lf2

Questions that best identify sociopathy in a person

It really bothers me that researchers haven’t developed a measure to help people figure out if their loved ones are sociopathic. Instead, measures have been developed and the public is told NOT to use them to “diagnose” anyone. What good is research if it doesn’t teach people how to protect themselves? It would not be too difficult to identify a group of sociopaths, then determine a few easy questions related to the disorder most of the sociopaths answer yes or no to (that is sensitivity). The questions would be even better if non-sociopaths were unlikely to give the same response (that is specificity).

In a recent study (Comp. Psych. 48, 529), Dr. Heather Gelhorn and her colleagues from the University of Colorado have determined the four questions that identify sociopaths with a good degree of accuracy (sensitivity and specificity). Additionally, there are some other questions that also help. The best part is that these questions are easy to ask so you don’t have to have a Ph.D. or an M.D. to ask them.

Before I tell you the questions let me give you some background. As part of a large study, government researchers interviewed 43,093 residents of the United States. Of these, 1,403 were diagnosed with sociopathy (932 men and 471 women). That was between 3 and 4 percent of the total sample. These individuals were asked a number of simple questions about their behavior. The answers to these questions given by diagnosed sociopaths were then compared to answers given by other people who had only one symptom of sociopathy and so could not be “diagnosed.” These sub-clinical sociopaths numbered 17,767 men and 4,659 women. There are a lot of somewhat “sociopathic” people out there (22,426, over half the sample). The issue is how we identify people who are the real deal, given that so many “are a little sociopathic.”

Dr. Gelhorn and her colleagues performed a statistical analysis on specific questions and on groups of questions to determine those that best specifically identified the sociopaths. Of these four questions, a “yes” answer to any two was a good indicator of sociopathy in both men and women:

1. Have you ever hit someone so hard that you injured them, or they had to see a doctor? OR: Physically hurt another person in any other way on purpose?

2. Have you ever used a weapon, like a stick, knife or gun in a fight?

3. Have you ever had a time in your life when you lied a lot, not counting any times you lied to keep from being hurt? OR: Used a false or made-up name or alias? OR: Scammed or conned someone for money, to avoid responsibility or just for fun? OR: Forged someone else’s signature—like on a legal document or on a check?

4. Have you ever robbed or mugged someone, or snatched a purse?

Two other questions were nearly as good:

1. Have you had a time when you bullied or pushed people around or tried to make them afraid of you? OR: Harassed, threatened or blackmailed someone?

2. Have you ever stolen anything from someone or someplace when no one was around? OR: Shoplifted?

The basic problem is finding questions that all sociopaths answer the same to, and that no one who is not “a sociopath” answers that way. There was one question that everyone who answered yes to was a sociopath but the problem was that too few sociopaths endorsed this item. In other words, if your loved one answers “yes” to this you can say with a high degree of confidence he/she is sociopathic, but not answering “yes” does not rule out sociopathy. This question was:

1. Have you ever forced someone to have sex with you against their will?

I find it remarkable that habitual lying is on the same list as other more obviously hurtful behavior. It is clear that if you are with someone who is a liar; you have to wonder what else that person does that you do not know about.

The purpose of this analysis that Dr. Gelhorn and her colleagues performed was not to help us pick out sociopaths. The purpose of the study was to help us identify teenagers who are likely to develop sociopathy. These researchers found that 75 percent of people who had conduct disorder as teenagers went on to become sociopaths.

An observation I found particularly interesting was that cruelty to animals was not very common in sociopaths, either as teens or adults. Whereas 67 percent of sociopaths were “physically cruel to people” only 22 percent were physically cruel to animals. This information is consistent with what Sandra L. Brown, M.A. and I found when we surveyed the female partners of sociopaths. Sociopaths were always mean to the people in their lives, but only a few were also mean to animals.

What conclusions can we draw from all this? First, sociopathy is a disorder where people use coercion, either physical or non-physical, to overpower other people. Why do sociopaths do this? As Dr. Steve said this week, because they like to. This power behavior gives them pleasure. To them, having power is like having an orgasm. The reason physical violence is especially pleasurable for some is that observing someone else crying or wincing over what they did makes them feel especially powerful. Those sociopaths who are better at observing and understanding people just lie to hurt. They don’t have to see physical pain before they can get that gratification.



Comment on this article

67 Comments on "Questions that best identify sociopathy in a person"

Notify of

I wonder about the emphasis on crime and physical attacks. For example they marry someone for money, but would that be considered by the researchers or the sociopath as “criminal.”

And a lot of psychopaths are not physically abusive. I think the problem is, is that you have to be very close to a sociopath to get it, so researchers emphasize physical abuse. It’s physcial abuse is explicit. How do you measure gaslighting?

The last paragraph really helped me understand. Whenever I’d read about sociopaths enjoying others suffering, it was hard to comprehend how that could be the person I had been with. But getting extreme pleasure from having the power to inflict the pain and from knowing that he is powerful enough to cause such suffering, is something I’ve seen in his eyes.

The cruelty to animals always bothered me too. I thought maybe he wasn’t a sociopath because I didn’t know of any torturing of animals when he was a kid. Although he would not have shared that with me. He would drag our dog by the collar and scare her and he did kick our other dog when he got out. But he would also show a lot affection for them at times. He also told me he accidentally ran over baby rabbits with a lawn mower once. Before I found out everything, I never questioned whether it was an accident or not, but now who knows.

I’m not going to question whether he’s a sociopath anymore. The answers to all the questions listed are yes except two and those are possible yeses.

I think Hare’s checklist is actually better for determing psychopathy for lay people.

These questions-while good- don’t encompass psychopaths who are not physically violent ( though some, for example coerce, abortions) or technically criminal (though they marry for money)….nor is the subtle abuse covered, like gaslighting.

I JUST RECENTLY ENDED A TWO YEAR RELATIONSHIP. MY GIRLFRIEND TOLD ME ABOUT THIS SITE.
I NOW REALIZE HE IS A SOCIOPATH. I TURNED THE TABLES ON HIM AND GOT OUT OF THE RELATIONSHIP BEFORE HE DID ANY MAJOR DAMAGE. HE HAD JUST FINISHED PAYING FOR AN POOL AT MY HOME IN ONE OF IS BIG SHOW OF AFFECTION MOODS. I CAUGHT HIM TRYING TO SELL DRUGS FROM MY HOME. I TOLD HIM TO GET OUT OF MY HOUSE OR I WOULD CALL THE COPS. HE LEFT. HE IS NOW SUEING ME FOR THE MONEY HE PAID FOR THE POOL. MY LAWYER SAYS HE DOESN’ T HAVE A CASE. BUT HE HAS TRIED EVERY WAY TO INTIMIDATE ME AND MAKE ME FEEL THAT IT IS ALL MY FAULT. UNBELIEVABLE! HE HAS NEVER ADMITTED TO DOING ANYTHING WRONG. PLEASE SAY A PRAYER FOR ME! I’M DOING MY BEST TO PUT MY LIFE BACK TOGETHER.

The questions, if answered honestly, could paint a picture of a sociopath- but I know the x would VEHEMENTLY deny all the questions, when in fact, a LOUD RESOUNDING YES would be more accurate. Unless, of course, you suspect that the person you are questioning is a sociopath which means that no means yes and yes means yes, what can I get out of THIS?

I, too, have wondered whether or not my husband is really a sociopath. I finally concluded he is. One thing that hung me up was that he’s so fantastic an actor that even after I discovered he was a pathological liar and cheat, I still believed he had empathy, that he genuinely cared about me, and others as well.

Over the past few months, though, I have come to realize that everything’s a manipulation with him. Often for an audience, to impress people, to make them think he’s such a great guy. For instance, if given the opportunity, he would invariably get up and speak about the deceased at a funeral. He’d look so morose standing up there. He’d get tears in his eyes and hunch over as if worn down by grief. But afterward, he’d never even contact the bereaved again.

After our neighbors’ son was killed in Iraq last February, my husband spent many hours up at their house. For about a week. As long as there were throngs of people around. He was Joe Hero. He called the local newspaper and offered to act as a go-between for the family. My sister-in-law, who was visiting at the time, pointed out to me that he was way overstepping his bounds. Other than an occasional chitchat, he’d never had much of a relationship with these people before. At the time, thinking he was good at this stuff–that he was an angel–I defended my husband, but now I see he did all that for show. After the funeral, he never so much as made a phone call to our grieving neighbors again.

When it came to me, I totally believed he cared. I thought he needed me, couldn’t live without me. And I felt the same way about him. I thought he was my soulmate, my very best friend. I thought the only way we’d ever part would be through death.

I thought he was a devoted parent. Our 17-year-old daughter, however, saw him differently. Since he moved out I’ve learned that as far back as she can remember she thought he was mean. I did not know that. She told me how one time four years ago he threatened to burn her thigh with a cigarette if she didn’t leave him alone. I never knew that either.

