By September 28, 2015 29 Comments Read More →

Why psychopaths don’t change

Angry psychopathLovefraud recently received the following question:

I’ve read in multiple places, written by multiple specialists that psychopaths/sociopaths cannot be rehabilitated or changed.

Surely I’m not the only person to have asked this:  Why not?

The short answer to this question is simple: Psychopaths don’t change because they don’t want to.

The key to any kind of behavioral change is desire. It’s hard work to change the way we relate to other people, the world or even ourselves. The reason any of us embark on a self-improvement project is because we are not happy. Our relationships are not fulfilling, we believe we could do better in our careers, or we just want to feel better. For reasons like these, we are motivated to change.

Psychopaths are usually quite content with who they are. They see no reason to change.

Oh, I have heard from a few people who identify themselves as diagnosed sociopaths or psychopaths, and who have said, “It’s not fun being me.” But I’ve also heard from several who view themselves as superior to those of us burdened with pesky emotions and consciences.

For example, one person wrote to me:

Hello my name is Alex. I would like to thank you for making your videos they have given me an insight into how you people recognize us. WE are not to blame for your short comings because you are weak minded and foolish enough to be taken advantage of. We are evolutions next step we don’t allow silly emotions to cloud our judgments. In fact we use our advantage for survival because we are natures next course. I know I sound very narcissistic and apologize for that but if you are so proud and concerned and attached to your emotions why not allow someone to make you feel like a queen for something as worldly as money? We give you what you are missing just as all of the world ecosystem has since the beginning of time. It’s funny how we have been so easily classified and even now as I attempt to alter myself in order to become unparallel to descriptions of us, I find it very difficult to even perceive. I would like to boast of my strategic victories over hearts but I would fear you making another video and making this game more difficult, of course it would make it much more challenging and pleasurable when enjoying the hunt. Well you take care Donna. Bye.

Illness and personality disorders

Generally, if you have a mental illness such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, there was a time before the illness began during which you were reasonably healthy. Then something happened — either an experience or biological change — that caused the illness to begin.

You know what it’s like to feel better, and you want to return to the state of health.

Personality disorders are different. Most psychopaths are well on the way to disorder by adolescence, and many show signs as children, even as very young children. So there never was a time, as fully developed human beings, when they were “healthy.”

Psychopaths are not loving, ethical people who go bad. They never had the capacity for love, or concern for the wellbeing of others, to begin with.

How the disorder develops

How does this happen? First of all, experts pretty much agree that there is a large genetic component to psychopathy. Children with psychopathic parents, or psychopathy somewhere on the family tree, can be born with a genetic predisposition for the disorder to develop.

Whether the disorder actually does develop may be a function of the parenting that the children receive, or the environment that they grow up in.

Unfortunately, psychopaths make lousy parents. At best, they regard the children as possessions, and care for them about as well as they care for their cars. At worst, they try to turn the children into mini-mes, or abuse them.

Many Lovefraud readers have realized, with trepidation, that they share children with a psychopath. There are steps these parents can take to try to prevent the disorder from developing in children, which Dr. Liane Leedom outlines in her book, Just Like His Father?

It’s not easy. In fact, sometimes the genetic predisposition is so strong that nothing can be done to overcome it.

But if there is any chance of preventing people from becoming psychopaths, it’s when they’re young. That’s why Lovefraud advocates keeping disordered parents out of children’s lives as much as possible — to limit the effect of their bad parenting.

Drive for dominance

So how exactly does the disorder develop? Dr. Liane Leedom believes it is a result of an out-of-control drive for dominance.

We all have a drive for dominance to a certain degree — this is what makes us want to be successful, become a leader, or even drive a hot car. But in most of us, the drive for dominance is tempered by our ability to love. Because we are also concerned about the wellbeing of others, we can put the brakes on behavior that we know will hurt other people.

Psychopaths don’t have an ability to love, so they don’t have any brakes on their aggressive behavior.

No connection to others

What psychopaths are missing is a true feeling of connection with other people. This can start really young.

