By | April 30, 2012 136 Comments

Differentiating the sociopath from the borderline from the narcissist

Man, it’s not easy out there. Your partner clearly has a major personality disturbance, but sometimes separating borderline, narcissistic and sociopathic behavior can be hard. Real tough. Especially when there are spill-over behaviors, cross-contaminating behaviors and attitudes (as there often are) that further muddy the diagnostic waters.

Let’s look at rage, for instance. Rage is a major marker of the borderline and narcissistic personality. Sociopaths, being essentially malignant, high-end narcissists, like any full-blown narcissist, are also capable of frightful, bullying, abusive rages.

The borderline’s rage, much like the narcissist’s, tends to be elicted by disappoinment. And it’s not always “abandonment”-related. When the borderline, much like the narcissist, feels uncatered to, neglected or invalidated, WATCH OUT!!!!

The “tsunami” will be coming in a gigantic, overwhelming, RATIONALIZED WAVE. That wave will crash on you with shocking, destructive force, threatening to take your legs out from under you.

The sociopath’s rage is also elicited, commonly, by the frustration of his needs, demands, expectations. When that’s not the case, he may be salivating for some excitement, perhaps to escape the accumulating tension of his boredom; and so he may want a good dust-up to entertain himself: Unleashing his rage in a bullying assault may do the trick.

Remorse for the impact and damage of their rages is often missing in all three cases. Incredible, really INCREDIBLE rationalization, plus the astounding absence of self-reflection and accountability, is commonly missing as well.

The borderline feels as justified in his raging as the narcissist. His raging is pure narcissism being acted-out in the moment. The borderline, it is true, may later plead for forgiveness, but this is not always the case. Some borderlines will not pursue you at all after they’ve degraded you in a rage.

And not to confuse matters, but some narcissists and sociopaths will lobby for your forgiveness and amnesty after abusive displays in sometimes florid gestures of contrition.

The borderline and narcissist are both notorious vacillators along the idealizing-devaluing continuum. They are both “splitters” in the sense of perceiving others in rigidly black and white ways. When in their good graces, you are fantastic; their greatest luck and good fortune was to have met you; but disappoint them, and you are likely, suddenly, abruptly, to qualify as the worst, most despicable person they ever had the misfortune to cross paths with.

Sociopaths, in this sense, may be so disconnected, so pathologically disengaged from, and indifferent to, the emotional lives of others that, paradoxically, they may bring less of this particular kind of “splitting” drama to the table than borderlines and the typical narcissist.

This isn’t to suggest that sociopaths don’t “act out” in an outrageous variety of destructive ways. They can, and do.

And devaluation and contempt of others deeply, definingly characterizes the sociopath’s perspective; it’s just that the sociopath may actually exercise, and experience, his twisted emotional disconnection from others with sometimes (but not always!) less volatility than your typical borderline or narcissist. He may sometimes be more predictably, continuously indifferent, contemptuous and emotionally uninvested in others than his borderline or narcissistic counterpart.

The borderline can be callous and cruel, as can the narcissist and sociopath. Hmmm. When we are dealing with a callous, cruel individual whose aim is to BE DESTRUCTIVE (at least in the moment), with no compunction or remorse, but only contempt and hate for the object of his rage, then at least, for the moment, it may be somewhat immaterial which personality disorder we’re dealing with.

We may know later, but at the time, what difference does it really make? The individual’s present intent is clear—to hurt, destroy, inflict pain (in the borderline’s case, perhaps to discharge his pain by inflicting pain). But the experience on the other end, on your end, may be largely the same. You will feel variously abused, humiliated, threatened, degraded.

As noted, all three personality types may (or may not) later show contrition, thus contrition doesn’t accurately distinguish them. Plus, gauging the sincerity of an apology, its depth, is tough business. So again, this isn’t easy. Who are we dealing with? And does it even, always, matter?

I might add this rather vague, but possibly valid, observation: When borderlines aren’t “borderlining,” they are often really good and good-hearted individuals. They are often generous, authentic, sensitive and giving individuals. This is obviously a generalization. There are “borderlines” who, even when they aren’t raging, may be self-centered, jerky individuals, unpleasant and messed up in a million other ways. Still, many borderlines when they’re functioning above their “rage modes” are genuinely engaged, empathic, loving individuals.

You can not say this about the sociopath. This doesn’t mean the sociopath can’t “put this on.” But the sociopath, even when he isn’t obviously “sociopathing,” is always who he is at bottom: a cold, empty, empathically deficient, transgressive-minded individual who, at best, covers up his core contempt of others’ dignity and boundaries.

