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The Sociopath Next Door? Probably Not

Clearly the LoveFraud community, better than anyone, can testify to the reality of sociopaths and the damage they can inflict on others.

Sociopaths exist. That is inarguable. The sociopath is someone, as we know, with a grossly deficient respect for the integrity and boundaries of others; someone who sizes others up principally as assets to be exploited for his or her own whims and needs. The sociopath is a remorseless user and taker.

At the same time, I think it’s worth noting that sociopathy, in general, makes for sensational copy, as a result of which estimations of its incidence in the general population are at risk, I would argue, of being dubiously, irresponsibly inflated.

Martha Stout, for instance, in her formerly bestselling The Sociopath Next Door, an otherwise rather unoriginal (in my view) layman’s introduction to sociopaths, capitalizes and, I suggest, exploits a spicy subject by suggesting that as much as 4% of the general population may meet criteria for sociopathy.

It’s unclear exactly how Stout derives her figure, but it strikes me (at best) as questionable, and more likely, as reckless. Certainly it’s in Stout’s interest, as an author, to sensationalize sociopathy, the better for her book sales. And a good way to do this, indisputably, is to suggest bloated numbers of sociopaths’ existence.

Four percent of the general population? Stout is suggesting that as many as one in 25 people with whom we cross paths may be sociopaths?

Even Robert Hare, Ph.D, the noted psychopathy researcher, estimates that upwards of 1% of the general population meets his very stingent criteria for psychopathy (psychopathy, in Hare’s terms, being synonymous with sociopathy). Compared to Stout’s figure, Hare’s seems much more reasonable. But even 1% strikes me as somewhat high.

These estimates suggest, for instance, that basically at any random gathering—in church, synagogue, a high-school basketball game, or town council meeting, you name it—we are likely to be sitting in proximity to a true sociopath, if not several?

It also suggests that, in the course of a day, or week, we’ll have crossed paths, if not rubbed elbows with, multiple sociopaths? Day after day, week after week, we are consistently crossing paths, if unknowingly, with sociopaths?

I struggle with this view, as someone who has clinically worked (and not irregularly, works) with sociopathic individuals.

My own gut, clinical and life experience leaves me suspicious that, as real and mumerically prevalent as sociopaths are, there is one sitting in every classroom on back to school night, and several in attendance at every school play?

As a matter of fact, I think possible exaggerations of the incidence of sociopathy do an injustice to the victims of real sociopaths. Nowadays, it’s common for anyone who deals with an insensitive, manipulative jerk to call that person a sociopath. You hear the label sociopath being permissively applied, in my view, to a wide range of people to whom it doesn’t accurately apply.

There has been a confusing, in my view, of sociopathy with other disorders, like narcissistic and borderline. Within personal relationships acts of aggressiveness, passive-aggressiveness, selfishness and abusiveness are now routinely (and liberally) ascribed to the offending partner’s sociopathy, as if a host of other explanatory sources of these problem-behaviors barely merits consideration.

Some individuals with borderline personality disorder, for instance, are capable of vengeful, cold-blooded behavior when they feel emotionally abandoned. A good example of a film portrayal of a borderline personality is Glenn Close’s performance in Fatal Attraction. Close could easily be misdiagnosed as a sociopath given her demonstated—and sociopathic-like—capacity for chilling, ruthless vengeance. But her desperation, and her rage stemming from her desperation, is a borderline personality tendency that better explains her calculated viciousness.

I’ve worked often with spouses of narcissistic personalities, who feel inordinately entitled to having their sensitivities and demands met. Narcissists will tend to react with an unsavory combination of contempt, rage, passive-aggressive and/or aggressive relatiation when disappointed (which is constantly). Often I’ll hear the spouses of such personalities refer to them as sociopaths, when their partners’ disturbance is more often related to narcissism than sociopathy.

My point, please don’t misunderstand me, isn’t to question the prevalence of true sociopathy—merely its estimated incidence as proposed by some experts. As a matter of fact, it’s highly unlikely that your next door neighbor is a sociopath, yet the title of Stout’s book would have you virtually anticipate this possibility.

Make no mistake, there are many ways that neighbors can makes themselves our nightmares without being sociopaths. When I lived in Mill Valley, CA in 2000, we had a neighbor who threw (I’m not kidding) a large, dead rat over the fence separating our properties into our backyard as I played catch with my lab. The rat landed with a sickening thud in front of my left foot, just as I about to make another heave of the frisbee. My courageous response, naturally, was to shriek like a terrified three year old.

This was just the latest in a series of hostile actions this neighbor took to express his displeasure with our existence. Was he a sociopath? I’m sure I called him one, and was convinced he was, but he probably wasn’t. He might have been a sociopath, that’s certainly possible; but as creepy as his action (and he) was, I’d hedge my bets that another problem better explained his belligerence. Maybe paranoia? Maybe some malignant form of acted-out narcissism? I’ll never know.

I do know that if this ever happens to me again—a rat’s being thrown into my yard while I’m standing there minding my own business—it will probably be more than my heart can take.

(This article is copyrighted (c) 2008 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)


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120 Comments on "The Sociopath Next Door? Probably Not"

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The personality traits that cluster to make a person sociopathic occur in a spectrum not black and white categories. So the question, “How many sociopaths are there?” is kind of like asking how many tall people there are. It depends on how you define tall. Tall could mean taller than I am or it could mean over a certain height.

Dr. Hare’s reference to 1% means that 99% of the normal adult population score under 30 on the PCLR. If you use a different cut off score you get a different number. The 4% figure likely represents a cut-off around 20. The vast majority of the prison population has a score over 20.

Some studies indicate that scores as low as 12 may be significant. The prevalence of sociopathy is about 12 percent if you take 12 as the cut-off PCL-R score.

The borderlines and narcissists who are harmful to others all score higher than “normal” on the PCL-R. Are they tall? that depends on how short you are!

It is funny, my reaction to Without Conscience was the opposite of your reaction to Stout. I envisioned many victims discovering the person who victimized them had a score under 25 and being disraught that a non-sociopath had victimized them. This shows how ridiculous cut-off scores are. Once someone has a string of victims, a cut-off score doesn’t do much. We know that people who victimize others are significantly psychopathic, it is psychopathic personality traits that enable them to throw the rats whether the score is 12 or 30.

