By | January 17, 2009 95 Comments

Over use of the term psychopath/sociopath?

With the release of the Mask of Sanity in the 1940s Dr. Hervey Cleckley began the quest to describe a syndrome called psychopathy, in which affected individuals prey on others without remorse. Since people affected by the syndrome are socially disordered the syndrome has also been called sociopathy. Dr. Robert Hare extended the work of Cleckley and carefully documented the symptoms of the disorder. All this research has lead to two basic conclusions:

1. It is quite remarkable that individuals who choose a lifestyle of remorseless predation of other people are so similar in their behaviors and personality traits.

2. Equally important is the idea that non-disordered people do not “regularly” prey on others.

These two very profound conclusions have been the cause of a dilemma that is outlined by the following statement by a prominent psychopathy researcher:

Clearly, not all people who are violent or callous or sadistic are psychopathic. In fact, it is probably the case that most of the cruelty in the world is not perpetrated by psychopathic individuals. Similarly, although psychopaths commit a disproportionate share of the violent crime, it seems to me that they do not commit even the majority of the violent crime.

Over the last two weeks I have thought about the above dilemma, particularly since attending the Battered Mothers Custody Conference. The dilemma was also discussed at the conference in the form of questioning whether “all batters are psychopaths/sociopaths.” I want to answer this question for you in and extend the answer to the broader context of psychopathy/sociopathy and humanity.

All though I have the utmost respect for the quoted psychopathy researcher, I disagree strongly with his views. I believe that ALL people who are violent, callous or sadistic (in the sense that these traits persist in them) are psychopathic.

Over the last 7 years a number of studies show that the group of traits and behaviors that group together in psychopathy act like a “dimensional trait.” By dimensional trait I mean that psychopathy is similar to height. Just as there are short people and tall people and also what we consider short and tall changes according to age, gender and geography, there are people who are more or less psychopathic. The dilemma only happens when we attempt to categorize a person and call him or her “a psychopath/sociopath.” Scientists and mental health professionals disagree about where to draw the dividing line to indicate “a psychopath,” just like you and I might disagree as to what height makes for a “tall person.”

The dimension, psychopathic is also different from height in a very important respect- that is stability. Whereas height is very stable, psychopathy is only relatively stable and is affected by aging, mood disorders, substance abuse and social environment.

Now I want to explain the source of the confusion around the dimension psychopathic. The source of the confusion is a failure to understand that one issue underlies psychopathy and is the cause of the observed fact that a group of traits and behaviors cluster together in psychopathy/sociopathy.

The cause of psychopathy/sociopathy is an addiction to power. The addiction to power can start at any age but as in most addictions it usually begins by the early 20s. Also like other addictions, the earlier a person becomes addicted to power, the worse the addiction. Addictions that begin early are very resistant to treatment and carry a very poor prognosis. Psychopathy/sociopathy that starts prior to age 10 (puberty) is the most devastating.

The idea that an addiction to power underlies psychopathy/sociopathy has important micro and macro implications for human society. On a micro level the family is affected by psychopathic individuals who are obsessed with the pursuit of interpersonal power at the expense of family members. Violence, callous manipulation and sadism are all part of that power fix. The person that abuses family members does so because it makes him or her feel powerful. That is true whether the abuser is mother, father, brother, sister or any other relation.

The macro level is just as important. Our institutional leaders, if addicted to power produce widespread abuse in our society. Institutional leaders are bosses, politicians, teachers and the like. When we examine risk for “psychopathy” in leaders, it is useful to consider the phenomenon of addiction as applied to power.

Last night we went to The Cheesecake Factory to celebrate my daughter’s 18th birthday. I had one frozen mango marguerita, likely one of six I will have in all of 2009. I will also likely drink 4 glasses of wine and about three beers all year. There are many people who cannot drink just one drink because the pleasure of alcohol sets off a chemical reaction in their brains. Once they have one drink they develop a compulsion to keep drinking.

Power with me works the same way. I dislike telling other people what to do. I have had to learn to manage this dislike in order to adequately mother my children. Good parenting requires the thoughtful, careful exertion of interpersonal power. Some parents become addicted to that power and become what are called “authoritarian parents.” They are so bossy and dictatorial their poor children never learn to think for themselves.

Institutional leaders are like parents. Leadership requires thoughtful, careful exertion of interpersonal power. For a psychopathic, power-addict the first time they lead the meeting fills them with pleasure and delight. They become obsessed with the feeling and so obsessed with power. Since love and power motives are mutually exclusive, eventually power consumes the person’s entire being and he/she develops all the qualities of “a psychopath.”

Let us look at domestic violence again. Men and women who abuse their partners mentally, emotionally sexually and physically are not normal people who are the subjects of the influence of a violent society. They are power addicts. Just like there are societal factors in alcoholism, gambling and other addictions, there are societal influences on psychopathy. These societal influences no more cause psychopathy or power addiction, than they do alcoholism. Drinking causes alcoholism and exerting power causes psychopathy- in people with an inborn predisposition.

Please comment on what I have written. If you disagree please state your reasons. Let’s have a debate.

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I do so love a debate. Guess it part of my nature. But sorry can’t because I too have witness and experienced this “power play” in those that suffer from this disorder. The need is so great to them that I too see it as an addiction. I too agree that this “power fix” is so great a need for them that anyone or thing that gets in the way will be devalued or discarded or worst. Again so sorry we can’t debate this issue or views because I for one is in total agreement…



This blog reminds me of the saying “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”….but I think it only true when the person has a leaning that way, which is what I think you are saying in part. One could give all the power in the world to my husband, who has issues, but with power, he would be fair and equitable and never use it for personal gain. I think that is why non-family members have named him executor for their wills….it is just very apparent that he is committed to NOT abusing power for personal gain.

I like Steve’s comment the telling characteristic is exploitive behavior (hope I’m remembering right) and also earlier blogs you have written saying that it n/p/s….all pretty much the same. There is no harm that I can see is saying they are the same, and danger in NOT saying they are the same, because then one might discount the possibility of what they are capable of.

I also agree that the psychopathy traits shown and acted upon (again hope I’m not misquoting) vary by circumstances and stress. My niece can be so sweet and understanding to me, but I remember her being rigid as a baby when you would pick her up. I have seen her eat up and spit out husbands….just leaving them devastated. And so while she appears to love me and everyone assumes I would name her to take care of me if my husband was gone, having no children, I will NOT. I know that me being feeble and having money might bring out a new relationship between us!!!



You are wise indeed NOT to name your niece as a caretaker for you. My ex-S BF is very sweet to anyone he can get something out of i.e., daughter to “look good”, uncle with no heirs, etc. Underneath the mask, he is an aggressive power-monger, liar and manipulator. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, IMHO.

In regard to Liane’s article, I would have to give greater consideration to the statement, “ALL people who are violent, callous or sadistic…are psychopathic”. Hmm, much to ponder.



Hi all
I dont like the term “Psychopath”, as my understanding is that it means ‘psych’-o, as ‘of the mind (psyche), and ‘path’, as in ‘pathology’ (ie illness/sickness). Thus, anyone with any mental illness, could be termed a psychopath. And someone suffering anxiety is certainly not what we are referring to here.
There is also a vast difference in the way an Anti-Social personality is formed, and functions, when compared with a Narcissist, or a Borderline. They are completely different in their ways of being, and abusing.
The term psychopath would be as general as the term ‘animal’, whereas a NPD is like ‘cat’, and ASPD like ‘dog’.


Here’s another term: Moral Insanity.

In my interactions, I note that I could NEVER count on the guy to “do the right thing.” His apparent generosity to others was at a direct cost to my pocketbook, and to others who had invested in my work. He was adept at looking like he was kind and thoughtful, but I look back and see his intent to wreck. It was as if I was, at great cost using huge human capital, laying down the track for a railroad, and he was rushing in, bringing sandwiches and lemonade, and hurrying off around the corner so that he could dynamite everything we’d built.

I wrestle with the power addiction, only in this way. You would think that a power addict would have some sort of goal, some organizing intelligence. Instead it was like the joking description of the ADHD kid, “Oh, here’s a shiny ball. Oooh, pretty lights. Oh, let’s run around in circles. Oh, I want to watch this show on TV!” But instead this guy was drawn to little exercises in destruction and drama. Taking his young daughters to the pet store so they could bond with the puppies, knowing that he had no money, time, or desire to get a dog. Encouraging a workman to pull a thermostat out of the wall, knowing that the action created huge cost to fix and gained absolutely nothing — other than chaos and wreckage.