Not so with borderline personalities.

And narcissists who aren’t full-blown, those who retain a capacity to reflect on their narcissism (as some do) and its impact on those around them–which is tantamount to saying they retain a capacity (in less self-centered states of mind) to reflect on their impact on others with some degree of empathy–these narcissists, too, may be capable of authentic generosity, engagement and compassion, which makes them less incorrigible (and perhaps thus even more confusing) than the sociopath who, if he may sometimes present as the more stable, consistent personality, is clearly the most pathological  of them all.

This article is intended to introduce the complicated challenge of differientating these volatile, destructive personalities; it is the first of several I intend to write.

(This article was copyrighted © 2012 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of the male gender pronoun was strictly for convenience’s sake and not to imply that females aren’t capable of the attitudes and behaviors discussed.)

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the sisterhood

Thank you, Steve. I needed to read this tonight.


Next time (their will be no next time) a socio, psycho, narc unleases their rage on me ‘Imma hit them in the head with a baseball bat, golf club, or spray them with wasp spray.

Yeah, then we’ll talk. LOL I’m SO done with them.


I believe the person I dated before the x-spath was a borderline. Thus, I see some clear distinctions between the two.

First, both have an “emptiness” that they seek to fill.

Borderlines, since they actually have feelings, are capable of a long-term relationship when the right person comes along. Sociopaths are incapable of a long-term relationship.

If they are involved with somebody, borderlines with have great difficulty in ending an existing relationship. Sociopaths show no such difficulty.

Sociopaths, since they are always masking something, are prone to “WTF?” moments. Borderlines are generally more honest and less prone to be reactionary, since they do not have a body of lies to cover.


PS Let me add that a borderline with another co-morbid condition, such a BPD, can appear at times to be very sociopathic.

Ox Drover

Steve, I think you touched on the bottom line several times….it doesn’t make a PRACTICAL whit of difference which one we are dealing with, in any of the cases, it is toxic to having an INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP of any depth and character with such an individual.

While there may be some clinical differences in the personality disorders (“cluster Bs”) and in the depth of their problematic behaviors and thinking, from a practical, real world aspect, I can’t see a great deal of differences that make any “practical” differences.

While professionals disagree on the diagnoses of various individuals in sorting out various diagnoses, trying to come to a conclusion, hard and fast, for the lay person is totally impossible, I think. And, what difference does it make in the LIVES of anyone? While it is in theory possible to “treat” a person labeled “borderline” and most people agree that there is little if any possibility of treatment for adults who classify as psychopathic, unless we are in a court case, the points are moot.

Since the professionals can’t agree on the diagnostic criteria for “psychopath” or even the name for the disorder, I don’t think it makes a tinker’s dam what we call it as long as we realize it is TOXIC and there isnt’ a possibility to have a relationship that is satisfying with such a person.


Here, here, Ox, I completely agree with every word you said.
Absolutely. The only thing that really does matter is getting it away from you as quickly as you can before it festers and becomes something out of a nightmare.

HA: professionals can’t agree? Imagine that. But they sure can agree on things of lesser importance; can’t they?

I am not sure WHAT “IT” was…bipolar; adhd; several things, I am sure, looking at it through my view…all I know is that I had to get it away from me before it murdered me by manipulation. And, that’s not just for laughs either.

Great article, Steve…
Thanks for clarifying a lot for me.
It helps give me ‘grounding’. 🙂


Lesson for the day: Doesn’t matter what the mental problem is. A monster is a monster is a monster. Always has been, always will be. There is no cure for any of the three disorders because they think there’s nothing wrong with them. It’s everyone else that doesn’t cheat, lie, steal, humiliate, neglect, demean, choke and punch people that are the screwed-up ones. They, on the other hand, are superior and have everything all figured out. Manipulation is the gift that was bestowed upon them, so they think. It’s a pathetically empty, joyless, unfulfilled and meaningless life as all emotion is feigned.


I agree with you survivor3. Absolutely.



Yes, the Cluster-Bs are for the most part impossible to “cure” and are best avoided.


I wish we could stop with the cutesy labels (borderline personality disorder, narciccist, sociopath) and just call them what they are, devil’s spawns.


May I ask for your email through Donna? I have to ask you something.


No problem Ana.


Thank you so much for that, Steve, because my P sister’s daughter has been diagnosed with BPD. She is as you stated, very caring, kind, and giving when she isn’t being borderline. (I guess she is always BPD – I meant when the worst wasn’t showing.)