And now I am almost certain that back in June–when I had figured everything out and was definitely fubaring his plans (fubared because he couldn’t stand the thought of everyone knowing the truth)–my husband was planning on killing me. And he probably would have gotten away with it. He’s on a first-name basis with most of the sheriffs in the area and he’s so damn convincing; he could easily have made it look like a suicide. I’d been so depressed anyway. When I first found out he’d been unfaithful, I absolutely wanted to die. I told him I felt like driving somewhere or walking into the hills and just dying. And he knew I’d told a couple of other people that too.

In spite of all that, I don’t think he enjoys being violent per se. I think he’s more into dominance and power. I think violence to him is simply a potential tool to get what he wants. Getting what he wants is primary; the violence would be incidental. He’d rarely have to resort to violence anyway. He’s enormously strong and knows that all it would take is one look from him and most people would back down.

Out in public and in the workplace, he rarely drops his mask. And at home, he rarely was violent. (I can’t say never; one time he slapped me and another time he pushed me down.) He could maintain his supremacy by just skirting the edges of violence–an arm-grab or face-grab or veins popping out on his neck were usually all that was necessary to keep the family in line. But, honestly, usually he was a pleasure to be with. Some ugly flare-ups here and there, but I always viewed those as an aberration. (Denial, now there’s a topic.)

One thing I find interesting is that when my husband was little, he used to fantasize that, when he grew up, he would have a menacing, sinister appearance. He imagined himself with long sideburns and a goatee (which he now has), and that when he’d walk in a room, people would look at him and tremble. (Which of course they would do if they knew what he was really like.)

As far as the other items go, I don’t think my husband has ever stolen anything. At least nothing tangible. The things he wants, though, he goes after as ruthlessly as any thief.

Also, I have good reason to believe that he did coerce someone into having sex with him one time. (God, for all I know there could be more.) It’s too long and complicated a story to tell here, but I think he did this to the teenage daughter of a woman he lived with.

From what I learned, there is a range of sociopathic behavior. I don’t think me ex ever held me down and raped me, but if I refused him sex there was serious consequences. He would dump water on my head for refusing him. I was physically kicked out of bed for saying no. One time I woke up shortly after saying no and my ex was putting his belt down my throat. I woke up gagging on the belt. Who would even think of doing something like that? My ex never hit me and left a mark, but I remember him saying crazy things like…wouldn’t it be great if he could use this knife to slice my throat, or one time we were carrying patio furniture up a steep flight of stairs and he pretended to push the furniture into me so I would fall down the stairs. He then said, “Wouldn’t that be great…if you accidentally fell and broke your neck?” I remember him saying these things when we were not even fighting. They would just pop out…out of nowhere.

Gillian. My ex never resorted to violence. He was very proud of the fact that his ‘look’ kept people out of his sphere – like the tough macho menacing look he had. He did not resort to violence with me, it was all around his dominance and control. When I first met him, he gave me many clues, one of which was he sent me a mobile text saying that he could be very dominant. This scared me, but I also saw a fragile side to him, like glass, he had a very weak fragile inner emotional core, which he surrounded with a tough rigid manner. The way my ex looked and what he wore was to reinforce his tough guy image – he looked menacing and would be picked out as a troublemaker even when he wasnt involved. I was out with him once and a drunk woman attacked him to his throat – what a bizarre scene that was.

My 17 year old daughter hated him the first moment she met him and she would not be convinced to like him either. She kept out of his way and when he visited me, she would go out.

re the above statment about things they say just popped out of his mouth. the last time my ex s path visited me my dad had just bought a new car, but i wasnt on the insurance for it so i said to him i cant drive right now till he puts my name on the papers. my ex wanted me to drive the car any way and he got annoyed. then all of a sudden he says in a low voice, at least when they go [meaning my parents] you will have a nice new car. i could not believe it i thought i heard him wrong. when they go, he meant when they die. my parents are elderly and my fathers not that well so this was a really bad taste thing to say, he knows i am close to my parents too. he just said that so easily like it was nothing and having a nice car is more important. iwas shocked then when he realised my shock he quickly tried to back step and said im only joking. its like they just say what they think and it must be as cold as hell in their minds to say that so quickly and without thinking what an ugly thing to say. we werent arguing either were happy having a nice day. it just shows you how they think or dont think i should say. in his mind having a nice new car is better than the loved ones, being alive. also i dont know if my ex ever forced anyone to have sex, he didnt use force he used charm and sweetness and fake adoration all the way with me to have sex. he said to me once he watched a programme on tv about sex and it said that all females were nimphomaniacs and loved sex even were addicted to it. this was a science show mind you so he took that as gospel and i think thats waht he thinks that if he makes the moves on someone towards having sex they are just going to give into him . he was attractive so that helps i guess. in fact since leaving me he has worked on his body so much at the gym making him self look very fit and strong, apealing to woman. i even said to him gee shame you didnt look this hot when we were together. its as if it was very important for him to look this way after he left me so he could get other woman admiring him. anyone elses ex like this. love to hear .

I found this article both helpful and a little confusing. My boyfriend was a sociopath right down the line (profile), however he was extremely adept at seeming credible and believeable, from his business to his vehicles to his beautiful daughter (who he parades around). He did have a history of violence (juvenile delinquency, assault, pointing a gun at someone, spousal abuse ) BUT his behavior became more “controlled” or more subtle (less overt) in his aggressive tendencies as he got older. He learned to play the game better, and is extremely convincing. He is the best actor I have ever met, and trust me, I am a skeptical person and very evaluative and careful. Therefore I was subjected (eventually) to extreme emotional and verbal abuse, and rages periodically (every couple of months) but instead of physically abusing me he would leave the house or sleep in another room. I told him early on in our relationship that I would NEVER tolerate physical abuse, and I think he knew this and so took steps not to cross that line, when he had exhibited these behaviors previously with more passive women. We also had a wonderful sexual relationship, but he was never violent with me sexually. I have not read studies on this, but it is my belief they learn how to play people more adeptly with time…they perfect their art, or their con game.

Beverly,

That’s interesting what you say about your daughter hating your ex right from the start. I wonder if this is a common phenomenon with socio/psychopaths, where they are able to convince most people of their wonderfulness, but some people, for whatever reason, are able to pick up on their true nature. Some sixth sense.

My dad was like that with my socio husband. My dad never ever liked him, and I remember one time early on, my dad left the minute we walked through his and my mom’s door. My dad never did warm up to my husband. He got to where he tolerated him, he knew I was happy, but I could tell he never trusted him.

Hello – been lurking here since August, trying to understand an off and on ten year association (will no longer call it a “relationship” now understanding the fact it was an illusion on his part). Your blog is fabulous and some of the writing here has carried me through many roller-coaster days. Finally joined because of this post and the comments.

My younger daughter is 14 and she saw through the sociopath from the very first day. Years ago I was so taken-in and so in love with this person and she was only a very small child. This time, when the gaslighting and ambient abuse began, when I would be sad or shocked at something he said or did, she would ask what was wrong and stated clearly that what he said or did was nasty and uncalled for and NOT the actions of someone who loved me.

Finally after I ran from him (and it really is a sense of fleeing, isn’t it – when the eyes are opened to reality, you get the feeling you must simply save yourself) a few months later – when I was softening and broke No Contact – we watched a special on Drew Peterson. She commented on how his little smirks and barely-hidden rage under the surface reminded her of the N/P.

So, yes – some people have a really good sixth sense. I think many of us are among those people, but after a certain point when we get too emotionally close, our intuition somehow shuts itself off. As though it’s saying to us “Hey, I’ve been sounding bells for months now and you’ve largely ignored me – surely it’s time to go where I’m appreciated!”

Thanks for all the wonderful work you do here and for the great comments section. Wish more women understood how P’s and N’s operated and how easy it is to fall in love with one and not even know it until it’s almost too late.

Blessings to all of you.

Well, these questions may certainly identify sociopaths, but not psychopaths. They will also identify normal people who have been in very stressful situations. Let me explain:

1. Have you ever hit someone so hard that you injured them, or they had to see a doctor? OR: Physically hurt another person in any other way on purpose?

I personally know several very good and decent people who would have to answer “yes” to this because they were violently attacked and defended themselves or were defending someone else.

2. Have you ever used a weapon, like a stick, knife or gun in a fight?

See above: ditto.

So, we have to eliminate these two questions as good guides. They only relate to external behavior and that behavior can be the result of many mitigating factors. Without an attendant question as to why these events may have happened, the questions as they are, are useless. And, of course, if asking “why” you will need some factual data to back up the given reason because a psychopath/sociopath may answer “yes” and give a sob-story as to why they did it, and it can be a lie. But you don’t want to label the person who answers “yes” a sociopath or psychopath either.

3. Have you ever had a time in your life when you lied a lot, not counting any times you lied to keep from being hurt?

Useless question. Lots of people have gone through times in their lives when they lied a lot, generally as adolescents. Most children will also lie naturally and even innocently and acquire the habit of dissociating, especially in unhappy, non-validating environments.

