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Archive for February, 2007

ASK DR. LEEDOM: Is this child beginning to act like a sociopath?

Recently we received this question:

A friend of mine has a 4 year old little boy that I am very worried about. This child shows many signs of anti-social behavior. He is manipulative. He is conniving. He is a liar. He is vindictive. He is sneaky. He will do things, look to see if you are noticing, and have an evil little smile on his face seeming to dare you to do or say anything. Is this the beginning behavior of a sociopath? His mother seems to be oblivious to his behaviors. However she told me that she plans to home-school him…so I have to wonder if perhaps she has “seen” something in him. The idea worries me, because at least if he was going to school…maybe someone else would truly see his behaviors. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Posted in: Liane Leedom, M.D.

ASK DR. LEEDOM: answers to your questions about sociopaths

Lovefraud is pleased to announce a new service for our readers—ASK DR. LEEDOM.

Liane J. Leedom, M.D., is a psychiatrist who knows exactly what it is like to be deceived by a sociopath. Even with the best training in psychiatry—USC, UCLA and Yale—she, herself, failed to recognize the symptoms. She married a sociopath, who is the father of her son.

Does she understand what you’re going through? You bet.

If you have a question for Dr. Leedom, send your question directly to her at drleedom@lovefraud.com. Your question will be posted on the Lovefraud Blog, along with her answer. Not only will it help you, it will help others who are recovering from a run-in with a sociopath. Please note: all questions are shared with Donna Andersen, author of Lovefraud.com.

Community of healing

I am thrilled that Dr. Leedom has offered to answer questions from Lovefraud readers. I am also thrilled to see Lovefraud evolving into a community of healing.

“Will I ever be the same?” (Part 1)

Nearly every person who has been in a relationship with a sociopath and survived, has asked, “Will I ever be the same?” When we ask this question, what we are really asking is if we are permanently damaged. We all know that every day we age, grow and change, therefore on a minute to minute basis we are technically not the same even when good things happen. But the trauma we have experienced is different from our everyday experiences that change us little by little. This trauma resulted from an enormous psychological, emotional and financial catastrophe. The trauma is all the more severe because the catastrophe was caused intentionally as an act of aggression by someone we loved-a sociopath. Over the next few weeks I will be discussing the psychological and emotional damage caused by sociopaths.

Releasing the pain inflicted by a sociopath

Lovefraud recently heard from Janine in Florida. Here is what she wrote:

In May it will be two years since I realized my ex-husband was a sociopath and every day I deal with the psychological nightmare that he has given me. I try so hard not to think about the destruction he has done to me…but every day it is there. Destroyed period.

How can one put this behind them?? Yes I have moved on with my life but every day in my mind what he did to me is there and will be in my brain forever. I have been told to forgive him and I do in a way because I realize how sick he is but it is still there!

Creating healing with the ones you’ve hurt after the sociopath is gone

During the final 3 months of the sociopathic relationship, my daughters, then 15 and 16, did not know where I was or if I was alive or dead. Every day they waited for the police to arrive at the front door with the news that my body had been found. I had disappeared when the sociopath fled the province in an attempt to evade capture by the police. He’d promised to let me go once he reached the States. I didn’t care what he did. I wanted the pain and suffering and horror of my life to end. I wanted to die. And then one day the police walked in and arrested him and I was set free.

One of my first thoughts in freedom was, “I will never forgive myself for what I did to my daughters”. That was my victim speaking. To ask for my daughters’ forgiveness, I had to forgive myself, otherwise I was lying when I asked for their forgiveness. And so I began the process of forgiveness.

When women are sociopaths/psychopaths

Nearly all of the research into sociopathy has involved evaluating the personality traits of adult men in prison. The reason for this is that researchers have easy access to adult prisoners and more prisoners are male. Think about it—how else would a researcher find sociopaths to study? The problem with studying sociopathy in male prisoners is that we learn nothing about sociopaths who never get arrested. We also don’t know if the research results apply to women.

There is actually very little research data available regarding sociopathy in non-criminals and in women. The little research that has been done reveals that sociopathy in women entails two or three main features that are similar to those found in men. Namely, female sociopaths lack empathy and enjoy manipulating and exploiting others. Violent and impulsive behavior is less common in sociopathic women. This fact may make them more dangerous, as they more easily blend in with the rest of society.

The high cost of sociopaths

Antisocial behavior in childhood is a major predictor of how much an individual will cost society.

That’s the conclusion of a study published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2001. It found that by age 28, individuals who as children had conduct disorder—kiddie sociopaths—cost public agencies 10 times more in services than children who did not have behavior problems.

The study, Financial cost of social exclusion: follow up study of antisocial children into adulthood, by Stephen Scott, Martin Knapp, Juliet Henderson and Barbara Maughan (2001), measured the costs of crime, special education services, foster and residential care, state benefits and health care. It was based on a previous study that followed 2,281 children from London. The children were divided into those with no behavior problems, those with behavior problems who were not diagnosed as having conduct disorder, and those with conduct disorder.

Did NASA miss any red flags?

Did NASA miss any red flags indicating that a woman put into a position of trust was a dangerous person? I follow this story with interest, having made this mistake myself. Could it be that even the rigorous psychological evaluations done by NASA fail to predict behavior or detect a sociopathy spectrum disorder? If that is true, those of us also conned by sociopaths can lighten up on ourselves.

Trained professionals often miss sociopaths

It is well known that even trained and experienced mental health professionals are not very good at predicting behavior and assessing sociopaths. In one study, repeat violent acts could be accurately predicted by therapist’s good reports. That’s right, the individuals who therapists thought were doing well were most likely to re-offend.

Unidentified psychopaths on Dateline TV

‘Til Death Do Us Part is a series that began running in January on Dateline, NBC’s true crime television show. It tells the stories of gruesome cases, recently in the news, in which husbands have murdered their wives, and at least one wife has murdered her husband.

In the show Lady in the Lake, which aired January 2, Mark Unger was convicted of murdering his wife, Florence. She fell, or was pushed, off of a boathouse and fell onto a concrete dock 12 feet below. Although unconscious, she was still alive, until Unger pushed her into the lake and she drowned.

In Body of Evidence, which aired January 9, Sean Goff, a former evangelical minister who claimed he found evidence in the Bible for “Christian polygamy,” married and had children with two women. When one of them, Joy Risker, no longer wanted to be in the dual marriage, Goff stabbed her to death, smashed in her face, removed her teeth, cut off her fingers, and dismembered her body and buried it in the Arizona desert.

Female sociopath first described 4,000 years ago!

I searched the scientific literature for the best description of a female sociopath. None rivaled this one that is more than 4,000 years old:

For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol;
she does not ponder the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it.

And now, O sons, listen to me,
and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner (Proverbs 5:4-10)