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By | January 11, 2010 221 Comments

Why we don’t know about sociopaths

I’ve spoken to many people who have had their lives shredded by sociopaths. They are traumatized about their physical, emotional and financial injuries. They can’t understand how someone can cause them so much pain, and be so callous about it.

A statement I hear frequently is, “I didn’t know such evil existed.”

Why don’t we know about sociopaths? I think there are several reasons:

1. Mental health professionals can’t agree on terminology and diagnostic criteria.

These disordered individuals are referred to as sociopaths, psychopaths or people with antisocial personality disorder. Which is the right term? It depends on whom you ask.

Dr. Robert Hare, the guru of the disorder, uses the term “psychopath,” which he applies to people who meet the criteria of his Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R).

The American Psychiatric Association uses the term “antisocial personality disorder,” and the definition is vague, unwieldy, and open to interpretation. This professional body has no diagnostic criteria for a psychopath.

For more on the different terminology, see Psychopath or Sociopath? on Lovefraud.com.

The point is that the professionals are in disagreement and disarray. So where does that leave the rest of us? How are we supposed to figure this out when the professionals can’t come to an agreement? More importantly, how are we supposed to educate others when the basic facts—what to call the disorder and how to identify it—are so cloudy?

Here on Lovefraud, many of you refer to these predators as P/S/N psychopath-sociopath-narcissist. It works among those of us who know what they look like. But people who have not had the experience of being defrauded, devalued and discarded don’t get what we’re talking about. The awkward terminology makes trying to explain our experience even more confusing.

2. The media won’t write about sociopaths.

When it comes to sociopaths, most journalists don’t get it. I am comfortable making that statement, because I was once a journalist who didn’t get it. And it seems that journalists don’t even want to get it.

Many people have told me that information about sociopaths should be in women’s magazines. I agree. In fact, I’ve tried to get their attention.

I am a magazine journalist. I was the original editor of Atlantic City Magazine, and I’ve written for other publications. I know how the business works. To pitch a story to a magazine, you first study the publication to determine how it serves its audience. Then you craft a story idea to match the publication’s approach. Then you send a query letter to pitch your story idea. Then, when the magazine accepts your idea, you write the article.

Since 2005, I’ve sent 18 query letters to magazines such as More, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, New Woman, Self, Health and Psychology Today. I tried a range of approaches to bring attention to the problem of sociopaths.

Every single query was rejected.

Personally, I think the magazines are afraid of touching anything that sounds “nasty.” But publications face another problem—defamation lawsuits.

Media lawyers don’t want the publications or broadcasters they represent to publish anything that may lead to a lawsuit. Here’s what they tell their media clients:

  • Don’t accuse someone of a crime unless he has confessed or been convicted.
  • Don’t say someone has a physical or mental disease unless you have proof.
  • Don’t accuse someone of being incompetent or dishonest in his occupation.
  • Don’t say someone is unchaste, especially if it is a woman.

Sociopaths commit crime, are portrayed as having a mental illness (although it is actually a personality disorder), are dishonest at their jobs and are downright promiscuous. Saying any of it could cause legal problems.

This is apparent in the case study on Lovefraud.com about Ed Hicks. The victim in the case, Sandra Phipps, received a lot of media attention, because her ex was married seven times, and committed bigamy four times. Every time she was interviewed, she said, “In my opinion, Ed Hicks is a sociopath.” Usually the newspapers wouldn’t print her quote.

Sandra was even on the Dr. Phil Show about her case. When the show was taped, Dr. Phil himself said Ed Hicks was a sociopath. The lawyers cut it out.

See Call Ed Hicks a bigamist, but not a sociopath.

3. Hollywood sensationalizes the disorder.

Most people believe psychopaths are serial killers. Deranged, diabolical murderers. I think this is a direct result of how they are portrayed in movies and on television shows.

The classic, of course, is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which had nothing to do with a psychopath. More recently, the TV show Dexter is about a serial killer who channels his violent impulses to only kill people who deserve it. Many describe the Dexter character as a psychopath or sociopath. I don’t know what Dexter is, but he wouldn’t be diagnosed as either.

Read Psycho movies add to the confusion.

The cultural image of psychopaths and sociopaths makes education even more difficult. Yes, some of these disordered people are bloodthirsty killers. But only a tiny fraction of them, at the highest end of the PCL-R, match the profile. Far more run-of-the-mill sociopaths exploit, abuse, cheat and defraud, but stop way short of killing.

So educating people about sociopaths is an uphill battle. First we have to overcome their currently skewed image, delivered by Hollywood. Then we have to overcome the confusion in terminology and diagnosis in the mental health field. Then we have to convince the media to deal with the disorder, and the people who have it, accurately.

Sigh. This will take awhile.