OR: Used a false or made-up name or alias?

This should really be divided into separate questions because each one can relate to different circumstances. I imagine that a lot of people use false or made-up names on the internet to protect their privacy. Of course, I can’t think of any good reason to do so in a direct interaction situation unless that, too, was for protection. That is possible – even more probable nowadays. Imagine a girl at a party and there is a real creep who asks her name and she doesn’t want him looking her up in the phone book! She’ll tell him a fake name!

OR: Scammed or conned someone for money, to avoid responsibility or just for fun?

Okay, that one is just plain bad. Of course, we all know that adolescents will try to pull fast one’s on their parents all the time to go places they aren’t supposed to go or buy things they aren’t supposed to buy. So, a normal, truth-telling person who has done this as a kid and then grown out of it would answer truthfully, “yes,” and would, by this silly test, get labeled a sociopath?

OR: Forged someone else’s signature—like on a legal document or on a check?

Every kid I ever knew wrote themselves excuses for absence or tardiness in school. And there may be some instances when signing someone else’s name on a check or document under unusual circumstances is a necessary and positive thing, like if a family member is medically incapacitated and you have to handle things for a brief period until they are okay or things can be arranged legally.

Again, a truthful person who has done something like this would answer “yes” and get labeled “sociopath.”

4. Have you ever robbed or mugged someone, or snatched a purse?

I started to say “that one is totally bad,” but then I thought about Victor Hugo’s great work Les Miserables. Maybe ya’ll ought to read it sometime.

Two other questions were nearly as good:

1. Have you had a time when you bullied or pushed people around or tried to make them afraid of you?

What if the people you tried to make afraid of you were psychopaths or bullies themselves?

OR: Harassed, threatened or blackmailed someone?

Again, I can think of situations where decent people would be pushed into doing things like that. Certainly not as a habit.

2. Have you ever stolen anything from someone or someplace when no one was around? OR: Shoplifted?

See Les Miserables…

All in all, these questions just talk about behavior that is mainly material and external and tells nothing about what is inside a person. These questions are based on primitive ideas of morality – strict black and white thinking – and do not take into account the wide variety of human experiences and situations.

There is good, and there is evil, and there is the specific situation that determines which is which.

Laura –

You said: Well, these questions may certainly identify sociopaths, but not psychopaths.

I was unaware there was much difference between the two. Thought they were routinely used in place of one another as terms.

Do really like your answers to the questions because they make sense. I think that there’s not really any good discernible way to tell P’s from the rest of us right off the bat, but some early good clues to look for (usually, unfortunately, only seen by people who’ve had firsthand experience in a “relationship” with one):

These are just my personal experiences, so maybe don’t apply to others, but what I’ve seen repeated in behaviors:

1. Inappropriate lack of emotional affect. You can feel that the person is just going through the motions with words, saying they’re sorry either for some tragedy or something they did, but the words sound hollow, forced or practiced.

2. Weird word usage – mine used to use words that sounded alike but had vastly different meanings, like “inert” instead of “inept” and “deport” instead of “comport.” They don’t get the emotional context of words because they as people lack internal emotional context, overall.

3. Compartmentalization and secrecy – the dual life of a psychopath often exposes itself with a little bit of time and attention, early on. Same with the way they say certain things to hint at their true characters, little asides about their nature.

Thing is, all of those things can also be done for different underlying reasons – some people have trouble with words, some with showing emotions and some with opening their worlds up to others. But when these three are present all together in one person, they’re my personal red flags that I’ve seen in the two hardcore P’s I’ve encountered.

What do you feel is the “specific situation that determines which is which” that you mention about good and evil in your last sentence? Mine would be “intent” but it’s sometimes impossible to measure intentions.

I think the words “sociopath” and “psychopath” are often used interchangeably. Iirc, one blog here was on why they (Lovefraud) chose to primarily use the word “sociopath,” and I think it was mainly because most people have the misconception that psychopaths are all serial killers.

As for the questions, I examined myself in light of them, too, and found that some were difficult for me to answer no, unequivocally, I never did such and such thing.

For example, in regard to the question about threatening or trying to make someone afraid of you. While I can say I’ve never done these things to anyone else, I have to admit that, to some extent, I have done these things to my socio husband. Not that I could–or would even want to–make him fear me physically (although as a matter of self-defense, then yes, I would even do that), but I want him to know that he will suffer negative consequences–exposure mainly–if he does certain things. He will never do the right thing out of the goodness of his heart. What goodness? Without fear of the negative consequences that only I could inflict, he would do just about anything. He would malign me to other people; he would turn me out of my house; he would pay nothing in terms of support; he would even–if he thought he wouldn’t get caught–kill me. And our daughter, and his stepdaughter, and his stepson, and his step-grandchildren and his mother-in-law–all who have ridden in my car, a car on which only he–and the mechanic who told him–knew the brakes desperately needed replacing.

As for lying, I agree there isn’t a single person who never has lied. I think all children do, as part of normal development, and teenagers, also at times. And most adults occasionally tell little white lies to spare someone else’s feelings: “No, that dress doesn’t make you look fat.” Whatever.

But there’s a huge difference between these types of lies–and the motivation behind them–and those a sociopath tells. A sociopath lies in the extreme. (There was another good blog here about that; lying in the extreme as the one cardinal sign of a sociopath.) To a sociopath, lying is a way of life, it pervades almost everything they do.

My husband used to try a similar argument with me. One time told me in a letter that I still have that everyone does it; everyone lies! Not only that, he said that everyone wants to be lied to. He said people with integrity were rare, being truthful was abnormal. I don’t know if he was trying to convince himself or me, but he was always good at twisting an argument. He would make a declarative statement, sprinkle facts in with his lies, add a bunch of qualifiers, sometimes contradict himself, then maybe change the subject. I think his purpose was usually to confuse me or to try to get to agree with his twisted, and self-serving way of looking at the world.

But, bottom line, he was saying: “See? I’m just like everyone else.”

But he’s not.

As to the question about hitting someone so hard as to cause injury or a doctor visit, I think it is implicit that self-defense is an exception. Same for using a weapon. I think most people would react violently, if that’s what it took, to protect themselves, their loved ones or the innocent.

And I think it’s implicit that using a handle on the internet is not what is meant by the question about using a false or made-up name or alias.

And, personally, if I didn’t want to give someone my name, I don’t think I’d make one up, I simply wouldn’t give it. But again, I think that making up a name to avoid a creep is an act of self-defense and far different than using a false name to get away with something or pull some sort of scam.

I think that assuming that all adolescents try to pull fast-ones on their parents all the time is like assuming everyone lies. I don’t think all adolescents are like this. I think adolescents who do these things on any kind of a regular basis might be suffering from a conduct disorder, which I believe is one of the possible signs of emerging sociopathy.

As for stealing? Nowadays there are many other options to deal with starvation.

I think there is a difference between psychopaths and sociopaths and it is evident in much of the literature.
According to Blair (2003) in the neurobiology of psychopathy:
Psychopathy is a disorder, defined by
Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist ”“ Revised
(PCL”“R) and characterised in part by a
diminished capacity for remorse and poor
behavioural controls (Hare, 1991). Classifications
of psychopathy are not synonymous
with diagnoses of conduct disorder or antisocial
personality disorder (American Psychiatric
Association, 1994) but represent
an extension. These psychiatric diagnoses
are poorly specified and concentrate on
the antisocial behaviour. Because of this
imprecision, the diagnostic rate of conduct
disorder is 16% of boys in mainstream education
(American Psychiatric Association,
1994) and over 80% for antisocial personality
disorder in adult forensic institutions
(Hart & Hare, 1996). In contrast, psychopathy
is defined not only by antisocial
behaviour but also by emotional impairment
such as the lack of guilt. Only onethird
of those who are diagnosed with
antisocial personality disorder meet criteria
for psychopathy (Hart & Hare, 1996).
Moreover, a diagnosis of psychopathy,
unlike antisocial personality disorder, is
informative regarding a patient’

Now I don’t doubt that psychopaths are dominant and aggressive but is that really the defining feature or even the cause for lack of guilt and empathy? Blair in the review points to the involvement of aggression but it is still not clear which of the mechanisms underlie each issue exactly. First I think we need to separate sociopathy from psychopathy when looking at the underlying biological mechanisms. We may find they are the same mechanisms or we may find a difference. If we can’t agree on what we are looking at, it will forever be an unresolved issue.

LilOrphan. I had to laugh at no. 2 on your list and I have to agree on all of your 3 pointers. Early on, when my ex N blurted out that he loved me and I was his soulmate, I looked back at him somewhat stunned, saying to him that I could hear him mouthing the words, but the feelings just werent there. Yes to no. 3, early on, he told me he couldnt find a girlfriend and that he had ‘demons in a box’! I could probably add a few too – I tested him by asking him the same questions over a few months but worded in different ways to check his answers – his answers were always different, so I knew he was lying. Constantly changing jobs, accommodation, places etc. Always running out of money.

