little weird.

I was not functioning well at all for about 1.5 years after I left Bad Man. That entire time, I did not know that I was having symptoms of PTSD. I feel so dramatic saying that and I hate it but it’s a fact. My life was a wreck and so was I. And I could not stop arguing with the Bad Man in my head. Boy he was a jerk.

I don’t miss him at all and I am not even one ounce deluded about what he was/is anymore. I am FREE from that.

I am dating someone finally.. but it’s a bumpy road for me. I am a babbling idiot and I am always wondering if he really cares about me or am I being exploited somehow. But he seems patient and kind and so I try not to freak out too much out loud. And it is nice to have a big hug. I feel like if he’s too nice, there is something inside me that might crack and ooze out and it might be a gross mess. Hmmm. This reminds me of those early days… I was getting a pedicure and the lady was massaging my feet and I started to cry. After being through such cruelty, any act of tenderness, kindness, goodness would turn me into a puddle of tears.

Well, I am just rambling. Thanks for this topic. I don’t think I have said anything useful but anxiety.. yeah.. had a lot of that. Not so much anymore. YAY!


What I now do when acknowledging my “anxiety” is too stop, validate and find out why I am feeling anxiety. Stress is and always will be a factor in everyday life. I believe that stress is manageable and anxiety understandable. Basically when I start to stress I start to understand the source of that stress then manage it by dealing with whatever it is that is stressing me out. Acknowledging the type of stress like worry frustration or whatever. Give myself a little pep talk and then move on. In short by managing my stress level, I will lower the feeling/emotion of anxiety. I experience anxiety once in awhile now. I still get frustrated which causes me stress but not as often. Unlike when I lived with my ex sociopath, then dear reader’s “anxiety, stress and dread” was just norm for the day. What a different a day makes when this type of person (sociopath) is no longer part of our life!

Ox Drover

James: Quote: “What a difference a day makes when this type of person (sociopath) is no longer part of our life.”



On a visit to the UK recently, my sister reminded me of how much anxiety I lived through as child.
A the age of four I lost my left eye and suffered what I now know to be PTSD not only from that but my father dying six months later. For the next 34 years my sister and I suffered psychological torture at the hands of our mother who had NPD. She used to threaten to kill us, put us in a childrens home or run off and leave us. I spent years sitting at the end of my bed watching her bedroom door and listening for sounds of her leaving.
After I married my husband I thought that I had finally escaped. I came to live in SE Asia and even though she still tormented me, I was at least safe with a wonderful, kind man.
Unfortunately, what I did not realise is that because of my background I was such a good target for a psychopath. He cultivated my trust over many years and as he told me once, ” I’ve studied you”. I still suffer agony at how I could have been led into an affair and hurt my family so much but I also understand why people like me are such soft targets. I had major anxiety and insecurity problems plus had been programmed from young that everything was my fault and always trying to please others. Once a psychopath sees those cracks in a person, they drive a sledge hammer through them. The interesting thing is that once I was completely caught in his web of lies, many disturbing memories of my childhood came flooding back. Sub-conciously I suppose I was identifying with the same manipulative behaviour but did not recognise it at the time.
These days I still struggle with anxiety. It comes over me for no apparent reason or from triggers that I am not aware of. I’ve learnt to live with it and can rationalise it . Gradually over the past two years of NC I have come out of the major deptression and isolation. I have started painting/photography again and I can socialise now without too much panic. However difficult, being back in the ‘real’ world does help a lot. If I spend too much time alone I always feel worse so I make myself get out there and carry on living.
Thanks for a great article. Dealing with anxiety is definately one of the worst parts of a relationship with a disordered person.


Thank you Free. I am sure if did a survey of people targeted and ensnared by a psychopath you would find that many of them have previously suffered some kind of emotional trauma and abuse when young.
A friend of mine was puzzled that I could be hooked because she assumed that having suffered so much when young I would never let anyone do that to me again. Sadly, it seems to have the opposite effect in the sense that those of us who have received continuous emotional trauma when young often have a much higher tolerance level of abuse and manipulation later in life.
The anxiety of living with a disordered person was once desribed by a councillor to my sister as ” walking along on a lovely summer day and having the overwhelming fear that at any minute a tiger is going to jump out of the anymore, the fear stays with you.


Sorry, I’ve missed out bits on the last post
“walking along on a lovely summer day and having the overwhelming fear that at any minute a tiger is going to jump out of the bushes and eat you”. Even though you know the tiger isn’t there anymore, the fear stays with you.


The anxiety I felt over 4 years was horrible. It should have been a red flag for me that this was a person who was wrong for me. Instead I just kept being uncertain about what he really felt for me – was it caring/warmth or was it disinterest ?.
None of the other symptoms here applied to him, though. He was just a mastermind in head games and manipulation.


The anxiety was so bad for me that I turned to xanex and alcohol. While I was with him I got two dui’s which contributed to more anxiety and shame. I had never been in trouble with the law before him or since.
Today I still struggle with not drinking when I feel upset and the anxiety gets very high, but do not turn to alcohol fortunatley. I say that I am a situational alcoholic. Is this true or am I a full blown alcoholic?