When I found that “Moral Insanity” was an early term for this N/S/P type of behavior, it really rang true for me.

I’m curious about Grant’s professional measurement of NPD vs. ASPD, but I lean toward Liane’s description of psychopathy as analogous to “tall.”


The term “megalomaniac” is better, in my own view, for a “power addict”, than Psychopath.

Ox Drover

I do agree that many people (Joe Plummer) think that the term “Psychopath” means “crazy”–i.e. out of touch with reality. I have found that the average “person on the street” has LITTLE TO NO ideas about anything except depression (meaning sad all the time) or ADHD (a rowdy kid that needs his butt beaten a time or two to straighten him out.)

A few people may know about anxiety attacks, and a few may know about manic-depressive (or bi-polar) and a few have heard of schizrophrenia, but they think it means has “multiple personalities” or “split personality.”

Education the public about psychopaths or ANY disorder or mental illness is a “grass roots operation” and needs to start from the “ground up.” A BIG job that may take generations to accomplish, if we started a decade ago. LOL

I don’t care if they call it a Kumquat, but the professionals NEED TO QUIT BICKERING AND CALL IT SOMETHING! AND STICK WITH IT.

The Borderline Personality disorder was named back when they thought it was “on the border of psychotic” (out of touch with reality) and thename stuck, your average Joe thinks it means “on the border of” a personality disorder and they are not sure what a personality disorder is. Any time I discuss BPD with someone not a professional I take time first of all to DEFINE it since the name itself is confusing.

While I realize all of the medical sciences are evolving and names for things change. “Bright’s disease” is now called Kidney disease, etc.

I think the POWER ADDICTION is one of the definite (if not THE definite) hallmarks of psychopathic.

There is also the debate about the socio vs the psycho/path. Are they the same, or is one caused by ONLY environment and the other genetics PLUS environment?

Where does Anti-Social Personality disorder come in vs socio/psycho-path?

I do agree though that ANYONE WHO HAS A PATTERN OF POWER ADDICTION AND/OR VIOLENCE AGAINST OTHERS is a psychopath (My choice of word, along with Robert Hare)

I also agree that ALL CHILD MOLESTERS are psychopaths. One of the things that convinces me of this is that they are about IMPOSSIBLE TO REHABILITATE and they have NO REMORSE about it. Do not see it as wrong, but only something that needs to be hidden from society so they are not sanctioned for the behavior. Some even see their abuse as a “loving service” to the child and they seem to “think” that the child of 4 or 5 has a RIGHT to “sexual expression.”

I think that narcissistic personality disorder is “Level one” of a scale of 1-10 that leads to “psychopath, level ten.”

All Ps are Ns but, not all Ns are Ps.

I think in the lower levels there may be a vestige of conscience or bonding, but not within normal levels. The “Level ten” would be someone like Ted Bundy or Bernie Madoff. Totally without any reguard to the horrific damage they do to others for their own pleasures.

I agree on the continuium of fron tall to short analogy. There are varying levels of “evil” in the N to P (1 to 10) scale I divised. BTW that helped me to visualize the various ranges. I’m not sure some are actually more evil than oters, but at least some are more VIOLENT physically than others, more controlling than others.

Also I think we need to take into consideration the OTHER DIAGNOSES that go along with PPD–are they also bi-polar, ADHD (or God forbid, all 3?) How about substance abuse in addition to the two additional dx to PPD ?

IQ and education as well as other social skills influence what type of “control” they go after. Bernie Madoff obviously didn’t rob liquor stores, or Bill Clinton wasn’t robbing liquor stores, but I have no doubt that either of these men is a psychopath on some “level.”

What are they “addicted to” in addition to control? Sex, money, position, etc. What are they willing to risk to gain advantages in these things. Are they also perverts, liking to strangle and/or kill their sexual partners, or do they prefer children?

I’m not sure how a “scale” for the would work along a continuium.

There is so much stuff that is EVIL that they do that society in general more or less accepts. Cheat repeatedly on his/her spouse, “sewing their wild oats.” Date rape, “well, she was acting like she wanted it, she was just a slut, screwed every guy o n campus, why not him?”

One thing that society accepts way too much, though in law and other ways it is “bad” (but people still laugh about old Joe driving home drunk) is IMPAIRED DRIVING.

Even people who drive impaired REPEATEDLY and kill or injure folks seldom are appropirately (IMHO) for this crime. They have friends at the court house, or the judge “gives them another chance.” etc. To me, CRUCIFICTION for FIRST OFFENSE is appropriate. One of my grandfathrs and two close friends were all killed by drunk drivers who were not put in jail for even one day. There are tens of thousands of deaths and serious injuries caused in the US alone every year by impaired drivers. On any Friday or saturday night in Arkansas ONE OUT OF TEN drivers is legally DRUNK.”

ONe of my son’s prison buddies is the only man I know who is serving 60 years for drunk driving. I have no idea who or how many he killed or how many times he killed people driving drunk, but I bet-ya it was a bunch on both counts.

BAck when I lived in Florida and worked as an RNP for an orthopaedic doc I had a father come in to request that we write a letter to the judge for his son, who was one of o ur patients with a “bad back.”The man was to go to prison for drunk driving and the father wanted us to say that his back was so bad jail beds would be horrible for it.

I assured the man I would be GLAD to write a letter to the judge, and I did, but the letter said that we could see NO MEDICAL REASON for him not to go to jail. (and there wasn’t)

Yea, I’m on my SOAP BOX here, but I bet none of you find that surprising! LOL

This is a great discussion Liane, and one I wish would eventually solve something with the lack of education among the general public and a great many of the professionals. Thanks for your article. A good one as always!


Oxy … Where I live … our main newspaper ran full paged articles with BIG headlines … page after page pertaining to the street walkers in the capital city (photos, videos and interviews with the prostitutes along with the John’s. They discussed in detail who the hookers were (men and women street walkers) exactly what blocks they conducted business and out-ed the John’s … names, towns they lived in, occupations, make of car, marital status. These articles ran for over a month discussing the statistics of AIDS, all the STDS, how rampant it is, how it is transmitted . They discussed all the anti-social terminologies and explained these men (many prominent business men and/or professionals, come into the city where they work, picked up these prostitutes on a daily/weekly basis … so wake up wifey doodle in the burbs, don’t think you are safe and that hubby is faithful… for you too are at risk and hubby Dear’s addiction is playing Russian roulette with your health and life.

Definitely wasn’t a GRASS ROOTS campaign to me. This was major, big time … on the front page as well as 10 – 20 additional pages (daily) of our major newspaper in our state.

Did it work? I don’t know.

Did it help? I would think it did. Anyone that lives in our state read and knows those series of articles.

Do people know about anti-social personalities in our state … yes they do.

Now for my question, why did they all play stupid when it came down to me and my co-workers being persecuted? Oh, I forgot, politics.

I think the average person knows about anti-socials … but, like all horrific situations … it happens in other states or another town or to other people, not us … it doesn’t happen in our own back yard.



Oxy: I think in “Women Who Love Psychopaths,” Liane and Sandra discuss the level of damage done by Ns and Ps in society. Huge. Absolutely huge.

I agree that the bickering just adds to the confusion. Grant may have some comments, but, dangerous is dangerous, and we don’t need to care how we got there when we’re trying to limit the danger.

On the next level, can we help “Dangerous” become “Les Dangerous”? (Joke!) That would mean a shot at rehabilitating the dangerous by as-yet-unknown means. I hold out hope, but as of today, I don’t believe we have that magic bullet.

As to educating society, I think that psycho/sociopathy is more dangerous than any other STD out there. The children, born of such a union, into a guaranteed unstable environment, are so vulnerable to themselves becoming predators or acculturated victims. Even to educate high school students about psychological disorders, and personality disorders in particular, would be a big deal. But that might be even more controversial than sex-ed that included advise on birth control. If we knew about S/Ps, how would we vote in the next election?

I do believe that in this community we are on the forefront of understanding major issuees that affect society. So, “Yeah, Team!” Let’s keep educating ourselves and spread the word around us.