When my N first started his nonsense behaviour, not realising he was a narcissist, I investigated on the internet websites about signs of lying and cheating and whether I was being unreasonable about the things he was saying to me about collecting phone numbers from female ‘mates’ at work. When I checked the list of lies, I realised that everyone lies at sometime or another. Narcissists, however, lie about everything and anything, not just small lies to save face or be polite like the rest of us. Their lies are way beyond the norm.

I must say I’m more impressed by the list provided by LilOrphan and the people – both hosts and punters – who use this site than I am by this study. I think that the list identifies those who we would always have thought of as sociopaths – the ‘showboating’ type ones! (‘Do you have a pair of wings and a profusion of feathers? Then you are most probably a bird.’) Whereas most of us have suffered at the hands of people who operate with a lot more subtlety than that. That’s why this site’s a godsend – it identifies all those little quirks (patterns of speech and non-violent behaviour etc) to the extent that regularly we wonder if we’ve been seeing the same person! The sort of questions in this study would have just made me think ‘Nah…he’s not a sociopath.’ But I’m now pretty sure he was. You have to live with the illogicality of their lives in all its minutiae to know you’ve been steamrollered by one, not see them plunge knives into a teddy bear.

my x-roommate said that told me that he raped his prior roommate before me. shortly after that i left and went to a shelter before finding new housing. the knife thing as well for me twice.

i like l’il orphan’s list too. i would add bragging and being conceited. too the point that they just seem over confident and you have to wonder where there getting this excess of confidence from.

Thanks for responding. I was kind of just going by what I’d experienced with the exN’s behaviors and extrapolating from them. We went 4 rounds of dating – three when I was much younger and they were more casual, so I didn’t fully see what he was about. Then he came back out of the blue after five-six years and I still HAD NO IDEA what he was about, but we really dated and I saw again the cruel comments, the lying, the “set up.” This time, the “set up” was to convince me he loved me and wanted to marry me…I wanted nothing to do with it at first but still had feelings for him, so I went along with seeing him. All was great in the beginning as the story always seems to go and then, after 8 months where he’d finally convinced me to admit my feelings, he started with the crazy-making behavior.

I bailed and then had a stupid “maybe it was me” moment — went back and got the delight of almost immediate D&D in the most vicious, cruel manner possible.

What bothers me now is some weird things going on with my phone, computer and the fact my windshield was mysteriously smashed in my driveway in October. I am starting to think he’s far scarier than I realized…and the ambient abuse is (as it’s designed to do) driving me nutty.

Hello everyone,

I suppose the self-reporting aspect is the most problematic — I mean, these people know how to game the system.

From what I can gather, I think the part of the brain that “feels” emotion is unplugged. They understand how to use emotion to manipulate others, but they themselves can only imagine what “feelings” are.

So perhaps the best way to figure out if a person is a psychopath (or sociopath or whatever the proper name is) is to see if they have the capacity to actually “feel” emotion, rather than just look like they “feel” emotion.

One more thing: “Do you dream?” or “What do you dream about?” may be a question that can determine if someone is a psychopath (sociopath,etc.)

I’m trying to figure out if psychopaths (sociopaths, etc.) dream. There are some old research papers, from about 1980’s, that say that there may be a disconnect between the part of the brain that “dreams” — in the brain stem area — and the frontal lobes, which are involved in higher order thinking. There are also papers dealing with alcoholism, and the effect of prolonged alcohol or drugs on the white matter — the neural wiring — that seems to “unplug” the thinking part of the brain from the emotional part of the brain. I thought this was interesting because the brain stem area (the pons or pontine, and what I don’t know about it is alot) is an archaic area involved in base-line, animalistic processing. Like, crying or screaming. The frontal lobes have to do with understanding that other people think things, and fairness, and guilt and complicated thoughts (again, I’m sure there are experts here who can correct, but I think that’s the basics).

So “do you dream?” may be a question that can determine if someone is a psychopath (sociopath, etc.). I’d be interested in anyone’s comments on that one.

http://neurologicalcorrelates.com/wordpress

Sociopath = Psychopath.
The terms are equal, with the exact same meaning.
They are completely interchangeable.

The reason sociopath has come to be often preferable is because people might be inclined to confuse “psychopath” with “psychotic” – and psychopaths/sociopaths are NOT psychotic. Indeed, quite the opposite.
A criminal deemed psychotic can be found not guilty by reason of insanity, or unfit to stand trial.
A criminal deemed psychopath is deemed legally sane.

People though, often use the word “pscyho” to mean someone who’s a sociopath type person…. or they often use it to refer to someone who’s behaving psychotically.

I’ve never known of anyone as a kid, or as an adult, who forged parental excuses for school. I certainly never did it. And if anyone I know did, they didn’t tell me about it.
Just thought I’d throw that in there.

Anyway…

“What good is research if it doesn’t teach people how to protect themselves?”

Exactly.
What’s worse is that it sometimes doesn’t do the professionals any good, as I see psychiatrists and pscyhologists get into or stay in abusive, crazy, or sick, personal relationships all the time.

I’m a firm believer in unprofessional armchair diagnosing for your own personal private benefit in making decisions in your own personal life. I don’t think you should have to go to college and pay to take exams and make it your life career, in order to learn about this stuff on your own, and use the knowledge for benefit.
Of course I think only professionals should be utilized to make diagnoses that would legally effect the subject of the diagnosis.
But as far as your own personal life- by all means everyone has the right to understand these things, and employ the knowledge in your private decisions.

But I think those questions are for the birds on that score.

Particularly since these questions are highly interpretable… I would answer yes to #1 & #3, and I don’t even come close to meeting the criteria for anti-social disorder, let alone sociopathic. Though #1 was in self-defense, and #3 was too albeit indirectly. But I’m sure any sociopath would argue the same thing!! Not to mention many other garden variety jerks would have a quick & easy justification.

As Laura stated, what about if you bullied a sociopath that was bullying you? I bully my landlord as much as possible, who I believe is a sociopath, because it’s the ONLY way to get results unless I wanted to be filing formal complaints left & right like my one neighbor. It’s far more effective than actually having to pay a lawyer to bully him. Until he sells the building to someone new, or I find someplace else appropriate to move, that’s how it is. I’m not out bullying people for pleasure, indeed I deeply despise every interaction with this landlord, even when things go my way. I’m bullying a landlord into doing what legally & ethically he’s obliged to do, by law. I shouldn’t have to. I don’t want to. But I do it. Does that make me a sociopath? I think it makes me a human who’s willing to stand up for my rights taking the path of least resistance.

But the bigger problem I have with these questions is that on an anonymous survey, people might be induced to being honest.

But if you’re in a position where a sociopath is trying to con you, use you, or win your affection… if you ask him/her a point blank questions like this, they’re not going to be so foolish to actually answer honestly! Only a very very stupid & unsuccessful con man would admit to this sort of thing openly point blank to a mark! Duh.

I mean get real. You’d be better off giving your new date a Cosmopolitan Magazine quiz, or asking them if they wet the bed past age 14.

I FAR better think the list in the book “The Sociopath Next Door” is far better a guide to helping you discern who might be a sociopath. It’s an approach that does NOT require any cooperation from the sociopath (or suspected sociopath).

The only reason I know the answers to those question are almost all true for my ex is because he let them out one at a time over 18 years. None of them came out before we were engaged. He also had to pass a psyc exam to get into the sheriff’s dept. When I asked him what they said about his childhood abuse he said he didn’t tell them because they would not have hired him. I’m sure he lied about more than just that during it.

LilOrphan, your list is priceless and right on. I think those who have experienced the psychopath can tell when others have also because they “know the signs.”

The item about the strange use of words could even be useful for detecting psychopaths online, from their writing. When I published my own story about my encounter with an online deviant, I also took the trouble to collect all his writings, emails, etc, and published them also for the sake of others who might be able to extract clues from them. Needless to say, nearly everything he wrote was a lie from bottom to top, but what I could see in retrospect was that all the clues were there! Only, since I was not (as Jimi Hendrix said) “experienced.”

It’s been a long and painful 8 years since then: lies and defamation and stalking. But I can say, it has been one of the most useful experiences of my life; I sure learned a lot about humanity and non-humanity!

WP: psychopath and sociopath are not equal terms with the exact same meaning. There is actually a world of difference between them. It is unfortunate that most people don’t grok this because it is the thing that makes it easier for psychopaths to hide and get away with murder (sometimes literally.)

This problem is even highlighted by the “list of questions” proposed by Liane. Those questions may relate to the anti-social behaviors of a sociopath, they may also relate to behaviors of people in various stressful or unusual situations. AND they may describe behaviors of psychopaths, but when they do, they only describe the “failed” psychopaths, the ones that get caught or noticed.

