Is Your Significant Other A Sociopath?

16 Jun

The word sociopath has an interesting pedigree. The original (and technically correct) meaning is derived from behavior representative of criminal groups (hence socio); e.g. members of a robbery gang.

Today, however, sociopath in the popular vernacular has come to characterize an individual’s narcissistic, self-centered, amoral behavior. (Counselor Barb informs me that the correct term for this is antisocial personality disorder.)  In any event, this type of person is the subject of this post.

So, is your SO a sociopath? Here are some clues: (bear in mind, we all may exhibit one or more of these characteristics, but rarely, and typically on a bad day):

1. The sociopath is never wrong. Never — ever — wrong.

2. The sociopath, if they appear to be wrong, will:

a. Deny the factual evidence (“That photo is supposedly of me? Nah, anyone can fake a photo.”)

b. Belittle the factual evidence (“So I did it; so what? Everyone does it; who cares?”)

c. Attack the bearer of factual evidence and change the focus to something irrelevant (“Oh, and so you think you’re perfect? You’re lucky I put up with you, after what you did four years ago…)

3. The sociopath does not — at all — understand your (or any other person’s) point of view. They do not know how to look at the world from another perspective because they are not capable of empathy.

4. However, the sociopath knows how to fake empathy and friendliness better than a used car salesman. They can make you pursue them, love them, and want to stay with them despite their almost total self-centeredness and frequent abuse. This is because they are experts at emotional manipulation, easily capable of making you feel as though you are at fault for relationship problems. (Ever wonder why your girlfriend stays with her abusive SO? Now you know.)

5. The sociopath’s skills at false empathy allow them to be very socially adept; they can even be the life of the party. Their mask, however, tends to slip — sometimes revealing extreme rage — when they are criticized or challenged. A sociopath is a prince when you’re  unquestioning and subservient, but Godzilla should you stray from your prescribed role in the relationship.

So, is your SO a sociopath? If so, what do you do? ET says run, as fast as you can. (But you may want to discuss this first with a qualified mental health counselor.)

-Ed Walker



One response to “Is Your Significant Other A Sociopath?

  1. counselorbarb

    June 17, 2011 at 10:59 am

    A few things…

    First, great post describing antisocial behavior in general. It IS very difficult for other people to understand why women (or men) stay with sociopaths. I’m sticking with your wording even though what you describe technically combines narcissistic personality disorder, and possibly features from other disorders, but I don’t want to get too technical.

    What sociopaths generally do is that they are very charming and nice when they don’t know you too well. Gradually they will allow their “real” (although it can be difficult to tell what is real and what isn’t) persona to emerge. Unfortunately by this time you are already in love with them, and find it difficult to see their faults clearly, never mind get yourself out of the situation.

    The term for what you refer to as changing the truth is called “gaslighting”. You can google it. Perhaps most devastating to the victim is the questioning of their own perceptions, and thus their sanity. I’ve had many people in my office think that they are “crazy” due to the abuser (again, sticking with your terminology), rewriting history. They no longer trust their own ability to perceive events and it is simply heartbreaking. I could get into a complicated discussion about truth and perception, and how each person can perceive the same event differently, but this isn’t what we are talking about here. It is this damage that is perhaps the hardest to undo, although the blows to self-efficacy and self-esteem are pretty bad as well. But none of it has to be permanent!

    One other thing. Not always, but often, this type of behavior escalates to physical abuse. If you are in that situation, you may already know intuitively that when you leave is the most dangerous time. You’ll want to have a safety plan and get in contact with a woman’s shelter, or call the crisis hotline (in Tampa) at 211 or call 911.



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