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By September 28, 2015 29 Comments Read More →

Why psychopaths don’t change

Angry psychopathLovefraud recently received the following question:

I’ve read in multiple places, written by multiple specialists that psychopaths/sociopaths cannot be rehabilitated or changed.

Surely I’m not the only person to have asked this:  Why not?

The short answer to this question is simple: Psychopaths don’t change because they don’t want to.

The key to any kind of behavioral change is desire. It’s hard work to change the way we relate to other people, the world or even ourselves. The reason any of us embark on a self-improvement project is because we are not happy. Our relationships are not fulfilling, we believe we could do better in our careers, or we just want to feel better. For reasons like these, we are motivated to change.

Psychopaths are usually quite content with who they are. They see no reason to change.

Oh, I have heard from a few people who identify themselves as diagnosed sociopaths or psychopaths, and who have said, “It’s not fun being me.” But I’ve also heard from several who view themselves as superior to those of us burdened with pesky emotions and consciences.

For example, one person wrote to me:

Hello my name is Alex. I would like to thank you for making your videos they have given me an insight into how you people recognize us. WE are not to blame for your short comings because you are weak minded and foolish enough to be taken advantage of. We are evolutions next step we don’t allow silly emotions to cloud our judgments. In fact we use our advantage for survival because we are natures next course. I know I sound very narcissistic and apologize for that but if you are so proud and concerned and attached to your emotions why not allow someone to make you feel like a queen for something as worldly as money? We give you what you are missing just as all of the world ecosystem has since the beginning of time. It’s funny how we have been so easily classified and even now as I attempt to alter myself in order to become unparallel to descriptions of us, I find it very difficult to even perceive. I would like to boast of my strategic victories over hearts but I would fear you making another video and making this game more difficult, of course it would make it much more challenging and pleasurable when enjoying the hunt. Well you take care Donna. Bye.

Illness and personality disorders

Generally, if you have a mental illness such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, there was a time before the illness began during which you were reasonably healthy. Then something happened either an experience or biological change that caused the illness to begin.

You know what it’s like to feel better, and you want to return to the state of health.

Personality disorders are different. Most psychopaths are well on the way to disorder by adolescence, and many show signs as children, even as very young children. So there never was a time, as fully developed human beings, when they were “healthy.”

Psychopaths are not loving, ethical people who go bad. They never had the capacity for love, or concern for the wellbeing of others, to begin with.

How the disorder develops

How does this happen? First of all, experts pretty much agree that there is a large genetic component to psychopathy. Children with psychopathic parents, or psychopathy somewhere on the family tree, can be born with a genetic predisposition for the disorder to develop.

Whether the disorder actually does develop may be a function of the parenting that the children receive, or the environment that they grow up in.

Unfortunately, psychopaths make lousy parents. At best, they regard the children as possessions, and care for them about as well as they care for their cars. At worst, they try to turn the children into mini-mes, or abuse them.

Many Lovefraud readers have realized, with trepidation, that they share children with a psychopath. There are steps these parents can take to try to prevent the disorder from developing in children, which Dr. Liane Leedom outlines in her book, Just Like His Father?

It’s not easy. In fact, sometimes the genetic predisposition is so strong that nothing can be done to overcome it.

But if there is any chance of preventing people from becoming psychopaths, it’s when they’re young. That’s why Lovefraud advocates keeping disordered parents out of children’s lives as much as possible to limit the effect of their bad parenting.

Drive for dominance

So how exactly does the disorder develop? Dr. Liane Leedom believes it is a result of an out-of-control drive for dominance.

We all have a drive for dominance to a certain degree this is what makes us want to be successful, become a leader, or even drive a hot car. But in most of us, the drive for dominance is tempered by our ability to love. Because we are also concerned about the wellbeing of others, we can put the brakes on behavior that we know will hurt other people.

Psychopaths don’t have an ability to love, so they don’t have any brakes on their aggressive behavior.

No connection to others

What psychopaths are missing is a true feeling of connection with other people. This can start really young.

