By Dr. Laura Rubiales
After reading an e-mail with the accusatory gibberish/provoking/non-responsibility-taking BS that only a sociopath or other bona-fide Cluster B personality disordered person can seem to write, I found myself with palpitations, panicked, blood pressure rising, on the verge of a spiking migraine and barely able to breathe. I immediately called a girlfriend to therapeutically debrief. In her gorgeous Louisiana Southern drawl she said, “Darlin,’ you just don’t mess with crazy.”
In all I have learned about the nervous system from over 20 years of studying and working with sick people, let me tell you why it is best to just “not mess with crazy” from a physiological perspective.
We have what is called an autonomic nervous system that switches between a sympathetic fight or flight mode, and a parasympathetic rest and digest mode. Our sympathetic fight or flight is literally designed to help us run away from the predatory tiger in the African savannah. The problem with a relationship with a sociopath, with all its lies, losses, betrayals, possible cheating and endless drama, is that our fight or flight response gets turned on and doesn’t easily turn off. It brings with it a cascade of hormones where the danger signals tell your hypothalamus to trigger your pituitary to trigger your adrenals to release all kinds of stress hormones.
These stress hormones can be used to your advantage to help mobilize you away from the sociopath. Once away and having implemented No Contact, it is very important to do all you can to restore the parasympathetic nervous system. Staying stuck in the hyper-adrenalized shocked state can be a set up for anxiety, panic disorder, depression, chronic fatigue, and many other major illnesses — including post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Years ago, I treated a woman who had been in ongoing high-conflict divorce and custody dispute proceedings with someone who fit the criteria for antisocial personality disorder. In the year following, she was diagnosed with both multiple sclerosis and cancer. As a clinician, this case was a wake-up call to me that our bodies are not meant for these ongoing toxic high-stress states.
The longer time spent with a sociopath, the more there is a risk to potentially damage your health. What can you do to restore your health once you have gotten away from the sociopath? I recommend healing modalities such as yoga, acupuncture, psychotherapy with someone safe, exercise, meditation, proper nutrition, massage and safe social support. To start, I recommend a thorough medical workup to make sure you are at your best to take the healing trek to safe ground both internally and externally.
And, if you’re wondering, what did I do after the e-mail I mentioned in the beginning of this article? I was at my clinic so I took my blood pressure. It was alarmingly high, with one of the numbers almost in the stroke risk region. I woke up and went No Contact.