You mentioned the pedicure and how good it made you feel. I have had so many similar experiences.

Let me give you and example. A friend and I were going to and event and I was driving. I didn’t know how to get there, but she did, so of course she gave directions as I drove. I was nearly overwhelmed by how pleasant this experience was. It was such a contrast to the way it was with my ex. On the rare occasions when he didn’t insist on driving (because he is such a control freak), he would yell at me for missing a turn that he never told me to make.

The silver lining of my bad experiences with my ex are that now I find great pleasure in very simple experiences that I might otherwise have taken for granted. The short trip with my friend giving me directions was something that I savored.


Math Anxiety

I tutor math and I have seen this phenomenon in so many of the kids I work with. My students are fortunate enough to have parents who care. Most of my students have had issues with their teachers. The teachers seem to explain things poorly and make the kids feel bad when they don’t “get it.” I have seen the handouts the kids get in class and they are terribly confusing. It’s no wonder that none but the brightest kids in the class are able to understand the material. Even for bright kids, it would be confusing. That can’t help but produce anxiety.



I have been reading about cortisol levels in the brain and how they affect learning and memory. When the levels are very low, the person is bored and does not learn. When the levels are very high, the person is anxious and does not learn. This means that we need to have just the right balance. I would compare the “good” level of cortisol to the feeling of excitement, anticipation, or eagerness.

When we have the right balance, we are engaged in our work or our study and able to do our best.

I have also learned that very high levels of cortisol actually destroy pathways in the brain. I believe that this is what happened to the student the author was describing. I am quite convinced it is what happened to me. At the end of my bad relationship, I was very shaken and lacking in self-confidence. There were things that I used to be able to do that I couldn’t. Learning new things was a real struggle for me, both because I had trouble focusing and because I had trouble remembering.

I am still struggling with this, but I want to hold out hope for the rest of you who are, too. I am a little better almost every day. (A few setbacks now and then, but generally a very positive trend.) One of the easiest places for me to see this is with music. I used to be able to play several different instruments and at the end of the relationship I played all of them poorly or not at all. Now they are coming back, a little at a time. I am back to my old level or even better on all but one instrument.

The same is true of my work knowledge. At first, things that I used to know were just blanks. Now I am recovering that knowledge and learning a lot of new things. Best of all, the pace is accelerating. The more I learn, the faster I learn and the better I learn.

So, my advice is to continue to struggle. It’s very slow at first, but it will get better. Little successes lead to bigger ones. If at all possible, tackle easier or smaller steps at the beginning so that you can experience success. This will encourage you to do a little more the next time. Be stubborn and don’t give up.


My mother (now 93 yrs old) has had sociopathic behavior disorder along with obsessive, compulsive disorder, paranoia, and other problems and is a very controlling individual. She never worked outside of the home, never voted, read a book, or had many friends.

I left home as soon as I finished school, but have spent most of my life being a soft-touch for ccontrolling people, bosses, significant others, friends…

I could never NO to other people’s requests because it give me tremendous anxiety. And I have always experienced tremendous amounts of anxiety when I needed to ask for help, a favor, or any kind of a request.

When I was growing up and wanted to participate in some activity with my school friends… I always asked her permission first, and usually she said okay – at the outset, but when the time came for the actual event that I had a part in – like a play or a game – she said I couldn’t go. As a result of this, I suffered a lot of embarrassment and loss of self esteem. I got so that I was afraid to ask for anything – no matter how minor – and if I did get the courage to ask, the anxiety was overwhelming, and if she said yes, then I waited for the other shoe to fall and having to back out at the last minute.

Early in life I knew I wanted to be a doctor and that required taking science courses in high school in order to get the background for college admittance. She insisted that I could not take those courses, but instead ‘decreed’ that I learn to be an office worker and study along those lines. Inspite of the high school principal assuring her and my father that with my IQ and grades, there was every possibility that I would get scholarships and the principal and the faculty would support that, I had to accede to her demands… and I guess I gave up on myself…

Today I know my anxiety is holding me back in my goals and I’m just afraid and anxious about stepping out and going for it and I spend a lot of my time on inconsequential ‘stuff.’

I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow and my anxiety will be the subject.

Used Brauer

I never realized the significance of how anxiety can become a cycle in my life. After reading this I realize how much avoidance has played in my life. Moreso now than ever and it’s been two years since I split with my ex. I thought that I would improve with time.

I still have terrible nightmares and I am going to counseling but I never leave my desk even for lunch, I never leave my home except to got to work/store or an appointment. It never even occurred to me that this was a symptom of anxiety. It felt secure to me not to get out in public.

Reading this blog has been very enlightening but now I’m afraid that I must be worse than I thought.

Ox Drover


Your “mental problems” with thinking, playing your instruments etc. is VERY typical of post-traumatic-stress-disorder, depression etc.

Alll my life I have been a “multi-tasker” and even as a kid I would sit and watch TV, do my home work, and talk on the phone all at the same time and accomplish all of the things. As a “parlor trick” you could read me 100 numbers in a row, and I could after hearing them one time, recite them back to you, in order, skipp every other one, backwards, backwards and skip every third one, etc.