A few weeks ago Lovefraud posted a story about the results of a study showing that 5-week-old infants who preferred looking at a red ball rather than a human face may be at risk of developing callous-unemotional peronality traits. These are the traits that can morph into a full psychopathic disorder.

Here’s the post:

Early warning sign that a baby could grow up to be a psychopath, on Lovefraud.com.

The researchers discuss the importance of infants making eye contact failure to make eye contact may affect the entire development of an infant’s social brain. To greatly simplify the process, this may lead to an inability to respond to another person’s distress, which may lead to a lack of empathy, which may lead to an inability to love, which may lead to antisocial behavior.

Even at a young age, a psychopath experiences much more satisfaction from dominating other people than from connecting with them. Every time this individual feels pleasure due to exercising power and control over others which can start during the “terrible twos” the drive for dominance is reinforced.

Power and control

By the time psychopaths are adults, the desire for dominance is an integral part of their identities. They like power and control. They don’t particularly care if they don’t have love in their lives, because they don’t know what it is.

Psychopaths do not feel any distress due to their disorder, so they don’t go for therapy on their own. They’ll only go if dragged in by a parent or partner, or if court-ordered. And when they get there, their objective isn’t changing. It’s winning.

Research has shown that therapy makes psychopaths worse. Why? Because through therapy, they learn the buzzwords, and they learn more about how they’re supposed to behave. They use what they learn to improve their skills at manipulation and deception.

It’s possible that if psychopaths perceive controlling their antisocial behavior to be in their own self-interest, they’ll do it. Criminal psychopaths, for example, may get tired of going to prison. But although they may change their behavior somewhat, it’s unlikely that they will ever become loving, caring human beings.

Unfortunately, once psychopaths are adults, they will not develop a heart and a conscience. That window closed when they were young.

 


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29 Comments on "Why psychopaths don’t change"

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Ok, I’ll chime in on this.
Specifically to the excerpt from Alex.
I have seen Alex and others posting comments on the youtube videos made by women suffering from Narcissistic Victim Syndrome , yes it’s a real diagnosis with a DSM5 code under PTSD.
These women post these videos as part of their personal recovery process and they are very brave and strong to do so.
I have noticed inappropriate comments and since it’s youtube an open forum such as this anyone can comment(unless of coarse you set no comments allowed) which would defeat the purpose.
Apparently there are groups of men that are posting videos as well.
I have not watched any of them and want to keep an open mind but right now is not good for me.
I remember calling out the spath way back when I discovered his disorder.
he was indeed interested in knowing more”help me understand” I believe is what he said.
What he meant was tell me how much you know so that I can work harder to F^%$ with your head.
Thank God and other powers that be for Donna creating this website and educating and providing books, videos and all of these helpful articles and feed back so that we can be informed.
BTW I am still FULL NO CONTACT .
Stronginthecity

The spaths own family was more than happy to pawn him off on anyone that would put up with his unpredictable moods, rants and drama.
No thanks.
SITC

again, this validates what I went through. I’m now very careful with my connections as I am always suspicious these days. But NC for 2 1/2 years! I’ve learned so much thanks to Donna.

This is all so sad, really. As a parent of ‘one’, you always hope that they can change, even tho you know better. The SP even seems to be genuine once in awhile, only to screw it all up later on down the line when the mask once again, slips…and it always does. Sometimes I still get a glimmer of hope…only to be disappointed again and again. What is a parent to do? I feel hopeless and helpless alot of the time even tho I am maintaining NO CONTACT. My husband, however, is quite a different story. He is determined to have a relationship with his (our) son, no matter what the cost. You can see my dilemma. My husband is trying so hard to make things ‘normal’ and I know that they cannot be normal. We soldier on, but for how long, together I wonder? So sad and tragic…

I am so tired of dealing with my SP son.

I must disagree that they cannot change because they do not want to. I am pretty sure the one I was married to for ten years wanted to change. Or was that just part of his using and abusing me? Most things I have read say that they are not able to change because they have no empathy. Empathy is an inborn trait and if you do not have it you cannot learn it. They can be very good at feigning it or even seem sorrowful, pitiful and pathetic but there is never any remorse. They are not capable. Even brain studies show that their brains have dead spaces in certain areas. I am totally convinced that they cannot change because they lack whatever it is that makes a human being good and caring. They are born evil and they are devoid of all human decency unless it is feigned to get something or use someone. They are pure evil and I did not believe that pure evil existed until I encountered a psychopath.

