The New York Times publishes a feature called “Modern Love.” Last week they ran an article by a woman who wrote that sociopathy is a spectrum disorder, and she has it.
The author, Patric Gagne, says she knew since age seven that she was different. Because she lacked empathy and emotions, she would get in trouble for the adrenaline rush, just to be able to feel something. She was eventually diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. Recognizing that getting in trouble could lead to problems in her life, she stopped breaking into houses and instead earned a Ph.D. in psychology. She also got married and had children.
Here’s the article — please take a few minutes to read it:
A viewer from my Lovefraud Live! Youtube show sent me the link, calling the article “preposterous.” I agree that some aspects of the article are preposterous — such as Gagne, a self-admitted sociopath, claiming that she and her husband are “in love and happily married.” Someone who has no empathy or emotions cannot possibly understand what it means or feels like to be in love.
Sociopathy is a spectrum
Still, there are some points in the article that offer food for thought. An important one is the concept that sociopathy is a spectrum. This is absolutely true — some people have worse cases of antisocial personality disorder, and the related disorder of psychopathy, than others.
Researchers use the Psychopathy Checklist Revised to measure an individual’s level of disturbance. The instrument covers 20 traits and behaviors, and a person can score 0, 1 or 2 on each behavior, with two meaning he or she exhibits a lot of it. The maximum score, therefore, is 40, meaning an individual shows a high degree of all 20 traits.
One psychopathy researcher, Dr. Reid Meloy, suggests a way of clarifying the degrees of disorder. Here’s how he rates different PCL-R scores:
- 10-19 — mild psychopathic disturbance
- 20-29 — moderate psychopathic disturbance
- 30-39 — severe psychopathic disturbance
For more information, read:
All sociopaths lie
Back to the New York Times article. I found it interesting that the author, Gagne, insists on honesty with her husband. She wrote:
When you’re a sociopath in a marriage, especially one with children, honesty is critical — even more, I would argue, than for people in “normal” relationships. As a sociopath, I had difficulty prioritizing telling the truth, but as a wife and a mother, I forced myself to learn.
Outside of my family, my loyalty to the truth is what has enabled me to connect with other people. As a doctor who specializes in the research of sociopathy, I prize credibility and integrity as my greatest asset.
Now, all sociopaths lie. They tell big lies, little lies and stupid lies. They lie like they breathe. Even Gagne admits, in the beginning of the article, that she is a liar. So how is it that she is concerned about truth, credibility and integrity?
The answer comes from understanding the theory of the Inner Triangle. Dr.Liane Leedom, who developed it, believes that true sociopaths have faulty development in three areas: ability to love, impulse control and moral reasoning. “Sociopaths are unable to love, have poor impulse control and exhibit immoral behavior,” she says.
For more information, read:
Dr. Leedom points out that it is possible for people to have deficits in one area and not the others. For example, she writes:
“There are people who are rather cold and generally lack the ability to love,” Dr. Leedom says. “However, these people have impulse control and moral reasoning and can be ‘good people.’”
Someone who as a reasonable amount of impulse control, and the ability to know the difference between right and wrong, can control their behavior enough to function in society. Patric Gagne was able to follow the rules enough to get her Ph.D., but still, she admits, “misbehaves” at times.
Maybe this woman as a defective ability to love, but she seems to have a reasonable amount impulse control and moral reasoning. Therefore, I doubt that this woman would get a high score on the PCL-R, one that would indicate a severe psychopathic disturbance.
On her website, Gagne says she is “a writer and advocate for individuals struggling with sociopathic personality disorder.” Okay, that’s a laudable goal for those sociopaths who believe they are “struggling.” Of course, many of them are just fine with their own behavior, even proud of themselves.
In a romantic partner, seek the ability to love
Still, I feel sorry for this woman’s husband. Men want loving connections. Guys, even big, macho guys, sometimes need emotional support. Mr. Gagne isn’t going to get that.
The whole point of a real romantic relationship is love. Yes, sociopathy is a spectrum, but that doesn’t mean you should continue an involvement with someone who is “only” at the low end of the scale. Maybe a relationship with such a person won’t be traumatic, but it also won’t be happy and fulfilling.
You want a partner, not a project. If you know or suspect your significant other is anywhere on the sociopathy spectrum, I recommend getting rid of him or her and finding someone else.