Dr. Steve, I would like to refer again the the film “The Corporation” which illuminates the fact that business is structured to behave like a psycopath. The film takes us through Dr. Hare’s check list, and bingo, that is just how large corporations act.

My point is that while 4% may sound like a very high number, of acutal real clinical SP’s in our midst, our modern capitalism on steroids, winner take all, he with the most toys wins culture, encourages SP BEHAVIOR, even in those who are not striclty speaking full blown P’s.

Those of us healing from a relationship with a P are now armed with that terrible but useful knowledge of just how hollow and vicous these people can be.

From my perspective, even if that means I might have my radar tuned TOO HIGH, and mistake garden variety narcissists for P’s, then so be it.

The chances of me missing out on a great friendship or relationship with someone, because they are only marginally disordered, as opposed to a full blown P, are I think too slim to risk exposing myself to whatever it is in these types of people that makes me find them exiting, or interesting, or worth investing in emotionally.

Understanding that the P’s are out there, even at the top of the power pyramid, massively rewarded for their behavior by their peers and so on is useful. It will be an interesting time when our “collective” conciousness awakens from the fog, as so many of us have done as individuals here on this blog.

Whether they number 1% or 4%, the “successful” P’s seem to enjoy a disproportionate amount of power in our society, often put up as role models even, until they go too far and the scandals and crimes come to light. There are always more in the wings it seems to take the place of their disgraced colleagues.

Calling them out and exposing them, even if we occasionally err by including just your average obnoxious misfit, is a better choice than to assume they very are rare.

I would also venture that if the 1% number is correct, every 1 P can hurt, betray, and even destroy many many people in their lifetime. Their damage is as the kids say “viral”.

So if we cry “WOLF” and it turns out it was only a coyote, that is likely just prudent. If we look at a sheep and say “HMMMMM… why the pointy teeth and the bushy tail…., we haven’t hurt anyone, just tried to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

This is really an interesting subject to me…..how do you really determine whether or not someone is a sociopath? This has been part of my struggle with letting go…..I would read info about sociopathic behavior and think to myself, omg….that is him. Then I would read something else that had characteristics that don’t fit him and think, well maybe he isn’t and there is hope.
I think there certainly are degrees of the illness, some are criminals, some are very intelligent business people.
Bottom line is if there are behavior patterns that fit the sociopathic category to ANY degree, it isn’t healthy and needs to be recognized and avoided.

The late and the great Kathy Krajco theorized there’s not much difference between a MALIGNANT narcissist and a psychopath.

I agree. And I believe Aga’s list onmy my blog here:
http://holywatersalt.blogspot.com/2008/10/handy-list.html

is a better checklist for those sociopaths who are not convicted felons.
As we know, they often fly under the radar. I sit with two in Mass each week- TWO no doubt about it.

Jen-
I think the checklists (Aga’s and Hare’s) plus experience ferret out the immoral sometimes from the patholigical.

A man who ruins his marriage, doesn’t invite his misstress to the home to rub the crime in his wife’s face. That’s cruel, I think that’s the difference…it’snot about getting love or sex even…it’s power and control that “gets them off.”

See that, you know there’s a sociopath operating.

I agree that a person who scores even a 20 on the PCL-R can be quite damaging in their victimization of others. However, I also agree with Dr. Steve that alot of other disorders can resemble a sociopath or psychopath and result in some of the traits on the PCL-R. But if you’re talking about an actual diagnosis of true psychopathy, scoring a 30 or above, I also agree alot of people are thought to be psychopaths by lay people who aren’t, but are just people who have some of the traits, who still cause damage (and should still be avoided).

Interesting to me was Dr. Steve’s mention of The Sociopath Next Door. That was the first book I ever read on the subject, and I recall thinking, hhmn, some of those people Stout portrays in the book are so mild in their behavior like that old cranky woman who covered up the goffer (?) hole in her backyard, for ex.. (I mean mild relatively speaking to my ex and his behavior) that I thought, well, he must not be a sociopath, but something else because he is sooooo much worse than some of these people described in The Sociopath Next Door.

I, personally, believe that alot of people display some of the traits on the checklist at some point in their lives, but it is specific to a situation, and they don’t routinely/consistently engage in the behaviors across the board long term in almost every area of their life like a psychopath does. For example, statistics show that about 50% of men and women engage in infidelity at some point in their marital life–well, to conduct an affair one would have to engage in some of the traits on the psychopathy checklist during the affair. But can every person who finds out their spouse has been lying their butts off and cheating on them say their spouse is a sociopath–NO, not unless the percentage of sociopaths is around 50% of the population. But that doesn’t make it any less painful for their partner, whether they are a socio or psychopath or just a jerk.

I’m probably stating exactly the same thing Eyeswideshut has expressed, but I agree with her.

The prevalence of Sociopathy/Psychopathy is irrelevant to me regarding percentages as Dr. Hare and Dr. Stout have estimated, whether too high or too low. I am genuinely concerned with the extensive damage caused by ALL personality disordered individuals to their innocent, underserving victims.

I myself was a child of a psychopath, a sister of a borderline personality (she has been diagnosed as such) and a niece of many personality disordered aunts and uncles.

I’m not one who is quick to label anyone without strenuous research, contrast and compare, the use of analytical thought and the close study and observation of behavioral patterns in people who are cause for doubt and concern.

The personality and behavior aspects of disordered people is there, in black & white, for those who are fervent in protecting themselves and those they care for and love.

If my own family is more than overwhelmed by disordered people than it’s only logical to assume they are much more common than calculated.

I’m not taking ANY chances with my personal safety, welfare, and sanity. NEVER AGAIN is my vehement motto and I stick rigidly to that saying.

The overused expression…”survival of the fittest”..is applicable to me and mine as I am honored to consider myself a survivor, one of the fittest, after being victimized by sociopaths, psychopaths, borderlines, histrionic, paranoid, the whole frikkin spectrum of screwed up, selfish, egocentric people.

Never again…..