I’ve often felt that my niece didn’t get a decent break in life. With a different mother and home life, I think she would have turned out very differently. Hard to say, but she was born into a marriage where the parents were already battling. My sister got pregnant with her to save the marriage. Then my BIL publicly cheated on my sister while she was pregnant. The kid never stood a chance for normal parenting.

Is BPD due primarily to parenting? I read somewhere that it was. Is that true?

I’ve called my S mother a rageaholic for many years.

Really helpful information, Steve. I look forward to your other articles. Thanks, again.

kim frederick

I just want to throw this out there: Many survivors of relationships with narcissists and sociopaths are diagnosed as BPD’s. In reality they are suffering complex PTSD. For more on this, google NVS.

kim frederick

Okay. NVS won’t get ys there. Try narcissistic victim syndrom.


G1S: “Rageaholic”! LOL I LOVE that expression! Thank you!

Steve, thank you for your very informative article. The nickname for my mother in my father’s family was “Madame ‘ name of italian volcano’ .

Explaining the rage: When I was with my first real friend at 24, I was very concerned that we NEVER ever had a loud argument, as my parents had. A huge relief was it for me when I found some big argument to get loud on it (for me the relationship was not normal but lacked some “intensity” 🙁 ) We later split as I percieved him as being “not nice” with me, as my parents suggested (they hated him for being too boring).

Both of my parents were mean towards each other, with huge threats to leave, even when we were very little. Once they both packed after another HUGE argument when we were 5 and 6 years old and they DID NOT pack the children’s bags, it was a great shock for both me and my sister we never forgot; we talked about it with the parents lately and they had no memory about it.
They still argue with very loud voices even on the streets, with me as well, and they give a &%*” what the others might think about it all but argue with them too, when the bystanders dare to notice, and it took me a lot of internal work for not feeling ashamed of them and take the blame anymore. That it is what it is and that they do what they do; breath, hear the birds sing and the wind in the hair and the sunrays or the rain (and sometimes I think I should charge the bystanders for watching a great show…). And NC as much as possible, of course.

LOL! charge the bystanders! yep!
I know I could make money charging people to meet my spath, like you’d charge at a freak show.

“Step right up ladies and gentlemen, meet a REAL live spath, in his natural environment! He’s charming, he’s pitiful, he’ll RAGE! Listen to him tell you black is white, ladies and gentlemen! He’s verrrrrrry convincing! Step right up! Don’t get too close ladies and gentlemen! and PLEASE! DON’T FEED THE SPATH!”

I’m still trying to work out how much to charge.


Steve, thank you for the in-depth discussion. The second exspath was very calculating, very cold, very distant, and there were probably 5 full-blown shouting events during a 12+ year marriage. During those explosive arguments, the exspath would dissolve into “speaking in tongues.” This is the only way that I can describe it. He would literally lose the capacity to articulate and absolutely babble.

And, I do agree – regardless of the “diagnosis,” each personality type is a danger to me.

Kim, towards the end of the first marriage, I honestly believed that I was bi-polar. My emotional stability went in cycles according to the domestic abuse cycles….and, I always blamed MYSELF for the cycles of violence because of my emotional cycles. What a vicious circle it creates.


Skylar….ROTFLMAO!!!! You know, I have been searching for a “fantasy” that I could imagine that exacted revenge against the exspath. YOU HAVE HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD!!!! LMAOLMAOLMAO!!!!!! Omigawd, what a WONDERFUL visual!!!! Spaths all in cages wearing various costumes (the most recent exspath would be in a zippered gimp suit) with a carnival barker at 66 decibels!!!

Spaths do NOT want to be identified, and such a scenario would be the ultimate in revenge! LOLOLOL

the sisterhood

Yes, Yes, Yes, Kim Frederick! You are so right about the CPTSD. It is exactly what I suffered and still do suffer from because of the Narcissists in my life. That’s how they get you to believe it was all your fault. Because the symptoms of the CPTSD are similar to BPD.

I have found comfort in knowing that my symptoms are treatable. It’s a bit of hard work, but progress is being made.

We are not the disordered ones, just the sensitive ones who were abused and show the damage of that abuse.



Thanks for that…it is what I am experiencing…NVS. Good reading about it out there…


“Is BPD due primarily to parenting? I read somewhere that it was. Is that true?”

JUst like with sociopaths, there mostly likely are genetic, epigenetic and sociological factors. Interestingly, since BPD is largely a female disorder, it might be the female expression of the same factors causing sociopathy, which is largely a male disorder.


