Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Do sociopaths know what they are?

By April 29, 2013

I receive a lot of email from readers, and over the years many have asked some variation of the question: Do sociopaths know what they are? Do they realize that something is wrong with them?
The answer varies with the individual sociopath, because they aren’t all the same. Generally, though, I believe sociopaths know that they are different from the rest of the human race. However, most are not bothered by their difference. They view themselves as superior.
It’s easy to see where this attitude comes from. Because sociopathy is highly genetic, and is influenced by the early childhood environment, sociopaths never were anything but sociopaths. They never experienced a true empathetic connection with another human being. They did not develop a desire to love and be loved. Therefore, they do not know what they are missing.
Talking to sociopaths about love and empathy is like talking to someone who has been blind since birth about the color blue. They simply have no frame of reference.
Sociopaths have totally different motivations from the rest of us. As I explained a couple of weeks ago in Sociopathic deceit: Plan or second nature?, they are driven by the desire for power, control and winning. Because they become so good at manipulating others to get what they want, sociopaths perceive themselves as successful, and therefore superior.

When they are diagnosed
Here’s a key point: Sociopaths do not feel any distress due to their disorder. (It’s everyone around them, who have been deceived, manipulated, cheated on, stolen from, etc., who feel distress.) Therefore, sociopaths feel no motivation to change, and do not seek treatment on their own.
When a sociopath ends up in a therapist’s office, it is because he or she was forced to go there. The sociopath was dragged in by a parent or spouse, court-ordered for an evaluation, or was incarcerated and diagnosed by prison staff.
Therefore, sociopaths may be aware of their diagnosis. Again, this does not cause them distress. They either deny it, or figure out a way to use the information to their advantage.
Lovefraud published an article back in 2007 by Dr. Steve entitled, What does the psychopath ‘do’ with this diagnosis? The article makes the point that psychopaths (the term Dr. Steve uses) don’t see themselves as having a problem. One of the most interesting things about this article was that it drew comments from someone with the user name “Secret Monster.” He said was diagnosed as a sociopath and had been in therapy. His comments gave a good insight into how a person with this disorder thinks.
In their own words
Lovefraud has heard from other people who identified themselves sociopaths. I’ve posted a few of their emails. My objective wasn’t to give them a platform; it was to show Lovefraud readers how sociopaths look at the world and how they go about manipulating others. The more we understand what they’re about, the better we can protect ourselves.
Here are two of those stories:
About a month after the second letter posted, I received another email from the man who wrote it:
I was very disappointed to find that you didn’t permit commenting on my letter that you posted, I was really looking forward to the responses I would receive.
I decided to search my letter online and I quickly found that it spread to numerous sites. Some of the websites allowed readers to comment and this is what I mainly gathered from the comments. People found that I was arrogant and that I enjoyed “bragging” about my intellectual ability, mainly my IQ. People also made it clear that they feel sorry for me. Fuck them.
Many readers shared that they know me but they don’t so I assume that I represent a certain sociopathic person in their lives. An archetype of what they collectively despise.
I decided to read a couple of articles on your website which you had personally wrote and you don’t have to have an aptitude at discerning to realise that you hate me. And by “me” I mean sociopaths as a whole. You do love to quote our good friends Robert Hare and Martha Stout, who are both idiots I must add.
I’ve been reading up, hitting the books ya know?, and I’ve found that some researchers and psychologists have a theory that Sociopathy/Psychopathy is not a disorder but rather an evolutionary response. Humans were created to excel and we wouldn’t be that good at it if we felt bad about our achievements.
Some people are just so stupid. They cling to their moronic convictions and when confronted with contrary evidence they still hold on to their prior beliefs. It’s pathetic. They say things that are blatantly false such as how all sociopaths are criminals or that the good ol’ anti-sociopath people are smarter than the sociopaths. Of course there are some examples when this is true but on the most part we are smarter.
I understand that it is your hobby or maybe even job, but you do seem to dislike sociopaths. I could probably find the reason if I cared enough to read your bio that you probably have on the website but where’s the fun in that? You are extremely negative towards people who you say are “struggling” with this “disorder”. Seems quite hypocritical of you to go extremely anti-sociopath. You may not know it but you are breeding the next generation of sociopath haters. Of course we don’t really care but I’d appreciate it if your website was more about raising awareness and helping people get over traumas than going on the full attack.
Proof of my point
I’ve received similar letters from a few other people who claim to be sociopaths. They say I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m judgmental, I shouldn’t refer to sociopaths as if they are all monsters.
I look at these letters as typical sociopathic trivializing, blaming, manipulation—and proof of my point. Many sociopaths know exactly what they are and what they are doing. They know the difference between right and wrong. They know that they hurt people. But they are fine with their behavior and have no motivation to change.
So to answer the original question, yes, many sociopath know what they are, but they don’t think anything is wrong with them.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Psychopaths’ Brain Patterns Lack Means for Empathy, Reveals Neuroimaging Study

Author: Ashik Siddique
 COMMENT - Situational psychopaths are those who are influenced by the disordered around them, especially those in positions of authority, who manipulate and so change their behavior in relation to acting on human compassion and empathy.  