Dear Dr. Leedom,
I always enjoy your writing. You are raising some very important questions. Here are some points I would like to make.
1 – You quote an expert saying most violence is not caused by sociopaths/psychopaths. Well, who does create most of the violence, then? I don’t think it’s fair to say, most violence is not sociopathy and then leave no explanation for the rest. If not sociopathy, then what? Is he implying that regular violence is “normal”? I agree with you, the quote as it stands makes no sense It is much more logical to say that if someone regularly commits violence and sadistic acts, that person is a psychopath.
2 – You suggest psychopathy is an addiction to power. I question the use of the word, “addiction.” After all, Joseph Fritzl in Austria, who carried out the most heinous acts over a period of decades, excused his behavior by labeling it an addiction for which he had no control.
If sociopathy is an addiction, then can it be controlled with a 12-step program?
If the sociopathic “addict” wants to quit his habit, so to speak, should he have that opportunity?
My problem with the addiction framework is that it seems to make the sociopath powerless and a victim as well.
Notwithstanding all that, I have this feeling that you may be correct after all.
3 – If sociopathy is not an addiction, then what is it? Obviously it is a relentless drive to power without compassion for others. But is it based on an addiction, an impulse, or habitual wilfulness, or hidden, structural disordered drives from childhood, or all of the above?
I personally think violence springs from all of the above. One does not have to be sociopath to be violent. Many narcissists and borderline personalities are violent, too, in my experience. The difference is that sociopaths are habitually indifferent to others. So perhaps we should look at it as emotional autism with outward manifestations harmful to society and no cure. Certainly these people should be locked up and removed from society.


Grant: Megalomania doesn’t describe the “disorderedness” of the disorder. It’s the chaos of the behavior that confounds me.

We moved into a house, bought with my effort and earnest money. He was supposed to be paying the payments. Meanwhile the house needed a washer and dryer. He had a new-model Maytag setup that had been in storage, “top of the line,” as he said. It turned out the washer/dryer unit wouldn’t turn on. Furthermore, as I researched online that particular Maytag model, I learned that it had been part of a class action suit that had brought the Maytag corporation to its knees. Aggressively marketed, the unit had been terminally flawed and it just didn’t and wouldn’t ever work.

But the house still needed a washer and dryer unit, because clothes still got dirty, his children still visited, I still went to construction sites, and even if HIS S$$$ didn’t stink, uh, the rest of us needed a washer and dryer. Well, he wasn’t interested in the project. I finally got him to put the Maytag carcass out on the back deck, but in 12 months he never moved it one inch. I brought in a used washer and dryer from a property I was refurbishing so that I could have clean clothes. Did he ever do a load himself? Let me think . . .

So, this kind of nonsensical behavior is what confounds me. It was like he took it as a personal insult that the Maytag unit was terminally flawed . . . and then he was no longer interested. I can’t frame it as a power struggle. It had nothing to do with greed, as Wini might suggest.

Comments anyone?


Dr. Leedom: #2: Non-disordered people do not regularly prey on others. Please look at the above description. This is where I see the “disorderedness” but I don’t see him as a predator or exploiter in the usual sense.

Like, he could “get” narcissistic supply if he came in with the amazing Maytag washer/dryer, but as soon as it was evident that this was a class-action scale “turkey” he dropped it, even to the extent of leaving it on the back deck in full view of the entire town (if they used binoculars) because it no longer served his narcissistic purpose. And it never occurred to him that leaving dead appliances on the back porch is a profoundly low-life thing to do, certainly not acceptable in a neighborhood of $1M houses.

Playing back his actions is like trying to listen to a CD that has scratches and peanut butter all over it. It skips and jumps and its hard to make sense of it. There certainly is no “music” to it.


I think the general population understands the terms con-artist or thief or lier or cheater – when we say sociopath or physcopath or narcissist or cluster B – WE all of a sudden become the crazy one. ‘Disorder’ sound’s contagious. They are what they are and regardless of what label they are given, they destroy live’s and unless a person, professional physciatrist or not, has been ‘burned’ by one it doesnt matter what you call them…..


Rune, the term disorder is a valid point – it indicates that things are out of sync, and dont go the way normality would anticipate. They are not working properly, hence they are “disordered”.
There are several theories that are used to understand personality disorders. When you find several people displaying similar behaviors that are different to the rest of society, you dont just develop a list of these traits, you try to look at cause, as well as anticipate future behavior. There is a method in the madness, so to speak. The so called ‘Disorder” does actually follow a pattern.
Theodore Millon, a well known personality theorist, postulates that personality is like a circle, with 3 lines, or dimensions crossing it. These three dimensions are active vs passive, self vs other, and pleasure vs pain.
Normal personalities are roughly in the middle of each dimension, and thus fall in the middle of the circle. They strike a balance along all three continuums.
An N, however, will be grossly Self focussed, much more pleasure focussed, but usually passive. An anti-social will be strongly self focussed , and active, but enjoys pain, or gets pleasure from others pain. The N doesnt enjoy or inflict pain consciously, because they just dont care. But, if you get hurt along the way, too bad for you.
A Borderline is so undifferentiated, that they cant take a consistent stance on these dimensions, and flip flop all over the place. They are truely ‘disordered’.
A Dependent personality is Other/Passive/Pain, whereas a Histrionic is Other/Active, and probably pain. The Scizoid would be Self/Passive, and hence little threat to people.

I find Millons theory useful, but much prefer Freud and Klein. I know they are out of fashion at the moment, but I think their systems much better describe what happens. For an N:
Basically, a child idealises the primary care-giver, who meets all their needs, as perfect. And the child sees the care giver as merely an extension of themselves. The child of age 2 is totally narcissistic, and expects total, immediate and unconditional gratification (you will see your needy N here, who idealises you in the beginning, thinks you are perfect, is so in love with you, and suggests true love). Then, as time goes by, the child begins to note flaws in the idealised care giver. These flaws pose a threat to the idealisation – how can you be perfect, but have flaws ? You will notice the Ns intolerance of certain things here, odd criticisms, funny dislikes, personal quirks.
Now, as the theory goes, because the child needs the care-giver, and idealises this person onto whom the PROJECT PERFECTION, they learn, with difficulty, to accept the flaws. They then RE-INTROJECT, or re take back into themselves, their flawed ideal, accept it as perfect, but with flaws, and move on to the next stage of development.
The N, however, percieves so many flaws, real or imagined, that they refuse, psychologically, to accept this, and REJECT the care-giver. Instead, they turn to themselve for the gratification of their needs. You will see here the DEVALUING by the N.
This stratergy of rejection, however, stunts future progress. The N continually seeks out in later life another care-giver, whom they can project perfection onto, and hopefully re-introject. THATS US ! As none of us are perfect, the pattern repeats, and we are DEVALUED AND DICARDED for the next ideal.
You will also see the primary flaw of the N here – they are unable to accept people as human, ie as having flaws. They have NO EMPATHY for you and your flaws! And you will be punished for having those flaws, and dissapointing your N.


Rune, if you think of the movie “Psycho”, Norman Bates was unable to see his mother as deeply flawed. So when she said “Kill”, he did. He was an N. Lots of other Horror movies involve a mad mother who controls a disturbed son.

The Anti-Social, however, has sucessfully passed the flawed care-giver stage, and has accepted that the care-giver is a very flawed person. The care-giver is re-introjected as a very SELFISH, but necessary evil. The care-giver has met their own needs, but put themselves, not the child, first. Adults are seen as selfish because they meet their own needs first, and the child’s second. The child hates this, but accepts it, and adopts the same approach.The world is then viewed as a place full of selfish, lazy people, who will all end up disappointing you. The ASPD then goes through life with a “do unto others before they do unto you” attitude. As people are “bad”, they can be abused. They actually deserve it, and life is simply a competition for love, which is in very short supply. Let the best man win !
So the ASPD isnt pre-occupied with perfect love, but with getting what they need from flawed people.


After the S/P had pulled a “surprise” birthday party for his then 9-yr-old, that involved 22 children of both genders having a sleepover at the house — without my advance knowledge or consent — he did a lot of self-promoting exciting activities (schlepping everyone to a nearby motel where he took advantage of their indoor pool, for example) and then, at 10:30 he disappeared. Children were fighting, crying, needing blankets and intervention, and he was nowhere to be found. I finally went to our bedroom and found him in bed, almost asleep. I asked him, in my polite but direct way, “What the #%$^?” He beamed a sleepy smile and said, “Isn’t it wonderful how the parents trust me?” and rolled over and went to sleep. So what was that?

(Interesting stuff, Grant.) I don’t get the payoff for the guy. Pain for others? All I see is the pointless chaos.