I did do some reading on Narcissistic Victim Syndrome.

I noticed that they said this often presents in middle age women. I’ve also noticed that many of us here are middle age as well.

I’ve been wondering if that’s because that’s how long it takes before we give up trying to make a bad situation good and have finally started looking for other causes and kinds of help.

In other words, it isn’t that the condition doesn’t manifest until middle age or later; it’s because we’ve finally reached a point when we’re finally ready to admit that this isn’t working. The conditions and resulting conditions have been there all along. It simply takes this long before people can recognize it’s not them.

Which leads me to believe that if the education gets out there, people will start asking questions and looking for help at a younger age.

Somebody might conclude that NVS is “starting” to affect younger people. My contention is that it has been there all along.

Before I forget – I loved the idea of charging the bystanders. In addition to the freak shows, we could have a whole amusement park made up of P rides and games. Bonk the P on the head and things like that.


G1S, what a superb point. It takes TIME to sort out the experiences and younger adults are not congizant of “time” in its true sense. More often than not, it takes YEARS of exposure to sociopathy before a person can clearly recognize what’s going on. I made the choice to watch “Who The Bleep Did I Marry,” and some of these scams went on for YEARS until one singular moment in time when the spath mask/cover fell aside. That one text message. That one gym bag of documents. It’s that one moment in time that causes the proverbial wheels to begin turning.

* Whack-a-Spath
* Spath Attack
* PacSpath
* Halo Spath


Behind Blue Eyes ~ Excellent questions. I look forward to the answer. I have a couple questions to add to yours. If BPD is part of the same spectrum, in the “anti-social personality disorders” why is it considered treatable? Or isn’t it?

Also, if someone is diagnosed BPD and bipolar, would the manic episodes of the bipolar send the BPD symptoms into “overdrive”?

Thanks. I will be looking forward to more articles written on this confusing subject.

kim frederick

Truthspeak and G1S, I agree that the reason most of those presenting are middle aged is because of years and years of exposure. The process of instilling self doubt and confusion in the victim, the cognitive dissonance, the resulting depression and dissacociation are natural responses to narcissistic abuse. Trauma bonding at it’s finest. In “The betrayal bond”, Patric Carnes explains that the victim often has a full blown life crises and this is the beginning of healing…but before that happens, the victim denies and cajoles, and ignores and disasociates, because they truley believe there’s no way out. These behaviors actually protect the victim from more abuse, but at a great cost. Eventually the whole edifice comes tumbling down.

BBE, not sure about the parenting styles of the parents of BPD’s. There is some research that suggests these parents have an emotional investment in keeping their children dependant. They discourage the “growing up” process in their children by overtly or covertly infantilizing. They reward dependant behaviors, and punish self-sufficiency, by with-holding, emotional abandonment, and neglect.

The child learns to act accordingly, out of fear of losing the parents love. At the same time the childs sense of self-sufficiency is eroded and they feel shame and anger at the parent for these dependancy needs.


Sky ~ hysterical concept ~
* I keep deleting my comments, because they are so – so – politically, socially incorrect. I will leave them to your imagination.


GIS, Truthspeak, I think there is something to be said for the idea that it takes time – perhaps until middle age – before we recognize what’s going on. Wisdom, maybe?

I met my spath in middle age, and dumped him in middle age, so it didn’t take me 20 years of text messages and gym bags full of documents. Actually, it took 1 year to figure it out, and three years to get rid of him.

But, in healing from my relationship with my spath, I uncovered the truth behind it – all the pain and disfunction from my family of origin. And THAT took a long time to bubble up, for me.

I think it’s related to wisdom.

kim frederick

Milo, I understand that BPD is treatable, but is usually very long term. Most clinicians don’t want to treat BPD’s because they are seen as difficult patients.


A younger person might dismiss things due to being inexperienced with life and secretly fear that he or she did something wrong, not knowing that he or she did nothing wrong – they got attacked by a P.

The way these things read, it sounds like middle age women are somehow flawed at this age, which is why they can’t cope. I suspect the reality is that by the time people reach middle age, they’re worn down by the repeated crap and have finally come to their wit’s end.

Another thing is by the time somebody gets to middle age, they’ve heard the excuses, seen how “the system” doesn’t work, and are waking up that nobody or no agency is really helping them. They are tired of being told to take a number and getting very little to show for their efforts.



Love your games!

We could have “throw the rotten tomatoes at the judges” and Dunk-A-Lawyer, too.


Kim F – we posted over each other.