Which are you, if you are on Green Hills Software's Management Team?

New functional brain scan research on psychopathy reveals strikingly distinct patterns of activation among psychopathic prisoners in response to seeing other people in painful situations, suggesting a neural basis for their lack of empathy.

A lack of empathy is a signature trait of psychopaths— fascinating in fiction, inexplicable in reality. Now, a new study on psychopathic prisoners reveals strikingly different brain patterns that may limit their ability to emotionally respond to other people’s pain.
“This is the first time that neural processes associated with empathic processing have been directly examined in individuals with psychopathy, especially in response to the perception of other people in pain or distress,” said lead researcher Jean Decety, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago, in a news release.
While previous studies have found differences between the brain structure of psychopathic convicts and controls, this is the first to observe neural differences in how they respond to distressing situations.
Empathy is a basic and evolutionarily ancient instinct, wrote Decety’s team in the study, and sensitivity to the pain of others is one of the earliest forms of it to develop in young children. The neural circuit of empathy is believed to involve connections among outer regions of the brain like the insula, orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), as well as inner regions like the brainstem, amygdala, and hypothalamus.
Psychopathy is a personality disorder in which people have a “callous disregard for others,” according to researchers, as well as high impulsivity and aggression. It is estimated to be present in about 1 percent of Americans, and up to 30 percent of the United States prison population.
While not all people with such qualities are menaces to society, psychopaths are more likely to have committed serious crimes like rape, assault, and murder, and to commit repeat offenses. Perhaps not incidentally, some of them may also make excellent business executives.
Previous neuroimaging research on psychopaths has indicated reduced volumein some of these brain regions, as well as weakened connections among them, though it is unclear how such deficits develop. Psychopathic behavior is unlikely to be modified with existing cognitive-behavioral therapies, and the possibility that the disorder stems from intractable differences in brain structure is discouraging for researchers who hope to treat it.
In the hopes of eventually learning enough to develop effective psychological interventions, Decety’s team decided to investigate the patterns of brain activity involved in psychopaths’ responses to the distress of others.
Their findings, published online today in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, bring researchers slightly closer to accomplishing that goal.
80 incarcerated men aged 18 to 50 volunteered for the study, all prisoners in a medium-security correctional facility who were assessed for psychopathy levels with clinical diagnostic measures.
Read More: Here

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An open letter to lawyers who have clients involved with sociopaths

From:  Love Fraud

by Donna Andersen

Dear Mr. or Ms. Esquire,

When a client tells you his or her opponent is a sociopath, please be aware of the ramifications for your legal case.
First of all, do not disregard the statement just because the opponent hasn’t killed anyone. A common perception is that sociopaths are all deranged serial killers. This is not true—only a small percentage of sociopaths commit murder. But all sociopaths are social predators, and live by exploiting others.
Frequently this is financial exploitation—many sociopaths are skilled con artists—but not always. Sociopaths also target people who can provide them with a place to live, business connections, sex, housekeeping or other support services, children, or a respectable image in the community while they live double lives.  The point is that sociopaths intentionally use manipulation and deceit to hook their target. They continue the manipulation and deceit to keep the exploitation going, bleeding the target until there is nothing left. At that point, some sociopaths abandon the target, moving on without a backward glance.
Sometimes, however, the target gets wise to the sociopath, and wants to end the involvement. At this point, some sociopaths become enraged at the possibility of losing control, and set out to crush the target. They are not interested in compromise or equitable distribution. They do not want to give the target whatever he or she is entitled to. They want to grind the target into the dirt.

What you need to understand about sociopaths

1. A sociopath’s prime objective is power and control. All they want is to win.
2. Sociopaths love the drama of court because it gives them an opportunity to win. They do not consider the possibility that they may lose. If they do lose, they view it a bump in the road, and figure out how to attack the target again. Forcing the target to incur steadily mounting legal expenses is considered a win.
3. Sociopaths lie. They lie convincingly. They have no qualms about lying in court documents or on the witness stand.
4. Sociopaths manipulate other people to lie for them. These witnesses may not know they are lying—they may simply believe everything that the sociopath has told them, because sociopaths are so convincing.
5. Sociopaths feel no obligation to follow court orders or the law. They only follow court orders or the law if they perceive an advantage in doing so. But they are experts at figuring out ways to use the law to further their objective, which is to crush your client.