With an N, when a challenge arises to their view of perfect love, you may encounter a ‘narcissistic rage’, which shows just how threatening to their psychological balance your imperfections are. Thats why you find yourself ‘walking on egg-shells’ around an N. Their primary defense when you criticize them is Projection – that is, it is Your imperfection that is the problem. They are perfect, you are not, so it must be your fault.
With an Anti-Social, when a challenge arises, they view your criticsm of them as hypocracy. They see you as as selfish as they are, and thus in no real position to criticize. All your criticism tells them is that they havent fully outsmarted you yet. You are thus not likely to encounter rage, but sweet-talk and lies.
The N is inclined to withdraw, post rage, and revert to fulfilling their own needs, and punishing you by withdrawing their affection and idealisation of you. The AS, however, will escalate the game, because they are ACTIVELY trying to get goods out of you. And they will do whatever they have to win.


If you ARE OTHER/PAIN ORIENTATED, YOU MAY SELF-HARM. The other counts for more than the self (low self-esteem).These people tend towards depression, and masochism. IF You are SELF/PLEASURE orientated, youd tend to abuse others, and be sadistic.
There are a lot of people who are more comfortable with pain than pleasure, simply by force of experience. They know how to suffer. They dont know how to be happy.


Rune, I think that the “trust” of the other parents was wanted, but for free (SELF orientated), and that going to bed leaving the mess behind is very SELF (I am more important). It sounds like an exercise in Narcissism, selfishness. Other people are simply here to meet my needs – an emotional 2 year old cant be expected to look after other kids, or act responiblly. Thats your job.

Ox Drover

I got to thinking last night before I went to sleep and this morning as I drank my coffee.

The Bernie Madoff deal is BIG, and I would classify him as a “ten” because of the huge amount of damage he did. But would he be ANY WORSE (just because he did it on a grand scale) than the same type of thing done by a P to just ONE old lady, ripping off all her funds? I’m not sure about that.

Using the LEVEL of violence (emotional or physical) as a measurement is problematic. Using the success of the damage vs just attempting the damage is also problematic.

Yes, we see a PATTERN in their behaviors, but there is also some chaos or randomness as well.

As for addicts not being responsible for their addiction or their behavior in seeing to get their fixes, I don’t give them a pass at all. As for Ps being addicted to “control” and that’s why they do it, and thinking they need empathy and “help” for their addiction. BULLL HOCKEY!

Okay, they are a danger to society, they are an irritant in the lower “levels” of their damage. What do we as a society do with them?

Rehabilitation is out. (as we know but obviously some others still think they can be rehabilitated)

Transportation is out unless Australia agrees to let us use the interior for a penal colony or Russia will take them in Siberia.

Incarceration without parole is too expensive. Incarceration doesn’t teach them anything but a PhD in criminal ways and means.

The death penalty is really too randomly administered and our justice system too flawed depending on lots of things (the OJ murder trial is a perfect example).

I think the perfect thing is to BRAND THEM say on the forehead with a large N or P (as determined by the jury) so that others are warned on sight.

Saudi Arabia does a fair job with their system of cutting off the right hand of a thief (which precludes the thief ever eating with others as they are not allowed to dip their left hand, which is used for managing bodily functions, into the communal food dish.

But I think for our society branding would be more appropriate, especially since our justice system of determining guilt or innocence is quite flawed.

I am sure you all know there is a great deal of “tongue in cheek” above, but NOT totally tongue in cheek either.

I am at a total LOSS on what to do with them other than “shoot on sight” for some of them, such as the Trojan HOrse Psychopath..and fortunately the state with their restraining order pretty much gave me that license.

The “three-strikes-you’re-out law” (life without parole) enacted by many states is the closest thing I can think of for treating serial felony convictions in an appropriate manner.

A person who is a HABITUAL criminal and goes to prison, gets out and commits another felony has OBVIOUSLY not “learned” or been rehabilitated, and so if he/she commits the THIRD FELONY, it is pretty obvious that there is a PATTERN of criminal behavior there, and there is probably a pretty good chance that they are at some level psychopathic in behavior even if they are not “legally a P”—-

Our jails and prisons are so full now that they are making huge efforts to release people early. Though the Trojan HOrse psychopath (and he is professionally diagnosed) has 3 separate convictions for molestation of kids 9, 11 and 14, has never completed a single parole without new offenses, has multiple other felony convictions (15 pages of them) and the DA here in our county plead him down to one charge with a 3 yr sentence, and out on parole in a year and a half. The number of months this man has been OUT of prison in his adult life is only in the teens, if you added them all up, and he is 40 yrs old.

It is frustrating, depressing, fear making, crazy making, and lots of other words, but nothing truly describes the futility of society trying to control these people the way it is being done. BUT, if social history is consulted, THIS IS NOTHING NEW, we just have a better media.

In doing a history of Perry County, Kentucky, which I wrote a few years ago, I researched the history of the feuds there. (My husband’s family was from there) and they were actually shooting people off the witness stand. The history of the feuds in eastern Kentucky and western Virginia and West Virginia are famous, and horrible. The Hatfield’s and McCoy feud is only one of them. These feuds, believe it or not, are continuing to this day and I found tombstones in modern cemeteries where the inscription read “Killed from ambush” which is actually the way most of the murders were done, even though there was some organization to the feuds.

My husband’s family was highly involved in most of the feuds, and on both sides of the feuds. Several of his ancestors were killed in or were killers in the feuds as well. ONe of the larger ones was started in 1806 and lasted to well up after the Civil war with about 80 deaths on one side and about 100 on the other. The eye witness descriptions of the killings (mostly from ambush) were horrible, with young children witnessing the murder of their parents, but themselves not being killed.

The Mountain Meadows Massacre in the 1850s in Utah by the Mormons who killed about 150 people cold blooded could not have been anything but psychopathic behavior in action under the guise of “religion.”

The various ethnic feuds in Africa, Asia, Europe, in the former Soviet Union, Mao, Stalin, Germany, etc etc all are the result of psychopaths in action on a grand scale with dupes as their followers.

Since the “garden of Eden” where “Satan” duped Eve into eating the “forbidden fruit” the psychopaths of this world have preyed on the victims in this world. I think it always has been and always will be the case. I’m not sure there is a way to “control” it, especially when some kinds of psychopathic behavior are sanctioned by society, or overlooked and allowed. When one segment of society is allowed to control other segments entirely (slavery for example.)

Most of us have dealt with and been abused by one, two, three or even four Ps, and some of us have dealt with (and been abused by) “organized” psychopathic behavior (such as the financial and political and business groups) and the criminal and abusive behavior of our political leaders effects us all. (MAdoff’s abuse will effect our entire economy and many many individuals) but I don’t have an answer for how to control them. I WISH I DID.

There was a time (my teen aged years) when I thought I knew the answer for ALL THE ILLS OF SOCIETY, but the older I get the more I know that I don’t know “Jack Chit” about it all. That makes me sad. The only thing I think I can do is to take care of myself as well as I can, educate and heal myself from the Ps in my immediate vicinity, and protect myself as well as I can from future involvement.

On the larger scale of things, the “damage” done to my life, while personally devastating to me and those close to me, is only a pimple on an elephant’s butt compared to the larger damage done to society at large, and to the 60 million Mao killed or the 60 million Stalin killed and God alone knows how many tortured, and the 6 million Hitler killed and tortured. But history if FILLED with tales just as bad or worse.

Life is NOT FAIR and the Ps have the advantage of no conscience. The person who attacks always has the advantage. We who do not attack first are always in a defensive mode, which means “we” (prey) will always be at a disadvantage to “them” (the predator.)


Great post, Oxy…. I often think about that aspect too, like how Hitler, Stalin, Brigham Young ( the Mormon “prophet” who ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre) etc. are just more “successful” at gaining the power to do more harm than just your average S/P who “only” hurts his family and friends…


Bravo once again OXY. Grant I extend a warm welcome and appreciate your thoughtful posts.

Oxy the prey and predator relationship with a PSN also perhaps explains why so many women fall victim to the male P’s. We are the gatherer, nurturers, traditionally and culturally conditioned, while the men we look up to are often the successful hunters. Goes way way back. In the early stage they pretend to hunt for us,but we all know what happens next.

I find it alarming and sad that so very many admire the antics of the P’s such a Madoff until it is too late. He was heavily protected by many in positions of authority that should have known better.