The simplest, clearest and truest portrait of the psychopath is given in the titles of three seminal works on the subject: Without Conscience by Robert Hare, The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley, and Snakes in Suits by Hare and Paul Babiak. A psychopath is exactly that: conscienceless. BUT! The most important thing to remember is that this is hidden from view behind a mask of normality that is often so convincing that even experts are deceived and, as a result, they can become the Snakes in Suits that control our world via politics, industry, media, and even academia. As Hervey Cleckley noted, confirmed by Hare later, psychology, religion, medicine, are fields that are particularly favorable to psychopaths because they are seeking ways to have power over others and the “good” ones try to do it in ways that will allow them to “pass as normal.”

Of course, most of us don’t get to directly encounter psychopaths that are that good very often – if they are that good, they are “at the top” and affect us mainly via their “trickle down” poisoning of social concepts and understanding.

The definition given by Hare, is the exact same definition for sociopath.

Sociopath is just a newer term used to try to impress to people that these psychopaths/sociopaths are NOT psychotic.

http://www.lovefraud.com/01_whatsaSociopath/psychopath_or_sociopath.html

The difference comes in when somoene is diagnosed with Anti-Social Personality Disorder.
NOT ALL people with Anti-Social Personality Disorder are psychopaths/sociopaths.

That’s the distinction that Robert Hare makes.

He (Hare) personally might use the term “sociopath” to mean someone with Anti-Social Personality Disorder, because he prefers the term “psychopath”. But if that’s the case, that’s the reason things are so muddled.

The fact is that clinicians started using the term “sociopath” in order to distinguish psychopaths from those people with psychosis. They’re VERY different things.

AND, because many people associate the term “psychopaths” with serial killers and people in prison. The fact is, not all psychopaths go to prison, most never kill anyone, some might not even break the law.
Even Hare says that in his book “Without Conscience” – which is mostly about the ones that go to prison.

Some people may use the terms to mean a level of degree in this. Like that psychopaths are the prison inmates that Hare talks about, and sociopaths are the ones that get away with it.

The book “THe Sociopath Next Door” is talking about the exact same type of person that Hare talks about in “Without Conscience”. Same criteria, same “symptoms”, same behaviour. No conscience, no empathy.
But this book, unlike the Hare book, is about those with this ‘condition’ that “get away with it” for the most part. (IE: they manage to stay out of prison, they’re not serial killers, etc.)

BUT, even Hare said in his book that not all psychopaths wind up in prison.
AND he said that some prison inmates diagnosed with Anti-Social Personality Disorder are not psychopaths.

The fact is, the murderers and the con men both operate the same way, both lack conscience, both lack empathy, both lack higher emotional abilities…

As far as I can see, both are just as hopeless when it comes to dealing with them in your daily life. If you think you’re going to get through to a person who is like this, just because he’s never been to prison and never killed anyone – you’re setting yourself up for disappointment & danger.

In my opinion, the ones who manage to stay out of prison are probably more dangerous to the general public, because they must be smarter somehow! They skirt the law and get away with much more. They know how to beat the system.

The ones that wind up in jail are the ones that are more obvious about there being something wrong with them, something different. They might have more seriously injured victims, more dead victims. But my guess is that they actually have LESS victims.

So it really depends on what context you’re considering at the time – what things you’re consider “worse” – quantity or severity.

The violent one will have a few seriously injured or killed victims, and wind up in jail for most of their lives, and are more likely to come to an early death.
The con artist type will live free, making a victim of every single person, perhaps hundreds or more, that they come in contact with over 60+ years.

Robert Hare’s book, albeit a fantastic description of the problem… is not really a practical guide to dealing with these people for the general public. Most of the book is about the ones that are in prison.

If you want to avoid being the victim of the kind of people that wind up in prison… the murderer, the rapist, the mugger, etc… I recommend “The Gift of Fear” by DeBecker.
If you want to avoid being the victim of a con artist, emotionally abusive partner, the scheming co-worker… I recommend “The Sociopath Next Door”.

These books give practical guides on how to avoid each type of dangerous character.

I’m starting to think that when it comes to this, maybe taking away the labels, and dealing with what you see and what is happening, is more advantageous.

I mean if someone behaves as if they don’t have a conscience, behaves as if they don’t feel empathy… Does it really matter if they meet the criteria or not?

If someone is hurting you, or someone else, does it matter whether or not they meet the criteria for some psychological terminology? You’re being hurt all the same.
If someone treats you unfairly, rudely, nastily, at the end of the day, does it matter why? Does it change what you ought to do to protect yourself, to take care of yourself?

What if someone’s cruel to you simply because they don’t like you? Does that make it okay?

If someone beats you because they’re schizophrenic and in a psychosis, does that mean you have to stand there and take it? If someone is abusive because they’re bipolar, does that mean you have to suck it up and put up with the abuse?

I say no.

I live in a small rural community, and in general “everyone knows everyone else” and people have a “reputation” in the community.

In a smaller community like this it is usually easier to “spot” a violent psychopath (sociiopath; AntiSocial Personality Disorger–or whatever you want to label them) by their “reputation.” In some cases whole families have “reputations” as violent actors, “heavy hitters” and wife beaters, liars, con men, thieves, etc.

NOt everyone who is a psychopath however has a “bad” reputation as some of them “cover it up” pretty well, and give a “public” face of kind, caring and honest. Others are very easy to “spot.”

In areas where a person can remain in the same general area, yet move a few blocks or a few miles and be in a “new” spot where few if anyone, knows of prior behavior (wife beating, infidelity, theft, etc) it is more difficult to know about pervious behavior when you meet this person.

It is fairly common for psychopaths to move from one area to another if they become “known” in one area as “unsavory” or “violent.” They thus have a new “hunting area” for victims that are not “shy of them.” Sort of like an animal predator may move from one area to another because the game becomes wary in one place and a “newer area” would not have game quite so wary if it had not been previously hunted by that type of predator.

I can’t remember who said it but I remember reading that “the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior” and I truly believe that is so. So if you meet someone you don’t know what their previous behavior was, you have to judge them from current behavior, which in many cases the psychopath is quite good at pretending to be a caring and empathetic person.

My personal experience with the several psychopaths in my immediate family, which include two murderers, is that they are rage-filled individuals who value control of others above all else. If the control fails with the “soft touch” they will advance to violence in a “heart beat” without any remorse at all.

To me, the frustrated rage that can sometimes be seen in a person is the single best indicator of psychopathic tendencies and I shy away from that person. This rage is frequently seen as “The Look” and the best description of it that I can give is the look of utter “rage” on Charlie Manson’s photograph that was widely broadcast in magazines and newspapers after the Tate murders in California in the I think late 60s or early 70s. It is “demonic” and “black” and I have never seen this look on the face of a person, no matter how they were provoked, unless they were psychopathic in the worst sense of the word.

The second best indicator that I have seen is the TENDENCY to lie frequently. I know that we all “lie” in one form or another to save embarasment “Oh, yes, Sue, that dress looks lovely on you.” But the tendency to “lie when the truth would fit better” or to tell conflicting stories and to confabulate and make up stories (lies) to impress others with their education, smarts, and money, to agrandize themselves…I have never seen a case of an adult who does this regularly that wasn’t a psychopath.

Dishonesty and “petit theft” and other “sins” that may seem minor, if taken one at a time, but actually taken together as a “life style” show a person’s willingness, in my mind anyway, to do whatever is “best” for them, at the expense of others. To me this says “AVOID this person” loudly and clearly.

To my mind, anytime you open yourself up to a person who is a liar and a thief, or who is regularly rude, shows any sign of suppressed rage, you are potentially letting a psychopath into your life. It isn’t worth the risk.

OxDrover: you mention the Look.. of utter rage but I also feel there is the opposite. Their eyes look hollow. They look as if they are looking through everything but not at it, or not at you. Blank, empty, emotionless eyes. I saw that more times than I care to count in my Sociopath – and I didnt really have any education on this topic in the beginning to know what it was that I was seeing.

Its because they are hollow inside and also I noticed rarely did he ever really look into my eyes. I hardly recall any eye to eye contract frankly. Did anyone else notice this kind of thing?

My socio husband was good at making eye contact. Seemingly warm, caring eye contact. I never noticed a blank, hollow look on his face before. What’s strange is that now I see it in photographs–particularly digital ones. Sometimes I’ll sit and gaze at images of him on my computer and it’s almost shocking. In some pictures I see that blank expression, in others hostility, in some he looks downright evil.

Perhaps I’m only imagining things, but I think I’m actually seeing a reality that I never before knew existed.

You’re not imagining it–I see it in my ex socio’s husband’s pics, too. It’s because we now know what to look for and can so easily see the fakeness about them. My ex socio who has picked up one woman right after the other for brief sexual encounters was asked by a friend how in the world he managed to get these women in bed with him when a lot of them knew that he was married and some of the even knew me. He answered his friend by telling him the “technique” he used. He told him that you look the woman straight in the eye, if she looks away the first time, move on, but if she looks back–she’s game! How sick is that? Sounds like a predator of some sort to me!