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changedforever

I think you only know them in a personal level. How can I explain this? I thought I knew about sociopaths and everything through movies and same fictions books before, but I had no idea the impact that they can have in your life when you came in a deep, personal and intimate contact with them, and this is something that I learned in a hard way. Recently I heard that my ex-sociopathic boyfriend got a girlfriend and is thinking of getting engaged, I tried to warn her about him with examples and everything, but because she is in the infatuation phase, and he is with is thick mask showing is “evil best”, she didn’t believe me, she told me that I was just doing that out of jealousy, because he was treating her as a queen and he is the best of a men she’s ever found. She is another victim who will learn as I did. The hard way. It is so frustrating to denounce those evil creatures, and so sad and revolting to see victim after victim being eating up alive by this snakes that we call “human beings” and you can’t do anything because those victims don’t believe you. Again that’s why I think even thought this is a very painful experience I went through it is the only way to know what a sociopath really is. You only get the real meaning and picture when you have a personal and intimate contact with one. That’s why is so difficult to educate people about it.

Maryjane

They seem to be everywhere.. look at Madoff.. Tiger Woods.. movies, movie gossip, political, Edwards… it is more accepted as the norm than to be healthy and live ‘right’..
It is sensationalized, movies made, books written…and people even do things in order to acheive media attention.. look at the balloon dad…

All sense of decency is being lost.. so in everyday life.. many think who cares.. if they do it in the movies.. so can I …

It’s like the thrill of it is more important than what is real, good and honest…

Men talk about sex on the first date.. could that be because of shows like SEX AND THE CITY..
Morals, honesty, integrity, real love are passed by for thrills and excitement.. and that is what these people crave.. right?
It seems to all be about manipulation for what it is that anyone wants… for gain, for control, for thrills, to push the envelope…

Maryjane

So lines are blurred and it is difficult to accurately define.

eileen

Changedforever, I can relate to your frustration as something similar happened to me. But be sure of two things: first, warning that person was the right thing to do. Secondly, don’t think you wasted your time. The person you warned will put two and two together eventually – because as you know sociopaths can’t keep their masks for very long – and she will thanks to your warning.

pollyannanomore

I am in touch with a psychiatrist who says the DSMIV is thinking of dropping the criteria … scary. This is because they’re on the whole positive psychology kick – I think positive psychology is great too but there are some people who are just plain evil whether through biology or upbringing or a combination of both – clearly the people making the criteria haven’t hooked up with a Cluster B and seen the wreckage they bring to people’s lives. I think we need legislation against psychological abuse -you can go to jail for physical murder so why not for trying to murder someone’s identity and soul?

Maryjane

Changed forever..

I think that you can try to warn.. but it won’t work. She will become defensive and think that he is ‘different’ with her..

I had an ex tell me after that she knew what was going to occur… and I asked her why didn’t she tell me and she said.. because you wouldn’t have believed me, would you? And beisdes, when you were around, he was better with the kids and easier to deal with…

This is from a relationship I had years ago….

Early on, I asked this recent man what his ex would say that she didn’t like about him.. and he told me that she didn’t like his tone of voice.. and that she was intimidated by his intelligence…
At the time, I thought how strange..
But a year later.. I am saying his tone of voice his vile… and he lords his feigned intelligence.. And I would say.. why do you speak a french would in french.. that is affected..
and he would respond… “You’re just intimidated by my intelligence..”

LOL… wow! Same ole .. same ole… huh?

Yes, he will do to her what he did with you… but in the honeymoon phase.. she won’t believe you.. and will just think that you are jealous…

eileen

Ok but at least you’ve planted the seed of doubt and that will help her find out a few weeks, months or years before she would have otherwise.
It depends on the person also. If I had been warned I would certainly have taken it seriously, because I already knew from experience that evil exists and men can be f***ed up!

Maryjane

You know after my weekend of blogging on here and going over and over things and having relief that he is out of my life…
Today.. I am missing him… geez! WHY!? Is it because he was in my house.. in my area.. and we went all over the place here together.. is it because I have a lonely feeling today..?

I went to a car wash that I always go to but that he and I went to once and I got my car detailed.. and while I am standing watching the guys work on my car.. I think of him.. two men come in and check me out.. so that makes me feel a little lift that I am noticed.. but, at the same time I hate it.. I am tired of that look.. I am tired of looking … not that I am but tired f the awareness of it.. when I was with him .. I was off the market.. and I was glad to be.. not that I need to be on the marked now.. but you know what I am talking about, correct?

recovering

Donna — Very concise and important article.

changedforever: I think you’re right that one can only truly
“get” them on a personal level.

As a “trained” professional in the mental health field (not currently practicing full-time, however) who has been personally affected by a past relationship with a N/S, I can tell you that even my own original theoretical and clinical training in the early 1990s didn’t come close to preparing me to understand this as much as my general life experiences and the ultimate encounter with a N/S did.

But the education in counseling also enhanced what I learned experientially, helping me integrate the information at a far deeper and different level than I might have otherwise done.

The truth is, had I not had my close encounter with this brand of toxic human being, I would have still believed everyone could change and grow or that there was “good in everyone.”
And this perspective is from someone who grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Chicago, which was a relatively decent place to live until my teens but became a horrendous environment by the early 1980s when I was leaving home to attend undergraduate college.

The N/S/Ps in our midst are complicated on some levels and simple on another, unpredictable yet predictable.

I think these dichotomies are part of what makes it so hard for people to wrap their minds around what a disordered personality is. And, the fact that there is even diversity among the disordered — in terms of their approaches and preferences in perpetrating chaos, confusion and destruction.

