The Monster that Seeks to Manipulate, Fracture and Demolish
It is not Aspergers nor Autism, but it’s a comorbidity that, if undiagnosed may devour, destroy and create a lifetime of chaos in the families they ‘belong’ to. A sociopath is a term used to describe someone who has antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). People with ASPD can’t understand others’ feelings. They’ll often break rules or make impulsive decisions without feeling guilty for the harm they cause. People with ASPD may also use “mind games” to control friends, family members, co-workers, and even strangers. They may also be perceived as charismatic or charming. Know this is NOT autism, it is a comorbidity commonly known as ASPD or Antisocial Personality Disorder.
The above is a clinical definition, but to those abused in the wake of their path, it reads a lifetime of pain. It is a destroyer. It’s what you pray for protection from…and it just might be a family member.
The parent must see the signs to recognize and acknowledge their child (or self) has such symptoms. If not for the child, than for the lifetime of grief and destruction (sometimes death) the sociopath will inflict upon all family members and those in their path. Getting early treatment is vital in dealing with all aggressive mental disorders including bi-polar, schizophrenia, mania, oppositional defiant disorder and more. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, people may find relief from their symptoms and discover ways to cope effectively.
They are compulsive liars and even if they do apologize, it’s never genuine
Sociopaths are people who have little to no conscience. They will lie, cheat, steal and manipulate others for their own benefit. They know exactly what they are doing, they just don’t care because they don’t think that way. If you are naive enough, they will brainwash you into doing exactly what they say and what they want which is the only time a sociopath is truly happy.
Sociopaths can hide this well if you haven’t known them for long. They’re really nice and charming at first, almost too nice, but it’s extremely fake. The niceness will last until a problem occurs in which they are at fault however, you will be manipulated to believe that you are in the wrong. There is no reasoning with this person. Things have to be their way or it’s the highway. They will blame you for hurting them (even if they’re the ones who hurt you) or blame the world for all their problems. They are compulsive liars and even if they do apologize, it’s never genuine. Most are anti social and have few to no friends because most people around them don’t want to associate with them. However the sociopath will again tell you that “people hate me for no reason/the world is against me”. It is said that the only person who will put up with a sociopath is someone who is off their rocker or someone who has absolutely no self respect or quite possibly, it is a relative and not so easy to disassociate.
Sociopathy is more likely the product of childhood trauma and physical or emotional abuse. Because sociopathy appears to be learned rather than innate, sociopaths are capable of empathy in certain circumstances, and with certain individuals, but not others.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of
Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD). These disorders share many common behavioral traits, which leads to some of the confusion.
Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include:
- A disregard for laws and social mores
- A disregard for the rights of others
- A failure to feel remorse or guilt
- A tendency to display violent or aggressive behavior
Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are more likely than are psychopaths to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society. They are sometimes unable to hold down a steady job or to stay in one place for very long. It is often difficult, but not entirely impossible, for sociopaths to form attachments with others.
Many sociopaths are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society or its rules in general. Therefore, the meaningful attachments of any sociopath will be few in number and limited in scope. As a rule, they will struggle with relationships.
One surprising aspect is to see how they enjoy other people’s pain and hardship.Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD, Training Director of the High Conflict Institute in San Diego
Profile of the Sociopath
Common features of descriptions of the behavior of sociopaths.
- Glibness and Superficial Charm
- Manipulative and Conning
They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
- Grandiose Sense of Self
Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”
- Pathological Lying
Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
- Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
- Shallow Emotions
When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.
- Incapacity for Love
- Need for Stimulation
Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.
- Callousness/Lack of Empathy
Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
- Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.
- Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet “gets by” by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.
Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.
- Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.
- Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.
- Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.
How YOU Feel around the Sociopathic Predator
How do you feel around the person? It’s often your emotions that first tell you to beware, because your brain wants to believe them. Many people marry sociopaths, or hire them, do business deals with them, or elect them to responsible positions, even though they saw some warning signs. They wanted to believe the person’s words rather than pay attention to how they felt. Trust your feelings more than their words. If you have an uncomfortable or extreme feeling, check it out. Do a little research or ask around about what people think of so-and-so.
Fear. One common feeling around a sociopath is that they could hurt you if they wanted to. Sociopaths can be predators, so you may naturally feel uncomfortable being alone with them. You may suddenly get the feeling that you want to get out of a situation. Go, and ask questions later. Don’t let them talk you out of your fears. Take your time and get more background information about them.
Infatuation. This is the other extreme. Because of their many extremely positive words, people can fall in love with them—especially if they are lonely, grieving or have low self-esteem at the time. This also goes for hiring. In today’s fast-paced and competitive business world, sociopaths can make themselves look like a superstar. If you feel swept off your feet by a potential business partner, employee or employer, you may be falling for a sociopath. Since they are everywhere, you have to maintain a healthy skepticism no matter where you are.