I understand you are talking about research that just suggests possibilities. My daughter was diagnosed with BPD. The research that suggests “parents have an emotional investment in keeping their children dependent” or “reward dependent behaviors, and punish self-sufficiency, by with-holding, emotional abandonment and neglect.” absolutely did not describe our parenting style.

Funny thing is, this is the verbal vomit that comes out of my daughter’s mouth. This is the story she feeds to therapists or for that matter anyone who will listen.

After a therapist suggested that she may be BPD, she read several books on the subject, then tweeked her symptoms to match the book.

She also cuts herself, another symptom of BPD. Only thing is, she did not do this until she was in her early 20’s and only after she met someone else who was a cutter. BTW, my daughter’s “cuts” resemble briar scratches, never anything remotely serious.

Oh, yes, my daughter is a real “piece of work”

Ox Drover

A thought just occurred to me too about NVS–how about children who are raised in this environment?

Statistically, many people diagnosed BPD have been abused as children (sexually) and become cutters and show the classic symptoms of BPD—is it possible that these children have both a genetic predisposition to this PLUS the abuse they got from the personality disordered parent?

But, by the same token it has been proven that kids who are from BPD or other PD parents who are adopted by “normal” parents tend to turn out more troubled than would be expected. Look at Milo’s daughter as a perfect example of this “adoption syndrome” The reason these kids are adopted in the first place is that their parents were “troubled.” So the GENETICS part cannot be denied–whether you call it BPD or PPD or Toxic personality disorder.

As for NVS –I think anyone who lives in a situation under HIGH STRESS, devaluation, invalidation by others, and abuse will suffer mental “abnormalities” for sure—maybe even engage in screaming rages in response.

I have no doubt that the “summer of chaos” when I was trying to convince my egg donor, my DIL, my son C that the Trojan Horse had been sent to kill me…and I was being called a liar, even though I had the documented evidence, I WAS (as we nurses call it by its “technical name”) CRAZY AS A SHEET HOUSE RAT! LOL There is no doubt in my mind that I should have been locked up for my own good while the others sat there calm as cucumbers and I was on the floor alternately screaming and crying. Yep, I was “crazy.” I can relate to “Henny Penny” THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!

Funny thing how being safe causes one to “get sane again” and how not being lied to, lied about, and threatened with death, leads to total recovery of your sanity. Yep, recovery is slow, but it finally comes and while I’m sure not perfect, I do consider myself sane again. I intend to stay that way as well.

kim frederick

Milo, maybe they misdiagnosed her. Maybe she’s pure spath. Her behavior certainly sounds calculating.

Yes, I think it’s possible that there is a genetic link. Whom would you most expect to use this parenting style of reinforcing dependant behavior by withholding love and withdrawal than a borderline parent who is terrified of abandonment?

kim frederick

Milo, I didn’t realize your daughter was adopted. I have read some BPD literature that suggests the disorder begins somewhere between 18 months and 3 years of age. How old was your daughter when you adopted?


Kim ~ She was 14 months and I realize that may cause abandonment issues and that is what is so confusing.

I, personally, think she was misdiagnosed. They can only diagnose what they see and hear. If I would have been able to have any imput and they could see and hear what I had to say, the diagnosis may be entirely different.

I think she is a spath, pretending to be BPD. She actually thinks that is a “cool” “hip” thing to be because they are risk takers and after all that is “way cool”, and ofcourse an excuse for her bad behavior. YUK


Speaking of BPD/Spath/Bipolar/you name if and you can take it home with you – she has been MIA for almost a month now. Checked her local hangout (jail), she is not there. Maybe intreatment rehab, maybe boy friend threw her out, maybe involvement with DCF, WHO KNOWS !

For awhile I feel relieved that I’m not hearing from her, it is a joy not to gray rock and listen to her crap. Then the curosity takes hold, the boy I’d like to know what she did now. Or the “surprise attack” as Sky calls it, what is she planning to do to me now. YOU JUST CAN’T WIN.

Rant over, thanks for listening


Steve and All,

This is really clarifying…and it does emphasize it doesn’t really matter, much, what the ‘differential diagnosis’ is. I think I have been with all three ‘types’. All of them were a serious pain in the arse, and destructive.

The NVS thing, and middle age….Boy do I think, in comparing it to my own experience, that this has a LOT to do with finally having the capacity to allow reality in, and not fall back on our individual coping mechanisms.