How people become targets

Most of us believe that people are basically good inside and everybody just wants to be loved. Because we do not know that there are exceptions to these beliefs—namely, sociopaths—we have huge blind spots that these predators can exploit.
No normal person intentionally becomes involved with a lying, manipulative sociopath. So when your client tells you outrageous stories of the sociopath’s behavior, and also says he or she never knew about the behavior, or accepted the sociopath’s explanations, your client is most likely telling the truth.
How do these entanglements happen? Sociopaths are always on the lookout for people they can use. When they encounter someone through any social interaction, they quickly evaluate whether that person has something that they want. If the answer is yes, they assess the person for vulnerabilities. Then they figure out how to exploit the person’s vulnerabilities to achieve their objective.
Sociopaths engage in calculated seduction. If you’re handling a divorce case, the seduction was romantic. If it’s some other type of case, the seduction may have involved shared beliefs, aspirations or goals. Either way, in the beginning of the involvement the target is subject to a wonderful honeymoon of admiration and promise.
Once the target is hooked, the sociopath begins the exploitation, while simultaneously ramping up manipulation to keep the target under control. This may involve:
  • Isolating the target from his or her support network
  • Emotional, psychological, verbal, physical, sexual or financial abuse
  • Gaslighting—making the target doubt his or her own perceptions

What you need to understand about the target

1. Involvement with a sociopath is like living in a black hole of chaos. Your client, the target, has probably had every aspect of his or her life disrupted:
  • Career interrupted
  • Finances ruined
  • Health compromised
  • Home and property neglected
  • Relationships shattered
By the time the legal action commenced, your client may have already been in free fall for a long time. He or she may feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues that need to be addressed.
2. Involvement with a sociopath can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At one time PTSD was diagnosed only in relation to a single traumatic event that involved risk of serious injury or death, coupled with intense fear, horror or helplessness. A new definition identifies a type of PTSD that results from cumulative trauma and long-term injury.
3. PTSD is a psychiatric injury (not a mental illness). PTSD causes biochemical changes in the brain and affects certain areas of the brain’s anatomy. Common symptoms include intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating and exhaustion.
4. The litigation against the sociopath makes your client re-experience the underlying trauma and triggers the symptoms of PTSD. Dr. Karin Huffer, in her book Unlocking Justice, explains what happens:
Mentally reliving the trauma during legal proceedings simultaneously activates parts of the brain that support intense emotions while diminishing the functions of the central nervous system that controls motor output, regulates physiological arousal, and impedes the ability to communicate in words. Memory fails and intrusive emotions sabotage concentration on the task at hand. Litigants feel incapable of the spontaneous verbal response and interaction required in typical courtroom exchanges. As a result, the litigant with PTSD might be driven to avoid topics. They literally do not hear them. They disconnect when they need to engage. And, at times, they clearly are nonfunctional and are unable to communicate their symptoms and needs in a formal manner accepted by the courts.
5. Targets of sociopaths have been deceived, betrayed and perhaps subject to violence. They approach the courts expecting justice, which sociopaths actively thwart. When justice is denied, and targets instead experience profound and prolonged injustice, their PTSD takes on another dimension, which Huffer identifies as “Legal Abuse Syndrome.”

Your client’s experience

The goal of this letter, Mr. or Ms. Esquire, is to help you understand what your client has experienced. My objective is to explain why he or she may be having difficulties with the litigation process, and difficulties moving on in life. The sociopath intentionally used your client—perhaps for years—and may be intentionally attempting to destroy him or her now.
Your client is not irrational, lazy or obstinate. Your client is having a normal reaction to profound betrayal.

Donna Andersen
Author, Lovefraud.com, and a former litigant against a sociopath

Friday, April 19, 2013

Socially challenging

From:  The Economist 

Psychopathy seems to be caused by specific mental deficiencies  

 Nov 11th 2010 

WHAT makes people psychopaths is not an idle question. Prisons are packed with them. So, according to some, are boardrooms. The combination of a propensity for impulsive risk-taking with a lack of guilt and shame (the two main characteristics of psychopathy) may lead, according to circumstances, to a criminal career or a business one. That has provoked a debate about whether the phenomenon is an aberration, or whether natural selection favours it, at least when it is rare in a population. The boardroom, after all, is a desirable place to be—and before the invention of prisons, even crime might often have paid.