It seems in the last few decades we have become a society that openly endorses the P mentality of winner take all,” Survivor” mentality and champion greed in a cult like fashion, with the mantra of trickle down, rising tide nonsense to make it all more palitable.

I made the fatal (almost) error of believing there was a line, a distinction between the business life and the personal values of my ex and other P’s in business, and of course it was presented thus. It took a very long time to realize that they don’t leave it at the office.

I fear that we have institutionalized P behavior in our economic and political system and continue to reward the most greedy with more. Look at the bailout and weep.

No hope of screening for and somehow warning against the P’s among us as long as they hold the reigns of power. That I think is where a large concentration of successful P’s can be found.

As for singling them out in such way, of course that smacks of the yellow arm band mentality, and would be impossible to administer ( I know you were tongue in cheek, Oxy)

This discussion reminds me of a long ago trip to Greece, where on the islands I soon learned that the locals had a very effective way of keeping their crime rate down to practically zero. EVERYONE knew EVERYBODY and any infraction of the social order went through the grapevine in hours. The individual would be shamed or shunned.

I don’t know if I would want to live that way, but a person could sleep on the beach unmolested, and walk late at night unafraid.

With the rampant corruption we see everywhere it seems the P’s have won the day and are in full control and power.

Those of us with values and principals that temper our wants and ambitions are surely seen as quaint, artifacts of an earlier time. Before the “market” became God, before we had a secretary of state declare that 500,000 Iraqi childrens deaths was ‘worth the price”, before the beleaguered public was forced to reward speculators excesses and failures.

The big picture is somewhat like the end of my marriage, from my viewpoint. I knew I was on a fast moving train with a crazy conductor, who kept running us off the rails. It took a long time to realize that I could, in fact get off the train. Alone and with almost nothing, but off the f*&&^%$ing train.


I think the term sociopath and psychopath is overused. Overused by some people to the extent that so many people could be termed apd, sociopathic, or psychopathic by their loose criteria that the percentages of “them” would be so high in comparison to the “norms” (us) that it flips to them being what is considered the NORM of society and we are the minority. Take a look at this:

Donald M. Black, author of Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder, says isolated behavior that defies the rules of society is very common n the general population, that many of us flout the rules at some point in our lives. In an ECA study:

30% of the men surveyed in St. Louis admitted four or more moving traffic violations, 18% of the men admitted infidelity in their marriages in three or more affairs, and 8% admitted to engaging in illegal activity such as drug dealing or other illegal work related activities.

In a Baltimore study, 34% of those surveyed had a history of some type of antisocial behavior from time to time.

Black says that at least 1/4 to 1/3 of the population has engaged in some degree of antisocial activities, although they don’t have the degree of severity and varied symptoms required for a diagnosis of ASPD.

Recent studies show that 45-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men have extramarital sex at some point in their marital relationship. (Atwood & Schwartz, 2002, Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy). Therefore, the vast majority of people committing infidelity are not psychopaths, yet they are engaging in a good many traits listed on the PCL-R while engaging in the affair. However, their behavior is specific to the situation, and does not carry over into other areas of their lives.

I think there HAS to be strict criteria requiring severe behavior and personality traits that are steadily consistent and that are displayed across the board in other areas of their lives too (besides just say abusing the wife at home, whereas they may be a pussycat in business and everywhere else and may not abuse power at all in other areas).

Otherwise you could easily half over half the population defined as apd, sociopathic, or psychopathic using loose criteria. *please hold the tomatos most of you probably want to throw at me). 🙂


Dear Jen,

Don’t worry, you’re out of tomato range! I pulled up my tomato plants months ago! 🙂

Having been on the earth a few years, and being old enough to remember a viewmaster (K. Hawks’s post), I would not hesitate to say we are the minority! If the word sociopath/psychopath seems too strong for the average schmuck who is only abusing his wife, then how about the term dirt bag?

A comment below on the following………..”(besides just say abusing the wife at home, whereas they may be a pussycat in business and everywhere else and may not abuse power at all in other areas).

If a man is abusing his wife at home and being a pussycat at work (which I doubt), the pussycat side is part of the deceptive behavior and being used to mask the dark side. Wasn’t the BTK killer a church deacon? How many deacons are in jail? You are describing Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde which is an aspect of abusive men many women know all too well. Mr. Black’s idea that this is just not “bad” enough is appalling to me.

I do think people can make a mistake that is out of character for them and in that sense I might agree with you. A non-ASPD though is usually very uncomfortable doing somehthing that would qualify as anti-social behavior. Heck, they even put their carts in the cart corral at Wal- Mart instead of pushing it into someone’s beautiful new SUV! I think when a pattern is clear,… abuser, aggressive driver, affairs, illegal work related activities, all of it, they are card-carrying N/S/Ps in my book and I think society makes a big mistake not to call the behavior wha tit is!


EyeoftheStorm: Society blames the whistle blower(s) who calls attention to the psychopath/sociopath/N … the bad guy… and then the whistle blowers’ reputation, career, livelihood is systematically destroyed while others benefit and thrive off the whistle blower’s plight.

End of story.


To clarify: “—”..”(besides just say abusing the wife at home, whereas they may be a pussycat in business and everywhere else and may not abuse power at all in other areas”……..the preceeding remark about DV was not Blacks, but my own comment. No doubt there is something “wrong” personality wise with a domestic abuser, but I am saying it may not necessarily be sociopathy or psychopathy. I think it was in one of Hare’s books that it was said 1 out of 5 persistent domestic abusers is thought to be psychopathic. I would assume from that, the other 4 out of 5 have some other disorder or personality flaw contributing to the domestic abuse. But anyways, domestic abuse was just one example, but you could apply the same thing to theft or rape or murder. Are ALL people who commit theft or rape or murder sociopaths or psychopaths. Not according to the “experts” who study psychopaths.

My only point was that all bad behavior is not necessarily due to a person being sociopathic or psychopathic, but could be due to them having the “traits” but not to the extent they qualify for the diagnosis OR they may have some other disorder or mental illness altogether. But regardless of what it is, YES it is still bad behavior and you’d likely wanna avoid the person. I just think the term psychopath in particular is way over used and its overuse waters down the seriousness of the disorder.


Wini: The psychopath is very good at charming those around him (society, as you put it) so that the group lays the blame on the whistleblower, not on the predatory perpetrator. It’s all so classic.


And since I am playing devils advocate at the moment, although I have the utmost respect for the mental health professionals opinions, alot of opinions do vary in the field. I, personally, give more weight to the mental health professionals opinons who are the researchers who have actually spent time studying and researching actual psychopaths. And seems like I read (probably on here or in an article link posted here) that some researchers have not actually MET and spent time with psychopaths, even though they research them.

SO, I would carry it a step further and say I give the MOST weight to the opinions of the researchers who have actually spent TIME with a NUMEROUS VARIETY of psychopaths themselves and then studied them. Experts like Hare for example and also that guy who is doing the MRI’s on psychopaths in prisons.

I hate to sound narcissistic myself (but I will since i’m being devil at the moment anyhow), but I think the mental health professionals who haven’t really treated or done any up close and personal work with psychopaths, or have maybe only met one or two in their entire lifetime of practice, and have gotten most of their knowledge from just reading the occasional book about them, aren’t really much better equipped than I am to form an opinon about the psychopath.

And since I consider myself actually pretty ill equipped to form an opinon as to whether a person is or is not a psychopath, I figure I will leave it up to someone like HARE who has spent so much time studying them. I figure he has that strict PCL-R criteria and that 222 page instruction book complete with examples, and wants mental health professionals to be properly trained in using the PCL-R for a REASON. And I figure that reason is because he knows the disorder is a SERIOUS one that alot of folks will tend to overdiagnose without proper training.


Jen, you might take your thoughts over to Steve Becker’s column, where the devils and angels have been lining up on these issues!

Meanwhile, I’ll also note that much of the research on psychopaths has been done on psychopaths in captivity, as opposed to psychopaths “in the wild.” Those of us who have found our way here are the unsung “researchers” of these creatures as they appear in their native habitat.

I feel that those with the most informed opinions are those who both understand the classic research and who have been “bitten” by the real deal that ambushed them in real life.


Well, Rune, on the Becker column, I can’t decide which “side” I wanna be on! lol Also, I agree with you on what you said above. That is why I figure my opinon is about as good as most mental health professionals on the subject, especially those who have not studied the psychopaths up close and in person LIVE, IN or OUT of captivity. 🙂 I also think that although a therapist could weigh in a “opinion” about whether we were probably involved with a socio or psychopath, that since we lived it and have the ins/outs of everyday actions with the person, that after we read several well informed books on the subject, that we can probably call it about as good as a therapist could who has never even met the person in question. Yeah, we might call it wrong, but hey, they might call it wrong, too.