After my husband’s plane crash, I could not keep more than 1 or 2 numbers in my head long enough to write them down. I could not punch a phone number into a phone except 1 at a time, and finally I had to have someone write the number and as I punched them into the phone I would have to mark that number off the paper with a pen to keep up with where I was. For 3 months I could not read at all.

I had almost NO short term memory. Even my long term memory was like swiss cheese, my sense of time was gone, my circadian rythm was 180 degrees off and irratic.

I’ve always been “hyperactive” but without the attention deficit (sort of like the energizer bunny) but I became lethargic. Three months after the crash I tried to go back to work, but realized I couldn’t function like that as it took ALL my energy to work 2 days a week (that was all I was working before the crash) and that people’s lives depended on me, and I wasn’t sure I was up to it. I worked a very stressful job in a rapid paced environment in a hospital.

The PTSD started with my husband’s accidental death, but with my step-father’s cancer death 6 months later, and the “attacks of the Ps” one after another over the next 3 years, I became a “blob of protoplasam” unable to function at all.

I read some research lately about rats under stress vs rats not stressed. They stressed half of them and the other half not, and the exercise was kept contstant and the food amounts constant, and the rats that were stressed gained weight AROUND their middles. I have NEVER had a “fat middle” and if I was over weight it was always distributed all over my body, not in one particular spot. I have gained weight and it is ALL IN THE MIDDLE. Can we say stress? Stress does some horrible things to us, and my health has declined remarkably, along with several infectious episodes that were life threatening, though I have always tended to be VERY healthy except for broken bones or other accidental things like that.

I became VERY anxious about my lack of mental function. I was checked for early altzheimers, and given a 1-1 IQ test and I scored in the 99th percentile—which reassured me, but still though it has improved, I am still not where I was before the aircraft crash and the subsequent stressful events of my whole world collapsing around my head. I know that there have been “chemical changes” in my brain. I will probably have to take antidepressant medications for the rest of my life, and I may never get back to where I can multitask like I used to, but I am more able to concentrate on one task at a time. I have noticed to that NOISE irritates and distracts me from a task. If there are people talking while I am trying to think about something, I have difficulty concentrating on my own thoughts. So now I am not only a bit hyperactive but attention deficit too. My Psych MD tried Ritilan on me for a while but I couldn’t tell that it helped any so don’t take it any more. She even thought I might be a bit bi-polar and tried a mood stabilizer but that didn’t help any either so we are just back to a mid-level antidepressant and my functioning is starting to improve over the past 8 months, especially since I went NC with my mother.

My avoidance behavior has decreased, my energy level has improved (part of the low energy here lately was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever I had last summer) but that is improving as I am regaining physical conditioning with exercise.

Louise, I understand the not wanting to go anywhere. Not getting out. I have moved back to my home at the farm after fleeing for my life, but I have not yet moved back into my house, but continue to live in my RV—and I think really I feel safer living here than I would in my 4 bedroom house which is 100 feet away. I have all the “modern” conveniences and more than enough room for everything I need or want here, and I am very comfortable. Lots of retired people live the “full time RV” life–I do too, I just don’t travel with it, but I COULD if I wanted to and may at some time.

For now though, I think that if I wanted to live in a tent in my front yard, whose business is it but mine?

I’m starting to want to get out and do things and am doing them. Visiting friends, going places, and being part of the community again. Keeping my living environment clean, taking pride in myself and my accomplishments. Life is good again. Not perfect, but good, and the day-to-day things, like flat tires and the incessant rain are just “life” not catastrophies.


A lot of what you say about your mothers behaviour and the effect it had on you is so familiar. I too was held back in life by my mothers contol and I did not leave home until I was 28 because of the suicide threats. Looking back now, I was a very angry, frustrated and anxious person.
It is a tragic that you did not become a doctor and you have every right to be angry but try not to let things hold you back now. We cannot change the past but we can change the future.
I don’t know if you have tried any anti anxiety meds but I have found Zoloft helpful. It seems to relieve the anxiety and clear the depression that goes with it.


Liane: Can I ask what you mean when you say “The over anxious have the best long term prognosis”? (I am not trying to be stupid here)


i think it breaks down neurons or something. i remember the first S feeling like i just have to wait till this blows over. and with the second S i remember thinking “omg, i hate you ____.” but the anxiety feels like it is stuck in my brain. like a neuron broke down. it’s one of the main last things that i need to get over.


Hi Swallow,

Just to let you know that at the age of 58, I entered medical school and graduated four years later. Since my encounter with my sociopathic ex and several ongoing encounters with my sister – instigated by mother – I have been in sort of a holding pattern… As for Zoloft, I’m one of those people who don’t take well to medications and haven’t had so much as an aspirin in over 25 years. I do take calcium (which is calming) and some other phytonutrients and I feel good and have lots of energy – except for applying myself to this avoidance problem… thanks for your comments and suggestions.


My daughter is in first year medical school and it TOUGH. Well Done!!!



“I am sure if did a survey of people targeted and ensnared by a psychopath you would find that many of them have previously suffered some kind of emotional trauma and abuse when young.”

Yes you would find that link between most of us.



[I read some research lately about rats under stress vs rats not stressed.]