I’ve heard it said that the personal is political. So, in the tradition of the 12-steps, it will likely be up to each of us who have experienced the N/S/Ps first-hand to somehow have a role in carrying our awareness to others we come in contact with, to the degree we are motivated and comfortable doing so.

Embracing the whole issue of paradox — of opposite and conflicting realities that co-exist — is what makes the concept easier to accept for me.

I can now accept that evil co-exists with good, sanity and a mask of sanity can co-exist within a single person, chaos and order can operate side-by-side within the world.

Makes me better able to grasp some things without wanting to pull my hair out. I’ve long given up on the idea of a “life should be fair” world — yet, I do believe justice can be found at times.

And when I think about how even normal people can be both kind and mean at times, I’ve decided it’s best for me to view most things along a continuum.

No doubt many of the N/S/Ps are far on the extremes, as close to evil as anyone can imagine.

Coming to terms with the middle ground, being part of a “shades of gray” world, helps me focus less on what is out of my control.

Otherwise, my anxiety would go through the roof — and yes, there are still moments like this, depending on what is happening — about the potential lack of safety in the world, and lack of reasonableness that can be found in some people.

I like to refer back, though, to what M. Scott Peck once said: That it is more mysterious and awe-inspiring that good exists in people and the world, than why evil does.

LouiseGolem

This is all very interesting, too, and I too have noticed (now that I’ve had this experience, and read more about sociopaths) how this condition/syndrome/whatever-you-want-to-call-it does seem to be more prevalent these days. and it almost seems to be glamorized/glorified.

Is it because there’s so much sex and violence on tv? I myself wonder if it’s symptomatic of the last desperate gasps of the tyranny of patriarchy. It seems to me that all over the world, there are larger groups of people emerging who reject the power structures of patriarchy, but those who control the current power structure are fighting like crazy to keep it in place.

Then there was something else I read this week that is somewhat related to this. I’ve been web-surfing a lot on the topic of sociopathy/psychopathy/narcissism and somewhere I read someone making the comment that the sociopath might be considered the next step in our evolution. Strangely, this was a thought I had a year or so ago, before I’d even come to realize that I was with a sociopath. (In fact, to confirm this article’s thesis, I didn’t even know what the word meant until I had a near break-down, and did some web searching in August, and found THIS website.) I was kind of intrigued by unravelling what the heck was wrong with him. I saw, very clearly and very early on, that the man was very lacking in empathy. And I thought: he is a survivor. He is not nostalgic; he treats everything with equal value (that is, no value) except himself. And I was kind of intrigued with that for awhile, and tried to practice it myself for awhile. But it just didn’t work. Not for me – bleeding heart extraordinare.

Anyway, I ramble. I do wish that the facts about sociopaths were publicized more widely, especially with so much more socializing going on on the internet. So many kids out there meeting people that way, and stupid people like me. That IS how I met mine.

one/joy_step_at_a_time

RECOVERING: thoughtful and sane post about embracing a paradigm of dichotomy. both/and as the buddhists say. much sanity here.

persephone7

LouiseG.: I think it does have something to do with so much sex and violence in the media, movies and on TV. I noticed it years ago when my daughter started watching MTV and ‘Real World’ – there are so many reality shows now where drama in relationships prevails – and negativity, cheating, deceit, etc. In certain circles, it’s not hip to be sincere and truly loving.
It’s hip to be cruel.

pollyannanomore

Nice post Recovering – great points 🙂 You are so right that we don’t really ‘get it’ till we’ve lived with them or been seriously involved in their lives. I guess the same could be said about other disorders such as Schizophrenia or major Depression, but the difference with those is they are not pinned on a lack of empathy and parasitic behaviour.

I think in part the business community values these traits – dog eat dog, no emotions – ‘it’s nothing personal just business’, being highly competitive and needing to win, stepping over people if necessary, mind games and strategic tactics. I also wondered if military training might contribute to it = that was something I wondered about for a long time – brainwashing during training … also recruits are injected with substances that aren’t even identified half of the time. They would make superb killers and they do – no fear, no hesitation and no remorse, guilt or shame.

Definitely the explosion of violence as entertainment has something to do with it as does the objectification of women through mass pornography, that seems to normalise a new deviant behaviour every week. Society has changed massively in the last ten to twenty years. The mobility of much of the world’s population is definitely to the sociopath’s advantage. There is no longer an expectation that you will remain in the town you were born in and known to the whole population your whole life.

Style I totally know what you are saying … the male gaze – a way of viewing women as purely sexual objects. It is both a compliment and an insult. I also understand your comments about being in a couple. There is a certain safety and public kudos in being part of a long term couple – it’s public affirmation that someone ‘loves’ you enough to commit to the longer term. WHen you’re single you don’t get that. As my grandma would say ‘WHo wants someone nobody else wants?’ The world is kind of built for couples and families too – look at hotel rooms, restaurants – they don’t have specific seating for singles do they?