OxDrover: I’ve been saying this same type of thing for years! That the reason that in olden times, a lot of the crimes today weren’t as common, is because back in the old days, communities were smaller, people knew each other’s business, and people had “reputations”. That’s why a hundred+ years ago, wealthy society people who had been disgraced with bad reputations in England used to flee to the Americas to start over, where nobody knew them.
And before the TransAtlantic cable, it would take weeks or months to receive news between the continents. And that’s why, back then, when “a stranger came to town”, people were suspicious of them until the stranger proved themselves.

I know of a recent situation where a con man has made the news in 2 different counties in my state. The first time he went to prison in one county, you would think he would have to leave the state to set up shop in the same business, but no – he moved one county over, and started again. Though in his case, some people saved themselves by Googling his name… And in some startling cases, the victims KNEW of his past convictions & problems, yet for whatever reason decided to believe in him, and do business with him anyway.

These days, many of us live in “a community of strangers”. We meet strangers on the internet, and some of us start dating relationships that way. And even in my own city, it’s very possible for me to meet someone who I never met before, and who nobody I know, knows anything about them.
And if their name doesn’t wind up on the internet connected to their past troubles, then even Googling them is futile.

And I agree with you whole-heartedly OxDrover, that to me, if someone is regularly rude, they’re not worth the trouble, no matter what reason. My mother always said, if someone is often nasty to other people, even if they’re not currently nasty to you, eventually they will likely be nasty to you, because it’s in their character. And I’ve found for myself that my mother’s advice was spot on!

findingmyselfagain: I tend to see the “hollow” look as almost the same as “utter rage”. I’m not sure how to explain that, other than to say I think a hollow look kind of gives me a feeling that there’s something sinister about a person.

And gillian really hit on something for me… Photographs seem to catch what sometimes we miss in the moment. Being a photographer, there have been many times I’ve taken photographs of people, and when I get to editing them, I notice those blank & fiercely sinister looks, that I didn’t see at the time I was taking the photograph.

And, one time, I saw a photograph of an elderly man who had a really creepy fiercely nasty vacant look about his eyes. It was so startling that I asked someone who knew this man his whole life, about this man, and I learned that he had a long history of making inappropriate remarks to women – including his relatives, attacking other men who dated women who had refused him or dumped him, brawls at family gatherings where the police had to be called, street fights, arrests for petty theft & public drunkeness, and later in life – extramarital affairs, physical & emotional spousal abuse, bullying of family members & business associates, etc.

Thinking of this, it might be a good piece of advice to people using internet dating sites, to take a good look at several photos of their prospective date, BEFORE reading what they have to say – which could be filled with superficial charm, deceit, and empty propaganda. I’m betting some of those internet dating photographs would speak more than 1,000 words!
In my opinion, internet dating is too dangerous to be viable, but considering many people feel it’s necessary, any advantage would be appropriate.

It’s funny this came up, because when I showed a friend some pictures of The Wrong Man when I was first dating him, she said, “Are you f*ing kidding me? Look at those eyes! He looks like an axe murderer!”

Which brings up something else I’ve been thinking about. We know that a very small percentage of this sort of being becomes serial killers. What about the serial nature of the ones we’ve involved ourselves with? If I look back on the things this guy did to me and the way he treats other women, he’s performed an almost ritualized, repetitive emotional rape of very similar women. To my knowledge, he’s never been physically violent, mind you. But he takes things from each victim and enjoys the hunt and thinks he’s smarter and better than anyone else, and that he’ll never be stopped. Much like Ted Bundy, only without the murder. Is there something to that? I’d love to hear what Dr. Leedom or Dr. Stever had to say about it.

Thanks for replying, Dr. Leedom.

I guess I didn’t quite ask the right question, though. They’re all certainly predators, but it’s the very serial nature of what these perpetrators do that I was asking about. As I understand it, the very nature of a serial crime is one that is repeated, sequentially, in an almost ritualistic fashion. Is the repetitive nature of what they do part of the sociopathic personality? Are they doing the same thing to different people because they don’t really differentiate between us as individuals? Is there some sort of compulsion that makes them do the same things over and over rather than move on to new and different thrills? Are they seeking different results from the same thing over and over again or are they proving something to themselves by repeating successes?

notquitebroken: I think that’s an excellent question – one that makes me wonder too. My best guess is that they do the same thing over & over because they can, and somehow it’s working for them. On the other hand, in Hare’s book, it says that psychopaths/sociopaths have trouble learning from mistakes. So even if it stops working for them, they may be unable to learn from that and change their ways – not even to another bad way, never mind a better way.

I think its like a stage play for them… and the excitement is never knowing exactly how it will turn out in the end but they basically know most the lines. Of course the victim has the ability to change things up a bit, depending on our reactions and actions throughout but the next time around they just use things we said, actions we taught them by communicating our needs… to make the next showing of the play better.

His ex girlfriend told me he was a creature of habit… this is when I found out he was sleeping with her. She spouted off a series of restaurants, hotel in Vegas, concert, all his made up excuses for things… to the exact things that he had done with me or said to me. He followed a pattern with all we did, that matched all they did. Whenever I would suggest, hey why dont we go to the comedy club for instance… it never ever seemed to happen for dumb reasons… but now I know it was outside his regimented plan… didnt match his pattern so we never went in two years. Thats just one example.

I never experienced violence nor heard of others having either, but I still feel a little scared at night – hoping that he isnt lurking around and checking on me or deciding to take me out so he wouldnt have to deal with the emotions he pretends to have about losing me. I dont know how you tell what they are actually capable of. Does the past always predict the future? I dont know…

findingmyselfagain: I think you are right–it is like a stage play. They follow the same patterns over and over because they are good at it and it has worked before. I got the feeling that during my affair with the S, he used the same “techniques” he had used before. He almost seemed ritualistic about it in some ways. For instance, we always met at night after work. He seemed extremely uncomfortable about meeting me during the day often canceling for seemingly bogus reasons. I also got the feeling, there were certain things he prided himself on–one of these was not spending any money on the people he would have relationships with. He bragged that a woman he had seen previously would always pay for their hotel rooms. Then it occurred to me that he had never spent one dime on me–no gifts, no meals, nothing. I always felt like he kept me in a “box”–there were only certain times he would correspond, call or meet me. Some of this was due to his marriage, but mostly, it was never explainable except to infer this was his ritual–how he kept everything compartmentalized. Physically, I lost quite a bit of weight and lost an incredible amount of productivity. I spent hours thinking about him, checking for him online and sending thoughtful e-mails that would most likely be ignored for days and days. I became obsessed with my appearance and spent a ridiculous amount of money on new clothes and things. I neglected so much of what I needed to do and what I previously enjoyed. He took up residence in my brain and I am still wondering if I will ever be able to fully “evict” him.

Notquitebroken:

You asked – “Are they doing the same thing to different people because they don’t really differentiate between us as individuals? ”

Well, yes. I think it’s mostly because they see other people as objects to be manipulated at their will, and (like normal people in this next regard) they have a standard pattern of their own behavior…so some of it is quite inflexible. Like they may enjoy staying in, so each person becomes the gf who stays at home with them and cooks, but the manipulations are the same.
Does that make sense?

I also suspect that the NEXT victim gets what the previous victim wanted or complained about…it’s the P’s way of still seeing themselves as the PERFECT creature AND it’s their way of thinking they are still hurting the previous person (usually those of us who wise up and have left). Giving the next victim whatever the previous victim wanted (pretending to commit, making marriage plans, spending more time, whatever) also frustrates the current victim, because it may not be what they actually want.

What I noticed with the S I was with was his peverse NEED to deny whatever it was you most fervently needed from him at the time. He took literal pleasure in being contrary, both in argument and in not giving you whatever it was you said you needed. Boundary-jumping, pushing the envelope.

Yet he gave me things I never wanted nor asked for, and as time went on, I started to believe he was giving me the things THE LAST VICTIM said she wanted.

Remember, no real emotion, no real empathy. All they have to work with is whatever clues, suggestions, complaints are given by the normal people with whom they interact. In that context, it makes sense to me they’d follow a pretty standard script and maybe change it with the next victim based on the last victim’s personality.

OMG, when I read Swivelchair’s comments, “Do you dream?… may be a question that can determine if someone is a psychopath (sociopath,etc.)” it really touched a nerve with me. My sociopath told me he DID NOT DREAM and I thought that was odd, as I dream in vivid color…I have never read about the correlation between dreaming and sociopathy before.

Also, wp’s comments about “Photographs seem to catch what sometimes we miss in the moment. Being a photographer …when I get to editing them, I notice those blank & fiercely sinister looks, that I didn’t see at the time I was taking the photograph.” I did not notice this “look” when my sociopath looked me in the eye (he did, and I was entirely convinced he was a man of integrity)…but in now looking back at the photographs he looks scary! and hollow and sinister. Amazing that I missed it at the time.

