Vocabulary 101: 10 terms to help you name your experience with a sociopath

AnxietyDepression_300x200One of the reasons why it’s so difficult to explain what happens when you’re involved with a sociopath is that you don’t have the words.

Because of the general lack of awareness about personality disorders in society, and the lack of education about it, there is no generally accepted terminology to describe various aspects of the experience.

But descriptive language has evolved among online communities of survivors. Here is a vocabulary to help you name what you experienced. When you can name it, you can begin to recover from it.

1 Love Bombing

When sociopaths set about reeling you in, a key seduction strategy is love bombing. They shower you with attention and affection, want to be with you all the time, make you feel like the most important person in the world.

Not all sociopaths engage in love bombing, but many do. In fact, they may use the strategy even when a relationship isn’t romantic, for example, flattering you if you’re the boss.   

2. Target

That would be you. Sociopaths don’t look at you as a friend, colleague or romantic partner, they look at you as a target to be exploited.

When sociopaths meet you, they first evaluate you to determine if you have anything that they want, then figure out what your vulnerabilities are, and then use your vulnerabilities to get you to give them what they want.

3. Pity Play

Here’s another key sociopathic seduction strategy: the pity play. Sociopaths try to make you feel sorry for them. They will tell you about their abusive childhood, or their cheating exes, or their dictatorial bosses. Of course, they lie a lot, so the stories may or may not be true.

The bottom line is that sociopaths intentionally use your empathy against you.

4. Jekyll and Hyde

This classic story of a man who turns from mild mannered to monster perfectly describes the behavior of sociopaths. One minute they love you, the next minute they hate you. They change like flipping a switch, and you have absolutely no idea what triggered it.

5. Gaslighting

In the 1944 movie called Gaslight, the villain intentionally tries to make his wife feel like she’s losing her mind. If you watch the movie, you might wonder, who does that? Sociopaths do.

Sociopaths will tell you something, and then deny they ever said the words. They will hide objects and ask you what you did with them. They will ask you to do something, and then after you do it, ask you why you did it. Their goal is to make you doubt your own perceptions.

6. Flying Monkeys

Here’s another movie reference — The Wizard of Oz. In this film, the flying monkeys do the bidding of the Wicked Witch of the West. Sociopaths often find their own flying monkeys people who do their dirty work.

Some of these stooges gleefully go along with the sociopaths’ schemes. But others are manipulated themselves, and have no idea that they are part of a plot. For example, sociopaths are capable of turning your own family members against you without them even knowing it.

7. Devalue and Discard

Once upon a time, you were the most important person in the world. But sooner or later, sociopaths are finished with you. They’ve taken all your love, money or whatever it was that they wanted, and you are totally depleted.

Now you are no longer useful, so the sociopaths rationalize that there is no reason to keep you around. You are discarded.

8. Smear Campaign

As your involvement with the sociopaths deteriorates, you may look for support among your friends and family. To your shock, nobody believes you.

Long before you realize that the sociopaths are toxic, they start undermining you with everyone you know. They wonder aloud about your mental or emotional stability. They tell outrageous stories about how you have wronged them all lies. But they are so convincing that their accusations stick, and your support system is gone.

9. Hoovering

Finally, it’s over. Either you escape from the sociopaths or you are discarded either way, you are doing your best to move on.

Then they’re back. The sociopaths are hoovering, as in the vacuum cleaner, trying to suck you back in. They tell you they realize they made a mistake, they treated you badly, they’re sorry, they’ll never do it again. Don’t fall for it. It’s just the same scam, the sequel.

10. No Contact

To escape and recover from sociopaths, the best strategy is No Contact. Get away and stay away. Do not see them, do not talk to them, do not text them, do not visit their Facebook page. Time and distance will help you clear the fog from your head and regain your footing.

When No Contact isn’t possible — perhaps if you share children with the sociopath — pursue Emotional No Contact. That means you understand what they are, that they will not change, and you no longer let them get under your skin.

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Hope Springs

Oh boy…all so true.

Great reminder!


I keep coming back and I keep falling back. This list reminds me why I changed my phone numbers. However, he came to my door begging once more and I let him in again. I am like a sick puppy who can’t get well.

