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The relationship between sociopathy/psychopathy and bipolar disorder

The subject of the overlap between bipolar disorder and sociopathy is important to me personally and professionally. One of the reasons I did not understand my husband was that I saw him as a “bit on the manic side.” In some of the letters he sent me from prison, he declared himself to be “bipolar” rather than psychopathic/sociopathic. My experience is not unique, in our survey of Women Who Love Psychopaths, Sandra L. Brown, M.A. and I asked about manic symptoms in male partners. Over half of the women attested to the presence of these symptoms in their men.

I first wrote about the connection between bipolar disorder and sociopathy in March, 2007. For more background please read ASK Dr. LEEDOM: What is the difference between bipolar disorder and sociopathy?

There is a link between bipolar disorder and sociopathy that has been explored in a very important recent study. Two researchers from the University of Toronto, Dr. Benjamin Goldstein and Dr. Anthony Levitt looked at data from more than 1000 patients with bipolar disorder ((Am J Psychiatry 2006; 163:1633—1636). They divided them into three groups, childhood onset (prior to 13), adolescent onset and adult onset. They then looked at the prevalence of sociopathy in the three groups. Bipolar disorder was associated with sociopathy in 37 percent of childhood onset cases, 30 percent of adolescent onset cases and 16 percent of adult onset cases. It should be noted that these percentages are all much higher than the estimated prevalence of sociopathy in the general population (4%). I did find research from another group in Britain essentially verifying these results.

The above results suggest that the manic mood problems that are associated with bipolar disorder interfere with personality development. The earlier the manic mood problems start, the more personality is affected. I have had the privilege of teaching child adolescent and adult development many times now. It is well established that our personalities do not stop developing at 18 that is why mood problems at any age can affect personality.

Why would a manic mood be associated with the development of sociopathy? Next week I will explore this notion further reporting on a study of fearless temperament in children. This week though I would like to point out that when many people are manic, they become preoccupied with power and dominance. It is very common for manic patients to believe they are some powerful political or religious leader. One group of animal researchers has put together some convincing arguments that dominance in rats can be used as an animal model to test medications for mania. So mania and dominance motivation have the same biologic correlates.

Although a sense of wanting to accomplish tasks and become independent are important for adults and children, excessive dominance can impair a person’s ability to love. Since children are in the process of learning to love, a preoccupation with dominance can poison all their social interactions. A dominant child that frequently misbehaves becomes a target for discipline by all the adults in his/her life. Although discipline may be necessary, excessive discipline prevents the child from enjoying loving interactions with his parents and teachers. If a child does not learn to enjoy love, he/she will likely not incorporate loving behaviors into his/her personality. Without loving behaviors there is nothing to prevent exploitation of others.

All of this leads me to say that temperamentally and genetically at risk children need specialized focused, loving parenting. At risk children include the offspring of parents with bipolar disorder, sociopathy/psychopathy, addiction, alcoholism and ADHD. If you are a parent of an at risk child, I encourage you to visit Parenting the at-risk child and consider joining the new Forum. This Forum is operated by the Aftermath group, which is a joint collaboration between victims and researchers. I would like to see parents supporting each other through the very difficult task of preventing sociopathy in at risk kids. Although many children will develop disordered in spite of the best parenting and professional help available, there is much indirect evidence that parenting can make a difference for some. More on genetics and temperament next week.

ADDENDUM: The afternoon after I wrote this news organizations broke the story of Peter Dawson who was sentensed to prison for a scheme that defrauded seniors out of their life savings. Dawson is quoted as to saying he has “bipolar disorder.” District Attorney Kathleen Rice stated “Mr. Dawson preyed on his clients, many of them elderly, in order to line his own pockets, and he abused his position of trust to satisfy his own lifestyle,” -Mr. Dawson may have bipolar disorder but he is also described as a predator by Ms. Rice.


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49 Comments on "The relationship between sociopathy/psychopathy and bipolar disorder"

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Dear Dr Leedom,

Often I would break my partners will, they would turn from standard sociopath(evil) into scary child mode (immense evil). A whole other personality, so switched that you instantly knew you were talking with another being.

I don’t break myself, so I was able to face up, emotions in check against a fully fledged monster. Yes they want absolute control, and no sharing.

They live for only two reasons, fear and desire.

Normal humans live for three, fear, desire and emotion.

Without emotion, that funny little number that produces oxytocin, there is no compassion, empathy or care. Likewise there is no creativity or imagination. Sociopaths mimic, they cannot ’create’.

You will notice a complete line drawn between those with that part of the brain, and those without.

