The question victims of sociopaths most frequently ask is, “Why am I having such a hard time getting beyond this?” I am going to give an answer, but I’m afraid that since the answer is intellectual and not emotional, it may not feel complete or satisfactory. This is how a reader phrased this question:
It’s interesting because it seems like a lot of members on the board (myself included) have mentioned how difficult it is to get rid of thoughts of their sociopath. They seem to haunt us even after they have left our lives. As if the damage and destruction was not enough, they continue to be a part of our lives through our minds.
We have to acknowledge that this question is not only asked by victims of sociopathy. Many people who have suffered the loss of a significant intimate relationship ruminate for a long time. As far as I know there are no studies directly comparing victims of sociopaths to widows/widowers and divorced people. The presence of depression definitely increases this rumination in divorced and widowed people. It is highly recommended that people who have suffered loss, and who have sleep and appetite disturbance with excessive preoccupation be considered for antidepressants.
Many things contribute to the depression that is experienced after a relationship with a sociopath. Depression is learned helplessness. Sociopaths increase helplessness in victims by their exploitive care-taking behavior that is disguised as love. I personally experienced at least two examples of this. While I was pregnant, my former husband drove me to work, saying he was concerned about me. Effectively, I didn’t drive or go any where alone for nearly a year. He also ordered lunch for me everyday. These small things add up and increase reliance on the sociopath. Then, when the sociopath is gone, victims have to regain their autonomy.
At the beginning of a relationship, sociopaths determine what a victim’s most sacred dreams are. They then proceed to convince the victim that they are the answer to those dreams. Victims often feel that the sociopath is their dream come true, not realizing that they told the sociopath their dreams and the sociopath then used the information to deceive. No one wants to give up his/her most sacred dream. Sociopaths know this and count on it. This fact makes victims enter a state of denial in order to preserve the illusion that these dreams have come true. When that state of denial is finally broken, depression sets in. The depression is about a feeling of hopelessness that the things wanted most in life will never be achieved.
In addition to depression, anxiety greatly affects adjustment to the loss of a relationship. In the wake of a relationship with a sociopath, victims are often left with financial problems, fear of the IRS and police, no friends and severed family ties. It is no wonder there is massive anxiety here! Our minds are preprogrammed to seek relief from anxiety through our love relationships. Because of this preprogramming, anxiety will increase thoughts of the sociopath. One Lovefraud reader stated recently, “I am learning that if I can reduce the anxiety which is the most uncomfortable thing to live with, then I can focus on moving forward.” The anxiety experienced during the relationship with the sociopath also enhances the psychological bond. I have discussed this in previous posts.
The bottom line is that in order to even begin to recover, you have to overcome depression and anxiety. If you are not able to do this alone please get help. With all the advances in medicine there is no reason to suffer. Also realize that you cannot overcome anxiety and depression without taking care of yourself. Stop smoking, eat a healthy diet, do not drink alcohol. Alcohol will weaken your coping and interfere with your sleep. You also need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. You also need to find good social support. Social support is the best natural treatment of anxiety there is.