Extreme sympathy. If you find yourself feeling extremely sympathetic toward someone, you may want to check out why. Sociopaths are skilled at claiming they have been victims and tell good stories to go with it. They often take advantage of people in vulnerable or sympathetic situations (the elderly, victims of in natural disasters, churchgoers, volunteers, etc.). By playing hard on your sympathy, they may be able to get you to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do for anyone else.
If your gut is sending you signals and you’re brushing off feelings of anger, distrust, and fear, there is probably a good reason.
If a person living with a mental illness becomes aggressive or violent, some suggestions include:
- Try to remain calm, and speak in a calm, clear and slow voice.
- Give the person some physical space.
- Avoid a confrontation – sometimes leaving the house to wait for everyone to calm down is more productive.
- Have a plan – know who you are going to call if the aggressive behaviour continues or you feel there is a risk of harm to the person, yourself or others. For example, you might call a mental health crisis team or the police .
Their Behavior (The 90% Rule)
A surprisingly simple way to spot a sociopath is to stay focused on their behavior and ignore their words. Pay special attention to any extreme behavior—things they do that 90% of people would not. Ask yourself, Would I ever do that? Extreme behavior is common for sociopaths, but they quickly cover it up with excuses: I was tired. I was under a lot of stress. He (or she) made me do it. I had to do it given what the other person did. It almost doesn’t matter what the behavior was; their excuses are often the same. They are always blameless and rarely apologize, unless they are caught and it will make them look good.
Targets of blame. Many sociopaths end up focused on Targets of Blame—people they feel justified in treating cruelly, whether in their families, at work, or in their communities. They often enjoy the suffering of other people. While they may target anyone, most people will avoid them. The ones they keep targeting or bullying are those who stay engaged with them. Either they get aggressive back with the sociopath (who can do aggressive better than almost anyone else) or they show their fear or frustration. Both approaches are unwise. It’s better to calmly disengage than to show how they affect your emotions. They will enjoy your helpless anger and/or your helpless frustration; it just confirms that they are dominating you.
Smiles, smirks, and laughter. One surprising aspect is to see how they enjoy other people’s pain and hardship. In legal cases, sociopaths smile, smirk or outright laugh when a victim tells their story in a deposition or in open court. It gets your attention, because, again, 90% of people would never do that. They would know better and feel some empathy for the victim. If you see someone smiling, smirking, or laughing out loud as they watch another’s pain on TV, in a movie, or on the street at an accident, you may be watching a sociopath who can’t help himself or herself.
Entrapped by a Sociopath?
Unfortunately, narcissistic sociopaths are good at finding the right people to manipulate. They know that you are trusting. They know you will make excuses for their bad behavior because you don’t want to see it for what it really is.
However, if your gut is sending you signals and you’re brushing off feelings of anger, distrust, and fear, there is probably a good reason. This is known as “cognitive dissonance.” You want to believe that this person you know is as good as they appear, even though you know it all seems too good to be true.
The first step to dealing with this person is to stop reinterpreting the facts. Don’t give someone with a narcissistic sociopathic personality the “benefit of the doubt.” You’re a good, trusting person who wants to see the good in others—that’s understandable. This may make it hard for you to see clearly. You might also be in a disadvantaged social or financial position that impairs your ability to fight back.
Most importantly, however, if the relationship is abusive, you must find a way to leave. If there is no abuse, you can set boundaries, build your assertiveness, and set limits, but you can’t change the other person. It’s not an easy decision whether to stay or go. Gain awareness and help from others and confront the situation with as much logic and rational thought as you can muster. Fighting or arguing with the narcissistic sociopath won’t help and will only make things worse.
If you know someone who fits the criteria for a narcissistic sociopath, it is important to recognize that it’s unlikely that person will change or seek help. Your best option is to arm yourself with knowledge, set strong boundaries, and distance yourself from the person as much as possible. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship with someone displaying these qualities, it is important to find a safe way to leave.
Portions of the above information is credited to the following:
The Better Health Channel, HealthLine, Psychology Today and the National Alliance on Mental Illness
Gabriela Lemos was born in Porto Alegre, Brasil, and was raised in San Antonio, Texas. She is currently a student at UTSA, graduating in December 2014 with a Bachelor degree in English. Brie states that she loves language and words, and the way in which people communicate with each other. She has always been interested and attracted to the autism community. “I find those on the spectrum to be incredible in so many ways, and I believe we can all learn from each other in our different strengths and weaknesses. I would love to use my talents to aid those who are not as strong in areas which I have confidence, and in turn receive an infinite amount of lessons and aid from those who I work with. Everything you send out, comes back to you, and I plan to practice sending out love and compassion every day”. We feel so fortunate to offer Brie’s talent of writing as well as her passion for autism awareness every week through our Aspergers101 Weekly.