A few weeks ago Lovefraud posted a story about the results of a study showing that 5-week-old infants who preferred looking at a red ball rather than a human face may be at risk of developing callous-unemotional peronality traits. These are the traits that can morph into a full psychopathic disorder.

Here’s the post:

Early warning sign that a baby could grow up to be a psychopath, on Lovefraud.com.

The researchers discuss the importance of infants making eye contact — failure to make eye contact may affect the entire development of an infant’s social brain. To greatly simplify the process, this may lead to an inability to respond to another person’s distress, which may lead to a lack of empathy, which may lead to an inability to love, which may lead to antisocial behavior.

Even at a young age, a psychopath experiences much more satisfaction from dominating other people than from connecting with them. Every time this individual feels pleasure due to exercising power and control over others — which can start during the “terrible twos” — the drive for dominance is reinforced.

Power and control

By the time psychopaths are adults, the desire for dominance is an integral part of their identities. They like power and control. They don’t particularly care if they don’t have love in their lives, because they don’t know what it is.

Psychopaths do not feel any distress due to their disorder, so they don’t go for therapy on their own. They’ll only go if dragged in by a parent or partner, or if court-ordered. And when they get there, their objective isn’t changing. It’s winning.

Research has shown that therapy makes psychopaths worse. Why? Because through therapy, they learn the buzzwords, and they learn more about how they’re supposed to behave. They use what they learn to improve their skills at manipulation and deception.

It’s possible that if psychopaths perceive controlling their antisocial behavior to be in their own self-interest, they’ll do it. Criminal psychopaths, for example, may get tired of going to prison. But although they may change their behavior somewhat, it’s unlikely that they will ever become loving, caring human beings.

Unfortunately, once psychopaths are adults, they will not develop a heart and a conscience. That window closed when they were young.


29 Comments on "Why psychopaths don’t change"

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  1. GeneticPsychopathy says:

    Psychopaths don’t change because psychopathy is a lack of conscience from a neurological impairment of the amygdala, orbital frontal cortex, all of cingulate cortex, parahippocampal area, and insula. NPD is also a neurological disorder. Take a look at “Differences between psychopathy and other personality disorders: Evidence from neuroimaging” on the page: https://nopsychos.wordpress.com/research/

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    • This is all true – there are abnormalities in the brain. The question is – how do they get there?

      The condition starts with a genetic abnormality. But science is finding that a person’s experiences affect the development of the brain. So is it bad parenting that causes the brain to go off course? And can the right parenting help the brain develop more normally?

      I don’t believe there are answers to these questions yet

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      • jm_short says:

        They’re born with them. Psychopathy is genetic. And it involves more than your brain structures, but also your brain’s chemistry.

        They are pretty visible as your child develops, if we only knew what we were seeing. Parents who reach out for help often get a band aide solution to a specific behavior problem, with no accounting for the underlying cause. Having a psychopathic mate is a disaster you can walk away from. Having a psychopathic child is a lifetime nightmare… and it starts early.

        A person who has the genetic mix of brain infrastructure that causes this disorder, who is abandoned at an early age, or feels abandoned at an early age, could (would) become a “Borderline.” A child who feels insecure, could, (would) become a Narcissist. As an example, a child who feels insecure but has healthy brain structure, could simply become an introvert. Additional impacts create other forms of the disorder.

        What you get is sort of like adding a new color to yellow paint. If you start with yellow paint, and add blue, you’ll get green. Add more black, you’ll get darker green. Our brain chemistry and infrastructure determines how we accept and respond to the influences in our lives. We are not clean slates when we are born. We are colored by our brain’s infrastructure. I wrote a post about it a couple of months ago….. http://rapebyfraud.com/2015/08/03/the-color-wheel-of-conscience/

        More and more studies are being made regarding oxytocin and its impact on our emotions. Our DNA sets our levels of oxytocin, but we could also become averse to oxytocin if someone we cared for abused us as a young child. So having normally functioning oxytocin at birth does not completely determine our growing up with intact morality.