I just posted on Skylar’s blog that with the last Bad Person experience the whole thing just broke wide open, and resulted in SIGNIFICANT pain and personal growth. I believe this is because I was finally ready and ABLE to cope with the pain of waking up. Not so much, but some, that I was fed up. I think, for me, it was about being ready and WILLING to face the PAIN, instead of either consciously or unconsciously avoiding it.

I had previous experiences with abusive and disordered types that led to chaos and a bit of drama, but not such acutely felt emptiness and devastation. I don’t think it was due to this last person being especially disordered. I think, rather, it had everything to do with my readiness to feel the pain, and face myself full-on. Feeling the pain compelled me to find out WHAT I was dealing with. Once I understood personality disorders my growth exploded. All the pieces, which were previously like a really bad collage, became a comprehensive picture.


I didn’t know that your daughter was adopted either. My son isn’t adopted he is my bio child. However his father, was adopted. At 18 months old.

Genetically I wish that I knew more about my husbands family of origin. What I do know is that they were all addicts/alcoholics. That is true of his mother, father, and brother.
My husbands brother was actually killed in a drug deal gone bad. Maybe about a year and a half after my husband suicided.
As I understand after talking to his brothers widow once on the phone he was killed in front of his children on the front porch of his home. As his children watched through a window.

This technically would have been my SIL except of course I had never met her. Her kids would be my sons cousins. We promised to keep in touch after this phone call but that never really happened. We were two grieving women, that had families to raise.

My husbands bio mother did NOT give up his brother for adoption. (just my husband) So the bio mother raised his brother. But during that phone conversation I was told by his widow that the bio mother was BANNED from her sons funeral by her daughter in law.
She didn’t tell me any why she banned her but I can only IMAGINE why.
So this raises ALOT of red flags for me. To ban her mother in law from coming to the services/funeral of her own son is really huge….

A year and a half earlier I did meet my husbands bio family at his funeral. They all came from out of town. (different states as his bio parents were long ago divorced) His brother, bio mother, bio father. The only one that I remember speaking to me for any length of time was his brother. Ironically his brother looked almost exactly like my husband.
I saw him when he walked into the funeral parlor it took my breath away…..They resembled each other that much. I knew who he was without needing intoduction for sure.

I have thought many times in the years after my husbands death that his bio mother lost both of her sons within such a short period of time. One to suicide, one to homicide…..What are the chances of that?

Yet my son, who would be her grandchild…. She also promised to keep in touch with him…THAT never happened either. I think she sent him one card in the mail and that was the end of that.

My husband always knew he was adopted because my in laws adopted him through someone that they “knew”. He even went to stay one summer with his bio mother and brother when he was in high school to get to “know” them.

My take on what I am able to piece together by what I do know is that addiction created alot of disfunction in this family. But what might be present as far as other disorders, if any remains a mystery.

My husband when he was adopted at 18 months didn’t even walk yet. He was neglected and kept in a crib/playpen all day, every day so his leg muscles needed daily exercises to strengthen them. My MIL had to take him for rehab in the begining and then learned how to do them at home. I think his feet were also pointed inward instead of outward.
So there was definately neglect.

the sisterhood

I know I wasn’t diagnosed with my CPTSD or NVS until I was about middle aged. I was told that a lot of woman get into therapy around that time. For myself, it was a matter of finally feeling safe in my life to face the truth. I was at a place in my life where I was loved and had personal successes. I couldn’t understand why I was having a nervous breakdown. My life was wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for more. The safety thing made a lot of sense to me.

When you live in denial of your experiences for so long, they eventually bubble up to the surface. It comes out somehow.

As for those who are still in an abusive relationship, maybe the reason for the wake-up at middle age is simply due to maturity and life experience telling you that you deserve better and that the relationship is not healthy or normal. It takes time to figure that out if all your life you had been involved with Narcissists who emotionaly abused you.


Hi Witty ~ Are you feeling better?

I thought you knew my daughter was adopted. As an infant, she spent 2 months with her 14 year old bio mom then she was removed by DCF. Even during that time, the mom’s sister took the baby and went to another state for awhile.

She was then placed in a foster home for a year. From what I observed it was a good foster home, with an older woman as the foster mom. She was there for a year, because the bio mom would not give the name of the bio father, so in order to get permanent custody, DCF had to advertise for the father then wait a certain period of time. We knew of our daughter for 8 of the 12 months she was there, but no placement could even take place until the paperwork cleared the court.

I might add that because of this and similar, stupid rules and regulations we ran into when adopting our son, we fought to change the way things were done. We were able to have “foster/adopt” families who now take placements where permanent custody of the child is somewhere in his future. This has helped cut down on moving children to home after home, interrupting the bonding. So simple really. Back then, foster parents were NOT allowed to adopt their foster child. There you have your experts!!!!