I also think that many people who need to have the title of sociopath above their name are often mis-diagnosed as Borderline Personality Disordered. Mostly because Psychologists are loathe to damn someone with that diagnoses, and most sociopaths won’t go to psycho-therapy long enough to get that diagnosis.
My step-children’s mother has been diagnosed BPD, but every symptom of her personality matches S so much, that I have to believe that’s what she is.

However, I understand what you’re saying. Many wife-beaters can be horrible people, and not be S. Many jerky boyfriend/girlfriends can mess somebody up without being a S.

The psychologist in my case has only had the displeasure of meeting the S twice. She’s been given the story in a nut-shell–the worst facts. But, the S acts out whenever she feels like it, not just when she fears abandonment. She uses and abuses and twists. It’s like she’s on a roller coaster and taking everybody for a ride. So there’s no doubt in my mind…

But I gotta say the percentage seems a bit inflated to me too. While I’ve met a good deal of hate-filled people, I’ve only had to endure the wrath of one sociopath. Well, one that I’ve crossed anyway. Good post. Thank you!

I am pretty sure they get labeled borderline if the therapist doesn’t like them. Therapists tend to like sociopaths, as they are charming.

I see narcissists as low, malignant narcissists as medium and anti socials as high. I think my ex is more of a malignant narcissist because he has never been to prison. He really isn’t a narcissist because he is way too impulsive. The three labels are all the same thing with different levels.

Although my ex husband and ex sociopath shared similar behaviors of raging and bragging of treating women badly, there is something that is distinctly different between them. Empathy. My ex husband had it, my ex sociopath did not.

How could I tell which one had empathy? Unfortunatly it was in the breakup, and not a moment before. The sociopath discarded me coldly and quickly. Like the lights had been turned off. That fast, he went from loving to nothing. I was pregnant and sick from it, and it didn’t stop him, in fact it propelled him. I was vulnerable, sick, and bloated. At 6 months pregnant I wasn’t his type, he told me. He couldn’t see into the future. It was all about now, and the immediate impulsive gratification to meet his grandeose sense of self.

The breakup with the ex husband with empathy, took forever. I think we started breaking up about 2 years before the divorce. Nothing was impulsive. Every feeling was discussed, even if we were yelling. Every detail was hammered out. When the end finally came we were both in a place to land safely and securely.

The breakup with an empathatic person vs not one, is like the difference of getting out of a boat and stepping onto a dock versus stepping out expecting a dock, and finding that the dock had been swept out from under your feet, and landing very hard into freezing cold water.

I just recently made a comment on here that I think many lay people call people an P/S/N when in reality they are just a jerk.

I personally think that some lay people call people a P/S/N when in fact they are not, instead they just have traits. I also think that some people who have become victims of a P/S/N do so as well because they are now much more alert to these things. Much like buying a new car and all of a sudden it seems you see this same type of car everywhere.

There is recent research showing possible biological differences between BPD and other personality disorders, yet there are folk who want to lump them together.

This whole thing is a very subjective thing for some folks. What is seen as very cruel by one may be seen as others as simply mean or not so bad.

And I am one of those the believe there is a difference between a sociopath and a psychopath and these are very different than BPD. I agree with what Jen said in her post.

BPD are cyclical- psychos aren’t, though the mask goes up and down.

And I think the reason LF exists is because we under-identify psychos.

Malignant Narcissists can be impulsive and suffer from other disorders too.

And I don’t think cruelty is relative….though psychos would like us to think it is.

bloggerT7165: I agree with your post. I’ve dated guys that cheated on me that were just jerks..immature..not ready for a serious committment. But the last one was definitely a sociopath. His controlling ways were overwhelming. He cut me off from my friends and family, dictated how I dressed, who to wave hello to, who to talk to, where to work, accused me of looking at men and causing scenes in public about it. I felt he cheated on me to keep control too. If I wore something he did not approve of, he would fight and storm out to the OW’s house for the night. Then come home the next day like nothing happened. Then the cycle would start all over again. It was like he was trying to “train me” into obeying him. The other traits are there too. He drained my bank account, didn’t want to work, lived under my roof for free. I wouldn’t say he was a psychopath only because he wasn’t a cold blooded murderer or anything but a sociopathic liar, control freak, user and abuser.

I think people can have varying degrees of sociopathy, and some people can have “tendencies”. I have known a few like that. They were very different in demeanor to the narcissists I have known.

Schizoid. That is my malignant narcissists other diagnosis. My parents stayed with us for 2.5 weeks. I was working, he of course was not. My parents said he NEVER came out of our room. The entire time I was at work. He never had one conversation with them the entire time, even when I was home. I was like well what was he doing in there? I now know he was having internet affairs. With my parents in the living room. Yep, I found a crazy! Not only that, but I had a baby with him OMG!!!!!

BPD are not Cluster B. That is another beast I know very little about other then my brother was diagnosed with it. But considering the 10s of thousands of $$ he has stolen from my parents, I wonder if he got the right diagnosis.

Yes, we under diagnose. If we over diagnosed none of us would be in this predicamint. I know I never will be again.

Bird, I had a baby with one also. I had mediation today with my S husband. He lied throughout the entire session. When it was my turn to talk to the mediator alone I just basically told her that I give up. He only sees our child once a week anyway so I will leave it like that. We went through fertility to have our child and now he only sees her 3 hours a week and that just started in May 2008. When he first left he did not come visit at all. He was busy with his mistress and their child. He literally traded one family for another.

I was hoping the mediator would see through him and warn the judge to order him to take a psychological but that never happened. I looked like the crazy one. In fact, the mediator asked me if I was going to counseling but not him because he was so cool and calm.

It is so fabulous to have this site. But it is scarey because it seems like there isn’t anything we can do to stop them. My husband fits every criteria/ has every symptom that is mentioned on this site. I do fear with whomever ends up with him or with any S for that matter. I will be aware of all red flags in my next relationship. I am going to be done after 1 lie!

If anyone is inclined, a good book to read about character disorders and character armor is Bioenergetics by Alexander Lowen. He talks about the schizoid, oral, masochistic, rigid, and sociopathic characters from the point of view of how their defenses get created and how they get bound up in their body. The author himself talks about how he went through body-oriented therapy for many years to remove the armoring in his body. In the process, he discovered some energy blockages that were sociopathic. He defines the discorders by the energetic blockages found in the body and the associated beliefs and behavior patterns. I myself feel I have some oral-schizoid type patterns (this would probably include borderlines). I have been working on this for years, so that I’m not a total basket case, thankfully.