        We can teach a child who is disordered, how to show caring toward another person, but they will never feel anything but very shallow caring. They will turn it on and off based on what they get from the behavior.

        Most mental health professionals will argue against using the term, “sociopath” for a child. They’ll simply classify them as “emotionally disturbed.” Their failure to be more specific undermines advances that could be made to create effective intervention.

        When a “disturbed” child grows up in a stable, caring home, they’re likely to adopt the pattern of behavior consistent with the boundaries that existed in that culture. In other words, they probably won’t become ghouls. They won’t cut people up and eat them for dinner. They’ll simply be the horrid, liars, cheats and thieves that opportunistically abuse the people around them.

        There are distinct signs that a child is disordered. But the therapeutic community is so locked into not “labeling” children as such, that they don’t address dealing with the issue. It’s much easier to simply blame the parents. If there was greater recognition that children are, in fact, born with this disorder, there could be interventions to help them such as an oxytocin nose spray that might provide them with caring.

        Yup, folks laughed when Pythagoras said the world was round. I’m sure to get a good chuckle from much of the therapeutic community for that statement. But I think science will bear me out.

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        • Bev says:

          Quite simply, one of the best posts I’ve read on the subject.

          Thank you for posting. It is greatly appreciated.

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        • NotWhatHeSaidofMe says:

          I agree with Bev. This is a brilliant post.

          When I became pregnant with my daughter, I was prepared that she might be learning disabled. I accepted that, it was clearly genetic as I am the only normal person out of my siblings. The rest have congenital issues. My IQ is double that of the smartest sibling. They also have heart defects, eye problems, and endocrine problems. But the one I did not predict was they all are like my mom emotionally. They have no caring feelings for other people. They are parasites.

          I was worried about the wrong thing. I should have worried that she’d be “LIKE THEM” mentally/emotionally. When my daughter was a year old, there was an incident with the siblings and after that I cut my family off from any contact with her. I didn’t want them to influence her behavior, for her to think what they did was okay, because it wasn’t. It wasn’t okay when I was growing up and I wasn’t going to let them do it to her.

          My daughter is not a monster, not a narcissist. But there are times she is not appropriate to the point of being a monster. Her turn around came after therapy and medication. Who knows what could have been possible if she was diagnosed as a child. Seems that people put their heads in the sand and deny what’s in front of their faces. But I understand the fear. So much is a coin flip, kids grow out of it or… they don’t. Or interference had unintended consequences, very bad ones.

          I would have been afraid to get help. In my life, social workers gave approval to pedophiles. And I was the family scapegoat, I had NO IDEA about borderline personality disorders. I grew up thinking that something was wrong with me, that I was the difficult one for objecting so much to their behaviors and decisions.

          I think my daughter inherited my mother’s disposition, as did my siblings. But thankfully she didn’t have my mother or siblings around her. She did have my ex, a monster himself/sociopath. But she also had me and she knew the things I did/said to calm her, and when she is calm, she is capable of the sweetest humanity. She LIKES that calm empowerment so much that when she became out of control, she was self aware enough to get help. But then, she’s not a sociopath. So I think that makes all the difference, not being a sociopath. If she’d been a socio, I’d know there was no hope. And that she was her own person, not my responsibility nor my blame. I think if people could have an intrauterine test that shows the baby is a socio/psychopath, they might end the pregnancy.

          If I had known the probability that a child would be like my birth family emotionally/mentally… I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant. I think that’s the message that people should be taught, the possibilities of genetically passing on sociopathy. So they can make an informed choice, so they can know to intervene when they see the signs in childhood.

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  2. IAfraud says:


    The stalker/spath I used to date pulled me into court twice, attempting to use the courts as his tool to abuse. His goal is to ruin my life. He lost both suits and I’ve been awarded thousands in restitution. He has paid less than $400. We are scheduled to go back to court for contempt in a couple of weeks, due to him not paying me the restitution. If he would have won the lawsuits he was attempting to make me lose my home.