I think therapist are good for healing and trauma related issues WE are suffering from regardless of the reason, but not necessarily that good at validating whether we were or were not with a s or p cause all they can really do is give an “opinion” based on info WE give them, since they don’t have the person there to evaluate. (not to mention alot of therapist aren’t properly trained to evaluate P’s or S’s anyhow).


Last night and this morning, I watched someone process a blatant betrayal by someone he thought was his friend. He asked me to come talk with him, to get another opinion on what had happened, and what he was feeling. He needed validation that he’d been wronged, and validation of his feelings of betrayal and grief.

Now, this guy looks like one of the biggest, toughest dudes on the street. But behind the exterior, he’s got a big heart, and he’ll help out anyone he can. He had let the betrayer into his home (does this sound familiar, anyone?), and fed him, listened to him, and treated him like family. Yesterday the couch surfer surfed on over to Big Dude’s ex-wife’s home. The same ex-wife who has been pulling a lot of manipulative, destructive, lying, chaos-inducing behaviors both during their marriage and in the three years after the divorce. Can you sense his profound shock at the turnabout of the turncoat?

In the grand picture of all the experiences we share here in LF, and all the rape, pillage, and wreckage we’ve lived through, this story is relativey minor. At least the part about the betrayal of the so-called buddy. I see the hurt in his eyes, and I understand. And as I’m writing, I’m wondering if he’s even more sensitive to this betrayal because of the colossal betrayals perpetrated by his ex-wife, both in and out of the marriage. It’s a re-wounding of the same scar tissue.

Is the couch surfer a P? an S? an N? or just a “dirt bag!” I do know that Big Dude trusted his old buddy, and he’s deeply hurt by the violation of that trust.

Now, would a therapist understand why this event hurts so much? Without having a real understanding of the pain of betrayal, I doubt it.


I think that it would be unethical for any therapist to “diagnose” an absent party, no matter how much anecdotal evidence there is.
The therapist always works only with the person in the room, as that is really the only thing that can be done.
ASPD has a very poor prognosis. I am sure that if you tested an entire prison population, 90 % would be ASPD.
ASPD is NOT insanity, as you are still responsible for your crimes. Lets face it, if you have raped or murdered someone, you are definately not very sociable.
Also, if you look at therapy from the therapists perpective, very few would want to work with something they no nothing about. Just as a brain surgeon doesnt remove toncils, even though they probably could. It just isnt gratifying for a therapist to work with someone they cant really help. Therapists are like everyone else – they also want a feeling of job satisfaction.


What my psychiatrist said is “I think we can safely agree this is a guy who is looking out for himself. And so much so, that I can guarantee you that any further contact with him, positive or negative, is going to hurt you.” He didn’t have to label the person. One therapist said “Have you ever considered that he may be a sex addict?” I had suspected that was another of his problems, but thought I really didn’t know much about how one acts, so it was SO validating to have her say it. One said simply “This relationship is toxic for you. He is incapable of intimacy, of a reciprocal relationship, of love.” They don’t have to label to tell you what is what.


Yes, I agree, it is validating.
I wouldnt dare describe someone as a “Anti-Social” if I hadnt assessed them, however,and didnt have test results to back me up. If I were asked in court to justify myself, Id need test results.
Also, think how you’d feel if a friend or lovers therapist diagnosed you after hearing about an incident third hand. It isnt really fair, even if it helps.


Grant & JAH: There are legitimate evaluation tools that use third-party reports to assess an individual. In the case of a pathological liar, you might consider that third-party reports are likely to be more accurate.

When Liane Leedom and Sandra Brown did their research for “Women Who Love Psychopaths” they used a modified version of a research tool to allow the women responding to be able to answer questions that described their partners.

In addition, in the book “The Socially Skilled Child Molester,” the author makes the point that the best way of evaluating whether a “groomer” child molester is working in the community is by third parties comparing notes and validating their concerns.

This might make us a little queasy when we think of how this might be abused, but — again — consider that we are evaluating pathological liars.



My therapist didn’t diagnosis anyone as anything. She asked me what *I* thought. It was validating to have her give ME permission to label him. And if the courts asked me what I based that on, I’d have a WHOLE LOT to tell them!!!

I wouldn’t care what a therapist for someone else said I was. I would understand it is based on “IF what I’m hearing is true, and IF I’m getting a complete picture here, then this is not a person capable of X. Or this is a person who might do this or that.”

My therapist recently said “Alcoholics will do x, x, and x to you”. She was referring to the fact that I have told her my husband is an alcoholic. I may be telling a big fat lie! But based on her interactions with me, she has no reason to believe I’m telling her a lie and if she can’t give me advice on how to deal with what I’m facing, based on the assumption he IS an alcoholic, then I’m wasting my time and money going to see her. But I don’t think she is being unethical or unfair.

Anyway, I guess my point is (thought I’m not making it well at all!) is that I think therapists tend to NOT label, but they DO tell you if you are dancing a toxic dance, and if you are heaping blame on yourself that you don’t deserve. And so they can effective help without labeling, but if you JUST AREN”T GETTING IT, that you are being exploited, then sometimes they have to be a bit more direct, and if they get hauled into court they will just admit they have no evidence other than what their client told them, but yes, they labeled the man “an abuser” or whatever.


I agree that therapists have to be careful about labeling someone who is not present , for many reasons including how what they say might be repeated or used. They are only getting one side of the story, but as JAH said they can evaluate its potential for accuracy….maybe!

The fact that emotional wounds are invisible is the sticking point making both an opinion about another, and an evaluation of a client difficult. If we walked in with a black eye, a broken arm, and our ribs kicked in, they might have a more accurate picture and they might not hesitate to use labels. We can only describe emotional pain and the devastation that accompanies catastrophic loss, we can’t paint a picture of it for them. Even if we could, everyone’s picture would be different, so how do you standardize either a label or a diagnosis for what a victim feels and goes through?


Well, although a therapist cannot give a diagnosis without evaluating the actual person, I believe they can give an “opinion” after they have talked with you enough and gathered enough information, as long as they make it clear it is ONLY an opinion of possibilities based on the info they have. Even Hare tells you if you think you may be involved with a psychopath to contact a forensic psychologist or forensic psychiatrist, or contact several of them if you can afford it, so you can get SEVERAL OPINIONS. I’m assuming he specifies forensic because they are probably trained in the usage of the PCL-R and would be more likely to have actually dealt with psychopaths (but I’m just guessing)

And of course, the P-scan is a third party layman type evaluation of a persons possible psychopathic traits, and if the third party scores the person above 30 (scores can range from 0 to 60) on the P-scan that is considered cause for serious concern the person may have psychopathic traits. BUT the P-scan is NOT a diagnosis of psychopathy, but a tool to be used to determine IF a person appears to have enough psychopathic traits that they should be referred for further evaluation. I believe it is the P scan that Brown and Leedom used in trying to determine if the women were likely involved with psychopaths. But the P-scan is NOT a diagnosis even in their study, as all the P-scan did was indicate a person appeared to have enough qualifiers that they needed to be evaluated by a professional to determine if they might be psychopathic.

But with that said, my ex scored out a 52 on the P-scan and I actually put a question mark on a couple of the questions. I don’t care what he would “formally” be diagnosed as if he ever lands in a psychiatrists office, as he is still bad news regardless of what the formal diagnosis would actually be.

And I actually think it would be good if therapist used the P scan when they are dealing with victims of possible psychopaths, as long as they make clear the P scan is just a TOOL that indicates POSSIBLE psychopathy and that the person would actually have to be formally evaluated to get an actual diagnosis. At least with the P scan you get some sort of idea as to what “could” possibly be wrong, or NOT, and everyone is sort of on the same page as far as criteria used.

Ox Drover

Wow! You guys have made some great “arguments” today while I was off working! My sons and I staggered to the house today after processing the meat of a cow and a bull calf, ate a Pizza and I slept 4 hours, now I am awake again and reenergized so I guess I’m here for a while!

The ONLY way anyone can be “legally” diagnosed is for them to be evaluated by a person with the proper credentials, usually a psychiatrist. That doesn’t mean a layman can’t say “he SEEMED depressed” or he “SEEMED to meet the criteria of psychopath” from MY PATIENT’s persepective. The person doing the comparison may or may not have the credentials for a “diagnosis” but they can have an OPINION.