swallow

This subject has been so frustrating for me.
Time and again you mention the word psychopath and people’s eyes glaze over and they stop listening to you. They simply do not wish to believe it.
I have a few theories why:-
1. Psychopaths are true chameleons. They can appear to be completely genuine in any guise they wish to use.
2. Everyone absorbs the information through the prism of their own emotional baggage. If you are informing about a family member or lover, the person you are trying to convince is already in emotional turmoil.
3. No-one wants to accept the fact that they have been fooled.
4. For most people, the thought that they may have been or are in contact with a psychopath is just too scary, so they choose not to believe it.
5. The media and Psychiatric proffesionals as has been said in the article just do not get it or even if they do won’t come out and label people.
How we educate the general public I honestly don’t know. It seems that we can only see these traits when it is already too late.

pollyannanomore

Good point Swallow – we can only see it when it is too late. It’s also such a complex concept to try to explain to people. And you’re right – people don’t want to believe there are some in this world who enjoy hurting others or are indifferent to it – it’s just unbelievable. Try googling ‘Just World theory’ – if we had our rose coloured glasses on during the relationship, most of society wears them all the time lol

There does seem to be a general backlash in society against labelling people or ‘putting people in boxes’. I’ve seen lots of ads that say ‘I am more than my depression’ or ‘know me before you judge me’. However labels are really useful in these situations in understanding what we are up against. Normally I am against labelling people – I don’t like it when it happens to me. But I had such relief when I found the Cluster B diagram. I don’t know what I would have done had I not found it. I knew I was being abused, but I also knew he was more than an abuser with male privilege ideas.

Have you got any ideas on raising awareness? I am thinking as more books come out on these relationships that will slowly raise awareness, but I guess these types of books have a specific readership ie people who are in some kind of relationship with those who have a disorder.

Cat

Donna, Excellent, enlightening article! I was one who, when I finally found the definition of the word, “sociopath”, was more than ready to acknowledge that was exactly what I had on my hands. I was happy to be able to finally give a name to all that he was and did. I would NOT have done that even a year ago. The word is scary to most and carries the connotation of the serial killer, which isn’t true at all.

swallow, excellent post! I had a round or two with every point you listed. I am now watching family members who refused to believe me in regards to my ex go exhibit a lot of anger that they were fooled by me ex P as well. Each is doing so in their own way, including blaming me for having brought him into the family. I firmly put my foot down on that, however, telling each they have their own brain and own pair of eyes. Yes, each of them, just as myself, have their own emotional baggage. I’ll admit to finding it intriguing to watch each of them go through what I did.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how to raise awareness on this, unless it’s through a personal experience. As Donna so aptly pointed out, many doors are closed and I feel people simply do NOT want to delve into this and learn…until it happens to them.

slimone

Donna,

Thank-you for this article. For me, personally, it absolutely had to be personal, repeated exposures to these folks, before I reached an absolute pain threshold. But (in my mind anyway) for the first time, I heard the word narcissist. I believe if I had become aware of the actual characteristics, reasons for attraction, eventual outcomes, and non-treatability of Cluster B PD’s, I very well may have been spared more entanglement.

Though my therapist was supportive, she was not very knowledgeable. But through my experience she googled the spathole I was seeing, purused his websites, and validated she believed he was n and probably a sociopath. So her validation was so helpful.

As for professionals being in disagreement, and generally ignorant of Cluster B’s/psychopathology, this is most disturbing for me. Those of us who may find ourselves entangled need professionals to help us identify what we are dealing with. We need the validation, education, and support to go no contact.

Knowing about n/s/p has been the single greatest illuminator to my becoming self-loving, that without this specific understanding, I may have found myself attracted to another one, still believing it is because I am not lovable/good enough/etc….to attract the ‘right’ guy. It opened a whole new perspective into my upbringing, my self-beliefs, and my healing path.

I will be educating where ever and whenever I feel it is safe and appropriate.

Thanks again, Slim

recovering

one_step_at_a_time says: What you mention — the “both/and as the buddhists say” — seems the best way to grasp the bigger pciture, rather than a narrow approach to life.

Also one_step, congratulations on your job, the new grant writing project. A door open to more possibilities for you, I hope…

pollyannanomore — you mentioned the “Cluster B diagram,” referencing male privilege and other ideas. Can you direct me to that resource information — a link or whatever — at some point? I’d like to read more about this.

neveragain

style1- yes, I get tired of that look. But at least for me, when I’m not looking (which is ALWAYS now, happily married in a non-open marriage), I get a lot less looks. Maybe because I don’t make eye contact and because I ‘ve learned to not smile too much.

And yes, it is frustrating when the memories keep coming and coming. I’m now using Louise’s suggestion of the stop sign. After two years since the last time I talked to him or heard from him at all, it is time for him to get out of my head!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

neveragain

Gemni- Sorry, what a shock. I can only imagine. Hang in there. I wish I had pearls of wisdom, but I don’t, but sending good thoughts your way.

teacher123

Wow many good points here to think about from the article and others like swallow and recovering. It is hard to label many of these people because they do change their tactics to fit different situations/people although it is also surprising just how similar their patterns are. I have a new label for them as I have been reading up a little on fools in the Bible. Here are some quick references to such people.
As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly….
It is a sport to a fool to do mischief…
Honor is not fitting for a fool….
I could go on, but here are a couple of more that also tie into why you should go no contact.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
Do not speak to a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.
Trying to diagnose and converse with such people will only make you crazy as many of us have found out the hard way. I think about the movie “What About Bob” applies to these people. If you hang around evil/foolish/psychopathic people you are in certain danger yourself. And they may come out looking good with you as the bad person. Believe it or not.

pollyannanomore

Recovering – I will certainly look out some bookmarked links for you = what I was referring to with the term ‘cluster b diagram’ is the listing of presenting symptoms in each type of disorder – to see each class of disorder laid out beside each other gave me the view that personality is a spectrum and there is a spectrum within each type of disorder too. For example – a person may have just a few of the traits of psychopathy – that doesn’t necessarily mean they will do you less harm, but they might not be as far up the scale as for example a convicted murderer who has been formally diagnosed.