Hi Delores,

Not sure if ‘evil’ is the right word…that may how we mere normal mortals perceive the lack of human empathy, though.

I hate to think that my son was like ‘Satan’ when he was born. That’s pretty hard to do!

I do understand what you are saying, though. I think they may SAY that they want to change, but they couldn’t if they wanted to.

Me too, Delores. I have never in my life dealt with evil, ’til I met him. Life with them is sinister and convoluted to the 9th degree. Horrific!

Delores and Bev,

Let me start by saying, I have a son with Borderline Personality Disorder. I saw the signs when he was very young. I just didn’t know they were signs. No one spoke of sociopathy back then. He’s in his mid thirties. I could see, even as a very young child, he had no empathy. He was very sensitive about himself, just couldn’t put himself in anyone else’s shoes for all the tea in China!

Delores, my heart goes out to you! I can understand the huge anguish it must cause you to see your husband attempt to have “normality” with your son. He simply does not understand that the only connection that exists is one of want or need, but not of love. As long as your son wants something from his father, he’ll remain in his life. Your son probably plays emotional blackmail with him, and it breaks your heart to watch. Your husband is simply under his spell, and who could blame him. He loves his child, even though his child is not really capable of loving him.

And I agree with you…. a sociopath’s inability to change is not lack of desire. It’s simply brain chemistry. He can no more change than a leopard can change its spots.

Not all sociopaths are like “Satan.” Hopefully, the structure you raised him in provided a code of conduct that he emulates. Unless a sociopath is badly abused, there is very little likelihood that they will become a mass murderer. He’ll be unkind, he’ll cheat, steal, and defraud. But “Satan” like sociopaths are a rarity.

Wishing you peace.

Joyce

Hi Joyce,

I think you meant me, Bev…I have the son who is a SP.

You are so right about my husband. He is the great FIXER! He thinks that he can fix anything and always tries to solve a problem. I’m sure that he thins that he can ‘solve’ our son. Also, what you said about want and/or need…dead on!

Our son was placed in a fantastic foster home at age 8 after we could not deal with his behavior anymore.You are also correct in what you said about emulating a good code of conduct that not only my husband and myself instilled, but also the fantastic foster parents instilled. I think that our son tries to live a normal life, married a nice girl, had two children….then she kicked him out due to his ‘mask’ slipping after a few years.

That is where we are at now. He came back into our lives at age 16, sporadically, with no resentment towards us whatsoever (which I found strange based on other peoples’ reactions that have reunited with family members after being in care). We have always lived far apart, but now with this crash in his life, he is back in touch again…for ‘support’…he is just angry, not sad about losing his family and is now trying to drag his ex into the court system to seemingly ‘win’ his children just to upset her…whomh he really seems to regard as possessions…ugh…sorry, I’ve gone on too long.

Just…thank you for your help. You really did help!