Anytime you go to a therapist and you have relationship problems and the person(s) you are having relationship problems with is not there in therapy for you,, the therapist must go on YOUR assessment of the situation and the report of the events taking place. If your mother is even dead for example and you are telling the therapist about the troubled relationship you had with her, the therapist must make some sort of estimation (from your report) of what the problem was, and what your mother was like. The therapist might suggest that your mother was bi-polar from your description, which might not have occured to you especially if you weren’t a medical or MH person.

I have an ex-friend that I unofficially diagnose as OCD with high anxiety and kleptomania. She has described to me her mother and their relationship and I pretty well have her mom “psyched out” though I have never met the woman. I have had to essentially NC my ex-friend because she is continually “taking things” when she is around my place.

The first time she did this I was outraged and angry as what she took had no real monetary value but was a family heirloom. To this day she still denies it, but I have come to terms with this woman, no longer feel “betrayed.” She knew she was taking things that didn’t belong to her, but I realize her anxiety was so high she felt compelled to. I actually love this woman and her husband who have been very good friends of our family for 15 years, however, I can’t have her on my farm because she “takes things”. So, if there is ever any reason for her to come here, she has to be monitored by one of us, and she is never out of our sight.

Since the boundary is that she must give 24 hours notice before coming, I even clean out everything out of the bathroom she would use. LOL

I used to have a difficult time confronting her (back to my “don’t upset anyone no matter what they do”) and have now set very strict boundaries for this woman and she does not come around very often. If I totally NC her, I would lose contact with her husband and I really would not like that, but if it ever come to where I must totally NC her I would, but with very strict boundaries, I can associate with her on a limited basis.

I also have some empathy for her, but I do realize I have a right to set these boundaries and I no longer waffle about setting them, and if she gets upset too bad. Those are my boundaries.

She found a neurologist who keeps her supplied with valium and other similar drugs instead of being referred to a psychiatrist where I think she really needs to go, so her problem is not and never will be treated because she refuses to believe she has any psych issues. (BTW, her controlling mom makes mine look like the tooth fairy!)

When you sit and listen to your friend tell you about how her husband drinks, cheats, steals, gambles, and beats her up, you can get a pretty good idea he is a psychopath without having a PhD. Would it hold up in court? Nah, not likely, but you can sure make a case for a presumptive “diagnosis.”


Then there are people who are psychopaths who have “two personalities”—one for private consumption and one for public consumption. Madoff is probably one of those. Ted Bundy was one of those. BTK killer was one of those, although I bet his wife kknew he was an “a$$H0le.”

ONe “fairly famous” child molester that I personally knew, knew his family, (we all lived in the same small town of 3,500) Charles “Jackie” Walls III. Jackie was definitely a “jerk” and his father was a very honest good small town attorney, who was very bright (he was Patton’s legal aid in WWII) anyway, Jackie who was a “Boy Scout Leader” for 20 years molested over 1500 kids during that period. ONe of them told his family and Jackie ordered the kid to kill them, which the kid did and got caught, and the story came out. Jackie had also molested one of his nephews, who later committed suicide. So Jackie was responsible for 4 deaths and 1500 kids who were molested.

Jackie worked with my X husband and I knew him through his father and the small town. I never liked Jackie, but NEVER in the wildest dreams realized his “private” personality, just his public one–though, again, I didn’t like the public one either.

The DA in his case stated on a 1 hour TV show about his case that if they could have asked for the death penalty in his case, they would have. How many lives and how many psyches did this man “kill”? Personally, if they had the death penalty, I would pull the trap myself as they hung him, but I think I would have a long line of people in front of me. I can only slightly imagine how much his father suffered. I thank God that Jackie’s mom died before it all came out.

In one of her books about child molesters that I read, Dr. Anna Salter wrote some statistics about child molesters and the HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS of crimes that they EACH commit. They are pretty well NOT treatable. In MY OPINION ALL Child molesters are psychopaths….who are also not treatable and have no remorse.

In our society we have a group of people who go in and out of jail/prison like a revolving door for various crimes and criminal lifestyles. Are all or even most of these people psychopaths? Hare says 20% of them. I think the statistics for violent crime by this 20% is about 70+% so if that is the case, if we ONLY identified the 20% of criminals who are psychopaths and incarcerated these people for life in (I would suggest) special prisons built just for them, to keep them away from the other prisoners who are not psychopaths, but just “jerks” and “crooks” so they wouldn’t teach them worse things or prey on them either. With a 3-strikes law, these people should pretty well be singled out of the population, kept separate, the money for future prosecutions saved, and at least society at large would be protected from their crimes. I twould also have the added advantage that while they were incarcerated they would not be passing on more of their genetic material.

Of all the things I have seriously thought about to do with the psychopaths (in general) the 3-strikes laws would be the most realistic, IMHO.

Most of our (LF blogger’s) Ps would not fit into this catagory as they skirt around or under the law, but my son, and the Trojan HOrse Psychopath would qualify for a life sentence without parole. Most of my P-son’s “friends” he has made in prison would also be “qualified.”

What to do with or about the “garden variety” P who does not ommit felonies?????? I am not sure, on that, until further notice I think the “branding” with a hot iron on the forehead would work. Actually, in many places in the 1600s, 1700s etc. they did this, but the gentry got to be “branded” with a COLD iron. LOL The poor guy got the hot iron and a T was branded on him for “thief.” It did warn others though.

I also like the idea of the stocks and the ducking stool which is a good old American tradition brought over from England. LOL


So, Oxy, you want to “bell the cat”?


Oxy, one of the most useful books I found on the “garden variety psychopath” was “The Socially Skilled Child Molester.” (I’ve mentioned this elsewhere in LF, but it bears repeating.) The author’s purpose in writing the book was to help people distinguish patterns that differentiate the innocent from the guilty — to help protect the innocent and well-meaning Boy Scout leader who gives a hug to a tired Cub Scout from the deliberate predator who is working under cover of the uniform and badges.

The author points out two styles: the Groomers and the Grabbers. The Groomer becomes the best friend of the parents who are too busy to take their kid skiing; the guy who will happily babysit while the parents take a well-deserved weekend out of town. Or it might be the pediatrician who does dubious rectal exams. Or perhaps the coach, who takes advantage of out-of-town games, and threatens the kid with being kicked off the team. The Grabber is the sort of sketchy person you might already suspect who grabs, does damage, and moves on to the next town before he gets caught.

I felt this book described the grooming nature of the P who targeted me. His presentation of his worthiness and tender kindness was seamless. He also had a Boy Scout leader uniform, and I have reports that he molested his own sons. Who knows who else! He was a leader in AA and in his church — great stages for his noble Christian persona.

I don’t care what the label is — as long as it puts people on high alert, and preferably leads to him being isolated where he can’t do more damage.

Ox Drover

CORRECTION: That should be C-ommit not “ommit felonies”—yea, Rune, BELLING THE CAT would be nice wouldn’t it?

Remember the story “The Scarlett Letter” ?


It seems that there is little agreement on may of the terms used for the disordered. It also seems to me that many reserve the term psychopath for those who have committed serious violent crimes and have been caught. Some seem to think the term sociopath is for those who have displayed “milder” behaviors.

First, the crime committed may apperar more tall or short. It is my opinion that many disrdered psychopathic people may do enough to stay just above the law. They may never murder or committ theft, but they are as dangerous to us in terms of the emotional pain and suffering they inflict. So whether they are or have been in jail may be irrellevent. THey may be smarter. Look at the violent crimes committed by individuals who have never had a criminal record before. Their hunger for power pand personal gain, I believe, can grow taller at any given moment. I recall the X telling me at one point that when people disagree with him, he feels so angry that he could just beat someone violently. I think he has that potential but may not have “snapped” at that point. I also recall him telling me he was an adreniline junky. It took me a while to realize it had nothing to do with skydiving or white water rafting. it had more to do with the rush of a big family fight in the middle of a restaurant or the rush of pulling a lie off on me or the drama of a bar fight where he can rush in and appear the victim or the hero.

In addition, we may all disagree on a particular person and their level of psychopathy, based on how we view them or veiw our interaction with them. In the beginning I was very sure this man was filled with integrity and was trustworthy. He has friends now who see him this way while my friends see him simply as a pathalogical lying jackass…..we see what we want to see and we ignore what we don’t want to see. EVEN PROFESSIONALS ARE CONNED. How can you possible get a good diagnosis?

