Identifying sociopathic behavior is easy; giving advice is hard

Just about every day, Lovefraud receives e-mail from readers who are looking for answers about confusing, contradictory and abusive behavior exhibited by people in their lives. The new readers don’t understand what they are dealing with; they just tell, either in a few paragraphs or lengthy compositions, their stories. The e-mails describe some or many of the following behaviors:

  • Pathological lying
  • Pity plays
  • Shallow emotions
  • Devalue and discard
  • Cheating or promiscuity
  • Addiction to drugs or alcohol
  • Controlling demands
  • Financial irresponsibility
  • Manipulation of children
  • Broken promises
  • Claims of “you made me do it”
  • Pleas of “I’ll never do it again”

The readers ask, “Am I involved with a sociopath?”

For those of us who now know what sociopathic behavior looks like, it is apparent that the answer is yes—or that at least the readers are describing sociopathic traits.

More than 1,300 people have contacted Lovefraud with their stories—and others have told their stories in comments posted on this blog. In all of them, the same behavior patterns are described over and over again. In fact, many of you have wondered (facetiously) if you were all involved with the same person.

Asking for advice

When newbies, who have been confused by lies and broken promises, learn that there is a personality disorder that describes what they’ve been dealing with, they have a few reactions. One is relief that they are not crazy—they really are experiencing irrational demands and covert manipulation.

Another is horror at the magnitude of the problems they face—especially upon learning that there really isn’t any treatment for a sociopath. With that, the new reader starts asking for advice, and this is where things get tricky.

Here are questions that I’ve been asked:

  • He’s threatened to kill me—will he do it?
  • How do I get the judge to see the truth?
  • How can I get the authorities to arrest her?
  • How can I protect my children?
  • How can I get my money back?
  • What should I do?

As much as I wish that any of us who are further along the road of understanding could answer these questions, the reality is, we can’t.

Each situation is unique

Although we often see the same patterns of behavior, each sociopath is unique. Each victim is unique. Each situation is unique. As victims try to extricate themselves from entanglements with sociopaths, any and all of these issues may be pivotal:

  • How much clout does the sociopath have in the community?
  • How well can the sociopath manipulate the legal system?
  • How much money does the sociopath have to throw into the conflict?
  • Who believes the sociopath?
  • Who can the sociopath make into allies?
  • Are there any witnesses? Will they speak up?
  • How old are the children?
  • What office politics are involved?
  • Do legal authorities take the case seriously?
  • Are there any ties that can’t be broken?
  • How much money does the victim have (remaining)?
  • How much strength does the victim have to continue the battle?

Sometimes I feel so helpless. I can offer some generalizations about what sociopaths tend to do—based on the 1,300 cases I’ve learned about—but I cannot predict what any particular sociopath will do, how authorities may react, or if anyone will see through the deceptions. All of this makes it very difficult to give advice.

Solitary journey

In reality, extricating ourselves, recovering from, and coming to terms with the sociopath(s) in our life is a solitary journey. Other people may make suggestions, but we must ultimately make the decisions on how to cope.

And sometimes the range of the choices we have the ability to make is very narrow. A judge may decide on joint custody of children, or even award custody to the sociopath. Law enforcement may decline to investigate or prosecute. If we win our case in civil court, we may never collect a judgment.

In situations like these, decisions are taken away from us.

When that happens, our only choices have to do with our own attitude. Are we going to let the sociopath sink us? Or are we going to somehow find a way to heal?

Real response is internal

There is great wisdom in the adage, “This, too, shall pass.”

It’s been 10 years since I left my sociopathic ex-husband. I’ve processed most of the emotional trauma associated with the experience, so it doesn’t have the grip on me that it once did. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m running Lovefraud, it would have no grip on me at all.

Ten years ago, I was on the phone with another woman scammed by my husband multiple times a day. Although we are still friends, now we only speak two or three times a year. She’s moved on in her life—the experience is a distant memory.

The same thing happens here at Lovefraud. In the midst of their trauma, readers post frequently. But eventually we stop seeing their names and comments. I hope that means they’ve left the experience behind.

In the end, the real response to the experience with the sociopath is internal. We have to come to terms with the betrayal, the injury, the exploitation. So although it’s hard to give foolproof advice for dealing with the circumstances that the predator creates in our lives, the truly important advice is this: Find a way to heal yourself.

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83 Comments on "Identifying sociopathic behavior is easy; giving advice is hard"

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Regarding the need for excitment in sociopaths…
I read that sociopaths have a strong need for excitement and they can’t stand boredom that’s why they engage themselves in dangerous things like breaking the law, do drugs, engaging in violent activities or take serious risks to fulfill that need, but the person to whom I was with and I still think he is a sociopath doesn’t do none of those things but likes to party so much, he gets so excited to go to a party or events and enternainments and have fun soooooooo much. He lives to have fun. At beginning of our relationship that’s one of the things that attracted me to him, but than I noticed that it was to much. It just drains your energy dry. It is like he have extra energy. If I was not in a mood to go out for same reason he use to get so bored, in a point that I use to feel guilty to make in feel so bored. Another thing is he likes to see violent sports like boxing. He can stay for hours watching boxing and boxing and boxing. Is this another type of excitment that they can have??


I think they are desperate for a new and fresh buzz because the lack the normal emotional responses the rest of us have which give us satisfaction. Robert Hare in “Without Conscience” discusses the various kinds of buzz sociopaths seek out.

I think this article should be a permanent fixture on the home page.

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