Well said 🙂

I disagree that psychopaths do not change because they do not want to. I believe that because the paths they choose are the easy paths for them, it becomes a matter of choosing the path of least resistance. To earn money all by themselves takes more effort on their part, so its EASIER to sponge off others. To accumulate the things they want that they feel they deserve would require working for it, that takes too much time, and of course they are special and smarter than everyone else so its THEIR RIGHT to take what they want. To have a relationship with one person requires commitment, which means they would have to invest themselves emotionally. Unfortunately, these people HAVE NO HEART and to avoid being found out that they are deviant, and not normal as they know they are they ARE FORCED to have many shallow, superficial relationships because eventually their secret is found out and they ARE FORCED to move on. I have known my share of Spaths and although they could easily be identified by the common thread of bad behavior, each one thought much differently about THEMSELVES and how they thought about what they did to people. I saw a man who was a complete selfish self-centered ass of a classic Spath, make a 360 turn around with the help of a 12-step program because he saw the bad things he was doing to himself, his family and those that loved him and WANTED TO CHANGE. This man turned his life over to the LORD JESUS CHRIST and forever after has changed his previous life of crime, promiscuity, drugs and using others.He fights every day to not take the EASY way out. Maybe he wasnt even a real Spath in the first place because a true Spath would have no regard for his children and what they thought of him. I know this man was a true Spath because he is my father who abused me as a youngster emotionally and physically. He could have cared less about how I cried and how everyone else in his life cried as he rolled over their hearts with no mercy. I have to say, after 17 years in prison my father somehow came out of there as a changed person. Maybe they used secret experimental drugs on him or something while in prison, I just dont know. All I know is my father is a totally different person now and for years I kept expecting “the monster” to come out and take him back over. I think in some cases “the monster” inside some people is drug abuse that takes them over and controls their behavior in the worst ways imaginable. All I know is, it is possible for an Spath to change if they can stop the behavior that enhances their tendancies and removes any guilt from doing whatever they need to do to feed “the monster” I know a lot of Spaths dont even use drugs and are capable of being the monster all by themselves because I have met a couple of them too.

This is exactly what I believe in my heart. This is definately a disorder, I do not believe God would place a dark soul in an unborn child. I do believe that throu his evil there has been drugs produced and with active drug use during pregnancy there are undeveloped areas of the unborn child and that might cause such a mutation. I have watched my husband and he has literally been declining in his ways. It is definately by choice and is driven by selfishness, self satisfaction, instant gratification takes over quickly and supercedes his original view when we met he was 50 has a great job for 30 yrs..best you could ever hope to have. He had two previouse divorces…one with a son..over 18 and owned a home on his own for 20 yrs…but he failed to truly tell me all truth..but I piece the puzzle together and his attitude for getting caught was what I see as being stuck in a teen or childish type conduct or thought process…very much so…I believe this should not be excused as being innocent on thier behalf. When you say they dont have the ability, that makes them innocent. If someone is incapable, they cant be held responsible and that creates a problem for the victims, not only emotionally but in the way society deals with it..just because my husband works and is not murdering me with his hands, he has made the choice to be weak and he chooses to ride his guilt like a child will with rebellion…if you look up the word retarded in webster it does not say anything about the IQ, it says not at the emotional level for which they should be according to age….this also could be a genetic thing but again its by choice for being self absorbed and selfish…drugs will definately enhance a persons character..if selfish then it will magnify it greatly. I hold my husband responsible and truly this that he has done is seriouse and needs to be held accountable for it in a court of law…I believe he should be punished by attending court ordered twelve step program and counceling…and I need alot of support trying to get over the confusion that he did un merciful…he took full advantage of my genuine loving heart and its damaged me. My fear for my choices from here on out overwhelmes me to the point of causing me enough problem to be seen as crippled. And I will make sure it is only temporary. However, it is real for me and I have always been a very strong willed and happy go lucky..this has changed and im stunned at my lacking in what i never ever believed could happen to me. I have been duped and he chose to do this for yrs…knowing exactly what he was doing and he does have a choice and he chose to destroy someone very selfishly…

Marvelous post Kimbreezy. That’s just it. Saying that the personality disordered person CANNOT change is very difficult, because to some, it does almost excuse their behavior as if they cannot help themselves!

This is the dilemma.

As a parent of one, can my son even help himself? Does he simply choose to do the things he does, or is it uncontrollable?? Are there any answers to this really???

In a way, that is scarier than being a blatant murderer or serial criminal…there seems to be no answer.