The abuse of power seems to be a common theme. I work in Human Resources and my expertise is in leadership and organizational development. I am not a psychologist. I am certified to assess individuals in terms of their behaviors as they relate to competencies at work. One of the most basic things taught in the best OD programs is POWER and influence and how it is perceived as well as abuse of power. Eevn in terms of how others react when the “power figure” enters a room or requires you to do something int he workplace. People follow. People are conscietious and will do what they are asked. Studies in a teach ing hospital have shown instances where residents did thinkgs that were unethical and immoral simply because their hard driving, narcissistic mentor told them to do it.

Sexual harrassment in the workplace is more about power than it is about sex. I believe, based on Liane’s article that they may not always be as tall or short as they rate in an assessment. I thinkthe tallness can fluctuate. I think they all have similar potential to be dangerous. Some of us got away with fewer losses than others. We know they are disordered. We also need to consider that they are potentially tall in terms of danger. Some just may never get caught. I too like the term moral insanity. We need some strentgh behind the term so as to not poo poo the fact that many of these dangerous people have not yet been caught by the law or imprisoned. They just do a good job fooling us and others.

None of them have good basics. Honesty, Integrity, Respect, Loyalty or Fidelity…… That’s the first test.

Elizabeth Conley


“I agree that therapists have to be careful about labeling someone who is not present…”
We all need to be careful about what we take on face value. Last Monday we had a poster who claimed to be a victim of a sociopath. In reality, she was a Jehovah’s Witness participating in the disfellowshipping and shunning of a scapegoat. After a careful read of all of her posts, the truth became nauseatingly apparent.
Did that make the poster a sociopath? After all, she and her fellow cultists were deliberately tormenting a person to the point of insanity and despair. In the past disfellowshipped, shunned Jehovah’s Witnesses had even committed suicide. What kind of people could do such a thing?
In a nutshell: a mob. Mobs do horrifying things. Sometimes entire cultures perpetuate great evil. How do the individuals live with themselves? How can they justify their behavior? Needless to say, that’s complicated. We call Hitler evil, and he was. But here’s the hard part: he personally never soiled his hands with violence. He couldn’t bear to witness cruelty. Other people did that for him, and not just the select few we all love to scapegoat. Thousands of people did evil things within his regime, and they didn’t suffer many qualms about it either.
Often the presence of evil presents itself like a “Where’s Waldo” puzzle. You know the evil is there, but it takes concerted effort to figure out exactly where it is. The more people that are involved, the bigger the picture and the harder the puzzle is to solve.
In the case of families and other small social units, sometimes finding the evil is as easy as figuring out what the elephant in the room is. What issue, event or circumstance will no one in the group acknowledge? If you know that, the puzzle solves itself on the spot.
Group evil is hard to pin down. Sometimes we call it a “rogue regime”, a “cult” or a “mob”. On a small scale, we may call it “dysfunctional”. It seems that sometimes the psychopath is the organization. It’s one of several reasons why I believe most of the evil in the world is committed by “normal” people. They’re normal in the sense that few people can resist group think.

There are other circumstances under which normal people do horrible things. It seems we can be never endingly creative in justifying what we want.


Elizabeth Conley: I worked with many anti-social personalities. Actually, I think where I worked was the dumping grounds for anti-social personalities with a few of us “normal” folks sprinkled here or there to make sure the work got done … cause their prestegious families needed to have their dysfunctional sons or daughters work somewhere! If this is the case, and the “powers overseeing this place knew” … then shame on them for letting us “normal” folks take the brunt of their evil all these years.

What I witnessed was how anti-social co-workers would make a comment about a new person “e.g. oh, she thinks she’s really something” or, “she/he looks really sneaky or slimy or slick”. By the end of the day, it was amazing how the majority of my surrounding co-workers felt the same way about the new person that started that day. I realized, most people don’t know that they are being conditioned of how they think by someone else just dropping a simple line here or there to sabotage another. Of course these new employees never made it past the first week.

If you are in the office environment … pay attention to who drops little negative hints about another … and see how fast it spreads throughout the office … now, the majority of your fellow co-workers and the bosses think the same way…. and they have no clue, how that idea came into their minds.

It’s subtle yet, lethal.



Hello, Elizabeth….Glad you are back! That is a great post (8:37 a.m.), and I absolutely agree.

It echoes much that is in the book, “The Lucifer Principle” by Howard Bloom, which you might enjoy reading especially since his premise will be clear immediately to you.

Bloom also gives a very interesting history of the term “the pecking order”, and points out how this behavior goes on in all groups!

The term “pecking order” orginally appeared in the observations/research of a Norwegian naturalist named Thorlief Schjelderup-Ebbe (TSE). After WWI, TSE spent some time on his parents’ farm. He observed when the hens were fed, they approached the trough with a seeming orderliness and peace that actually was disguising a vicious form of competition.

TSE began to notice that this orderly approach to dining was not arbitrary. The same hen ate first every day, the same hen ate second every day, and so on down the line! When TSE placed an new hen into the chicken yard, the normally peaceful routine turned into a barroom brawl with some birds being pecked viciously to the point of death.

During this shuffling of status and position as the new bird tried to establish her place in the social order, TSE realized something fascinating. Some birds received hardly and pecks, while others were easy targets and paid the price. When order was restored, the hen with no pecks ate first and the most viciously attacked at last. The hens had established a social order and TSE called this a “pecking order”. Naturalists began discovering that is process exists in various forms in many species including ours.

So one’s place in the pecking order determines more than how many feathers you lose. It can determine a lot about your life! Group behavior is fascinating indeed and many of the practices and rituals are masking and disguising something deeper!


Eye: So when we’re ravaged by the S/P, we may be the hen thrown into the new environment, but we’re not able to defend. It’s another way the S/P destroys lives, both by the explicit and implicit damage, and then the way that the damage continues as we are kicked around by an uncaring society that likewise responds to our vulnerability.


Early on, I came to believe that naming the disorder was important to me. I had two choices. I could look at the S/P through a religious/spiritual lens and pronounce him “demonic” or “evil,” or I could look through the psychological/scientific lens and pronounce him “psychopath” or “sociopath.”

Either way, my choice would be looked upon by a majority of the uninitiated as evidence of my own instability. No one, I have learned, wants to HEAR the word “evil.” No one, not even professionals who work with victims every day, wants to HEAR and UNDERSTAND the word “psychopath.”

Right now, at this point in our evolution as a species, people like us are doing important work. We are teaching that, yes Virginia, there really is an Evil Spirit; and yes, Dr. Virginia, there really are psychopaths out here in the wild. I think people like us are acting as a bridge between old ideas and new ideas. We’re doing the work M. Scott Peck envisioned in “People of the Lie.”

In the end, we might reach some new understanding and give our new shared knowledge a new name. But for right now, I think of psychopathy much like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart thought about pornography: “I know it when I see it.”


EyeoftheStorm: Well, the pecking order was alive and well where I worked. The managers had their cronies that were allowed to wreak chaos in that place, day in and day out. These folks should have been incarcerated years ago, but got away with such vicious low life antics to keep stirring the pot … they ran that place through chaos … which is a managerial technique … laziest of techniques, but a technique just the same. All the titles could only talk with equal titles and lower titles were talked down to. Slavery was alive and well in that place. Believe it or not, many of those people thought this was normal. I don’t want to get started on the Achilles heals that would uncover and how they would do you under … and forget about what I knew about the computers and databases … all games … I hope Obama gets his folks overseeing all the technical aspects throughout this country or he is doomed by the ones that will smile to his face and sell him out every chance they will get.

I’m shaking my head now, most co-workers had no clue that the anti-socials were just that … anti-social. Only a hand full of “real” people knew what they were dealing with, yet they played the game of being deaf, dumb and blind.

In our state it seems to be like this all over in the work force … and the frustration from the work force … if you don’t realize it … you go home and kick your spouse and kids in the butt … and they in turn take their frustrations out on others in their lives … and the kick in the butt goes full circle.


Elizabeth Conley

Actually Rune, what I’m trying to say is that sometimes people do bad things and there’s no N/P/S in the picture at all.

Sometimes “normal” human behavior is awful.

Sometimes social animal behavior is awful.

Oh by the way – I hate chickens! I once had a job feeding chickens. Someday I hope to get a job feeding chickens…

…to tigers!

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