People frequently ask me questions about human behavior, this is natural because I’m a psychiatrist and people hope I’ll have some answers. I’ve observed a pattern in the questions that people ask me. Often, I will give an answer I am sure is scientifically and clinically correct. At some point later, the person will come back to me and ask the same question again, perhaps phrased a little differently. This process is repeated several times until I am able to figure out why the person does not feel satisfied by my answer. Questions about sociopaths and psychopaths are often very difficult to answer in a way that brings closure to the question.
The most frequently- asked questions where the above dynamic occurs is, “Is my _______ a sociopath/psychopath?” and “Why can’t I leave?” I have gone around and around with people over and over again with these. It has recently become apparent to me that these questions are difficult for different reasons.
In the case of “Is my _______ a sociopath/psychopath?” the difficulty has nothing to do with the accuracy of the DSM or the Hare checklist for psychopathy. The difficulty happens because when people ask this question they don’t really want a diagnosis. When people ask whether or not a loved one is a sociopath, what they really want to know is if their loved one is evil. So, when I come back with criteria and answers, they never feel satisfied. They walk away more confused than ever. So to answer your question unambiguously, look within yourself to understand how you define evil. What is the difference for you between evil deeds, evil choices and an evil person? A sociopath is a person who repeatedly does harm to others. In my book, this defines an evil person. An evil person is one who repeatedly harms others… and yes repeated actions are a good reflection of a person’s personality.
If a person repeatedly harms others, it doesn’t matter whether he/she also occasionally does good things, says “I love you,” hangs around or seems to be “nice.” The evil deeds scream volumes about a person’ s personality and character. For more see Would somebody please tell me why he did this?
“Why can’t I leave?” is difficult to give a satisfying answer to for another reason. People who ask this question want to be helped to leave in spite of themselves. Often people who ask this question are trying to make themselves want to leave. The most satisfying answer I can give (other than come and move in with me and I’ll help you) is leaving is hard because it makes you very anxious. If you want to successfully leave you have to plan on being very anxious and have predetermined coping strategies. Many people may need to see a physician for medication because the anxiety is so overwhelming. For more on leaving a sociopath see Why is this so hard? and I dont understand why I still care.
I want to thank all of the people who take the time to write Lovefraud. We have learned a great deal from you and we strive to use your questions to help others.