For a massage therapist like me who works with the physical manifestations in my clients, this is quite fascinating. The issues are in the tissues, as we bodyworkers like to say!

We have teens wilding beyond their parents’ imagination (s/p’s no longer feel constrained so others try to rise to their level). Cruise passengers have figured out they can commit crimes with impunity since the cruiseline won’t want the publicity (a s/p’s dream) – cruiseline employees have known this for years. Teen criminals often videotape their cruel exploits (s/p’s are essentially non self-referential, they need a mirror and comments from others). We have a sociopaths-gone-wild economy (a sequential bubble economy is the economic equivalent of a perpetual motion machine, a s/p favorite). Millions of parents are lied to about the true cause of their children’s behavior. No one tells adoptive parents of the risk of a s/p child (the progeny of unhappy seductions, often by s/p’s, are often put up for adoption). No, I don’t think the numbers are exaggerated at all.

Also I believe that people need to know that a next door neighbor or workmate could very well be a s/p. “Sociopaths move through the world like sharks through the water because no one ever calls them on it.” http://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/ I find that many people believe s/p’s are so rare that essentially they don’t believe in them. How can such people protect themselves or others from s/p manipulations? To borrow a phrase: see no evil, a preyers’ prayer.

And, quite frankly, I’ve never heard of the really top rank s/p’s presenting themselves to clinicians. Why would they, they’re perfect (in their own minds).

The comments in this blog from those whose lives have been devastated by s/p lovers, spouses and family members attest to the relatively common presence of s/p’s in daily life.

I agree with Dr. Leedom on this one, it is “how do you DEFINE the term”?

For my money there are WAAAAAYYY TOOOOOO MANY people with “personality disorders”–whether they are NPDs, PPDs, or BPDs or any other “PD” they are ALL toxic. What difference does the “percentage” make? Personally, I think 10% of the population AT LEAST is “TOXIC” and without moral compass, and that may be way too low an estimate.

We know there is a BIG genetic component to personality disorders and if every PD person has even one offspring with a PD then they double every 20 years or so just in raw numbers. We also know (at least annicdotally) that they seem to spread their seed “far and wide,” (especially the males) so have a greater chance of having a child with the PD than other people who tend to have fewer children.

Instead of worrying about the “percentage” of people who “qualify” under Hare’s list, why don’t we just label “toxic” personality disorder or “chaotic” personality disorder, and not worry about the “finer points” of just how toxic they are? If they use and abuse others, sire or have children they do not nurture, do repeat criminal acts, sponge or mooch off of others, they are “toxic” PERIOD.

Obviously this topic correlates to the criteria we use to define a sociopath or psychopath. I find that more people than I would like to admit happen to fit the criteria. Am I over-estimating? If it walks like a duck…

To me, anyone who lies for selfish gain (be it to cover up an inferiority complex/superiority complex or to con another person), who has no empathy, no forgiveness, no remorse, who blames others for their behavior, who refuses to take responsibility for themselve’s, who cheats, who controls, who does anything but love another despite saying so, who takes advantage of others and who smears the name of someone to save face, etc…..that is a sociopath! They don’t have to yell, don’t have to hit and don’t have to steal your money to hurt you beyond comprehension.

I don’t care what personality disorder or what combination of disorders that person suffers from. Those qualities make them dangerous and prone to break the law, break hearts, and do whatever they feel justified in doing. I find that these folks will find any excuse in the book to do what they do.

I also don’t care if someone shows two or three of the criteria or all of them. One is enough for me to run in the other direction. A sociopath is a sociopath. Now exactly where they lie on the continuum of severity…that’s another subject. But those out there who have the potential to do great harm are, in my opinion, aplenty. I think we are breeding them in our culture and so I would rather us over-estimate the numbers Steve than under-estimate. I think it’s a wake-up call for our culture to take note of what we’re doing.

If a woman has a pathological hatred of men and uses, abuses, and degrades them at every turn is she a psychopath? What about if she is only this way towards men but not towards other women? To her victims she certainly appears to be a psychopath and the damage done to them can be the same so it really does not matter in that aspect. But this does not mean that they truly are a psychopath.

There are numerous examples of people and groups of people who have dehumanized and demonized certain groups of people based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc and based on that they have treated those people in ways that could be considered psychopathic by their victims yet they have not treated others outside the demonized group poorly. In fact they often treat others with love, tenderness, empathy, kindness, etc. But if you go ask the ones they have harmed you will hear what sounds like a true psychopath. And of course some will be and some will not be.

Psychopaths are equal opportunity predators. Anyone and everyone is treated as a dehumanized group and no one is treated as the non-demhumanized group unless it is for a short term goal of obtaining, and hence abusing/using, their desires.

But if you are in a relationship with someone who is inflicting pain and trauma on you, what difference does it make what they are or what it is called? All that matters from that perspective is to get the trauma and abuse to stop.

I think there are differences depending on how and why you are looking at this whole thing. Educationing others about the predators out there is one (i.e. what a P or N may look do, look like, etc). Survivors telling their stories and reaching out is one. Clinical/research is another and there are more.

Consider these examples:

I used to work in the prison system for quite a few years. One of the inmates I had was a former gang member in for murder he helped to commit when he was still a minor. He and some other members chased down a rival gang member and shot him in the head with a shotgun. Now as a gang member this young man had taken part in other criminal and antisocial activities (drugs, theft, etc).

Another inmate I had was in for rape. He and another person had kidnapped a woman, raped her, and when they were done they urinated and defecated on her and her belongings. They also did more with a firearm that made sure she could never have children again (it was a miracle she survived).

Are they both psychopaths? It would be real easy to say yes. The first one is not. There were many factors into why he was involved in his crime. Not only did he display real remorse, but over the years his behaviors/actions demonstrated that he also displayed empathy for others, etc. He was eventually released and went on to marry, have children and to try to help others avoid the path he went down and to try to make amends for the awful thing he had done in his life.