I have always told both kids that if and when they were interested in finding their bio parents I would support them 100%. My daughter however, went behind my back and paid someone $500 to track her bio mom down. I could have given her the information for free….. What she found was a woman who clearly could care less, not in a negative, I don’t want you in my life sort of way – but in a yea, I thought you might look me up someday, big deal. She even has her birthday wrong, and tries to convince my daughter that the birth certificate is wrong and her birthday is really what she thinks it is. She also told her all kinds of lies about the two short months that she had her, including the fact that she sold her to very rich people so she could have a wonderful life – haaaaa She has two boys that she kept – they are both in jail. She suddenly remembered who the bio father was and my daughter met him, he has two girls, also in and out of trouble. He is a flaming alcoholic and told my daughter he was an American Indian – he is not. He also asked my daughter to come and take care of him because he was ill. haaaaa

A real pot of genetic slime.

My Grand’s paternal grandmother tells me that her husband, Grand’s paternal grandfather (now deceased) was adopted. Story sounds similar to your husbands. The husband was also an alcoholic.

Poor Grand, I don’t like to think about his chances. I just keep loving him.

PS – My adopted son is 30 years old now, is the light of my life and tells me he doesn’t care about looking up his bio parents, he has enough trouble taking care of us. lol

Ox Drover

Milo and Witty,

That’s why I feel strongly that the dysfunction is a combination of genetics and neglect/abuse/environment.

A researcher that I talked to when I lived in Little Rock did an experiment with dogs (which you can get a new generation in a year) and he took a litter of bird dogs and bred the most aggressive to the most aggressive and the most non aggressive to the most non aggressive and he had been doign this for 20 years in the mid 80s when I talked to him, and he had dogs that were like pit bulls on one end and ones that belly crawled on the other end. All treated the same.

In many generations less than 20 I culled out the aggressive members of my cow herd…though the breed itself is rather docile..some few members were not. I culled those members out and kept the more docile ones and by the time I sold the big herd there weren’t any that weren’t very docile.

I do know that you can take dogs and chain them up and let kids taunt them, frustrate them and you can make some bad ass dogs out of what would normally be pretty docile dogs, and if you start out with a pit bull and do that, you can end up with a killer if he gets loose.

Back when my “frenemies” still lived here they had dogs that were half pit/half boxer and they were mostly kept chained except when they were in their RV. He would (against my orders) let his dog roam some though and I opened my door a couple of times to let my little Bud dog out to pee and that dog was standing there just WAITING for Bud to come out. Bud was only 18 pounds but would have been stupid and brave enough to attack the pit/boxer mix that was in HIS front yard. I kept telling the guy to keep his dog up, finally I informed him that the next time I opened my door and the dog was there he was going to get shot. (the dog) Knowing I didn’t jest about that kind of thing he kept his dog up after that. But then decided how he was going to build this huge pen for his dogs, and that was about the time I decided it was time for them to GO.

You know I think not only are there predators in the human race, but there are the “victims” as well, and we (victims) are programmed by a combination of genetics and environment to be the victims, while they are programmed by genes and environment to be the predators, just like the dogs that the researcher at the VA in Little Rock bred…all from the same genetic stock, but still….either victims or aggressors.

Ox Drover

Milo, we posted over each other.

Yea, a great genetic base from which to build a life. that kind of genetic stew has been responsible for the “lower end” of society since history began, spawning crime, drugs and alcohol, violence etcetra. Now, though, it is politically correct to believe that throwing money and social workers at these problems will make things better. LOL ROTFLMAO snark snarf barf choke! Unfortunately, I think these people reproduce more often than the more responsible members of society do. The “Jerry springer” folks who don’t know who the father of their child is without a DNA test are not going to raise this child to value honesty and education. All of Donna’s high school education isn’t going to reach these young girls who will be the future mothers of these children, and any young man who is more or less normal isn’t going to turn down a chance at sex with these future mothers…and especially the psychopathic ones.

Hopefully though, the young girls and guys who are “normal” to “semi” normal will hear and at least keep from breeding more psychopaths. That at least is a START.


I a feeling better day by day. Thanks for asking 🙂

I did not know your daughter was adopted. If you mentioned it at some point I must have missed that info in the post.

My son was also missing in action recently. He usually goes for about a week at a time. He is young though….I imagine as he gets older he might go for longer periods of time.

When it comes to him I guess you could say that I have detached from him and his situation in some ways but not in other ways….When there is “no news”. I can go along pretty well…..