Interesting thing about that is when she (PD) left us, the children and I don’t get sick (flu’s, colds etc) as much. In these two years of her absents, I only had a small cold that lasted for maybe a few days. Same with my boys. So with that said, man does stress do a number on us physically, mentally and emotionally!

Ox Drover

I am rereading a book “Emotional Intelligence,Why it can matter more than IQ” by Dr. Daniel Goleman, (Formerly editor of “Psychology Today,”) ISBN: 0-553-09503-X, who also wrote “Vital Lies, Simple Truths.”

Dr. Goleman goes into the chemical and electrical working of the evolution of the brain, and why sometimes our emotions react to a perceived threat BEFORE our thinking mind even gets the message that there is a threat, much less what it is. We may OVER react to an emotionally upsetting thing that triggers our emotional responses.

He answers some of the questions about our reacting to emotional memories buried in the brain that we are not even consciously aware of, and of trauma that took place when we were children. He holds out more hope for overcoming the genetic predisposition to psychpathic thinking for children than any legitiate writer I have read, by using emotional intelligence training for children.

Boy, does this book make sense when you are dealing with a “P” and answers a lot of the questions about the “crazymaking” that we go through emotionally after trying to deal with the insanity of the P’s “logic.”

I shared this book with my son C (the one married to the DIL-P who tried to kill him) and it apparently really struck a cord with him and has helped him so much.

The book isn’t just “theory” or “research” information, but also practical ways to help ourselves use our logical minds to over come our emotional over reactions. Suggestions for raising the at risk child who has a psychopathic parent or grandparent, and other good information. I highly recommend it.


When I read your post, it is almost word for word what I went through. Even the back problems and I am only 40. I don’t drink that often now, its just that my stepmom and dad made a comment about it the other day.
Believe me, I am very ashamed about all the drinking I did when I was with him and the dui’s. It was a way I found to hide so it wouldn’t hurt so much. Of course it only made things worse, then I had to deal with myself and how I felt after drinking.
My family seems to be convinced that I have a drinking problem tho I don’t drink hardly ever and if I do, I do not tell them. I feel like I am the only one who turned to alcohol to escape and it is an awful feeling.

“I am sure if did a survey of people targeted and ensnared by a psychopath you would find that many of them have previously suffered some kind of emotional trauma and abuse when young.

Concur with this statement. Anyone care to try and explain why? I’ve been working on my own theories, and they’re just theories. Part of it though is that we respond to the secretive nature of the P or N because our childhood traumas were all in secret. So we can separate the “good guy” from the “bad guy” and they have a better chance of peaceably coexisting separately in our mind (so we can love these people in the way those who have not experienced such a thing could never imagine).

What conclusions have you guys reached?

“I feel like I am the only one who turned to alcohol to escape and it is an awful feeling.”

rperk, I am sure you are not alone. Though this is not what I did this time around, years ago after dealing with the same thing I kind of did, many years ago.

This time I figured that crutches weren’t gonna work. I have to do a full-tilt boogie healing intervention on myself. But temporarily, we all did what we had to do to get through the worst of it. Please don’t beat yourself up!!!


I turned to alcohol for an escape. You are not alone.


Lil Orphan,
Interesting theory. I agree that secrets play a huge part in a psychopaths ability to control. I know when I was was young I hid a lot of the of the abuse out of shame and embarassment and I craved to appear to be part of a ‘normal’ family. It was the same with the P I had the affair with. He targeted me BECAUSE I was married as he knew that once he had hooked me I would be trapped in a lie.
I think that when we grow up in such disordered environments our brains start to block out a lot of the bizarre behaviour as a kind of survival mechanism. I did not remember that my mother tried to strangle me until years later. Even though we learn to block things out, our sub-concious minds are in turmoil and fear and I think that is what brings on an anxiety disorder.

Ox Drover

In his book, “Emotional Intelligence” Dr. Goleman (that is the correct spelling) talks about the parts of our brains that respond to what we think might be an emergency/danger, the message (sight sound etc) gets to this part of our brain first before it gets to the thinking part…it stores memories of trauma, even memories that we don’t know about consciously, and if anything even trips our trigger to a part of something that reminds us of that prior trauma, we react to it emotionally even before we can think about it.

I had read about “unconscious” memories etc before but they never made sense to me. He explained it so that it was understandable and backed up the medical research that had been done by “traumatizing” rats and then isolating this part of the brain from the rest of the rat’s brain, and the rat responded to the prior trauma even though he could have had no conscious memory of it. He also cited people who had injuries to that part of the brain or that had been surgically (not for experimental purposes but for medical reasons) had that part of the brain isolated. Their conscious memories were gone, but they still responded to “triggers.”

That might account for why we are “triggered” so often by things that remind us of the P, or some situation with them.

It sounds too, as if this part of the brain houses our “ancestral evolutionary fear factors” that are built in–i.e. it is our “gut” telling us to “beware” of a situation when our conscious mind sees no danger, or over rides it…negates it and doesn’t listen.

