Most of the time we spend with sociopaths is spent in confusion. They tell us that they love us, while they cheat on us and take our money. They tell us that everything will be wonderful while our lives are falling apart. They tell us they’re sorry and will never do it again, yet they do it again, and again, and again.
We ask ourselves—what in the world is going on here?
They explain it all away. The explanation seems to make sense. But something still isn’t right, and they still don’t stop the behavior that makes us believe we are losing our minds.
There must be a reason. We wonder if they’re depressed, or bipolar, or they have low self-esteem. We’ve been told that they were abused as children. They overindulge in alcohol or drugs, and we’re sure that if they can only overcome their addiction, they’ll change.
It never happens.
We can’t figure it out.
The words that fit the behavior
Then someone says, “It sounds like he (or she) is a sociopath.” Or maybe they even use the word “psychopath.”
Sociopath! They’re the guys on The Sopranos.
Psychopath! They’re all serial killers.
But something tells us to do more research, so we go online. We buy a book. And there they are, the people who are driving us insane, perfectly described in the symptoms of a sociopath.
At Lovefraud, we hear it all the time:
“He’s got every symptom on the list!” “The description fits her to a T!”
Finally, we have a name for that person’s problem. He or she is a sociopath. A psychopath. An antisocial.
Finally, it all makes sense. The lies, the emptiness, the remorselessness, the evil. There is a reason. It is not us. It is a personality disorder.
Naming the disorder makes all the difference. Finally, we begin to understand what we are dealing with. This allows us to begin recovery.
Learn about them in school
Why do we spend so much time in confusion? Because there is no education program about this personality disorder for the general public.
I remember a story from the tsunami that struck Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand on December 26, 2004. A vacationing family was on the beach there when the ocean suddenly receded. The little girl of the family had just finished studying tsunamis in school, and learned that the receding ocean meant that a wall of water would soon come crashing into the shore. She told her family, and they escaped to higher ground.
Sociopaths cause personal tsunamis for all of their victims. The sociopaths/ psychopaths/ antisocials of the world cause a huge percentage of all human pain, damage and devastation, yet most of the population does not know they exist. Why? Why don’t we learn about these predators in school? If we did, when we saw the symptoms, we could escape.
Arguing over terminology
Part of the problem with trying to educate people about these predators is that the mental health professionals do not agree on what to call it. First it was moral insanity. Then it was psychopath. Then it was sociopath. Then it was antisocial personality disorder.
The professionals can’t agree on how to define and diagnose the disorder, either. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), is supposed to be the bible for clinicians. I find its description of antisocial personality disorder to be vague and difficult to understand.
Dr. Robert Hare’s description of the symptoms of a psychopath—the term he uses—is easier to understand, and the test he developed has been consistently shown to be useful in predicting recidivism among criminals. But Hare’s criteria and evaluation are resisted by many psychiatrists. From what I’ve heard, the basis for much of the disagreement is political.
Mental health profession should come to agreement
I believe this lack of agreement is a travesty, and the professionals are actually contributing to the confusion in which the predators operate. In a way, that makes the mental health professionals complicit in the havoc wreaked by the sociopaths/ psychopaths/ antisocials—whatever we call them.
Lovefraud calls on the professional associations to solve this problem. The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry—please, come to an agreement.
Make a decision. Define this disorder. Publicize the symptoms. Let the general public learn what to look out for.
It would help all of us keep the sociopaths/psychopaths/antisocials, the human tsunamis, from upending our lives.