The second one was a psychopath. He expressed no remorse for his crime, no empathy ever displayed for others, etc. He saw and treated everyone around him as objects to be used. He could be “friendly” with people but not true friends with anyone. He could cut your throat and sit on your corpse while eating his lunch and not understand what the big deal was. His behaviors never changed over time. He tried to fake doing so at times and some folks would fall for it but when that would happen they would be instructed to observe him when he did not know he was being observed and tada his true self appeared.

So since there is no cure at this time for psychopaths it is important to be cautious when we toss something on someone that is not able to be fixed ever. The first case showed that he was not a P (to me he is much closer to meeting the definition of an S compared to a P and demonstrates the difference) and was able to grow and change.

Acck I forgot to add that this is why I like Dr. Leedom’s triangle because, for me anyway, it fits perfectly when looking at the types of cases I listed and trying to differentiate between them.

very few if us are in any position to effect a person’s life by branding them a sociopath, psycho, ant social whatever…cluster b…unless of course we are psychologists/psychiatrists…

few take it serioulsy when we say “they’re psychos” in fact I avoid teh term, instead describe the behaviors…and I think once you’ve been around a psycho you know the difference- they’re not insane, and once the mask slips, or you catch a glimpse, it’s nothing you ever seen before unless of course you’ve known other psychos…

I recently was asked to prove my psycho was/is unfit for a position, nothing I said/experienced matter…lucky for me I track him- so I proved through concrete evidence “he says one thing, does another”

Recognising a psycho is not rocket science.

I often wonder just how many people are in fact sociopaths? As well as how many simple suffer from “some” type of personality Disorder(s)? And still how many more simple suffer because they are controlling people who have a hard time acknowledging that they are in fact “control freaks”?

And I guess my last question to myself would be “how does these statistics come to be reported?”

For me sociopaths are those that are people who show strong traits of being antisocial and are in fact suffer from an Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD).

As for the type of Personality Disorder they have starting with NPD and then ending maybe I guess on Depended Personality Disorder and all those in between..

As for my last question I would “assume” that the Psychology community would be the ones reporting these statistics which only for me brings yet more questions…

What I look for when anyone tells me they “think” a family member ex business partner or lover “might” be a good candidate for being a “sociopaths” is past history. What these people have done in their past relationships to “whoever” give me a clear cut and definitive answer as to how they interact and treat those who should be the closer and dearest to them. Of course the only sure way of knowing if one is indeed a sociopath and/or suffer from some type of personality disorder is to have them get tested. But the very nature of the illness debates this issue because so many of them refuse testing and/or refuse that they have a problem which would warrant them to be tested.

The BEST indicator of future behavior is past behavior.

I’m with Holywater (10/10 9:53 am) when she (?) says:

“I think once you’ve been around a p you know the difference- they’re not insane, and once the mask slips, or you catch a glimpse, it’s nothing you’ve ever seen before unless of course you’ve known other p’s” . . . Recognising a p is not rocket science.”

It’s that “oh, moment” you look for (please correct me if this is not what you meant). To decide if someone may be a s/p I at first follow a rough checklist but then I wait for a gestalt type emotional/mental “click” or “oh, moment.” It is only at that point, if the answer is yes, that I can say ‘yes, that person is a s/p.’ And I agree it is not rocket science, anyone with normal emotional intelligence can do it.

I also agree that to communicate with others you have to concentrate on the s/p’s behavior. The “oh, moment” of recognition is not transferable to others. They have to go through their own emotional/mental processes to get there.

Dr Steve, the process of diagnosing these individuals is an exact science. Most of the literature is totally contradictory – time and time again the experts seem not to be able to CLEARLY distinguish the difference between the disorders in that cluster. We are not imagining this : there is NO consensus at all even on what word should be used to describe them, it really IS a matter of opinion which is SO frustrating to those of us who’ve experienced these individuals first hand and therefore want so badly for these definitions to be more than arbitrary. I feel from my time on this forum, that the definitions are clearer to us than to the experts (with the clear exception of those like Dr Leedom who have studied them AND experienced these people directly). It matters to us more! So-called ‘real’ diagnosis isn’t like diagnosing leukaemia or something where you can count blood cells – it’s in one qualified individual identifying a list of traits that could be applied subjectively. (And in any case, is this process of assigning the horrible traits on the checklist that much more sophisticated or massively different to someone with concrete experiences judging ‘he’s a jerk’?!) But as we’ve all said, we *know* we’ve seen it.

I feel as if many in this forum, like myself, have thought the opposite to what you say – ‘Oh, he’s just a jerk’. As a result we have fallen for manipulation again and the erroneous belief that there ‘is good and bad in everyone’ made us believe that these people could in some way be healed.

I don’t think 1-4% is an exaggerated estimate at all. I think most people on here would feel like screaming when they read any suggestion that it is. It’s in nobody’s interests at all for false information to be out there, but in a world that on the whole fails to acknowledge that these people exist and massively underestimates the threat they present, I think it could be damaging and dangerous to suggest that we’ve in some way overestimated the extent of the problem.

LOL sorry, my first line was meant to say ‘The process of diagnosing these individuals IS NOT an exact science’! Argh! 🙂

YOU GUYS ARE GETTING WAY TOO TECHNICAL FOR ME.
IF YOUR PARTNER IS LYING, CHEATING, STEALING OR NOT TREATING YOU WITH RESPECT. IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON. NO MATTER HOW BAD IT HURTS INSIDE. I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU WANT TO CALL THEM. I CALL THEM LOOSERS.
I WOULD RATHER BE ALONE AND FEEL LONELY THEN FEEL THE PAIN AND CONFUSION I FELT WITH MY BAD MAN. AFTER HE LEFT I WAS SAD BUT FELT A STRANGE WEIGHT HAD BEEN LIFTED OFF OF MY SHOULDERS. I STILL MORN FOR WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BUT REALISE NOW THAT IT WAS ALL A LIE.

Pathwhispherer=
Yes, I had that “aha moment” in fact that’s when I said “no more”
It was abrupt, but looking back I see all the other behavior. With new people…I try a d hope not to get close enough to see if the mask slips, I apply the checklists and when I hit a critical number–look for the nearest exit.