Currently, I’m researching how to tell them apart from the rest of us normals, the ones blessed with the gifts of emotion.

Sociopaths will use two traits to conquer the emotional human. Rejection and Humiliation. They will end up controlling by Fear after having bought you in by Desire. They sense and find prey via their Vulnerability. They are a perfect calculator for it.

I think, the greatest way to find sociopaths is to observe emotional characteristics, without any of that, they are machine-like-rapists. Just like a locust. They are greedy, cunning and intelligent. Without that balance of oxytocin, all moral lines and restrictions are absent.

But don’t pin your hopes on someone who wants to rule all, I do, but I’m nice about it. 🙂

Oh, and to all the people who are wishing for Mr Right, they do exist. But they are probably shy, (emotion) keeps them second guessing themselves.

Look around ladies… 🙂

Pers

I thought maybe Bad Man was bi-polar because I didn’t know about anything else.

I think it’s more than that.

Aloha, I think Dr. Leedom will lprobably bear me out on this that there are LOTS of folks that are undiagnosed bi-polar. There is a range of behaviors and cycles with people with bi-polar and some of them get psychotic (out of touch with reality, hear voices etc) and go up and down rapidly and very hi highs and very lo lows, but others are closer to “normal” but still have some manic and depressive symptoms (can be more one way than the other) but having ONE disorder or illness doesn’t preclude having a personality disorder as well.

I think probably if you have bi-polar (like the Trojan Horse P does) AND psychopathic personality disorder you are likely to be WORSE on both counts the Bi-polar AND the PPD.

Kiind oflike if you have heart problems AND diabetes you are sicker than if you just had one or the other. Especially if they are NOT treated for the bi-polar and go into a manic phase which can be pretty scary in a bi-polar who is NOT PPD as well. A bi-polar in a manic phase may do some pretty strange things that are not “logical” but usually they are not out to hurt anyone else deliberately. They can be just grandiose and get some ideas like a teenager that they are invincable.

A psychopath that is ALSO “invincable” is a scary dude! I never saw any signs of bi-polar in my P-son, though I haven’t been physically around him much at all (count it in hours during visits at the prisons) since he was 17, so he could have shown signs of it later after age 17, and me now have been aware of it. His presentation now (the last time I saw him) though is one of invincability, almost like a teenger, and the letters I read that he wrote to the TH-P sound like some punk kid wrote them, arrogant and grandiose, invincable and shallow as a pie plate. It is like he is STUCK at the 15-17year old emotional level of immaturity. Since he has had almost NO freeworld time out of prison during the years since then, that may be a pretty good assessment of his level of immaturity.

Your BAd Man may have been bi-polar AS WELL AS PPD, that may be why he was SUCH a BAD man. LIke Lian, said, in the article, a high percentage of Bi-polars are ALSO PPD. Sometimes it would be difficult to tell the behaviors of a person with one from a person with the other, and if they had them both, it sure would be difficult to say “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

It may not be that bi-polar predisposes you to PPD but that being PPD predisposes you to bi-polar, as both are caused somewhat by genetic hard wiring. Interesting article and interesting information about the two disorders.

BTW, Aloha, I’ve missed you lately. Hope you are doing well.

After I discovered all the deceit that had gone on in my marriage from my ex-P, I decided to contact his natural father. I was always told he “was not a nice man. You don’t want to even know him”. So, I accepted that for some crazy reason, and never really questioned where this man was, what he was like, even though he was the grandfather of my children.

I managed to find this man’s number through some detective work online, and called him. He was the most mentally ill person I have ever spoken with. He told me he was diagnosed as being bipolar 10 years previous, and he is on medication for it.

Apparently, the medication was not working well for him, as he was completely crazy on the phone. He contradicted himself over and over again. He did not care about his two sons, his grandchildren, no feeling at all. There were certain things he said that sounded exactly like things my ex-husband or his brother would say.

It was an eye-opening conversation for me, as it had never occured to me that my ex could be bipolar. Now, I believe he definitely is bipolar, just not to the extent that his father is. All of these disorders: bipolar, ADHD, dyslexia, schizophrenia, etc all fall in the same spectrum.

I have concerns about my son, who is mildly dyslexic, as well as having mild ADHD. He has some definite issues – obsessions, addiction-prone, and some other strange behaviors. All I can do is fill myself with knowledge and help him as much as I can.

In my case, it seems that the lack of conscience my ex has is directly related to his potential bipolar disorder.

The good news is he actually made an appt for a psych evaluation (with my prodding), but whether or not he goes is a different story.

Good luck to all of us in our healing from these people that have ripped part of our souls from us.