It is like a revolving door and I never get through the opening. I see it all! The love bombing right through to number 10. I had connection with his daughter in law and she is the flying monkey who I blocked from my phones before changing my numbers.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has become a bit docile since I refuse to give him my new numbers. I gave him stipulations if he wanted to come back. Stipulations I know he cannot meet. He says he is working on it and is not ready to make his move. I told him he had two years to make up his mind.

I let him in on my terms because of my circumstances. I am very much isolated taking care of my mother with Alzheimer’s. I have some help with hospice now, but they like home healthcare, come for a few minutes and leave. I had a CNA come finally after weeks to help bathe her. My mother likes my sociopath because he talks to her and makes her feel good. She asked for him today and wanted to know when he was going to move in. She is in an upswing today as often she is sleeping and very non-communicative. I am not sure what sparked her but she is very lively right now since he was around. Not sure how long it will last. She is walking again and much easier to care for than she has been in months. I know I am getting off track but my brain is scattered these days.

This list has me once again recognizing all of his behaviors and what I have been put through for the last two years. But, I must take blame for some of it as I allowed him to get away with it. I have always been strong and independent and my children are shocked I would let a man who is hardly educated, from a different culture, and often demanding remain in my life.

I keep coming back to this site and it never fails me. I just read the list to a friend and we laughed because she too was with a sociopath for three years and she keeps letting him back in and getting hurt over and over. She has a few years on me and is also widowed. Her sociopath is 24 years younger than her. He looks much older however. So we just laughed at how much this list represents these men.


Donna, this is EXCELLENT!! Every new person that comes to your site should not only read this article post but also should look up every term that you have posted in your search box of your site Lovefraud to further educate themselves on the craziness they endured.

For me, when I left, others from your site (& others) gave me these terms one by one to educate myself and gave me example stories of what their ex sociopaths did to them for each term. This helped tremendously to unravel everything. I saw most of the craziness in my marriage but was so brain washed & in daily shock that I could not just walk away, even though I wanted to everyday.

I often wonder if the two of the women that he was cheating with when I finally escaped researched this info I sent them so they two could escape his hell.

Thank you again for all that you do to help all of us!!

I just wanted to add “sociopath triangulation” term…not sure if triangulation falls in your “flying monkey” section or not.


I’m just beginning a case of psychological and emotional abuse against my sociopath ex. I have a 1 year old baby with him and just before Christmas I decided enough was enough and phoned the police, who subsequently were able to collate evidence, charge him, and lock him up for 3 days that very same day! He isn’t allowed near me or where I live, and I an NEVER allowing him to see our son…my only saving grace is that he isn’t on my sons birth certificate (more games from him but I was the one that ended up with the power and say over my baby). There are certain details that he talked about coming back to me that are making my blood run cold, including the death of a woman and his unhealthy obsession about his other son from his marriage being interfered with. Projection, transference, without feeling…soulless. it’s so much easier to accept what the Hell just happened to you when you only FULLY accept sociopathy.


Hi Shantilady, so glad that you called the police. Best thing you ever did for you & your son. Dont stop there, go back to the police with these other details you posted here & also go to your local abuse center. When I went to my local abuse center they kept a file on what I told them about my ex. This way you have a record that you told this info to a reputable 3rd party & this will help you in court should you ever have to go to protect your son.

Look at the site Onemomsbattle. com & their Facebook page. Donna Anderson just did a video posting with this creator Tina Swiften I believe last week. Just go up to the top of this site & click on Blog then scroll thru till you find it.

Also see One moms battle Facebook page. IF you chose to communicate on their fb I would suggest you open a fake email then a fake Facebook page so that you can chat without your ex or his family, friends seeing what you are chatting about.


Your forgot “PATROLLING”
Sociopaths keep an on-going patrol for “replacements”. A sociopath won’t devalue and discard you until they have your replacement all lined up and ready to shove you off Planet Marc (insert your spath’s name here!). And don’t be surprized that there are backups for backups! Sociopaths are creeps that can’t be alone. Despite “anti-social” behavior, and dislike of certain individuals that interfere or they can’t control, they really don’t like ANY one or want any one that isn’t under their thumb. Then, one day, without any warning- poof! You are booted outta the picture because someone “better” (or often just “newer” or more challenging) happen to hit their radar.


Very helpful post.


The obnoxious female neighbor is hoovering. I ignore her. People get weirder during holidays.

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