If you’re reading Lovefraud, you’re probably feeling used and abused by someone in your life. You may talk to your friends, or Google behaviors like “pathological liar” or “emotional abuse,” and you keep coming across terms like sociopath, narcissist and psychopath.
And you wonder, aren’t these people all criminals and serial killers?
Lovefraud is here to set you straight. Most sociopaths never kill anyone, but they are extremely damaging to your emotional, psychological, physical and financial health.
Lovefraud defines a sociopath as a person with a serious personality disorder in which he or she manipulates and exploits others. This follows the original meaning of the term sociopathy, which was, “anything deviated or pathological in social relations.”
On Lovefraud, sociopathy includes the clinical diagnoses of antisocial, narcissistic, borderline, histrionic and psychopathic personality disorders. (For more on why Lovefraud advocates this terminology, read What’s a sociopath?)
Everyday sociopaths in your circle of acquaintances
It’s true that some sociopaths break the law, are prosecuted, convicted and locked up in jail. But the vast majority of them are not in prison or mental institutions. They engage in exploitation and abuse that is immoral and unethical, but not necessarily illegal. They manipulate friends, betray romantic partners, neglect their children, take advantage of their parents, steal from employers, defraud business partners, bully co-workers and harass their neighbors.
These master manipulators live among all demographic groups. They are male, female, rich, poor, old, young. They come from all communities, races, religions, nationalities, education levels and professions. They are your family members, work colleagues, friends and acquaintances.
That’s why they are everyday sociopaths. They may be in your everyday life.
Think you can spot an everyday sociopath? Think again. Everyday sociopaths often blend easily into society. They’re entertaining and fun at parties. They appear to be intelligent, charming, well-adjusted and likable. The key word is “appear.” Because for sociopaths it’s all an illusion, designed to convince you to give them what they want.
The manipulative and exploitative personality disorders
Lovefraud uses sociopathy as an umbrella term for the following clinical diagnoses.
- Antisocial personality disorder: a pervasive disregard for and violation of the rights of others.
- Narcissistic personality disorder: a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.
- Borderline personality disorder: a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions, and marked impulsivity.
- Histrionic personality disorder: a pattern of extreme emotionality and attention-seeking behavior.
These are the “Cluster B” personality disorders in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, now in its fifth edition (DSM-5).
Another personality disorder, psychopathy, is not listed as an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, but it is studied by many academic research psychologists. Psychopathy is similar to, but not the same as, antisocial personality disorder. (Read more at Psychopath vs. sociopath.)
Each of these disorders is a syndrome and a continuum. A syndrome is a collection of traits and behaviors that tend to occur together. A continuum means the traits and behaviors can range in intensity. What this means is that sociopaths are not all the same; some are worse than others. They can range from sleazy to serial killer.
Here’s what the sociopathic personality disorders have in common: The affected individuals cannot love like normal people. Instead, they manipulate and exploit you.
Worse, there is no real cure for them.
Traits of master manipulators
Everyday sociopaths are master manipulators who are out for themselves. They feel entitled to whatever they want, and aren’t concerned if the pursuit of what they want hurts you. Depending on the individual’s level of disorder, their behavior may range from emotional manipulation to blatant lies to gruesome violence.
Here are some typical master manipulator traits and tactics:
Emotional manipulation: Sociopaths prey on your vulnerabilities, desires, dreams and fears. They use the pity play to make you feel sorry for them. They lavish you with flattery and then blame. Soon, you feel totally off-balance.
Deception: Sociopaths lie, overtly and by omission. Some, especially antisocials, narcissists and psychopaths, tell lies that range from stupid to totally outrageous. Unfortunately, they are extremely convincing, and human beings can detect lies only 53 percent of the time.
Abusing trust: Human beings are biologically programmed to trust other people, and everyday sociopaths take advantage of this. Through conversation, touching and sex, everyday sociopaths create intimacy, which causes your body to release the neurotransmitter oxytocin and makes you trust them. They may not understand the biology of the process, but they know that it works.
Cultural myths enable everyday sociopaths
If you’re a regular, empathetic human being, you are naturally inclined to trust people. You are also not taught to be very selective about whom you trust, so you may not know that there are people in the world who look and act just like you, but have totally different motivations. If you hear about sociopaths at all, it’s through movies and TV shows, in which they are unrealistically portrayed as deranged villains.
In fact, in school, church and even in magazines, you hear messages that hide the truth about the everyday sociopaths among us. Here are the most dangerous cultural myths:
- “We are all created equal.”
- “There’s good in everyone.”
- “Everyone deserves a second chance.”
- “Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.”
- “Everyone wants to be loved.”
- “We’re all basically the same.”
The problem with these statements is that they contain the words “all” and “everyone.” Yes, these are wonderful principles to live by — as long as you’re dealing with people who are not disordered.
If you are interacting with an everyday sociopath, following these principles can lead to your own heartbreak, devastation and destruction. That’s why it’s so important to know that everyday sociopaths exist.
Click the “Next” link below, and on the following pages. Or, jump right to a particular topic in the index.
Index of information on everyday sociopaths
- What’s a sociopath?
- Key symptoms of psychopaths
- How to spot a con artist
- Millions of sociopaths