With the popularity of Bravo’s show ‘Dirty John‘ based on the true life story of a wicked sociopath/psychopath con man named John Meehan, who had a long history of sweeping wealthy successful women off their feet and then trying to destroy them once they discovered his true motive, it makes one wonder how many others are there out there hiding behind these charming, handsome masks? Debra Newell John’s last ‘victim’ is a smart, beautiful, successful, savvy business woman. How was she so easily fooled and close to giving everything away to this monster? And not only her, but countless of others including his wife of 10 years who was highly intelligent and lived with the man and had 2 children with him. When most people think about the term “sociopath” or “psychopath”, the common association is with a violent criminal, such as a serial killer, However, most sociopaths/psychopaths are “subcriminal”, meaning they manage to avoid conviction for major crimes. Just like John Meehan who slithered away unscathed for years. Unfortunately, the mental wiring that allows the serial killer to callously commit homicide is the same wiring that exists in these subcriminal individuals. As a result, sociopaths leave a wide swathe of destruction in their wake – from broken hearts to empty bank accounts. Fortunately Debra’s daughters were all the wiser and had a sixth sense about John from the beginning that finally put a fatal end to his destructive ways before he was able to ruin their lives completely.
While only a licensed mental health professional can officially diagnose a sociopath, here are 9 signs to watch out for if you are wondering if an individual in your life could be a sociopath/psychopath:
1. Failure to conform to social norms, feels that the laws do not apply to them as they do to society at large. This may or may result in an actual arrest. Sociopaths often display criminal versatility.
2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by pathological lying and manipulations. Sociopaths will con others for their own practical benefit, or simply for pleasure. This means they often live a parasitic lifestyle, hustling others into paying their way.
3. Poor impulse control, an inability to plan ahead and take into account the ramifications of actions. These individuals are often sexually promiscuous and have many short term sexual liaisons. Easily bored, these individuals need constant sources of stimulation.
4. Aggressive behavior, as evidenced by fistfights or other violent incidents.
5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others. Sociopaths often lack the same “danger” reactions that the rest of us have. This leads them to ignore or be less aware of situations where a non-disordered person would be reacting with a “fight or flight” response.
6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by inability to maintain gainful employment, or meet financial obligations adequately. This can also include an inability to follow through on commitments, such as marriage.
7. Lack of remorse. Sociopaths/psychopaths will either feel indifferently toward, or rationalize their actions toward others, regardless of the pain they cause.
8. A sense of exaggerated self worth, a view that he or she is a superior human being. This often goes hand in hand with a sense of entitlement, that he or she deserves special treatment.
9. Shallow emotional depth, an inability to relate in a deep or meaningful way with others. This is often paired with a superficial charm and outward gregariousness toward people.
The general rule is that people with ASPD have no regard for other human beings and will go to great lengths—often using other people, breaking the law, and becoming violent—to get what they want. The behavior can be egregious (rape or murder), or it may stop at lying and cheating.
Now a little bit of reassuring news: You’re not likely to be married to or the business partner of a true sociopath. In fact, someone diagnosed with ASPD probably wouldn’t even be in a relationship according to Stephen Salzbrenner, MD. assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in Omaha.
If you have the misfortune of crossing paths with a high-functioning sociopath, though, you could be in trouble. Certainly, you’ve heard the stereotype of the charmer who talks a woman into signing over her inheritance or life-insurance policy. It may seem unlikely that you would do this for someone you don’t know well, but, says Dr. Salzbrenner, sociopaths are “phenomenal at making you feel like you’ve known them forever.”
Similarly, people with ASPD don’t tend to stick with jobs for long. “They’re probably temp workers,” says Dr. Salzbrenner. Someone who stays with a job for a long time may have antisocial traits but likely doesn’t meet all the criteria for a diagnosis, he adds.
Other traits of someone with ASPD also get in the way of living stable lives, starting with irresponsibility. This might manifest as not showing up to work on time or not even looking for work when they’re unemployed, as well as not paying bills, debts, or child support.