What helps me is to try to be objective and to not let my critical thinking ability get away from me. Not easily done, but I try. I believe that we all have free will. What we choose to do with that power is what defines us. Some are dominated and crushed by others. Many of us here have experienced these dominators and do our best to avoid them and their kind. Try if you can to separate the idea of intent or motivation from their actions. With the spathy types that I have unfortunately had intimate dealings with I have learned that by their actions they consistently show that they are choosing very willfully to orchestrate and execute deception, fraud, slander, immoral or amoral or patently unethical behaviors. I have been there too many times when they hit the button to annihilate you after you have walked out on a limb to show them how far you will go for them. They enjoy betrayal. Some more than others, no doubt. When you are tied to a person who is a veritable labarynth of deception, you are forced to either drink the cool aid or face the ugly truth that this person is on a mission to destroy you. Each individual action is a choice that they make, often times with you begging them not to do it. When you look at the amalgam of it all and see how all these individual choices to lie, steal, cheat, betray, or whatever else, what intent or motivation can you reasonably assume ? Here’s an interesting wrinkle. Almost three thousand years ago there lived a man named Manasseh who was the King of Judah. He was the worst, most wicked King that they had ever had. Absolutely sick stuff that he did. Here’s the wrinkle – he stopped. He repented from his wicked course. This is a defining element in determining whether a person is of weak character or wicked. When a relatively normal person hurts someone or breaches trust, they will eventually admit it, stop doing it, and try to make genuine amends with the person. Someone who has chosen to practice deception long term has seared their conscience to the extent that it no longer functions properly. Once these individuals have damaged themselves sufficiently, feeling shame is something they are not interested in, so they dump it on you. They deny accountability and project blame elseware. Without the ability to resolve interpersonal conflicts relationships become toxic. Poison. Even our physical health and well being is endangered by these toxic ones. This stuff is really mind boggling.

I agree with all of this, however, if I told this to my husband (regarding our son), he would tell me that I was paranoid. Then, he would tell me I sound half crazy…I feel like I am going crazy.

I don’t know how our marriage is going to survive this. My husband insists on keeping contact with our son….he always tells me ‘he’s not a bad person’ and things like that. I start to doubt myself, yet I know in my core that I am right. He just says that he cannot, WILL NOT, turn his back on his son. That our son cannot help it if he is a SP, just like a Down’s Syndrome child cannot help it…I find it different…my husband does not see what I see and thinks I am paranoid…

I am between a rock and a hard place.

Also, my husband WANTS a relationship with his son.

How can I deny him that? In good conscience??

Wow! Just to hear that this one person…your dad…did change is soooo awesome!
The Lord is able …I know….the question I have been asking is how should we pray?…In Faith…believing…

WOW! What an awesome site! Such a resource for me. I look forward to newsletter every week. It drives home that what I went through was real and that I am not alone. There are days I feel alone.

I’m on the fence here about nature (genetic) or nurture with my narc. Hard to say because he was always so evasive about his childhood. His childhood memories are vague and seem to start at age 11, when his adoring mom died. He spoke of laying in bed with her, as she lay dying, “teaching me how to be a good person in life, which I am”. Then she died. His dad rejected him and he was shuttled off to relatives who kind of just put him up for a time, then shuttled him off to another relative. I think his dad was always an alcoholic but when mom died, narcdom for him began. Whatever his disordered household was before his mom died, might have got him through to adulthood, with a conscience or SOME human qualities. I sense, her death….it appears she slathered him with adoration…sent him into narcdom. My own theory here. I have no info from him from his life before that time.

NC. Oh gosh, that’s hard! I filed a lawsuit against narc for fraud and loans. Once he was served, he played victim. He kept trying to contact me. I ignored him. Finally last yr to another email of “why?”, I responded. His whys were answered and he was not to contact me again unless through lawyers. He hasn’t contacted me. WELL I got default judgement against him in Apr. Of this year, without notice to him. One night last month, I contacted him to let him KNOW I had judgement against him and was seizing his house. He has not replied. I want to stick it to him; get revenge. It makes me sound awful, but these narcs are soooo hard to make accountable. They are slick and slimy. That I got this guy civilly and won judgement was something I needed to tell him. HE utterly destroyed my life. Im living again, but will never be the same person. I am 3 years post narc now, but am still stuck. Very angry. These narcs are SO elusive and slick.