    My revenge is choosing happiness. Am I totally happy? No. I don’t think anyone is.

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    • IAfraud says:

      Oops, I hit submit before I was finished.

      Anyway, I hope you can let go of the anger at some point. As long as you are angry he is in your mind wasting your time, which is what he wants. Deal with him when you have to and put it out of your mind the rest of the time.

      For people like us, happiness is a choice we have to make. I wish you success at making your life happy in spite of what he has done to you.

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  3. Escapefor1 says:

    A very good post.

    But there are 2 very compelling findings which explain why psychopaths will never change.

    First, their brains are structurally different. They have smaller brain parts which govern emotions and fear, so they do not perceive these like more normal people do. They are wired differently from birth, although some are “made” through certain kinds of serious head injury.

    Second, psychopaths when they control, manipulate, and win receive 3 times the dopamine hit normal people do. Dopamine is a key part of the reward system in the brain and such a hit is comparable to that of addictive drugs. They can’t stop. And Donna is right. They don’t want to stop either.

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  4. Charm4u says:

    Donna, Thank you for this insightful article. This is all so true!

    Recently did an online search of my ex’s name with his location because my grown daughter is still there. Have never done this before. My Ex is a Narcissistic Sociopath (NS Ex). Because I’m a normal person with good morals, expected to find normal things like something about NS Ex attending a HS reunion or business event. Instead, the results were SHOCKING.

    Looks like NS Ex’s entire family is comprised of violent male NS. They all hide behind a mask of upstanding military service, prestigious academic degrees and premier white collar jobs. But in reality, they are violent Jekyll and Hide personalities.

    Imagine my SHOCK when seeing the online search results. There are multiple videos and news reports that NS Ex brother’s son (NS Nephew) is a convicted violent rapist, serving 30+ years in prison.

    He violently attacked, raped and sodomized his ex-girlfriend at gunpoint–right after she broke up with him and he found out that she had a new boyfriend.

    NS Nephew video recorded his attack on ex-gf. Jury saw the video of ex-gf screaming and crying during the entire attack. Fortunately, they did NOT buy his lies that he ‘would never attack or hurt any woman’, contrary to the clear video evidence proving otherwise.

    NS Nephew and NS Ex’s family’s behavior is what stunned me. NS Nephew and his father (an independent attorney with law degree from a prestigious university) said the video “merely depicted he and his ex-gf ’50 Shades of Gray’ alternate S&M lifestyle”. They also claim 30 yr old NS Nephew was a ‘war hero with PTSD and TBI’.

    NS Nephew was out on bond and required to wear an ankle monitor until the trial was completed. Just before the jury returned with a Guilty verdict, NS Nephew forcibly removed the monitor. He fled across the US and hid for almost 1 year. US Marshalls finally captured him across the country.

    Ex-gf had to go into protective custody for about 1-1/2 years until he was captured and sentenced.

    Glad to say that the Judge gave him a maximum sentence, plus additional years for his escape and evasion. However, he and his father (who is an attorney) are filing an appeal.

    Amazing how clever NS can be. Nothing is ever their fault. They lie and twist the truth until they make themselves out to be the victim. They NEVER take any responsibility for their own actions, no matter how evil.

    Unfortunately, NS Ex is the father of our daughter (who is now an adult). She was raised by NS Ex and consistently exposed to his NS family. My Daughter was also exposed to NS Nephew, who is her same age.

    Makes me panic to think about this. I fear for my daughter because I know that my NS ex taught her his NS ways, starting at her earliest childhood. Pray she’s well and totally not like them.

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  5. Charm4u says:

    Update: The Violent, Narcissistic, Sociopath Nephew–who is just like my Ex–LOST his appeal to the State Supreme Court. He will continue serving over 30 years in a Maximum Security Prison for his violent attack that included rape, sodomy and unlawful imprisonment of his ex-girlfriend. Finally, there is justice!

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