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Aging out of sociopathy?

Research has suggested that some sociopaths may experience something like “sociopathic burnout,” characterized by a reduction in their antisocial behavioral output as they move through middle and older age. (This is a type of decline in production to be glad for.)

What this does not mean is that sociopaths “outgrow” their sociopathic orientation, anymore than a career thief outgrows his thief’s mentality.

“Sociopathic burn-out,” let me stress, is not to be mistaken for something as chimerical (and unrealistic) as the sociopath’s “personal growth.” One might be tempted to regard the aging sociopath’s “mellowing” as a signal of his perhaps, finally, “growing up;” of his acquiring perhaps, finally, a more mature grasp of his priorities; of his having learned, perhaps at long last, finally to appreciate and value his blessings (including you).

Don’t be deceived. The aging sociopath’s “mellowing” will have nothing to do with a maturation, genuine repentance or self-discovery process. In the end, it will be about “burnout,” and nothing more.

And “burnout” really isn’t so complicated. We all burn-out. All of us, as we age, lose energy, requiring, over time, that we grow more selective in the allocation of our decreasing energy reserves.

Accordingly, we might find ourselves, gradually, apportioning less of our energy to activities and behaviors that failed to tax us in our younger, indefatigable days.

And let’s not kid ourselves: The life of the exploiter is energy-draining. It may take a sociopath to chronically exploit others unconscionably, but it also takes a considerable toll of energy.

And so the sociopath, whose energy is as finite as yours, tires. As he moves past his prime, he finds that his shenanigans now come with a cost, a price, just as, at 40, or 50, you find that recovering from a bender isn’t as easy, as painless, as when you were 20, or 25.

Like the veteran Hollywood stunt man, the aging sociopath finds he can no longer pull off stunt after stunt without confronting an emerging reality: the satisfaction he gets from his outrageous stunts no longer necessarily (after all these years) supercedes the cost to himself, which grows bit by bit as he “ages” not out of his shallowness and lovelessness, but his energy.

The sociopath, in other words, hasn’t been humanized by age, merely depleted by age of the energy levels necessary to sustain his flagrant, sociopathic machinations.

And so, sadly, the aging sociopath will not, finally, come to love or genuinely respect you; he will not “evolve” a true, belated appreciation of everything you promised him that he foully besmirched in his previous immaturity.

Rather, increasingly fatigued and/or dependent, he will only value, as always and now perhaps more than ever, the convenience (if he’s lucky) that your companionship affords him in his now “mellower,” but really just more tired, incarnation.

(My use of “he” in this post and others is merely a convenience, and not meant to suggest that males have a patent on sociopathy. This article is copyrighted (c) 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW. Thanks to TC for inspiring it.)



180 Comments on "Aging out of sociopathy?"

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  1. hopi says:

    Where do Aging sociopaths go? Some go into Second Life I’m afraid. Second Life is a virtual world where people can make new ‘friends’, have love affairs and even have cyber sex. There have been news reports of people who have found life partners in Second Life, but the truth is it’s an emotionally dangerous environment. I believe there are a disproportionate number of sociopaths in there, many of them aging. They usually have multiple partners and their behaviour will mimic that of real life causing considerable anguish for victims. In my experience they will usually try and take the relationship into real life where they can do more damage.

  2. hopi says:

    Yeah God forbid the spaths I’ve met in SL ever actually get their real life grubby hands on any more of the women they’ve duped and convinced to visit them from abroad, leaving their families behind. One I know did this, came to the UK and got pregnant, then abandoned. He moved and didn’t tell her where he was going. Nice. This is after emptying her bank account. She’s now being treated for PTSD. SL is basically a chat room and like other chat rooms is frequented by sex addicts and other deviant types, who don’t give a damn about the people they trash. Not to be taken lightly.

  3. hopi says:

    Yes SL is Second Life. I had a mental disorder when I went in. It’s called ‘depression’…lol! Unfortunately it made me rather easy prey at the time. Second Life is free unless you want to buy virtual things – that is, if you’ve got more money than sense. :)

  4. SuvivorAgain says:

    bluejay and erin1972 I couldn’t agree with you more, my ex-spath was getting worst as he got older. I think whomever posted the note that the spaths have to go further away to find victims is all to true. The pickin’s get slimmer as you age, and we become wiser as we age.

