Help! I Think I’m Involved With A Sociopath!

Have you ever sat in total bewilderment, mulling over some of the things your significant other, friend or co-worker  has done or said?  Do you find yourself often wondering how they can be so totally oblivious to the pain they cause others or seem so cold and uncaring about what others are going through? It may be that you are involved with a sociopath (or socialized psychopath).  Before you get yourself worked up, I must say that sociopaths are generally not potential mass murderers, but a close professional or personal relationship with a psychopath will likely be damaging to the other individual.

Sociopaths are often difficult to spot because they have learned to mimic feelings and emotions by observing those around them. They have a good idea of how most people will react to a certain situation, so they will react in that manner. Without the advantage of watching others, they would have no idea of how to interact with their fellow human beings.

One of the more obvious characteristics of a sociopath is that they give the impression of talking “at” you and not to you.  You are really not important, and it doesn’t matter if you are interested in what they have to say. They just have the need to unload their vast “knowledge” on someone and you happen to be the most convenient. They are very self-important, and are willing to use and manipulate others to achieve their own selfish goals.  They feel entitled to certain things and have no qualms about lying, cheating or stealing to get those things.  In a sexual relationship, it you are treated much like a cardboard cut-out or blow-up doll; you are just an object for their personal gratification and your likes or dislikes matter not at all to them.

The next big tip-off is the sociopath’s inability to emotionally connect with others. Sympathy, empathy, and remorse or regret for mistreatment of others are all lost on the sociopathic individual. He (or she) cannot understand your pain or sadness, and any attempt to display emotion or sympathy will come off as contrived and very unconvincing.  This is especially true when your emotional turmoil comes at a time that is inconvenient for the sociopath. That is to say, your feelings and need for sympathy are interfering with the things the sociopath is trying to accomplish. Typically, the sociopath wants you to feel sorry for him instead, so that he can use it to his advantage.

Since your garden variety sociopath doesn’t spend much time dealing with feelings or relationships (which take up much of a “normal” person’s time), he is often bored and, therefore, needs constant stimulation. He needs to be going somewhere or doing something all the time.  Sometimes this leads to the sociopath taking unnecessary risks in order to garner some excitement in his life. Also, the less time spent being concerned about people and their problems gives the sociopath more time to plot, plan, and scheme about how to get what he wants form his victims.

The sociopath is a natural “taker”. He is never a giver unless, ultimately, the giving results in someone feeling obligated to him. He has no problem leeching off those who care about him. All aspects of life, to the sociopath, are viewed as games to be won at any price.  

Here is a list of traits widely used to identify sociopathic behavior. The list has been extracted from an article by Robert Matthewsin the Sunday Telegraph Review, May 4th 1997:

The following questionnaire is based on research and experiences of socialized psychopaths.  For each trait, decide if it applies to the person you suspect may be a socialized psychopath, fully (2 points), partially (1 point) or not at all (0 points).  A score of 25 or above suggests strong sociopathic tendencies.

  1. Do they have problems sustaining stable relationships, personally and in business?
  2. Do they frequently manipulate others to achieve selfish goals, with no consideration of the effects on those manipulated?
  3. Are they cavalier about the truth, and capable of telling lies to your face?
  4. Do they have an air of self-importance, regardless of their true standing in society?
  5. Have they no apparent sense of remorse, shame or guilt?
  6. Is their charm superficial, and capable of being switched on to suit immediate ends?
  7. Are they easily bored and demand constant stimulation?
  8. Are their displays of human emotion unconvincing?
  9. Do they enjoy taking risks, and acting on reckless impulse?
  10. Are they quick to blame others for their mistakes?
  11. As teenagers, did they resent authority, play truant and/or steal?
  12. Do they have no qualms about sponging off others?
  13. Are they quick to lose their temper?
  14. Are they sexually promiscuous?
  15. Do they have a belligerent, bullying manner?
  16. Are they unrealistic about their long-term aims?
  17. Do they lack any ability to empathize with others?
  18. Would you regard them as essentially irresponsible?

To date, there are no real treatment options. Most psychologist agree that therapy makes them worse because they use the therapeutic interactions to learn more about human vulnerabilities they can then exploit. They learn how to manipulate better and they learn better excuses that others will believe. The best advice to date is this:

If you are in a relationship with a sociopath; get out as quickly as possible. 

©2011 – Andrea J. Shannon