Psychopaths don’t change because psychopathy is a lack of conscience from a neurological impairment of the amygdala, orbital frontal cortex, all of cingulate cortex, parahippocampal area, and insula. NPD is also a neurological disorder. Take a look at “Differences between psychopathy and other personality disorders: Evidence from neuroimaging” on the page: https://nopsychos.wordpress.com/research/

fleeced,

The stalker/spath I used to date pulled me into court twice, attempting to use the courts as his tool to abuse. His goal is to ruin my life. He lost both suits and I’ve been awarded thousands in restitution. He has paid less than $400. We are scheduled to go back to court for contempt in a couple of weeks, due to him not paying me the restitution. If he would have won the lawsuits he was attempting to make me lose my home.

My revenge is choosing happiness. Am I totally happy? No. I don’t think anyone is.

Oops, I hit submit before I was finished.

Anyway, I hope you can let go of the anger at some point. As long as you are angry he is in your mind wasting your time, which is what he wants. Deal with him when you have to and put it out of your mind the rest of the time.

For people like us, happiness is a choice we have to make. I wish you success at making your life happy in spite of what he has done to you.

A very good post.

But there are 2 very compelling findings which explain why psychopaths will never change.

First, their brains are structurally different. They have smaller brain parts which govern emotions and fear, so they do not perceive these like more normal people do. They are wired differently from birth, although some are “made” through certain kinds of serious head injury.

Second, psychopaths when they control, manipulate, and win receive 3 times the dopamine hit normal people do. Dopamine is a key part of the reward system in the brain and such a hit is comparable to that of addictive drugs. They can’t stop. And Donna is right. They don’t want to stop either.

Donna, Thank you for this insightful article. This is all so true!

Recently did an online search of my ex’s name with his location because my grown daughter is still there. Have never done this before. My Ex is a Narcissistic Sociopath (NS Ex). Because I’m a normal person with good morals, expected to find normal things like something about NS Ex attending a HS reunion or business event. Instead, the results were SHOCKING.

Looks like NS Ex’s entire family is comprised of violent male NS. They all hide behind a mask of upstanding military service, prestigious academic degrees and premier white collar jobs. But in reality, they are violent Jekyll and Hide personalities.

Imagine my SHOCK when seeing the online search results. There are multiple videos and news reports that NS Ex brother’s son (NS Nephew) is a convicted violent rapist, serving 30+ years in prison.

He violently attacked, raped and sodomized his ex-girlfriend at gunpoint–right after she broke up with him and he found out that she had a new boyfriend.

NS Nephew video recorded his attack on ex-gf. Jury saw the video of ex-gf screaming and crying during the entire attack. Fortunately, they did NOT buy his lies that he ‘would never attack or hurt any woman’, contrary to the clear video evidence proving otherwise.

NS Nephew and NS Ex’s family’s behavior is what stunned me. NS Nephew and his father (an independent attorney with law degree from a prestigious university) said the video “merely depicted he and his ex-gf ’50 Shades of Gray’ alternate S&M lifestyle”. They also claim 30 yr old NS Nephew was a ‘war hero with PTSD and TBI’.

NS Nephew was out on bond and required to wear an ankle monitor until the trial was completed. Just before the jury returned with a Guilty verdict, NS Nephew forcibly removed the monitor. He fled across the US and hid for almost 1 year. US Marshalls finally captured him across the country.

Ex-gf had to go into protective custody for about 1-1/2 years until he was captured and sentenced.

Glad to say that the Judge gave him a maximum sentence, plus additional years for his escape and evasion. However, he and his father (who is an attorney) are filing an appeal.

Amazing how clever NS can be. Nothing is ever their fault. They lie and twist the truth until they make themselves out to be the victim. They NEVER take any responsibility for their own actions, no matter how evil.

Unfortunately, NS Ex is the father of our daughter (who is now an adult). She was raised by NS Ex and consistently exposed to his NS family. My Daughter was also exposed to NS Nephew, who is her same age.

Makes me panic to think about this. I fear for my daughter because I know that my NS ex taught her his NS ways, starting at her earliest childhood. Pray she’s well and totally not like them.

Update: The Violent, Narcissistic, Sociopath Nephew–who is just like my Ex–LOST his appeal to the State Supreme Court. He will continue serving over 30 years in a Maximum Security Prison for his violent attack that included rape, sodomy and unlawful imprisonment of his ex-girlfriend. Finally, there is justice!

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