To shed some light on this question Elsa Ermer and Kent Kiehl of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, decided to probe psychopaths' moral sensibilities and their attitude to risk a little further. Their results do not prove that psychopathy is adaptive, but they do suggest that it depends on specific mechanisms (or, rather, a specific lack of them). Such specificity is often the result of evolution. 

Past work has established that psychopaths have normal levels of intelligence (they are only rarely Hannibal Lecter-like geniuses). Nor does their lack of guilt and shame seem to spring from a deficient grasp of right and wrong. Ask a psychopath what he is supposed to do in a particular situation, and he can usually give you what non-psychopaths would regard as the correct answer. It is just that he does not seem bound to act on that knowledge.

Dr Ermer and Dr Kiehl suspected the reason might be that, despite psychopaths' ability to give the appropriate answer when confronted with a moral problem, they are not arriving at this answer by normal psychological processes. In particular, the two researchers thought that psychopaths might not possess the instinctive grasp of social contracts—the rules that govern obligations—that other people have. To examine this idea, as they report this week in Psychological Science, they used a game called the Wason card test.

Playing by the rules
Most people understand social contracts intuitively. They do not have to reason them out. The Wason test is a good way of showing this. It poses two logically identical problems, one cast in general terms and the other in terms of a social contract.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sociopathic deceit: Plan or second nature?

From:  Love Fraud

by Donna Andersen

Sociopath behind mask.
Sociopaths hide their true intentions behind a mask of charm and charisma.

Lovefraud recently received the following question from a reader:
When a sociopath targets his victim, does he think and create a plan as to HOW he is going to manipulate his prey to glean what he wants, or is this just second nature to him?  How can he spend MONTHS being such a kind, considerate person, going out of his way to do the “little” things that matter in life, before turning into the evil monster?
When you have been deceived and manipulated by a sociopath, the most difficult idea to grasp is how totally different people with this personality disorder are from the rest of us. Their behavior is different from everything we thought we knew about human interaction.
Sociopaths—both male and female—seem to be missing the parts that make the human race human. There is no deep warmth. There is no true caring. There is only fake warmth and fake caring, which disappear immediately once sociopaths decide they have no further use for us.
How do they become like this? According to Dr. Liane Leedom, it’s their different motivation.

Power motivation v. love motivation

Normal people, who do not have a personality disorder, are motivated by both love and power.
We feel emotional love for family, friends, neighbors, and even animals or causes, that are important to us. We care about everything we love, which makes us take action to please, support and protect them.
Normal people also have a healthy power motivation. This is what makes us pursue achievement, leadership and recognition. But our power motivation is kept in check by our love motivation. Therefore, although we strive for accomplishment, we’re willing to strive fairly, without injuring other people as we pursue our goals.
In sociopaths, there is no balance between their love motivation and power motivation. The defining characteristic of real love is caring about another person’s health and wellbeing, and this is practically nonexistent in sociopaths. Their power motivation, however, is out of control. All they really want is to win, to control and to dominate others.

Born to be manipulative

Sociopathy (technically called antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy) is highly genetic. That means children can be born with a genetic predisposition to the personality disorder. Whether this genetic predisposition “expresses,” or becomes active, depends in part on the child’s environment, including the parenting he or she receives. When sociopathic parents are part of the child’s life, their notoriously bad parenting may encourage their offspring’s latent disorder to develop.
When children are born with a genetic predisposition to the personality disorder, what it means in practice is that they have a stronger power motivation than love motivation. From a very early age, these children derive little pleasure from warmth, affection and closeness, and much more enjoyment from getting what they want.  Therefore, the children learn, essentially through trial and error, how to behave in order to get what they want. They learn manipulation techniques—and spend their lives perfecting them.

Games sociopaths want to win

To get back to the Lovefraud reader’s question, I think sociopaths pursue both avenues of manipulation, depending on the individual and circumstance. Yes, they think and plan about how to get you to deliver what they want. And yes, they’ve been doing it for so long that much of their behavior is second nature. They are opportunistic, so when chances to manipulate you pop up, they know exactly how to capitalize on them.
Because their objective is to win, sociopaths view their interactions with you as a game. Some sociopaths have the patience to play the game as long as necessary in order to score that win. Then, when they’veachieved their objective, they’re finished. The charade is over, and you find, to your horror, that everything the sociopath said and did was designed to deceive you.