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Reflections on antisocial behavior (part 1): When women are sociopaths

This semester I am teaching a course on personality and psychopathology to graduate students in counseling. I am very excited about this course and am considering making it available online to everyone. I sat down with a colleague this week and explained the content of the course. During that conversation the topic of gender differences in personality came up. My colleague said something like, “Yeh, we expect men to compete, sometimes act aggressively and to spread their seed, women are biologically preprogrammed to stay put and to nurture.”

I countered by saying , “While that formulation has some truth, we often fail to appreciate that females also have aggressive tendencies rooted in their biology.” For every social mammal there are two opposing tendencies- affiliation/affection and competition/dominance. The manner in which males and females compete and establish dominance may be different, but the drive for dominance is present in females as well as males. Furthermore, the drive for dominance can lead to violence and aggression in females. For example, while female chimpanzees readily affiliate and form groups to go and forage for food, they have to be on guard with respect to one another. Infanticide is not all that uncommon, female chimps will kill their friend’s babies. Scientists say this is their way of reducing the competition for food.

I explain all this to wake you up to the fact that antisocial and aggressive tendencies are part of being female. Females of social species also have to compete for limited resources (food, territory and mates) and sometimes that competition gets nasty. My hope is that eventually the human brain systems involving this competition and aggression will become vestigial organs kind of like the appendix. However for humans today, the brain motivational system that makes us want to compete and dominate is quite functional. It is this brain system that leads to antisocial behavior- behavior that harms others and so disrupts our social order.

Studies of antisocial behavior in women indicate that it has a strong genetic component. Women whose lives are characterized by pervasive antisocial behavior are more likely than men to have offspring with the same pattern. That is true even when children are given up for adoption at birth.

Women have pervasive antisocial behavior when they harm and exploit nearly everyone in their lives. When this antisocial behavior is present in young girls, it carries with it a worse prognosis than it does for boys.

For Driven to Do Evil I put together the following chart regarding antisocial behavior:

Antisocial Behaviors
Manipulation Cheating
Lying Sexual coercion
Non-verbal intimidation Rape
Verbal intimidation/threats Thievery/robbery
Coercive control Assault
Social aggression Murder

If you consider these behaviors, none of the very antisocial behaviors on the left are illegal or violent. In fact most antisocial behaviors are not violent. Studies show that while there are gender differences in violent antisocial behavior there are not gender differences in non-violent antisocial behavior. A woman who is pervasively antisocial is less likely to be criminal but all of her relationships center around manipulating, lying and intimidating as a means of dominating others. Some female “caretaking behaviors” can also fall under the category of coercive control.

Sexual coercion and rape are less commonly perpetrated by women. However, we should all appreciate the fact that for the victims of these assaults the behaviors are all too common.

This week someone wrote in asking about borderline personality disorder in women and its relationship to sociopathy/psychopathy. My answer is to look at the list of antisocial behaviors above. To the extent that a woman diagnosed with borderline personality has pervasive antisocial behavior as manifested by behaviors on that list, she is also a sociopath/psychopath.

This week I also had the honor of speaking with a man who calls himself BloggerT7165. He is probably the nation’s leading expert on antisocial behavior in women. He developed this expertise through personal, educational and occupational experience. I highly recommend his blog: What about when mom is the abuser?

BloggerT7165 has posted his personal story on his blog. He says, “What about when MOM is the abuser and is a psychopath and malignant narcissist? I ask those questions because that is exactly what my childhood consisted of. I will give a brief background so you can understand where I am coming from and my own biases and experiences.” I’ll let you read the rest of his story yourself. He also discusses cases of female rapists and child molesters.

I told Mr. BloggerT7165 that he is a treasure to me. I hope all you ladies will take note of this. In spite of all his horrific experiences with women my new friend does not believe that “all women are jerks.” He has also had the inner strength to overcome his own genetics/temperament, make good choices and to be very productive. He is a valued worker, cherished husband and devoted father.

BloggerT7165 is a victor not a victim.

I receive many letters from people (primarily women) who are stuck. I try as best I can to motivate them to get unstuck. These victims have a whole host of excuses as to why they can’t function or work on their own recovery. Many women are also stuck in the belief that “all men are jerks.”

If you are stuck, please consider the example of the boy who was raised by an antisocial, psychopathic mother but who still knew in his heart that loving is the source of meaning in human life. He will tell you that overcoming being a victim in order to become a victor takes work. We make a choice to do that work or not.

Choose today to heal your own ability to love and pursue your own well-being. Don’t wait for that monetary settlement, child custody or some other act of the legal system. Start today. See a therapist if you need to. Set small daily goals and a few larger long term goals for yourself. A year from now the Earth will have gone around the sun one more time, and you will have either made progress or not…that is up to you!

What about when mom is the abuser?