I can certainly also give you some resources to read on abuse – most are around psychological and emotional abuse. Over a period of about three months, I copied and pasted things I could relate to or had experienced from lots of abuse sites – within three months that document I saved was almost seven hundred pages in length! So that was my first clue that my gut had been right and there was definitely something wrong here – I realised with horror that I was being abused. I kept looking for REASONS for the abuse and that’s when I came across the concept of personality disorders – it was useful to me to read the traits of all of them – including CLuster C so I could recognise traits in him and traits of dysfunction in me to understand the dynamic that was created by the two of us.

Male priviledge is really a feminist term – the idea that men are entitled to better treatment in society and subserviance from women by virtue of the fact they are men. It seems to have largely disappeared from our awareness in society, but one place where the concept still thrives is romantic relationships – for example – when in relationship with someone – who does the cleaning? Who does most of the cooking? True there are some men who are changing the picture and taking responsibility for themselves, but on most research women do 10 – 20 hours per week more unpaid work – whether taking care of children or doing unpaid domestic tasks. Imagine if this work was compensated for … or included in the Gross National Product! I’ve decided bugger getting a husband … I want a wife – they do so much more for free lol

Will have a dig for the links – this stuff is really interesting – just depends how in depth you want to go with it. As always with things published online use your own judgement and look for correlations between different versions of information you read – not all of it is totally accurate, but more than happy to share what I found helpful in my journey thus far. Actually wouldn’t it be good to have a thread on useful links and resources?

pollyannanomore

Recovering – here are a few to have a look at – will find you more when I have a bit more time!

This one gives an awesome breakdown of abusive behaviours – emotional and psychological abuse is hard to pin down because it is generally covert and happens in private …

http://www.outofthefogsite.com/CommonBehaviors.html

This one is from Theodore Millon who thinks there are ten subtypes of psychopathy …

http://www.scribd.com/doc/15904839/Ten-Subtypes-of-Psychopathy-Theodore-Millon-Roger-D-Davis

This site gives a great overview of emotional abuse techniques

http://eqi.org/eabuse1.htm

And this gives an overview of what invalidation is and why it is so harmful to people

http://eqi.org/invalid.htm

This one has a lot of ‘opinion’ and is not the most scientific – if you have a look around they are also into ideas about aliens and crop circles! But nonetheless I found some of the writing on psychopathy fascinating and read everything I could get my hands on …

http://www.cassiopaea.com/cassiopaea/psychopath.htm

The last two are quotes from survivors of abuse – whether the person had a personality disorder or not … I don’t know but I read a lot of quotes that I could really relate to

http://www.homestead.com/~site/scripts_newguest/newguest.dll?CMD=CMDGetViewEntriesPage&&STYLE=elegant%2f&RETURN=http%253a%252f%252fpa2%252ehomestead%252ecom%252fArchives%252ehtml&GBID=4367261&ENTRYID=1602747&FORWARDFLAG=true&DISPLAY=17&EM=false&EMAILADDRESS=ENC%5f%5f&CUSTOMVALUE=false&TARGETURL=&H_H=6425604&H_P=1&H_A=8207084&H_V=

(my that’s a big link!)

This one categorises quotes into themes on various topics

http://survivorquotes.bravehost.com/danddd.html

Hope this helps – I’ll dig out some more later for you 🙂
To your good learning and healing!

pollyannanomore

Geminigirl – there is a new poster called HurtMom who is seeking to blog with others who have children who are disordered – she posted on the After the sociopath how do we heal part 16 – the end of recovery thread and is looking for advice and support from others in the same situation.

You must be very shocked to see this situation unfold with your own daughter – I am so sorry you are seeing all this – it must be so hurtful to you as her mother. Hugs.

swallow

Pollyannanomore, thanks for the good websites. They are all helpful in their own way and knowledge is power!
I wish that schools would have programmes to teach kids about personality disorders ( maybe some do have behaviour classes). It does not need to be explained in scary or disturbing ways but could outline such things as acceptable and non -acceptable behviour, red flags to look for , how to enforce boundaries and how to deal with such people.
If my sister and I had been given that knowledge when we were young, we would have realised that our Mother had a personality disorder and it may have saved us from many, many years of emotional and psychological torment.
Swallow

LouiseGolem

Persephone (and others)
Yeah, I always thought it was a trite comment to say “blame it on T.V., but when you look at all the porn that’s readily available to anyone with a cable subscription, and the amount of porn on the internet, well, it’s just out there; it’s everywhere. And young people today have a such a different attitude about their bodies and sexuality. Sometimes I look at teen-agers and kids in their early 20s, and think “this is what my generation raised” (yeah, I’m in my early 50s, but I never had kids.)