Eyes-
Yes, we need boot camp to know them- but now I believe they are easier to see. Or to never even entertain as I stated above, two lies- goodbye!

ps
We also – generally- change ourselves so we may not appear to be/ or be vulnerable.

They might be easy to spot AFTER we have had our first brush, after we have educated ourselve etc. Until I read Stout and Hare, until I found this sight, I had no IDEA what I was dealing with.

My ex was a white collar P, and abused, lied and cheated by STEALTH, for years. Plenty of people were shocked I could dream of leaving such an upstanding family man etc….porr guy just fell on hard time that all etc.

As, slowly each of them discover that they too have been manipulated and lied to, they refuse to believe he could be so mean and so hollow.

Even then, EVERYONE still believes that my guy will stand by his kids and not screw them over. I say think again.

What I am trying to say is some are pretty blatant, others are not. I am not convinced that I would spot each and every one I meet in the future. Maybe the watchwords should be ” Show me the Empathy”. But even that can be faked.

The idea that there is “good in everyone” is a dangerouse misconconception.

I think our greatest weapon against the s/p we might be getting to know is time. If they are between relationships they won’t work for too long at building one, and it only takes a few months for the red flags to pop up. Maybe we could extend “tentative commitment” to them but reserve true judgement for a while.

I think it would be better if we all still lived in little villages where you knew everyone and their families back to the third generation. Would be a little harder to fool people that way.

What I was going to post though, is that I’m trying to take stock of the real needs in my life.. and discard some more of the fantasies.

And not just the pretty ones this time. What about this one:
I’m so strong I don’t need anybody in the whole wide world.. bullshit. Or how about.. I don’t need a man, I don’t want a man.. I just love my single life.. bull.. does anyone remember bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Loneliness is a BAD thing.

But .. I decided to meet as many of my needs as I can outside a relationship, that way I’ll have more legs to stand on if there are any more nasty surprises in my future.

One other case in point is how did your “relationship” end?

What I mean is that I was in two long term relationships. The first one I married and we were able to communicate to each other. The only problem in that relationship was that I shouldn’t have married her. I was still to immature and still wanted my freedom. The party to blame for this relationship failure was me and my alone. When we both understood that nothing was going to change (me of course) in this relationship we both came to the decision that we should divorce. But no one really (expect of some emotional damage) got hurt and we both just sat down and went thru with the divorce.

Now came my next relationship with my ex P. This one agree to married but then later refuse to keep her promise and we never did marry. Shortly after we started this relationship I saw “behavior” from her that both scare and confused me. I wanted it to end but before I (yes I did try three time but kept allowing her to come back into my life) could she had a child. I always wanted to be a father so I did what I thought was right and stay with her and the child. Thinking maybe having this child it would help give her and me some bearing in our lives allowing us to be who we (I thought) wanted to be in short a family.

Now for me anything change! I wanted to be a father husband and lover. I grow up and saw my responsibility toward my child and her. These were my dreams come true! I started to mature and therefore changed and in a sense grew up…

But nothing change with her. She was still the same person. Someone that lied and manipulated me because I loved my children so much. Someone that never took her responsibility as a mother and lover seriously. We all just became “pretend people” and me the perfect Teddy bear. In short non-existing people. Nothing I mean nothing changed with her. Same old same old P.

The breakup with my P was nothing less then chaos and emotional turmoil for both my children and I. No communication (we never could) No empathy for anyone but herself. As “pretend people” we were expendable. So I now ask myself the question why was this breakup was so different and painful then my other relationship I had with my ex wife? Why all the lies? Why did she feel nothing concerning how we (the children and I) felt as people i.e. a real person? You see the breakup between us only shows me just how different my ex P/S is! Why oh why was this breakup sooooo different then my last one? Well I believe I now have the answer..

One other point concerning my ex P. She has done this (destroying families) not once but twice!! In fact she lost custody of her two other children and was given only supervised visitation. But in the end she just walk away from those two other children as easily as she did with these two.

*And yes she was order by the court to take a psychology test to determine her emotional and mental state of being. So yes she was in fact tested once! I don’t know the results of these test(s) and am not sure if I could get them?

Yes OxDrover!

“The BEST indicator of future behavior is past behavior.”
I couldn’t agree with you more!!!

(expect of some emotional damage)
I mean (except for some emotional short term damage)
Argh!:)

I was at Barnes and Noble this afternoon looking in the psychology section for Hare’s “Without a Conscience” and Stout’s “Sociopath Next Door”….. got the Stout book.. although with two years under my belt of reading and soaking up knowledge about sociopaths, I doubt by now I’d receive any epiphanies, but hey.. who knows….. while there I saw a book that fascinated me… written by a woman who was treated successfully for Borderline personality disorder… the title of the book “Get Me Out Of Here” I only glanced through it and read the forward, but it looked like a good read.. describing her nightmare as someone with bizzare behavior, leading a reckless, blameless life….. I think the key to her success was that she benefited by having a very good therapist who was familar with personality disorders and also her ability to understand and accept that SHE WAS THE PROBLEM and not her husband or others….. Has anyone here read this book?… although BPD is different then sociopathy, isn’t there enough similarities between then to question if one can actually be “cured” of BPD?…… forgive me if this has been answered over and over again….

Southernman,

I don’t know about “cures” for any personality disorder, but I know that some people who have been diagnosed as BPDs have had some success in changing their destructive and violent behavior, whether that is a “cure” or not, I don’t know. Plus, I think there are “levels” of BPD with some not so terrible as others just as there are some Ps that can “function” in society without becoming Charlie Manson. Doesn’t mean they are “nice people” or you would want your daughter to marry one, but they are not total MONSTERS willing to kill.

So it is like saying “what is tall?”what is “warm”—-it is all relative to other things.

You may not get any “ah ha” moments from that book, but you will reinforce and get soem different perspectives on it, and I think that because of the severe damage we have had, we NEED to keep on learning about the sitaution.

Thanks Oxy… I agree… since this “thing” touched my life, I have been obssesed with knowing more…. I think I will go to amazon and order that woman’s book…. I actually wanted to buy Hare’s book, but no copies were there…..