Also wp, regarding your comments, “My best guess is that they do the same thing over & over because they can, and somehow it’s working for them.” My sociopath is extremely patterned, going to the same restaurants and vacation spots, the same gift routines: gas card, cell phone, yellow flowers, red flowers, jewelry, trips…to ensnare each new woman and make her believe he “loves” her (although we know they have an incapacity to feel love). My former S is so good, he has, honest to goodness, gotten his new victim to buy him a million-dollar-plus house in less than four months (her money down, he’ll pay the hefty mortgage). Little does she know, as soon as they sign on the dotted line, half of her equity is his, and he’ll take out home equity loans against the property without her knowledge, or signature. He’s very conning and convincing. He is willing to spend money up front to “buy” love and later expects reciprocity (10 fold) from the woman. They are convinced he has money from his extravagant lifestyle, when in fact he cons business partners, and women, and is doing other illegal scams.

I have also become fearful since speaking with his ex-wife (she had an accident with some heavy equipment she was hauling for him…hitting her in the head, and I have wondered if this was actually an “accident” as he had mega life insurance and he loaded the equipment) and the ex-wife also she said he overmedicated her to the point that she had to be hospitalized (was this an “accident”?) As I had him on my will as the trustee should I die (of course I changed this immediately upon discovering his affair) I have been terrified that he actually has the potential of causing his mate to have an “accident”. Does anyone have any experience with this type of behavior?

Also, I did speak to his new “love” and I tried to warn her, and told her to seek legal representation before investing with him. But I was met with denial and hostility from her (he’s probably told her I’m “psycho bitch” even though I was actually trying to protect her). Have others had much experience with contacting the “former” and “present” victims? Is there ever any success with this approach? Or do the women ever contact you later and say, “you were right?”

To OxDrover, you are so right about “the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior”. I recall my S being very rude to his ex-wife, constantly hanging up on her and saying cruel things. Well, guess what, he did the same to me.

And to findingmyselfagain, who said, “I think you are right it is like a stage play. They follow the same patterns over and over because they are good at it and it has worked before”, my sociopath used to say he wanted to be an actor, he was in plays in high school. Well, I’ll tell you, he is the very best actor I’ve ever met…every action, every behavior, everything was perfectly staged and an entire set up. He told his (former) best friend that he didn’t love me, but “it’s all about the money”, and that sums him up.

To wp, who said, “My mother always said, if someone is often nasty to other people, even if they’re not currently nasty to you, eventually they will likely be nasty to you, because it’s in their character” Your mother is right, and so are you.

Thank you all so much for your comments. Cheers to happy healing.

peggywhoever: Yes, I have tried repeatedly to warn my ex s “new love” as I knew her before he left me for her and she is only 30 years old and I am old enough to be her mother. I have referred her to this site but I really don’t think she’s ever investigated the notion that he is a sociopath. She says she knows that he has “problems” and that she is also his friend as well as his lover and plans to stand by him no matter what! She says that he has nothing to “use” her for. Within the first two moths they were together and even before she divorced her husband, he had talked her into investing her savings into a doublewide mobile home to place on his mother’s property leading her to believe that the property was his. It may very well be someday, but the property is not deeded to him. A lot of money had to be invested in the actual property in order to prepare it for the mobile home setup. A road approximately 1/4 mile had to be cut and rocked, and all the things it takes to pump water from a nearby spring that is used for the source of water. He tried and tried to get me to invest money in this property and I would not because the land was not deeded to him. He has a stepfather and two other siblings. His mother is 12 years older than the stepfather and no will has been prepared in the event of her death. I had my own house and property when we married in a location convenient to where we both worked. The mother’s property is actually in a neighboring state and it would have taken me nearly 2 hours to get to work from there! The move added another 40 minutes drive to the girlfriend’s commute to work from where she lived before. She told me that she wasn’t worried about it, that if they split up, she will just take the house. I don’t think she realizes it’s not that easy. She’s bought him all kinds of clothes and even a new jeep to be seen in. He openly brags to his friends about all the things she buys him and how much money she makes. He did the same thing when he was with me. A red flag, for sure! Most 40 year old men with any sense of pride just don’t do this!

Another thing: it seems that s don’t really focus much on whether or not they actually “legally” own the things they want. They seem content just to have temporary claims on them. Like his mother’s property, his girlfriend’s house, the girlfriend’s jeep. It’s like these things are toys that they claim for a time. He was the same way with my property and new vehicle. He seemed to enjoy being able to tell others and let others assume that these things were his. I guess legal ownership would require them to extend more responsibility, huh?

I think another reason that it is difficult to convince the “new” person that they are indeed sociopaths is because it’s the extreme cases that get portrayed in the media–serial killers, etc. The girlfriend says he has nothing to use me for. Well, I was warned about him and said the same thing because I certainly didn’t see myself as being wealthy. However, I have a secure income, had just bought a new house, and drove a new car and am an attractive, nurturing and caring woman. He had absolutely NOTHING. So, in his eyes, I had a lot to be used for. He sucked the girlfriend right into his fantasy world by his smooth love talking and attentiveness. Sometimes, I think she’s as sick as he is. She just doesn’t get it!

Tami Newman:

Thanks for your comments regarding contacting the “next woman”. I guess at least we can have a clear conscience that we tried. And I think you’re right that actual “ownership” of the toys isn’t essential, but the seeming possession of them seems to suffice.

I’d like to see a description of the sociopath that includes some of the specifics on Lovefraud…maybe sub-sets like the inability to dream, the “hollowness” or mean looks captured in pictures, abnormal sexual behaviors, abandonment of children, etc. I did look up Dr. Hare’s description which included the following:

A person can be diagnosed as antisocial if since age 15 he or she has shown a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others. The person must have indicated at least three of the following:

– Failure to conform to lawful social norms
– Deceitfulness
– Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
– Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicted by repeated physical fights or assaults
– Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
– Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations
– Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent about having hurt, mistreated or stolen from another

It is also hard and pointless at times to try and convince the other woman because she is in the charming stage. None of us would have believe another if told either. And as the “relationship” continues we are more engaged, more cocooned into their lies that again we wouldn’t believe anyone else. It is only when you YOURSELF come to the point of recognizing that the revelation occurs. Sometimes alerting another will only push them further into the mess.
Peggy-I want so bad to send the diagnosis list to him, just to show him that I know. But that wont do any good either. I have mentioned it to him in the past and he just doesnt care! In fact, by giving him this information it just validated his behavior and he wrote it off. “Well, that is the way I am. That explains it, cant change it and dont care!” I think because it saddens me to think they are incapable of change, unable in any way I feel bad and that as well keeps me stuck!

well my ex s path thinks hs completely normal. normal he think all his exes are the ones with problems, im sure he thinks im mad .he told me once that he lied a bout going to school to his mother. i think that was a regular thing. so guess that was the start. he always seems down trodden like hes taking revenge on society for not being who would like to be. i noticed this early on when i first met him.

Oh my sociopath thinks he is normal as well. Thinks the people in the world are all screwed up. When I told him I thought he was a socio, that didnt make him think he wasnt normal. That just validated him making him feel more normal. And yes, everyone else he was involved with had the problem…not him.

How can you be sure if someone is a sociopath? Mine can’t keep a job because she’s smarter than ‘98%’ of all people. She dumped me because I was smothering her – after I had saved her home and car from foreclosure. She claims to have had and survived hepatitis C – that she is an ordained minister in the Jehovah Witnesses – that she is a licensed masseuse – she has a checkered past, drug use, etc. – and I am the first white man she was attracted to. She has 2 interracial boys. Am I a sap because I believe all of it? She accused me of lying to her about telling my family about how rocky our relationship was – she claims to have a near perfect conscience. Lying is unforgiveable in her eyes, and yet I wonder if I’m just gullible or she’s sociopathic. She plays World of War online incessantly and has a hard time maintaining a relationship with the gamers online – she wants to call the shots for everyone. In the months that we had a relationship, we never had sex – only once we were married could that happen. She has a the worst temper I’ve ever seen, flying into a rage over what I perceive as trivial things. I’ve not seen her for weeks. I wonder if I’m not better off without this relationship.

Mickeymulder, I think you know the answer to your own question. It sounds like she has you hooked, but I think you deserve someone who treats your kindness with the respect it deserves. Keep reading this site. Men are less common visitors here than women, but there are certainly female sociopaths out there, and they’re a lot like what you describe and a lot like what we’ve all experienced in their male counterparts — taking advantage of us and putting all the responsibility on us and claiming to be so wonderful and perfect. Don’t sacrifice all your self-respect. Run!

Thanks, notquitebroken. This has cost me alot more than the money and goods that I’ve given up. This mey be the first time in months that I don’t feel so alone.

Is he a sociopath?

I have met this guy in the internet in 2004, Its a long distance relationship. I have been with him 6 x already and I have discovered many things about him. During the earlier years, we talk a lot in the phone he calls a lot in the beginning even 3x a day phone calls that would last hours sometimes. Yes he says i love you many times and easily. He calls my kids our kids, his father he insist I call our dad etcetera. He gave gifts was generous in his own way, paid for my trip to a country to be with him etc. He joined my parents 50th wedding anniversary join family pictures as if he is serious with me! But somehow through all these years something doesnt add up.

