Sociopaths, psychopaths, and antisocial personality disorder: for our purposes here, the words can all be used interchangeably. Yesterday I listened to a fascinating interview with Dr. Martha Stout, psychologist and bestselling author of The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless versus the Rest of Us, as she explained how prevalent sociopathy is and what it’s implications are for the rest of society. Her research resulted in the estimate that a staggering 4% of the population, or 1 in 25, is a sociopath – a number that has been criticized by her peers as, shockingly, being too low.
So what exactly is a sociopath, you ask? A sociopath is a person that is physically unable to process emotion. Neurological studies indicate that sociopaths have the same physiological responses to words like “love” or “murder” as they do to words like “lamp” or “chair.” This disabled emotional processing leads to a lack of conscience and empathy – without being able to internalize or conceptualize emotional pain, they lack the yardstick healthy people rely on to identify with one another or create the feelings of guilt that inevitably arise when we hurt another human being. As a result, a sociopath’s motives to fulfillment become focused on control and power rather than love and deep interpersonal connection. When a sociopathic individual is born with above average intelligence, this can be incredibly dangerous.
Once we develop a basic understanding of the sociopathic personality and motives, it is easy to understand how romantic relationships can be an easy target for their manipulation and control. As Sigmund Freud so beautifully said, “we are never so vulnerable as when we love.” Unfortunately, it’s that vulnerability that – when compounded with a conscience-less, power-seeking individual – makes us perfect targets to fuel their manipulative, control-seeking, parasitic lifestyles.
So, without further ado, here are 7 surprising warning signs that you’re dating a sociopath.
1. Chronic Addictions
Not all addicts are sociopaths, but a majority of sociopaths are addicts. In fact, studies estimate that up to 70% of sociopaths struggle with drug and/or alcohol addictions, the theory being that they use these substances to overcome the boredom they feel from living without any emotional life (and the highs and lows that inevitably come with it).
2. Constantly Evoking your Pity (the victim mentality)
Sociopaths are masters at evading responsibility. They are often also incredible actors (you would be too if you had to fake every “emotion” you felt your whole life). As a result, they are going to be able to work your pity button at every turn. This is a great tactic that they use to cover up their inconsistent stories (#3), explain their lack of friends and social connections (#4), and milk you for all you’re worth. They’ll appeal to your sympathy with stories of their abusive childhood or financial problems that “aren’t their fault.” Why? Because they like control, and they like to get stuff, and let’s get real- they really don’t care about you. They just aren’t capable of it.
3. Lies & Gaps in Their Stories
Inauthentic people that lead parasitic lifestyles are bound to have gaps and inconsistencies in their life narrative. They aren’t going to tell you that they lived with their ex-girlfriend for three years, not paying rent and being emotionally abusive and then left when she started demanding that they contribute – are they?
4. Lack of Friends and Social Connections
It’s hard to maintain longterm relationships without emotional connections. In fact, it’s relatively impossible – especially when you have a tendency to manipulate, dominate, and control with a lifetime of self-serving behaviors. Warning, though: They’ll use the pity card to explain why they have so few people that care about them and so few emotional ties, it won’t ever be “their fault.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
5. Sexual Magnetism
Some theories suggest that sociopathy can be rooted in excess testosterone in the blood stream during development. This excess testosterone can also play a role in traditionally attractive male features and, in theory, increase their sexual desirability.
Sociopaths make a life out of studying how to control and dominate other people. One of the things that can be easily learned, especially without emotions getting involved and muddying things up, is the art of being attractive and charming. Mastering this is step one to getting the world to fall in love with them and under their thumb – so you better believe this is exactly where they’ll start.
7. Exciting Lives
There’s often an aspect of wanderlust to the sociopath’s life. Since they don’t develop deep emotional roots and often rely on their parasitic lifestyle (hopping from one ripe donor to the next), it’s easy for them to move around from one place to another, constantly seeking another round of stimulation and challenges. To the healthy woman that is tired of going on first dates with “boring” and typical men, this can seem like a dream man – filled with goals, travel, and stories to tell. Unfortunately, no matter how long the relationship lasts, it’s hard to accept that he will eventually move on to the next adventure – without you, and with all of the love, money, and time that he took from you.