There is a part of me that would like to never think about personality disorders again.. and think about and focus on positive things….. but at the same time… some people when touched by evil in their life, like me and you, it sort of does something to you that compels you to want to “understand” the how’s and why’s of not only them but of yourself….. I still struggle to this day with acceptance that someone who I loved was a person without a soul.. and that goes back to my post on Donna’s blog about that hole in my heart.. that dark spot that just doesn’t seem to heal.. no matter how many times I give it God….. I asked my mother recently “why does it still hurt?.. why does it feel like I lost out on something that should have been great?…. why do I feel like the loser in this?……. Her response was calm and direct….. “Because my son, she wasn’t what she appeared to be”…….and that is the root of it all isn’t it Oxy?

I had a friend over today visiting who is in Security. He has dealt with a lot of P’s. He said he can usually tell by the look in their eye that they’re a P. So I showed him a bunch of pictures of my ex-P. My friend said he couldn’t tell. He said my ex looked just like the guy next door. His eyes seemed to be genuinely smiling and he looked like the nicest guy (which is also how he acted). It was very confusing to me.

So I have a question. Many of you talk about your exes have an evil or vacant stare. Do any of your exes have a kind and sweet look in their eye?

I’m still not gonna second guess myself again. If this guy is not a P, he is still pretty darn crazy and deceitful. Whatever the label, he’s not someone I want in my life.

Dear SG,

The LOOK as I call it is not there 100% of the time, but when they are rage filled, frustrated, angry, etc.

The closest I can come to telling you what it looks like to me is the look that Charlie Manson had in that very famous picture of him staring straight at the camera.

I have seen other pictures of him that were just “anyone,” not a P.

All I can say in words about it is that it is a deep deliberate STARE that is intimidating. LIke someone is thinking of killing you out of hate and rage. But I have photos of my P son when he looks very nice, but the LOOK is something else.

star: my ex-s/p/n had a sparkle in his eyes that was absolutely beautiful. his eyes smiled and twinkled. they were black as could be and they drew you in so deep you thought you’d never get out (and you COULDN’T!).
but when he was angry, he looked like the devil. not blank like others describe, but evil. like you KNEW not to say a word. he was such an alpha-male, he controlled everyone … women AND men.
when he dumped me, he told all his male friends they were to have NOTHING to do with me. they ALL obeyed.
now THAT’S a master p/s!

OxD and LIG: I never saw “the look”. But I did see a picture of him a day or two after I told him not to contact me again. He posted the picture himself on the reptile site, because he had gotten a new snake. He looked really out of it. He had a blank stare. (I wish we could post the pics here). I thought maybe he was pumped up on pain meds for the headaches he allegedly gets from his alleged head injury. I think if I’d ever seen the evil stare you speak of, I would have run as far as I could. My P looked and acted like the sweetest, most ordinary, humble, down-to-earth guy next door. It still boggles my mind that such a sweet person could be so sinister.

southernman: i feel the same way. he won. i lost. how could he have done that to ME.
we lost out on something they created out of thin air. they can’t scam and use and take and abuse unless they create something that people can’t resist, right!?
so they create something too good to be true, we buy into it, they keep us hooked by feeding us just enough crumbs to think we can actually have the fake-ass dream they originally sold us, and then when we can’t take it anymore, they simply move on.
they’re not human. we are. therein lies the discrepancy that makes us crazy. we THOUGHT they were real. we believed it in our hearts. but, truth is, it was all a lie.
hard to take. hard to move past. impossible to comprehend.
i know i will never wrap my brain around it. you can’t understand lunacy.
hardest thing i’ve ever been through, but when the going gets rough, i remind myself he IS NOT REAL. he’s a gorgeous shell hiding an emptiness i can’t even begin to grasp.
’nuff said.

star: the evil eyes never scared me. they weren’t so different from anyone who gets angry, and they were never directed at me until i threw him out.
what i saw more of was the blank look, but only when he was sitting here, a million miles away, no doubt in ‘scheming mode.’
anger i can deal with. no emotion at all? now THAT is scary.
his ”i don’t care how you feel” was what hurt the most.
they are all ”sweet” when they are manipulating and trying to suck everyone in to their web.
everyone loves my ex-s/p/n; he’s the most charming, successful, wonderful, adorable thing EVER. and that’s what makes him so effed up!!! it’s all a ploy to use people.
UGH!

LIG said: “he looked like the devil. not blank like others describe, but evil.”….

Yep, that is a perfect description IMO. The “eyes thing” confused me at first too, because my ex P usually had normal looking eyes too. But like Oxy said, if he was angry or extremely frustrated, I would see his eyes literally change to the weirdest, scariest eyes I’ve even seen. I used to call them (to myself) his “crazy eyes.” And I’ve seen normal men who are angry before and believe me the eyes of a normal guy and a P’s eyes are not comparable.

He could look quite sweet and innocent actually. But sometimes when he was angry, not only did his eyes change dramatically, but his whole appearance seemed to transform and take on a look of evil, almost like he physically tranformed into someone else. I don’t know how to explain it, and that may sound nuts, but he truly would just “look” kinda different when angry. But unlike most people who take awhile to calm down completely if they every get real angry, the ex P could turn off the anger at the drop of a hat, too, and revert back to normal eyes, normal look, sweet as pie within seconds sometimes if suddenly distracted, just as if he totally forgot why he was even angry of something.

Mine also occasionally had a very unsettling gaze when he would focus on someone he was intently interested in (not necessarily interacting with, but sometimes just observing). It was sort of a like the calm, but intent stare you see on animal planet when a lion or leopard is lying is wait, observing another animal, sizing it up. But I wouldn’t describe my ex P’s eyes as empty or vacant either–just weird at times.

Jen,

I have seen the LOOK on my P bio father’s face and on my P son’s face, and even on my mother’s face when I caught her lying to me and confronted her about it, but never saw THAT LOOK on P-XBF’s face, but what he did have when he was angry was SCARY. P DIL had “THE LOOK” when she was angry and so did the Trojan Horse psychopath. I have never seen it on anyone else’s face, NO MATTER HOW ANGRY THEY WERE.