This means a two-fold brutal admission, and I hope that those of you who very conscientiously raised your kids will excuse me. As someone who works with underprivileged young people, I have seen a fair sampling of a certain part of this upcoming generation and their dysfunctional parents to feel I can venture such conclusions. I will also say I implicate myself in these points: 1. my generation, myself included, was the “me” generation, and we did a fair amount for our own satisfaction. Perhaps we didn’t even realize we were fulfilling our own desires so fully, sometimes without paying as much attention as we might to the needs of our children. (Of course, other social circumstances contributed: the NEED to have a high income and also the generation that raised us that wanted us to have more than they had. . . . ) 2. many of our children were raised with TV as a major pacifier and baby-sitter. They are absolutely media oriented, and turn to a screen for answers to their problems far more quickly than they turn to a real human being.

So now we have kids sending pictures of themselves naked over their phones or over the internet. There’s a plethora of websites with college girl (and guy) porn, and college girls think NOTHING of putting their bodies out there. You know, it happens at sorority and fraternity parties, and a number of other places where kids just aren’t using their right minds, and experimenting with testing their boundaries.)

Part of me is terrifically jealous of the physical confidence these young kids exude, as well as their willingness to be open to alternative sexualities. But what about their emotional health? Did they have to come up with their own alternative to emotional health, as they sat there in front of the television or video game while their parents were off working, drinking, smoking pot, having affairs, or whatever they did? Is this generation that is just now entering the work force a generation in which sociopathy is a more dominant psychic state?

But there are kids who are feeling, caring individuals out there. I know from experience that some are working really hard to take responsibility for their actions. Still even those kids are out there, taking chances and testing their own boundaries, and inadvertantly advertising themselves, either consciously or not so consciously, on the web or in other media. And those sicko sociopaths who have their radars out for innocence and naivete are out there, too, enjoying the show, and reaching into the candy dish every now and then and taking a nibble.

Unfortunately, this was something I noticed my S starting to do. When I found it on his computer, he claimed he was not looking at the College Girl Porn, that it was his son, but his son had moved out months previous to this! And I think he was starting to do more than look. I know he’s absolutely capable of luring in some inexperienced, naieve young girl or guy and doing some real damage to their psyche before discarding them. It makes me really worried, and really sad.

takesonetoknowone

I posted but I guess someone took it down, I don’t know why, I am dealing with this problem two fold, one has a chance because he is young the other is too far gone, I wish someone would tell me why my post was taken down.

recovering

pollyannanomore — Thanks for the extensive resource list. I’ve been keeping various resources for 20 years on all forms of topics related to oppression including male privilege, racism and sexism, mental and spiritual health issues.

Once in a while I find that someone will pull together all this diverse information in ways that provide new context for understanding things at a higher level.

I like Patricia Evans’ book, “Controlling People,” which deals with people who are “pretending” in a more routine way, without using N/S/P criteria, but her overview helps me see the N/S/P framework from a different angle.

Lots of great stuff out there! Knowledge is power.

recovering

teacher123: Fascinating quotes you reference on foolish people, that can be found in the Bible.

You make a very good point that trying to figure out/diagnose such people can make anyone look crazy — because so many people on the “outside” refuse to believe that evil is real; they can only accept it as a concept/idea, if that.

I’ve seen how in many workplaces, good people can end up looking crazy and get attacked/not supported when they try to be honest or right wrongs done by slick and manipulative types.

pollyannanomore

Too right Louise – slightly feminist though I am I have to admit that much of this damage may have been done by these kids having no adult available to them as they were in previous generations when Mom was at home. Mind you there is no possibility really of Mom staying home now – Dad might leave and then where would the family be with no career to support them. Childcare is all well and good but strangers don;t have the same investment in the children as a blood relative does and in childcare there are so many children to too few caregivers and teachers – one to one attention is an impossibility with a focus on profits. I am seeing how wrong it all is but don;t see any answers ahead – people have to work to live.

LouiseGolem

Yeah, Pollyanna. . . it really is a double bind, but makes one think more about how the media itself has to be responsible. But we live in a free world, eh?

Ox Drover

Great article, Donna!!!

Which underscores the problems we have in “warning” others about the “aliens among us” just as if we were trying to tell others that we had been “abducted and abused” by aliens from MARS who “look so human.” Our stories would be just as “believable” to the “average Joe or Jane” as they are now! Plus, many professionals in the medical, mental health and judicial and even our school systems just “don’t get it”—

lightsaber

Good article Donna,

I believe it may not be such an uphill battle as it might seem. We are at a crucial time right now in human and cultural history with the advancement of technology. Our society has changed radically in the past 20 years or so. Traditional 20th Century ways of passing on knowledge have changed.

While it may be true that the medical and psychological establishment can’t agree on terminology and diagnoses, and that Hollywood’s depiction of these disorders does not shed any light of the reality of them, or even that magazines will not publish stories, these detriments are no longer that important.