The chemistry and biology of the brain fascinates me (can you tell?) LOL

The different parts of our brains, that evolved at different times, each has a different function, and they communicate with each other and with our senses and our emotions. My take on it is that trauma (via the stress it produces) messes up these connections, communications, chemicals and functioning…which would account for the symptoms, both emotional and physical, of PTSD, and other trauma associated problems.

Just as if we had a broken leg, it takes TIME and rest to heal the bone, and I think it takes time and rest (peace) to heal our brains/minds/souls.

If we have an “old injury” that we haven’t properly healed, I think it would make us more vulnerable to the Psychopath, who can pick us out of the “herd” just as a lion picks out the wildebeest from a herd of 5,000 animals, by noting the small, almost invisible “limp” it has and knows that that animal will be easier to bring down than the ones without the slight limp.

Just as a lion cub learns by experience that chasing the more healthy ones doesn’t give him much success, he learns to look for that “limping” animal that will give him more success. He may “lunge at” the entire herd, just to see them run, so that he can pick out his prey, but he doesn’t concentrate on the ones that don’t “limp.”

But after an animal has had a close call with a lion, and gotten away, and survived…that animal will watch for lions 24/7 and be a lot more cagey and less likely to be caught off guard again. He will not ignore the sound that might be a lion again. He will be vigilent and cagey…and so will we.

BTW when a broken bone heals right, IT IS STRONGER THAN IT WAS BEFORE!


Ox Drover,
Thanks for your comments, it all makes perfect sense. I have heard of the book Emotional Intelligence book think I’ll get it.

Ox Drover


I totally agree with Free, stop beating yourself up about your behavior under stress in the past. I don’t think there is a one of us here on this board that can stand up and wave when someone says “who in this room didn’t act crazy while with or just after leaving the P?” I know that I can’t stand up and wave to that question.

Forgiving yourself is an important part of the healing process. ((((hugs))))))


Free-I am working on it. Sometimes when family members or anyone else brings it up or makes cruel comments, it brings the shame feelings up all over again. I have grown alot and hope to continue to do so. Thank you and Ox. I truley am trying. But you know, some days….


rperk, you are definately not alone. everyones behavior changed when they were with the P. i have always been a person who pushed down their anger and wouldn’t speak up. when i was with him i didn’t speak up but i couldn’t supress the anger anymore. i think it just too much too put up with. So I started punching and kicking the inanimate crap out of the walls. it was very embarressing when the police came over once.

li’l orphan, i really like your theory. it reminds me of so many times when people who encountered my parent’s insanity would ask me what they meant and I would explain it in the detailed way i understood it that anyone else would just dismiss as an excuse or further insanity. I think growing up we accept the P’s and S’s but in turn we crave their acceptance and can never get it. when we encounter new P’s and S’s we fall for their baited rejection and are compelled to do what it takes hoping that they will one day accept us. Also I think being lied to so often growing up makes it harder for us to discriminate between lies and the truth. just thinking of all the illogical things i was forced into going through as a child just because he said so. at first i was befuddled but i learned to turn that off.


Swallow: I believe I was also “chosen” by the Thief because I was married; it makes it a perfect situation (for him). He expects you won’t tell anyone because then you’ll look bad, and who wants that? HIS then wife (I believe he’s working on number four) was his cover of the so-called “normal” life and those of us he would see (and he still does, even in the new country he’s in) on the side feeds the insanity of whom he really is. I had mentioned one of his “friends” being killed by her husband for cheating on him; I could not imagine having that on my conscience. But he does, and he goes along on his merry way every day.

The childhood trauma is something that I’m not sure of yet; which incident? Dismissive father, depressed mother? I’m not remembering any actual physical abuse, except spankings with a paddle (which we would have to sign afterwards).

Maybe that is coming up for me; if so, I’m going to have to really be geared up for that enlightenment. It’s like climbing that next hill in a row of hills; you know there is more to do, but you concentrate on the hill you’re on, then it’s all downhill (in a good way) for a while, and then you gear up for the next challenge.

I’m a little scared, but looking forward to the journey.

Ox Drover


“When someone else brings it up”

You know when people do this, they are INTENDING TO BE CRUEL–they are NOT your friends. Therefore, why worry about what they think? or even be polite to them?

“Oh, Rperk, remember when you got drunk and got those DUI? Have you gotten any more of those lately?”

“Why, Sue, whyever would you say something so hateful tome?” (watch her mouth fly open, and her start to back-step) “Oh, I didn’t mean anything, I was just concerned about you.”

Whereupon you may reply to her, “Why, Sue, I’m an adult, you don’t need to concern yourself with my activities. How about if the next time I get a DUI I call you for bail money, and if I don’t call and ask for bail money, you can be assured I’m not arrested.”

These people only do this because they know that you will feel ashamed and it makes them feel “better” to make you feel bad.

Ann Landers had a stock answer for people who asked inappropriate questions. “Now why in the world would you ask something like that?” Then walk away.

Those “snide” remarks that are asked or commented about are pure poison to our souls. By sitting still and letting these harpies peck at our wounds, we are allowing them the license to abuse us just as we did the Ps. I for one and not going to allow snide remarks made by “friends” or relatives just for their amusement. Been there, done that. Don’t need it any more. I want people in my life who will encourage me, not berate me for something that happened when I was 16 or 12 or 32.