  5. fight says:

    I found this article very interesting because I kept seeing that as the spath in my life got old and sick, he seemed to be running out of steam. Still can rage, act cruel, etc. But, can’t follow anyone anywhere. His walker doesn’t fit around most of the furniture in my part of the house! I’m tired, but can walk away, close the door, go to my side of the house, and lock my door.

    The older he gets, the happier I get about it. I get more peace and quiet as well as rent. I feel lonely sometimes, but not as often as one would think. Where I live, most of the men have no respect for women older than 25 as they can order them around more. I find myself hoping he lives longer than I think he will. He will probably be on that walker for the rest of his life and he can choose roach infested housing or he can live on my property.

    This article also reminds me of a statement I read in a book called “The Manipulative Man. The author wrote that all Don Juans become impotent younger than real men. He got that right!

  6. blossom4th says:

    fight,
    I thought I would be happy about spath getting older;as if that would mean more rest for me,etc.Things got worse!I didn’t think that was possible!But again,as I posted elsewhere,earlier,our situations are different,since the spath in your life is a tenant.

    As to how long a spath lives….sometimes I think the spath in my life CAN’T die,lol!Had I been the one suffering with multiple health issues that he is,and not taking care of myself(seeing drs,diet)I WOULD HAVE BEEN DEAD ATLEAST A DECADE AGO!

  7. fight says:

    Hi Blossom:

    The spath in my life is more than just a tenant. I have to take him to doctor’s appointments, make sure he gets his cigarettes, go get my own money, and he can still hurt me if I am around him long.

    I get sad and angry because he CAN be nice as we all know. Then, wham! He is cruel. I hurt the same as others here over loving a spath. I just have put myself in an unusual living arrangement with him where I don’t have to spend time with him. However, I get tempted when he is being Mr. Sweet. I feel guilty when he is wanting a pizza and I don’t feel like going to get him one.

    He isn’t just a tenant. Three years ago, I would have told you he was the love of my life. Then, he changed and was like he was the first time around nearly 18 years ago.

    I share about keeping him living in a separate part of my home to try to help others come up with those types of ideas to help themselves if they need to stay around a spath for financial reasons. He isn’t just a tenant. He is a spath I have trouble keeping at a distance when he is charming, who rages at me when he feels like it, etc. But, I can send him to another area of the house away from me or he knows he will be living in bad housing or homeless….leverage I don’t want to have.

    I wish he were a normal man and we could enjoy companionship together most of the time. But, we can’t so I have shared here that I stay separate from him. It doesn’t mean I don’t hurt about it or often wish he would just be normal. I have taken measures to protect myself from his constant presence because we are not married and he doesn’t own the house. I do. However, my pain of loving a spath and getting the same kind of treatment in response as everyone else here is the same. It is a lonely existence and I am suffering from a situation with a spath. Some of us live with them and share a home. Some of us have put them somewhere else. Some of us live in separate apartments or homes from them. I just happen to have one living in my garage apartment. The beginning of the relationship including his love bombing, borrowing money from me and then paying back more as a prelude to moving back into the apartment again, saying that he had always loved me and always would, all of the usual that everyone here has gone through.

    The only way I can stay sane is to try to think of him as “just a tenant” and to tell here that I am trying to stick to him being “just a tenant.” But, he is the love of my life and I suffer every day the same way others here do.

  8. blossom4th says:

    fight,
    I’m sorry if I made you feel bad about continually referring to your spath as “just a tenant”.You’re right.Emotions were aroused in the past,and “a spath is a spath is a spath”.I’m sure you wish you were in a financial situation where you did not need spath living in your garage apt!

    It is harder for us to watch spaths deteriorate physically than when they are able to leave the house each day,and drive to destinations on their own~~~your “plate” is indeed full!My thoughts are with you as you struggle with this situation! ((( Hugs )))

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