We have entered the WEB AGE of instant interconnection. Traditional media (old fashioned tv news) no longer has the all pervasive influence it once did and every day it is waning with the advent of blogs. The percentage of people that get their news from online sources, including to a large extent, by blogs, is increasing at a huge rate.

The good news in all of this, is that it has a more democratizing (if that’s even a word! LOL) effect when it comes to social issues and what gets “covered’.

Blogs such as Lovefraud and others can be linked in so many ways by keyword search where those that may be suffering from abuse and confusion can find the kind of information they need. Moreover, it allows for ways to reach those that may not be directly affected to learn about cons and sociopaths (or any other issue for that matter) through the power of interconnection.

We were never able to do this before! The only “topics of interest” we read about were those that the few magazine editors chose or the editor of the Sunday supplement or the weekly “lifestyle” issue on the news. Other than that, it was all word of mouth.

So, congratulations are in order 🙂 Way to go Donna!! The more I see on the internet about sociopaths and personality disorders, the happier I am.

changedforever

Icanseeclearlynow:

I agree 100% with your point, but I think when a person starts seeking and searching the internet looking for answers/explanations for a partner’s behavior, it is already too late and the damage is already done. At least that was what happened to me. At certain point I started thinking that something was wrong with his personality and I didn’t know what. That’s when I started my personal investigation. I remembered the first words I typed on the internet it was “liar” and “cheater” and I came across “pathological liar” and I just went from there and kept going and reading until I found “sociopath” and I found this blog and started reading related books and so on. Now I know that if another sociopath happens to knock my door I can recognize him/her in no time.What I want to say is usually when you get the Knowledge about this Personalities it is because you already had an encounter with one and you’re so desperate to find an answer for the problem. The problem I see is to educate people so they can recognize this creatures way before the damage is done which I still think it is very difficult, because good people don’t go in life suspicious of everybody and checking their intentions out for no reason. We believe that every person at least has decency and are not out there with the only evil purpose to hurt others. If it is true that the tendency is for the number of sociopaths to increase than were going to a very ugly world to live in, where we have to approach people always with a suspicious on the back of our minds to protect ourselves. SO SAD!

blueshoes

Hi, Donna, thanks for writing this article.
I agree that lack of knowledge of sociopathy hurts our society and hurts us as individuals. BUt while I agree that public education would be helpful I am not sure it will be effective because this problem is so deep-rooted.

I think sociopathy is part of the fabric of our society, our history and our traditions, so naming it has been very difficult.

Here in the US we have a tradition of free speech and freedom. Those are foundation of our culture. People have the “freedom” to be verbally cruel and to cheat and betray their family members and partners.

We have a criminal justice system to deal with people who commit crimes, and we have a mental health system to treat “mental illness.”

Sociopathy is not a mental illness; it cannot be treated. Nor is it a crime to “be” a socopath. In our society, we believe people’s freedom should only be restricted based on evidence of criminal acts.

The problem is, if you are intimately involved with a sociopath–either in your family or as a spouse/lover/friend–it is extremely difficult to obtain objective evidence. If you re closely involved with the sociopath, you are seen as complicit, at least partially, and the sociopath will do his or her best to confuse things by accusing you of criminal acts as well. So for an outsider, it can look like a big mess to untangle. This all works in the sociopath’s favor, of course.

I don’t see any way around this problem except to not get involved with sociopaths. Once you realize what you are dealing with, get evidence and get out.

I agree with Donna and the only thing that is convincing is objective evidence, in the form of proof of actions. The court system will not judge someone on the basis of fears and beliefs. That is good in some ways, because many sociopaths have been known to lodge false accusations against their accusers; fortunately, the lack of objective evidence protected those falsely accused people. But overall, this dependence on objective evidence in the justice system is exploited by sociopaths. If something bad happens in the privacy of your home, watch out. The more privacy you have, the less evidence.

Leah

Donna and All,

I don’t often get a chance to post given that I find it quite challenging to juggle solo parenthood, work and school. (My hat is off to those who manage such competing demands well.)

My impression – for what it’s worth – is that an editor sees the word “sociopath” in a query letter and just stops reading, thinking the usual fallacies – that doesn’t apply to my readers, that will offend the advertisers, that is soooo rare and only refers to bloody killers, etc. While I much prefer to call a spade a spade, I wonder if you’d have more success starting out with a euphemism such as “dominance oriented individual” or something along those lines and starting out with a description of someone lower on the spectrum and ending with the more extreme cases. I’m certainly not a journalist. So I’d be interesting in hearing your thoughts on the matter.

I have not read it yet, but my understanding is that the description of socially dominant individuals advanced by Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto in Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression is close to the criteria for narcissism.

…On a related note, I’ve asked faculty members in Journalism, Administration of Justice and Psychology if they would be interested in integrating psychopathy (or whatever you want to call it) into their curriculum if they were essentially given engaging materials. Every one of them said “yes.”

…Once I finish the degree I’m pursuing, I plan to create a scholarship for psychology students based in part of their response to an essay question on the importance of mental health professionals understanding cluster B personality disorders…

…There are still times (though thankfully fewer) when I feel a sense of crushing heartbreak for all the suffering caused by “them”. So I keep trying to adopt Amnesty International’s credo a lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness…

I still curse the darkness a lot, but the thought that I’m moving closer to being able to help someone avoid this agony helps a bit.