I have broken up with him twice already. It pains me so much about what happened but when I read what other women have to go through I know am still lucky. I still love him a lot. I feel that maybe the relationship can still be save that I should go back to him but also a part of me say better stay away from him to have peace of mind.

Here are my findings about him:

– he had a felony case i think 7- 8 years ago( but am not sure exactly what is that) he said he was being accused of hitting his own autistic daughter but that was over 10 years ago and his records are now clear thats why he got work now in the military as civilian employee ( this work is true cause I have seen copies of his employment etc)

– when i met him he was seeing a psychiatrist he had low self esteem and i encouraged him to find a new work he likes and he did. i help him with his bio data letters of application and just encourage him and now he has his self esteem back and have his own high paying job in the federal government.

– he claims he is divorced but i feel he is not really divorced. their conjugal house is still in his name and that of his wife. but i was able to see a document written by a lawyer of his wife asking for financial support. the letter says, Your wife, not your exwife so i feel he is still married but he keeps on denying that he is still married, he admits though that he is unhappy with her exwife and that her exwife is verbally abusing him.
– he was married twice and he claims that his first marriage did not work because he caught his exwife with another man. he claimed that he tried suicide ( but unsuccesful, he said he tried to hang a rope around his neck) when he found out about his first wife having an affair. he said his second marriage did not work either because his second wife verbally abuses him.

– he was bankrupt once ( he told me this) and he is very happy his credit standing is now back
– he is a womanizer! he picks up hookers, he has lots of condoms in his bag and the KY jel ( big bottle), but he denies being womanizer. isaw his yahoo messenger and he had lots of contacts with women. He creates a yahoo id of his women so they can probably use it to get in touch with him. I notice this as he once log in with a user id of another woman i saw this happened twice, two different women, two differenet user name aside from his user name.
– when he stayed with me for two weeks last year, he claimed he just arrived from the airport ( he didnt want me to fetch him) but i saw in his passport that he arrived a few days earlier. he also left me earlier than his date of departure based on his tickets
– when i confront him about his lies ( his womanizing) he denies it and then accuses me of like being his exwife, he says i have no right to look at his things
– he has pictures in his laptop of him having sex with another younger woman ( maybe 15-20 years younger than him) he is 56 and these are explicit pictures of his and her genitals and the sex act etc. i was so shocked when i saw it that i ran away
– he chats with other women and i suspect he calls them too while at the same time he says he loves me and in two years when he retires he will settle down with me
– he promised me marriage twice-thrice already in the past it never happened
– he does not call as often as he calls these days ( before he calls everyday, now once in two or three daysi suspect because he has lots of women, because now he has his own money, he has been promoted recently and he is getting lots of good reviews of his performance ( so he claims) and i think in this case it is true cause he has been promoted twice already
– the first time i broke off with him he didnt get in touch for two weeks then he came back and i accepted him . he said he will bring me again for a holiday to another country and i will meet with him there in december. He arrived in that country he mention but i was not there this december and on top of that he did not get in touch with me for 4 days which was unusual so i suspect he made another short trip somewhere with another girl, thats what he usually d oes but he denies this and gets terribly angry at me over the phone when i tell him my suspicion. he rarely says sorry he just gets angry with some explanation ( i was working i was busy, i was mad at u so i did not call etc)

– he visited my country twice without my knowledge , i saw the stamp in his passport) and i suspect he saw other women
– i read two love letters from two different women from his bag. these women appears to be hookers.
– one time i ask him if his conscience does not affect him when he hurts people, he openly admitted that he does not let his conscience affect him
– he claims at one point his ex wife or wife has colon cancer stage 3 or 4, and his wife will die within 5 years that was 2 yeas ago. his wife is still alive and he admits he is back to living in their common house ( when is on holiday which is just once a year for abt 1-2 wks) but they have separate bedrooms and he is unhappy with her. But when i first met him he was living in a different apartment from his wife, maybe they reconciled once he found a job i dont really know he refuses to elaborate he just said we have separate bedrooms
– he confessed to me that after his alleged civorce with his second wife, he lived in with another woman and visited another woman in britain ( i think a rich one ) but these relationships did not work ( he said they left him and they hurt him) i suspect there are more women he had relationships there, but these are the only two relationships he claimed he had once his second marriage broke down
– i notice some small lies here and there for example the first few months we met, he said his austistic daughter who is in the custody of his exwife called him up and said ” dad” and he even said he wants to send her ticket so she can visit him. a year later i mention this to him he said he has never ever talk to his autistic daughter and that the prime care giver of his daughter is his exwife and a half sister i keep on wondering why he as a dad does not get to visit her daughter even if she is already in her 30s? or why he as a dad felt no need to see his own biological autistic daughter?
– he said he is not happy with his family (his step children from his second wife) and he is not in touch with them in anyway at all. he is very emhatic about this to me!
– he has unpaid phone bills running up to more than $1000 in two phone companies but he told me that he wrote formal letters to these phone companies telling them he is going out of the country so he could no longer continue subscribing to them.
– his phone bills have many cell phone numbers
– his bank account have remittances of $75,$25, $50 dollars when i confronted him that he maybe giving money to other women ( he sometimes gives me too ) he said its not true that he is giving money to his sister/ brothers.

Now that i left him a week ago, ( i just wrote him a brief note that he should not get in touch with me anymore because i want peace of mind, i did not accuse him or say any bad words in my email) he wrote me 3 emails , one promising a trip abroad , one greeting me hapy valentines and his love for me, and third his recent pictures. what was strange is that 30 min after i sent that break up email, he called me claimed he did not read any email from him ( when i ask him about receiving an email from me but i did not elaborate aabout the contents of the email) and he was very very nice. i just let him talk and talk and made appropriate nice response. he has not called back since then just the emails.

i have not replied, have not called him but i miss him so much, i remember some of his kindness , i remember our long talks in the phone how nice it is, i sometimes think that maybe he will change, that God will touch his heart and i can help him be a better person. sometimes i think he is not really socio path for instance he does not get money from me, he gives gifts, remembers my brithday etc. or there are times he tries in general to be good to me ( i am not that cruel he will say to me). but i also remember two things about him his lying and womanizing.

i have found your website and it has help me in my decision so far not to go back to him so far.. i hope i can make it.. by the way my family does not like him, my daugthers especially, my sister and brother in law said that his body language shows that he does not really love me and that he can see that while i am not rich he can at least be comfortable with me! maybe its true he knows i am good person and i am not poor ( although not rich) i have my own home, my stable job, i have a maid at home. my family is good too.

is he a sociopath? pls help me.

hannah: I understand the part about how you miss him. I went through a relationship very similar to yours for two years and I have been out (this time) only a month. I sometimes think I’m crazy when I list in my mind all the insane things that happened during our time together and wonder how STILL I think about him, miss the calls, the conversation, the sex, all the routine things we did together and the comfortable level we had with each other. Its like you are dating two people: one you are sick inside every day that you are involved and the other you love and would do anything to make it work. I hope you will keep reading here, that is what I have done. I read the site every day to remind myself that I am not loving a real man. Its all fake, the good part. And all the ugly part is real. The reality is what you will deal with forever if you choose to continue to be with him. It is a hard thing to accept but the past proves what is in store. Be strong and save yourself and your sanity.

Jules and change06:
As for telling a sociopath they are one, mine said he was right and everyone else is always wrong. They would never see themselves from our view. There was a reason or excuse for every thing he has been caught doing wrong – so in his eyes, he was right. Even when I finally broke it off for good with him, he said I had managed to convince myself of all negative and all I wanted was to focus on the bad.

I was told by his last girlfriend and she even cheated with him on me – that he was a sociopath. I was a little worried I recall about what she could mean exactly but I did not really believe it until I lived through the emotional ride they take you on. It is so very unexplainable to anyone but you on this site.

It seems to be very easy to most people to dislike the Sociopaths ways and easily break up. I still dont know why it is so very hard to “evict” as someone said above, him from my heart and mind – when I know I do not like him or his character when I truly look at who he is. It is the craziest mind game I have ever experienced and I talk to myself every day about staying away and knowing why that is best.

findingmyself- I don’t think it was easy to “break up”. I had no closure to consider a “break-up”. He just disappeared. I absolutely do think it is difficult to “evict” them from our hearts and minds! Even when we are aware of their character. This has been the craziest mind game I have experienced as well!!! It is of utmost benefit to yourself to continue the journey of staying away. Keep reminding yourself that you deserve clarity and truth from anyone you are involved with. The lies and deciet get us right back in the same seat which is a VERY uncomfortable chair.

I should say I meant its easy for people around us to think it should be easy to be done with our S. People in my life who care about me, have seen the damage he has done, yet they dont understand how it is so hard to be done with the relationship. I dont understand either, but its a trap the S gets us in, that people cant understand unless they’ve been there. I appreciate this website so much – it is so comforting to know people here understand the misery and the love you can feel towards them at the same time.

Send this to a friend