No news is good news.

But when I hear that he is “missing in action” I have to say that every time the phone rings or I hear a distant police siren it triggers me…..And I start to worry. My anxiety kicks in and I almost feel like he still lives here at home. That same feeling of doom and gloom kind of settles in. Like what next? Waiting for the other shoe to fall.

I think it is wise to just keep on loving Grand as you always have. And not think about the rest. Focus on the present so that you may enjoy your moments with him. He sounds like a very loveable little boy 🙂


Thank you, Kim Frederick!

I certainly hope that you are correct about Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, because I am really going through it right now. Sometimes, I think I’m losing my mind.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve commented here, but do often read the great articles.

This one, and the one about “The Red Flags of Dysfunction” are really speaking, no shouting, to me right now.

I believe my mother is a sociopath. Although, she could be a narcissist. No matter, the effect is the same. She has been particularly good at Triangulation lately, since I’ve had little to no contact with her and her husband for the last three years.

Three months ago, I asked my husband to move out…And, he did. He has Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder.

Each time I have to interact with him, I get angry and say things I wish I hadn’t. Then I have waves of shame, guilt, sadness, anxiety, loneliness and…

I’m the one “screaming obscenities from the roof” while he remains calm and collected. Same goes for my mother. I’ve since learned just not to engage at all with her.

With my husband, it’s not possible at this time. Plus, I’m still grieving the breakup of the marriage. My son is away at college and we have no other friendly, extended family.

Thank you for reminding me that we can be driven crazy by family members who appear ‘all together’ in the community.

I’m printing out the “new rules” to keep with me. I’m googling NVS!

After all these years battling with the PA, and dear mother the Spath, I’ve messed up my own psyche.

Therapy is helping! One of the things that really works for a sensitive person like me (and may be something others may want to look into) is EMDR therapy. It really can work miraculously with the right therapist. It is mostly used with cognitive therapy too.

Thank you, too, to “the sisterhood.” You are spot on about being middle-aged and not being able to remain in denial anymore. I remember hearing that our bodies will first whisper that there is a problem, then it will get louder. If we don’t listen, really significant physical and emotional problems will result. I think it was Oprah.

I had in my mind that I had married the perfect man. For twenty-five years I tried to make it work, even though I felt like a single mom most of the time. Well, okay, a single mom with one small child and one fully grown man/child.

I could not wake up to this truth until after my son left for college. Because my first child died at four months (SIDS) when I was twenty, I could not bear the loss of my new family sixteen years later. I had to stay and raise a good child in a safe environment–with two parents. And, things were good for awhile. The thing I learned was that how a person behaves in public can be alarmingly different in private.

It’s even possible that my husband is a sociopath. He’s been in therapy (sometimes twice a week) for two years and seems to be getting worse. Or, is it that I’m just fed up?

Anyway, thank you for this place where we can vent and learn and support each other. You are all so brave.

Hugs to all.


Dear Suzie,

I don’t know what your husband is but I do know that it’s now about you and finding what is right for you. Zero tolerance for abuse from anyone.

Your statement from Oprah was really wise. We have to listen to our inner voice or the unhealthy things in our lives come out as unhealty things in our bodies.

I hope that you find peace with your decision and you’ll know that you are worthy and deserve to be treated with respect. You deserve better than being in a marriage where you’re invisible.

Ox Drover

Dear Suzie,

I’m glad the article resonated with you…I know how it feels because I WAS/AM there as well…it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge into crazy again…but most of the time I’m fairly sane now…but I’ve realized that I have to be careful and pace myself in order to keep my level…

Glad you are still reading and lurking, but glad too that you posted today! Keep up the work. I used EMDR and it helped me a lot as well with being crazy as well as the PTSD symptoms.


Dear Kim, thank you so much for mentioning NVS. It put all into perspective! The puzzle with all the different strange parts fits now very neatly. THANKS!!!


I wasn’t able to do EMDR unfortunately. I’m so broken, I couldn’t even concentrate on the trauma and follow the lights at the same time 🙂


Wow… much discussion on this and a LOT of information to process. I don’t know what all of the anacronyms represent, but The Narcissistic Victim Syndrome resonates.

It all sort of fits in with Stockholm Syndrome, from my perspective. The victims who have a stronger sense of survival eventually sort it out – I suppose. Then, in retrospect, they can clearly see how they were steamrolled.

Hopeforjoy – it has been a LONG time since I’ve “seen” you! So glad you’re here! 😀

Brightest blessings

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