BTW, I think you deserve something akin to a Nobel prize for continuing to fight the good fight.

flowerpower

I believe these types (evil) has always existed and our advanced communication allows us to discuss it with more people. The prevalence of these types may increase as a cultural breakdown in morals occurs..think of ancient Rome. We have that now.

Those of us who have a conscience and are empathetic are more likely to be taken in.I was easy prey after a failed marriage and relationship. Looking for validation from man…I had forgotten what my mother taught me about my worth. I believed the lies in my own head.

The answer…teach our children strong moral and ethical behavior; teach them to be vigilant to words vs. actions; teach evil exists and has since the beginning. Teach them they are valued and unique; created for a greater purpose; not to be self seeking but, in humility, love themselves enough to demand respect.

Most of all give them TRUTH..in my case it is Gods word. There is no substitute for moral teaching…your body is a temple, respect it and take care of it. Your heart is a treasure to be protected and cherished.

We cannot expect them to grow up and understand this world too soon. They must learn wisdom and part of this is the knowledge that evil exists and how to discern it.
We are defined by how we treat other people; not how they treat us.

Ox Drover

Dear flowerpower,

A very very good post above and good advice. Thank you for this contribution t oour clollective knowledge and wisdom here. Glad you found your way here! ((((Hugs))))

UnOccupy:Psycho:Paths

We have to get the word out, in waves, in waves of understanding.

There has been much written about how messed up the terminology refering to these individuals. Psychopath to associated with serial killers, sociopath also similar to psychopath or people thing it is more like a dilinquent.
Plus these words seem to ‘scientific for many’.

And use of variations of pathology, but using path does not give anyone a clue as to what these people are about.

I thought of these individuals being toxic personality-wise. The majority are not violent or physically dangerous, but as somone said earlier, if they can convict for murder, why not for murdering a spirit or soul. Maybe a stretch on that.

I propose we adopt the word ‘Tox’ to refer to these individuals. It is short, but strong, it is based on the toxicity of their personality and has enough of an edge to be a sort of for warning.

Any comments?

geminigirl

Dear flowerpower, You can teach your children, or attempt to, BUT if they{like my two} turn out to be spaths themselves, you dont have a snowballs chance in hell of changing them, sad to say!
Mine didint become spaths till they hit puberty, -after that, I had absolutely NO control over them. Trie d but failed. The older one reacted with verbal and physical violence to me trying,{nicely} to change her, the other one just split me off emotionally for ever, and is still split off from me at age 44.
Love, GemXX

soimnotthecrazee1

siblinghell!
I like the term TOX! They are toxic to our minds, bodies and souls!
soimnotthecrazee1!

Ox Drover

Dear siblinghell,

I hope that with the newer DSM-V coming out sometime in the near future, that the TERM will go back to something that makes some sense…it isn’t going to be over night for sure, and it takes the professionals agreeing on First, WHAT THE NAME IS and secondly what the diagnosis is, what the factors are that MAKE A DIAGNOSIS in the first place.

The general “public” at large has a very poor concept of what many mental “illnesses” are or what “crazy” is or what the difference between mentally “ill” and personality disordered are. Many people seem to think if someone is “crazy” or “mentally ill” it means they are not responsible for what they do…wrong. Or they think if someone is abusive or mean it is because they were abused as a child, or that having a “hard childhood” excuses what someone does as an adult…or that there is “good in everyone if you can just get down deep” or that “anyone can be fixed” or “everyone should be given another chance” etc.

“Yes, Virginia, there IS A SATAN and his name is “psychopath.” And No, Virginia, there is not a Santa Claus and there is NOT good down deep in everyone, and it does not take two to fight, and there are NOT two valid sides to every story…and yes, there is EVIL in this world.

one/joy_step_at_a_time

IS ANYONE ABLE TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION??? I am still getting results backdated 3 weeks!

Ox Drover

ps The term “Tox” or “toxic” or “evil” or any other name is just another descriptive term we use to describe them, but the problem is that there is no professionally accepted term that the public can learn and know the definition of. Just as people are starting to learn the signs and symptoms of “depression” or “bi-polar” or some other mental diseases, hopefully, at some point the public will start to learn the term that WE describe as socio/psycho-pathic

We can also just call them s-path-holes (Henry coined that term I think!) LOL

Ox Drover

One, haven’t tried. Was not able to log on at all til just a little while ago.

Ox Drover

One_step, search function works for me.

one/joy_step_at_a_time

yah, today was a no lf day.

i haven’t been able to use the search function successfully for weeks. told Donna a few days ago. Would you try it Oxy and see if it works for you?

one/joy_step_at_a_time

posted over each other 😉

is it giving you your up to date posts oxy?

Ox Drover

I didn’t pay any attention to the CURRENT or not current search, just that it was working to find MY posts.

OK I tried it again and the posts it searched up were all older posts, no current ones. Not sure why. It brought up OLDER articles I had written and then older posts…separately. Sorry.

soimnotthecrazee1

Happy Thanksgiving all! How do you do the “search” you are speaking of? PS. What is d&d?
notcrze1!

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