Blondie, welcome to the blog. I know how you’re feeling… I have had days where I have been so down, I just didn’t want to go on. But, I can honestly say after 8 months of recovery, the pain has eased and as someone said previously, “justice is not caring about it anymore”. It takes a long time to get to this point. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way. You will be too. All of us are here to support each other.

Bird, I understand you wanting revenge and Oxy makes an excellent point on why she doesn’t chose to feel that way. I wanted to say that I did take revenge. Some of the behaviour of the person I was with was so infuriating, so abusive, so exploitative that I lost it. I did payback big time. I got more and more angry and my reactions became stronger and stronger. At one point I knew that I was going over the line, way over and I just had to shut off those feelings. He never knew how close he came….

The need for revenge kept me in a prison of anger, bitterness and depression. I chose to step out of it, and let it go. I now finally have peace. There are all kinds of opportunities that come up still and I could take another kick at the cat, but peace is so much nicer. And these mentally ill people they dig their own graves anyways….

Oxy, You are a good coach, you give advice and understand what we are feeling. Thanks, Someone mentioned (boredom) in the (P). My x had to constantly keep his mind occupied with crossword puzzle, jigsaw puzzles, crochet, computer games etc. He was a sports fanatic and could remember every game ever played and the scores. He could never set alone with his thought’s, unless I was listening to him tell me how he had worked at this palce and that place and how he had been the best employee they ever had. He would go on and on about if he was in charge things at work would run smoothly. And anything that ever went wrong at work was someone else’s fault and he said a women employee was sabatoging his work to make him look bad. He would ask how my day went, but I got were I would just say (fine) because I knew he really didn’t care. And he was such a slob, I would suggest he do laundry while I mowed 2 acres of grass, he would continuesly dry the same load over and over so it would appear he was doing laundry. If I was building the deck he was on the computer. If I asked him to hold a board while I hammered it he would, but then go right back to what ever he was doing. He was irritable unless we were doing what he wanted to do. I am realizing that I may have to forgive him for being worthess, and some of the loss I feel is for the (few) endearing thing’s I liked about him, but they are getting harder and harder to remember. This is not the end of the world for me, he was just a page in history……..I am tired of history lesson’s…

p.s. I will never forgive him for being an evil predator

Henry, “them that can do, do; them that can’t, teach” Ha ha

Thanks Henry, I do hope I’ve given you some good advice. I’m glad that you are starting to feel better too. Thinking about the things they did do that were hateful, and the things they didn’t do that they should have, keeps your mind focused on the reasons that we should be GLAD they are out of our lives.

It was hot today but I got outside and sweated and worked hard physically. One of the things I have found is that when you are stressed mentally, that hard physical work will lower your emotional stress. Exercise I guess of any sort will do the same thing. It burns up the “stress hormones” that the emotional upsets release into our systems, tires the muscles out so that we can rest at night and our heads not keep “running” to keep us awake.

I’m back to a point physically now (after last summer’s tick fever bout) that I can finally do 8 hours work in a day–it takes me 12 hours to do the 8, with rest periods in between work times, but that MAY be because I am 60+ years old, who knows! ha ha

When I am doing physical work that doesn’t require much in the way of concentration, today was PAINTING an outbuilding—I muse about this and that, or just look at what I am doing and pat myself on the back that this is one more job that is DONE and I won’t have to do again. I’m making ‘progress’ on all the things that need doing that I have neglected doing since my husband died,my step dad’s death, and all the psychopathic chaos of the last four years, but it is “coming along” and that gives me some satisfaction.

I think that finding SOMETHING to do that does give us SATISFACTION with ourselves is important. Something that you can do that you can “measure”–at least for me–so that you can see how much “progress” you have made. Whether it is fixing up your house, yard, or paying off your debts that the P incured, or making a quilt, or painting a painting, or whatever rings your chimes, but something that you can have satisfaction in that you can physically SEE or measure.

Mine is looking around the farm and seeing thing things I ahve accomplisihed since I got home. Sorting bolts and putting them away neatly might not be everyone’s “satisfaction” but for me it is when I need one and I know where to go get it.

Totally focusing on the losses, and not seeing any gains, would depress anyone. At first the pain is so bad just doing the dishes is a monumental chore to accomplish, but as you move further along in the healing process, look for more goals.

Hang on Henry, things are already getting better, I can read it in your posts! And, they will get better and better, I promise!

This article is extremely offensive to people with bipolar and Adhd. So the reality is that there are risks and co-morbidities, but innocent people who struggle enough shouldn’t be lumped together with abusers, especially young people. Adhd isn’t the naughty kid who just needs discipline.

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