What I have also noticed when I have seen serial killers etc interviewed on television etc. (saw a documentary the other night on DVD) a “cocaine cowboy” enforcer who had murdered tens if not hundreds of people talked about it like he was on the food channel giving recipie ingredients. Just not the “normal” emotional response to the kind of thing he was talking about. Yet, even he refused (he said) to follow his boss’s instuctions to kill the young children of his victim’s that were killed for revenge over drugs.

LIG & Jen,
I must share the story about the first time I took the ex-S home to meet my parents. The S wanted me to say, and I quote, “This is ***, the love of my life, the man I am going to marry.” I said this intro to my mom. She looked at me funny and was cordial to him. But my Dad, OMG. My Dad always was ok with anyone I brought around but this guy was different. After that day, anytime I called to say I was stopping by with *** he would purposely leave the house. He said if you bring that guy up here I will not be home. He saw something wrong and evil with him from the get-go. I never brought him around again.

After the split, my dad said he had worked with all types of men in his life, some ex-cons, etc. and he knew he was no good right off the bat. My mom said she felt something was wrong and knew i was told to say that intro.

Next time, I’ll listen to my Dad’s sniff test. LOL!!

reading all these posts, i just broke down. i can’t stop crying.
i know he’s happy. the nagging bitch (me) is gone. he has his wife (floating down de-Nile) and his hot new girlfriend (pregnant). i’m the one who got completely screwed. i devoted 20 years of my life to this guy, believing everything he said: ”it’s me and you, baby” ”i’m going to take such good care of you after my divorce” ”you’re my queen; the love of my life.”
now, i’m old and fat and everyone who knew me and him knows i got trashed big time. no one has called to say ”sorry” or see if i’m okay. i feel so alone.
i lived in a world with him that wasn’t even real. i got duped and dumped. i feel like the biggest a-hole in the world. six years ago i was without him and happy and living an easy life, on the beach, and had a secure and lucrative job. he talked me into moving back to the city to be with him — begged me for two years before i relented. it was the stupidest mistake i have EVER made.
now i have a shitty, low-paying job, no money, no car, few friends of my own, no clothes, and i’m living in the neighborhood where he’s parading around his new pregnant girlfriend.
he just continues to walk through life; gorgeous face, insane body, charming personality, sparkling eyes, friendly demeanor. and everyone loves him. no repercussions. no consequences.
i HATE this!!!

Dear Lostingrief,

Hun, I hear your pain and your sadness. Sure you hate the feelings you are having now bcause they are miserable feelings.

There’s one thing I’m going to say though, and you may not be in a place to hear it right now, it may even piss you off, but come back to it tomorrow or the next day and reread it, and you will hear it when you are ready.

This isn’t just about WHAT HAPPENED, it is about OUR REACTION TO IT.

One of my husband’s favorite stories is about two brothers. On Christmas morning they opened their stockings with great anticipation and found them both filled with HORSE SHIT.

One brother said “Oh, just what I expected, horse shit” and the other said “Wow, horse shit! That’s great, it must mean there is a pony somewhere around here”

All of the horrible pain that my family of P’s inflicted on me I felt was the WORST THING THAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED TO ME, nothing worse could have happened, but you know what? It was the BEST THING that could have happened to me, because it was only by them TOTALLY DEVALUING AND DISCARDING ME, TRYING TO KILL ME EVEN, that I was finally able to SEE CLEARLY that they had been keeping my life in chaos for all these years. NOW, BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY DID I AM FREE OF THEM.

YOU ARE FREE OF HIM. Even if he was as rich as BILL GATES and as handsome as any movie star, YOU ARE THE WINNER if you will just SEE IT. I would be happier without the Ps even if it meant that I had to live in a cardboard box and eat out of a McDonald’s dumpster. I WOULD BE FREE OF THEIR EVIL.

Let him THINK he is happy—I don’t even know him and I KNOW that he is not really happy NONE OF THEM ARE OR EVEN CAN BE. They are EMPTY SHELLS of a human being without souls and are NEVER SATISFIED NO MATTER WHAT THEY GET.

My P-bio-father thought that money would make him “happy” and fulfilled, he got rich, was at one time on the Forbes 400, but he died a MISERABLE HATE FILLED MAN. He was never happy, money and fame and power never did fulfill his dreams of “being happy” he was just a rich unhappy man. He had at least 7 wives that I know about, but in the end, died without a woman who would even pretend to “love”him for his money even.

Even the people that think they can “buy” happiness or get it with “this or that” (the Ps) never NEVER truly find it, they never can have peace or contentment, they are always looking for the ellusive “bluebird of happpiness” and all it ever does is crap on their head. They are always searching in the WRONG way, they think other people or other things can “give” them happiness, and we MUST FIND HAPPINESS IN CONTENTMENT AND PEACE, they never get it. They can’t get it.

The “everyoneloves him” comment you made is NOT TRUE, they “THINK’ they like him, but they don’t know him. When they know him, LIKE YOU DO, they see how shallow and miserable he really is. And, WHAT THE HECK DO YOU CARE ABOUT “WHAT THEY THINK”? The ONLY person whose opinion should matter to you is YOURS. ((((hugs))))) BOINK! TOWANDA

me: reading through tears.
ox: hugs, boink towanda.
thanks, i needed that. i know, i know, i know. i understand everything you are saying in my head. today, my heart just won’t listen.
maybe i just need to cry. once a week or so the tears still flow. the way he trashed me just hurts so much. if only he had just ”man-ned up!” and simply TOLD me he didn’t want me anymore. but to deceive and maliciously lie … after ALL these years … it’s just unbearable sometimes.
i’m glad to be free of him. but it still hurts like hell. and it’s not so much that i care what others think, but it infuriates me to even think about what lies he’s told others about me. i was fiercely loyal and faithful to him. and one of the first things i heard after the breakup was that he told his brother i cheated on HIM!
okay, enough. i’m fine. i’m free. my money is now my own. my apartment is again a peaceful place.
my heart is just sad, remembering all that wasn’t real, but felt so damn good.
yes, i’m at peace without him. but it sort of is about what happened. i got royally effed over. my reaction to it is normal. i’m pissed!
but you’re right, ox, i have to see the reality. he’s slime. maybe he’s happy and maybe he’s not. but my faith in the universe (if i have a mustard seed of it left) demands that i release this all to god and let karma sort it out.
thanks, sweetie.

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