59 Comments on "Reflections on antisocial behavior (part 1): When women are sociopaths"

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  1. OxDrover says:

    Dear Annie, I’m glad if my words have been healing for you! It is my hope that each of us who have “been through the mill” will be able to reach out to others who are also in the pain from the “grinding” done by the psychopaths. Donna has shown us a path and given us a venue to reach out to others. I also know that that reaching out helps the ones who do the reaching as well. Everything I say, I also say to MYSELF to help reinforce my own path toward healing. It is a long slippery road, and I think is one in which each of us will always need companionship!



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  2. pollyannanomore says:

    This is good to see – I guess with the subject of female manipulation, there would also be some women who use being stuck as a tool of coercion for the next mate? Just a thought. I have met women who blame the last disastrous relationship for their current problems and one stunning example springs to mind right now. I was talking with a male friend the other night and he told me about his last girlfriend and the reason he is staying single for a while to ground himself (never a dumb idea after a bad relationship!)

    He met an attractive woman and within a couple of months she had moved in. She was vulnerable after childhood abuses and a failed destructive relationship. She also brought a hidden habit or addiction into the relationship that she chose not to disclose before she moved in. She was a secret alcoholic.

    Her moving in commenced a year of hell for him. He ended up financially and every other way supporting her. Every day he was calling her numnerous times from work terrified that she was drunk and choking on her own vomit or that she had drunk herself to death. He got her into hospital rehab numerous times and had to replace the carpet at his house three times during that year. Eventually he realised he couldn’t help her. She was still blaming everything on the past and taking no responsibility for moving her own life forward. He packed her off on a plane to her parents and told them the whole story.

    When he was done telling his story, I asked him what it had taught him. And I asked him what that rescue told him about him as a person – why did he feel the need to keep trying and keep saving her when the rest of his life was falling apart as a result? I told him some of my story and we compared elements of it as well as elements of ourselves as rescuers.

    He felt if she could just get over the relationship and then could just get over the parental abuse … then she’d be a great person to be with. I also held that hope for my ex – if he could just stop lying, if he could just open up, if he could just develop some empathy …. but he never did. We were both guilty of some delusional thinking. Both manipulated by the pasts and present behaviour of our exes.

    I had no idea before hearing this just how manipulative women could be towards men. I have seen women act like pack bitches in groups with other women – competition is definitely overt and women fighting for a man’s attention is truly something to behold – it;s no holds barred!

    Thankyou to whoever raised this thread again – it is worth remembering – anyone can abuse – not just men.



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  3. BloggerT7165 says:

    Annie,

    Thank you for your kind words. It has always been so sad for me to see people who had been abused but were either not believed or had nowhere to go for help simply because the person that abused them was female. This is especially true for sexual abuse. There is now a website that looks at that issue directly http://www.female-offenders.com and hopefully it can be of some small help.



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  4. Outlier says:

    Annie, this article is located within the category ‘female sociopaths’. You’ll find lots of articles from 2006 to today. Don’t rely on what’s being discussed presently (in the recent comments section), rummage through the archives in each ‘category’; there’s an article for everybody.



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  5. Outlier says:

    Blogger, I was abused by my sister who is just a year older than me. But it felt then and still feels like i was molested by an adult. She never presented herself as an equal, like my siblings (6-12 years my senior) – they were significantly older than me, but they were my equals. My sister being a year older than me had the presence of an adult for the duration of my childhood. So. Sociopathic children behave like adults, she developed VERY quickly; she exhibited her sexuality rather fast, she was physically confident in her sexual manner very early on; she flirted with men at 15 infront of their girlfriends. She seemed so developed in many ways; whereas I was a child throughout my childhood, if that makes sense. So as I was constantly compared with her; I was considered the immature one, and she was the mature one. But she was actually very mature for her age as she didnt resemble other kids our age (my observation); my mother used to say young kids in the neighbourhood loved me, but not her. All my neices and nephews warmed to me, but they never went near her. I see her raise her kids and see the exact intimidation. I recognise the pattern and child behaviour.

    If any posters who had children/access to children with sociopathic traits, how adult like did they behave compared to other kids? Ironically they stop maturing after 16 and continue being 16 as they age!

    edit The man she flirted with in front of his gf was my elder sister’s bf. She wrote in her diary: “I knew I was hurting [elder sister’s name], but I enjoyed it”. My elder sister read this. She outed herself at 15. She had already had 15 years of abusive control.

    3-4 years later her bf revealed he’d been sexually abused as a child, had psychotherapy; my sister couldnt handle this. I recall them breaking up soon after. Sister made repeat reference to ‘what do I do with him?’ Something bothered her about this, which I found strange. I couldnt believe such a nice person found anything in my sister; he was beautiful in many ways; too good for my sister. Several years when she found out he was running a business with his fiance; she drove hundreds of miles to see him, still flirting with him with his gf present; she couldnt handle it. I was with her, she is totally unaware how abnormal her behaviour is. So long as I stay silent she thinks I wear blinkers. The power of staying silent! How deceiving of me!, haha



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