Back when my husband was alive, I had the “no asshole” rule around here, and did set limits (on people who were not members of my immediate family at least) and one day an older lady was having dinner with us, her son who was 45 at the time was also there, and I can’t even remember what set her off on a tirade but she started in talking to him like you would talk to the neighbor’s dog after it tore up and scattered your trash—all about how he had smoked marijuana when he was 15 for goodness sakes—the man sat at my dinner table and you could physically see him “wilt” like flowers placed in hot boiling water, as her tirade started to really get “into it.”

I looked at her with my “stern look of disapproval” (that’s what my kids used to call it LOL) and told her in no uncertain terms that if she had nothing better to talk about at my dinner table that she could go elsewhere. She reacted like I had hit her with a bucket of cold water, but she was NEVER unpleasant again in my home. She stopped her tirade (which I think was just getting wound up) that moment.

If I had been at her house, I would have immediately gotten up, in the middle of the meal, without saying a word, picked up my purse and started for the door. If she had asked me where I was going, I would have stated, that I had not come there to dinner to hear her berate her 45 year old son (who is an upstanding human being by the way) for the fact that he smoked MJ when he was a kid.

When we tolerate ugly outbursts in “social” settings we enable these people to “get away with” that type of behavior because they think that no one will “object” and that because they have an “audience” they can get away with it.

Even if you don’t feel comfortable “speaking up” or “speaking back”—just don’t say anything and LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. They will get the idea quickly. IF they “ask” why you are leaving, maybe just state that “the kind of conversation you are having makes me uncomfortable.” Then Go! But you do not have to tolerate it, or to make you feel ashamed. THEY are the ones being inappropriate to say something that they KNOW will make you uncomfortable or put you down. You don’t have to tolerate it. If they DO care about you, they will apologize (sincerely) and STOP treating you poorly, if not, you haven’t lost anything valuable.



OxD: I like your way of thinking. My mother-in-law has been verbally berated by her husband in many different ways since I met them years ago (and probably long before that). Kind of like the 45-year-old son incident with you.

Until recently, I would just sit by and not say anything. I still don’t speak up much, but I don’t allow myself to be in their presence often enough to hear the garbage coming from his mouth. I will walk away.

I’ve done that in other situations that I would normally have just put up with and it feels good to remove myself from the assault.

As usual, a really good post.


There was a point, early on, where the guy I was with yelled at me for no reason, in public. Because I asked what made him play hooky that day from work and decide to go to lunch. Perfectly innocent question, something I would ask anyone I was with, sort of like, “so, what’s with wanting to play today?”

He jumped down my throat. At that moment, I felt such a huge amount of embarrassment for all of it, just the entire situation. In public. Being treated like I was five. Being suspected of something bad when my intent was absolutely nil – benign, or actually non-existent. Just conversation.

I looked down at my car keys sitting on the table and immediately thought of just getting up and saying, “nobody talks to me that way” and calmly getting in my car and going home. It was early days, after several years of, yes, nobody treating me that way. Because I’d likely never speak to them again.

I was totally unconditioned for such weird behavior after being apart from him for so long.

To this day, I wish I’d left right then. Not because I regret the rest of the relationship, necessarily. In many ways, I do and do not. But because it was a good gauntlet point for how I expected to be treated and was used to being treated. It was a good boundary to create that I did not.

My promise to myself: I will walk away if anyone ever treats me like that again. Immediately. No questions.

The mind games and personal insults are the source of anxiety. When you begin to trust another person, you assimilate their reality and incorporate it into your own. You begin to believe in them, and, in a healthy relationship, this is a positive step of growth for the couple, as you rely on this person’s viewpoint as being trustworthy.

Once you do that and the mind games begin, it is hard to not give their version of reality, their illusions, some bearing in your own world. And that is when the fun begins for people with bad intent.

It is when anxiety sets in, because you are suddenly uncertain of reality and don’t have enough frames of reference outside the relationship in order to anchor yourself better to the TRUTH.

Fortunately for me, I was doing that work outside the relationship while it was happening, journaling and comparing his version of the truth with everyone else’s, including my own. Usually his was singularly opposed to that of everyone else, whose opinions were usually pretty close together, as a group.

And still, here I am, now diagnosed officially with PTSD, anxiety and depression. Wonder what would have happened if I’d totally bought the whole package?

Ox Drover

Thanks, Warrior, I guess why I am so big on this sort of thing is that growing up, I have seen the “social politeness” in which people are humiliated and cut down in PUBLIC because the people putting them down with SNIDE remarks know that the person will NOT “blow up” back at them in public.

“Blowing up” in public, (read: standing up for yourself) is a BIG NO-NO where I grew up —and where I live now. The two-faced back-stabbing remarks that are used to humiliate people just make my skin crawl. I have always been able to stand my ground with people outside of the family, but with people close to the family, or in the family, I have tolerated it “just to keep the peace”—but that isn’t “peace” for anyone but the BAD-ACTOR who destroys other’s peace.