In general, sociopaths are rule breakers. Even more, they’re law breakers, and many have spent time in correctional facilities. “These people, left to their own devices, wouldn’t follow any rules unless it served their own self-interest,” says Dr. Salzbrenner.
High-functioning sociopaths often lie—about something as significant as their identity or as seemingly trivial as where they spent the afternoon. It’s a “pattern of calculated lying,” says Dr. Salzbrenner. They also tend to exaggerate to make themselves look better and to deflect blame onto others.
Resource – Healthy Living
While the lies may be calculated, sociopaths also tend to be impulsive, not calculating long-term consequences. “They really don’t have a very identifiable picture of what lies down the road if they do something wrong but are [instead] very responsive to immediate reward,” says Dr. Salzbrenner. “Having an affair is nothing to them, or stealing something is nothing.” And because sociopaths are so charming and witty, they may not actually get caught, or they may avoid facing punishment if they are caught.
Perhaps not surprisingly, high-functioning sociopaths are also reckless, perhaps speeding or driving while drunk or high. In fact, people with ASPD are more likely than the average person to have substance abuse issues. They are also easily provoked and can get aggressive, even sometimes picking fights—and they don’t show remorse for any pain or damage they may have caused.
MORE WAYS TO SPOT A SOCIOPATH
Sociopaths have impressive social skills, thereby making them extremely hard to spot. They are charming, funny and exciting. This is why we need to be aware. If your new romantic interest exhibits all or most of the following behaviors, be careful. He or she might be a sociopath.
1) Charisma and charm: They’re smooth talkers, always have an answer, never miss a beat. They seem to be very exciting. Their manners are impeccable; they are well groomed; they fulfill the codes of romance and courtship to a tee. They are likely to be eloquent talkers who lace their speech with impressive sounding facts and figures. They may be fun, laugh a lot, sweep their partner off their feet with their sweetness.
2) Enormous ego: They act like the smartest, richest or most successful people around. They may actually come out and tell you that.
3) Overly attentive: They call, text and e-mail constantly. They want to be with you every moment. They resent time you spend with your family and friends.
4) Jekyll and Hyde personality: One minute they love you; the next minute they hate you. Their personality changes like flipping a switch.
5) Blame others: Nothing is ever their fault. They always have an excuse. Someone else causes their problems.
6) Lies and gaps in the story. You ask questions, and the answers are vague. They tell stupid lies. They tell outrageous lies. They lie when they’d make out better telling the truth. If you probe deeper, you’ll find that their stories never stack up.
7) Intense eye contact: Call it the predatory stare. If you get a chill down your spine when they look at you, pay attention.
8) Move fast: They quickly proclaim that you’re their true love and soul mate. They want to move in together or get married quickly.
9) Pity play: They appeal to your sympathy. They want you to feel sorry for their abusive childhood, psychotic ex, incurable disease or financial setbacks.
10) Sexual magnetism: If you feel intense attraction, if your physical relationship is unbelievable, it may be their excess testosterone.
Either way, the terms are used to describe individuals who have a range of personality disorders. These people are NOT certifiably mentally ill; they are biological carriers of socially and personally problematic traits. Such traits may have been manifested from childhood in acts of cruelty to animals, property or people. These characteristics can disrupt relationships, create financial and emotional crises, and, at their worst, lead the person to callously undertake acts of vandalism, theft, rape or murder. Being aware what constitutes a sociopath can help one resist their charm and the errors inherent in establishing a life with them.
Sociopaths know exactly what they are doing, and most of them never kill anyone. But they are social predators who exploit just about everyone they meet. They have no heart, no conscience and no remorse.
You can’t ‘cure’ a sociopath or help them to see the error of their ways. They can’t see the world as we do, and the only thing you can do, is save yourself and walk away.
Resource – Dr Annabelle R Charbit
Author of A Life Lived Ridiculously
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