The 45-yr old guy, who has a great sense of humor, dubbed our farm and airport “The Asshole-Free Zone” because I wouldn’t tolerate people coming here and acting like asses, and had no qualms about asking them to cool it or leave. In fact, this same man’s son was one of the first we (my husband and I) asked to leave and not come back. He is a narcissistic horse’s butt who is a minor thief. I never felt guilty about that one bit, or the two or three other people I have “called to task” about their behavior being inappropriate here in my “territory.”

Since the P-episode last year, I’m getting better about setting boundaries with those close to me, and WITHOUT feeling guilty! I’m still learning, but it is a liberating feeling, really.


I have a 17 year old son who I dragged through the muck with me. He was in the car with me on the last dui which was 3 years ago. That just kills me.

I went camping with some people I did not know very well just to get away from all the pain that I was going thru with the P. They were acting very strange toward me and my son. We were the odd guys out since everyone else knew each other pretty well. Drinking did not help me to not feel sorry for myself. The horn in my vehicle kept going off and they were getting angry with me so I left and hence, the dui. My son was tramatized! I feel sick about it and can’t hardly stand to think of it. But, I KNOW I will never drive drunk again.

My son and I have talked about it but sometimes when he is ticked off at me, he brings up the drinking. Not the dui but the drinking. I tell him time and again that he cannot punish me more than I already punish myself and I am about sick to death being punished by ANYONE. So, that is where I am at.

In the relationship I had with the P, he would come to my house, have sex, then tell me “You know I care about you but I have to go home to sleep. I only can sleep in my bed.” If he did fall asleep, he would wake up in a couple of hours, jump up and leave. He never took me out to eat or any place in public unless I was taking him to court or some other errand he had. He didn’t have a drivers licence since he did not pay his ex-wife child support. When he did see someone he knew, he would introduce me just as “my friend Rita” even when we had been intimate just an hour previous. I do believe he was ashamed of me. This is where all of my anxiety began. I put up with this for 6 long years.

I actually believed him when he said he cared about me and thought he just needed to get his life together with my help of course, then he would see me and “claim” me as his lady. I was so very wrong and I KNEW IT. Knowing that and continuing to put up with it and his lies made me so very angry at myself that I felt like I could not cope, and being a single parent for lots of years and not taking proper care of my son is what my excuse was for the drinking. It temporarily helped me to forget what a mess I had made out of my life and also my sons. I am trying to put my past mistakes behind me, it is the only thing I can do. Did I learn? Yes. Was it a crappy lesson? Yes. Would I want to do it again? Hell no. Did it make me a bettr person? No, just wiser. But I am trying to move on and some days it is difficult. Some days are very good and I am going to focus on those days.



You are not alone. In the last year or more together we rarely spent the night at each other’s place. He had to go home for his medicine or the old stand-by, for the grandchildren. He did come by to be intimate but didn’t stay the night.

He introduced me as his “friend” in public. He said that I didn’t need to get to know his close friends (mainly women) to validate our relationship.

I later found out that he took one of the mothers of his godsons with him on a cruise that he supposedly went on with his family.

So you see we can all be fooled by these conmen. They use our caring and nurturing nature against us.

Ox Drover


The humiliation of being “hoodwinked” and the shame of realizing that we failed to take the kind of care of our children that we should have because of being “hoodwinked” I think hits most or all of us that have children that we let down.

I spent so much time on P-son’s problems, both mentally and physically, that I essentially neglected son C, who needed me too, and because I was focused on his brother, I didn’t give him the part of me he needed. After all this exploded, I wrote him a long detailed letter (and later verbally) apologizing to him for that neglect.

But I also realize that I had to FORGIVE MYSELF in order to keep on healing. If I had kept on beating myself over this (which I can’t go back and change history) then I could not have moved forward. I realize you should not have done that thing, but you did. You must, though, forgive yourself. MUST, in order to move on. For others to keep gouging at that wound of shame, poking it to make you bleed is CRUEL on their part–how could someone who “really loves” you do such a thing? How long is it OK for these people to shame you?

They WILL apparently shame you as long as you let them. That does NOT help your healing.

Just as we have to forgive the Ps (get the bitterness toward them out of our heart) we more importantly must forgive OURSELVES. We can’t heal if we are not at peace with ourselves, if we think we are shameful. YOu are human, you made mistakes, you did things you shouldn’t have, but you are NOT shameful. You are worthy. You are valuable.

Go back and re-read ML’s posts. She so eleoquently describes her own shame, and her road back to self respect and peace.

Be good to yourself! Love yourself! (((((HUGS))))))


How can I explain to my adult children how foolish I have been trusting this P? How can I explain all the money that I gave him based on lies and cons?

Ox Drover


I’m not sure how to answer your question—my “sins” of neglect against my son C were during the time when he was in his teenaged years and needed my attention, and I was giving it to his brother in a futile effort to “save” him from himself. I spent time, effort, emotions, money on the unsaveable while the “good” son was left to fend for himself emotionally, and I was a basket case not “there” for him, when I should have been. I feel really bad for that neglect.

I’m not sure how your being scammed effected your relationship with your adult children. Consider how it did and discuss that with them. If it is just a situation where they don’t know how you gave money to this man, etc. and they were adults at the time, it might be more appropriate for you NOT to tell them. Think about it.

My apology to my son C was for the “sins” I committed against him by neglecting him in favor of his brother.

If you took your children’s college funds and gave them to the P, then you need to talk about that, but if it was YOUR money, you might not want to discuss that with them. Does that make any sense?

Did your relationship with the P effect directly or indirectly your relationship with your kids? If it did, then any discussion or apology would I think be directed to what you did and how it effected your relationship with THEM.

If your adult kids were on to his scam and warned you and you didn’t listen to them, then you might want to say that they were right, and you relaise that now and that you were obviously hoodwinked and didn’t listen to them. etc.

The main thing I think we need to do in order to heal is to FORGIVE ourselves for whatever we did, to damage ourselves, or others. To apologize to the others (if any) that we damaged by our involement with the P.

So just look at the situation with them and you and see what you think you need to say to them, if anything. (((hugs))))


They were adults at the time that I was seeing this man and weren’t even sure of my involvement with him. He wanted to keep our relationship quiet until my children had time to adjust to my divorce (He suggested a year). I think that I may not let them know the extent of my foolishness with my money. It was not their inheritance money at least but my hard earned dollars working two jobs. My children are the beneficiaries of my retirement and life insurance policies.

This man convinced me that we should both take out life insurance policies on each other to assure that we would have financial stability if something happened to one of us. I cancelled this policy a few months ago after finding out about the other woman and his other lies. I certainly don’t want him to profit in any way from me. Everything should go to my three children.

Ox Drover


LIFE INSURANCE? Sounds like he might have been planning to bump you off! SCARY!

In that case, I don’t think I would say anything to them–what you do with YOUR money is your business unless you are mentally incapacitated. You may not have been wise, but I don’t think you were mentally incapacitated in the legal sense. When my mom was giving money wholesale to the Ps, she actually was being drugged. I have no doubt about this, because she got to where she slurred her words, could hardly walk even with a walker, etc. and since they are out of her house, she has returned to the “normal” Pre-P state of walking independely and speaking in a normal voice. She does have some short term memory problems and maybe a bit of “sun-downing” (becoming confused in the evenings) but she is NO LONGER BABBLING. We saw an almost IMMEDIATE improvement in her mentation when the court-ordered removal of the Trojan-Horse-P took place. Her emotional functioning is back at least to Pre-P and she is still into denial and emablling, but not writing checks by the handsfull to the Ps.

Sometimes our involvement with the Ps effects those near and dear to us, and we (victiims) faill to live up to our responsibilities to others, and for those things I think we should make a sincere apology and restitution if it is possible. If our involvement with a P doesn’t effect others or our responsibilities to them, then maybe it is none of their business. Sometimes the P just isolates us from others we love, and we neglect to be there for them–we could apologize for that, but don’t have to go into details about other things like money etc.

I think anytime we injure someone else for whatever reason we owe them an apology. But you don’t owe anyone an apology for injuring yourself unless it effects them. If that makes sense.

The main thing we have to do in a case like that, where we are the only one injured, is to forgive ourselves. I beat myself up with a “cat’a’nine-tails” for so long, but I can’t change that past behavior. My son tells me that he forgives me, and that he understands that I was in the FOG–doesn’t excuse it, just explains it. He also was in the FOG and injured me because of it, but he also apologized sincerely and we have forgiven each other. It truly is as “if it didn’t happen” because we talked and worked it out–but my mother’s stance of “lets just PRETEND it didn’t happen,” without any apology or explination or admissions of wrong-doing, just won’t cut the ice. I have forgiven her (or am working hard on it at least) but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, or that she would not repeat it again, so I can’t TRUST her. I trust my son C completely again. He has shown me his remorse, his acknowledgment of his wrong doing, and his willingness to work on our relationship. Out of this whole mess, that has been the most wonderful thing is that he has the DIL-P out of his life, and WE BOTH have the P-son/brother out of our lives and hearts, and our relationship has been restored. It hadn’t been the same since he married the DIL 8 yrs ago, she isolated him.

He has just recently essentially gone NC with my P-by-proxy mother. He no longer trusts her, and he is seeing that without TRUST in a relationship, you have no relationship. He no longer feels a closeness to her that he did before, he realizes she is still in the fog, is untrustworthy because of that, and that if given half a chance to bite us (him, me and my son D) in the butt for the benefit of the P-grandson that she would “In a New York Minute.” She refuses to leave the “Informed Denial” and rationalizes her behavior as “Christian charity and Christian forgiveness” etc. when it is nothing but ENABLING of the P at the expense of the non-Ps.

It is funny really, and even if it is sad as well, that she can “forgive” the P for his crimes of murder, attempted murder, theft, etc. but she FAILS to forgive me for “sassing” her when I was 15. She still feels that she was completely justified in hitting me with the buckle end of a belt until the blood flowed on my back and my step father had to pull her off of me—and my 45 year old crime has increased from “sassing” to “lying”—yet she lies to me, and to son C.

Denial is one of those things that protect people from the TRUTH—yet, in the end, the truth is all we have. Without it we can’t heal. The truth may not always be pretty, but it is what will free us from the P-delusion and allow us to become wiser and better. (((hugs)))) to you my dear.

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