HOW TO SPOT A SOCIOPATH, PART ONE

sociopath brain

  My clients often ask me to describe a "sociopath" and how they can learn how to spot one. What they're really asking is: how can I protect myself from one? Here are a few issues that should set off alarm bells. If your partner (or would-be partner) displays any of these traits, run the other way. Don't hesitate, don't prevaricate, it's time to get out of Dodge. 

* Red Flag He knows your weak spots and has an uncanny way of sizig you up. Most criminals are students of human behvior and keen observers of body language. They know how to "profile the profiler" and can zero in on any weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Think of a lion and a herd of wildebeetsts. Wouldn't the lion go for the weakest of the pack?

* Red Flag He's narcissisistic, craves attention, apparently convinced he's the center of the universe. He talks about himself constantly, immediately becomes bored and disinterested when the conversation shifts away from him. He craves admiration the way a vampire craves blood.

*Red Flag He plays loose and fast with the truth. In other words, he lies. All the time. Little white lies, medium-sized fibs and giant whopprs. The interesting thing about sociopaths is that they lie even when it's not necessary. The like to exaggerate, embellish, make every story "bigger" than it has to be. Most sociopaths are known as "practiced liars." That simply means they're smooth, they're slick and yes, they can look you right in the eye and lie to your face. It's a common misconception that people can't look you in the eye and tell a lie, sociopaths do it all the time.

*Red Flag He's a control freak. He's overly concerned with his victim's whereabouts and his interest borders on the obsessive. He wants to know who she sees, what she talks about and what she's wearing. Think stalking behavior. Stalkers like to track their victims 24/7. I once had a client whose ex-husband calle and texted her over a hundred times a day. Classic stalking behavior. The only thing that stopped him was a restraining order.

*Red Flag He's angry, impatient, hostile, with a low tolerance for frustration. The tiniest thing can set him off and his anger is out of proportion to the situation. This is the kind of guy who may sideswipe a car because of road rage, curse at a waitress because she's too slow with his order, or kick the dog just for getting in his way.

*Red Flag He never takes responsibility for his bad behavior and always blames someone else. He is incapable of love, empathy, remorse or regret. The only thing he regrets is getting caught. This is why it is useless to do therapy with a sociopath. He will will try to con you every time and pretend to be "reformed," hoping to gain your trust.

We'll cover more sociopathic traits in next week's blog. And in case some of you are wondering if women can be sociopaths, the answer is yes. Think of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. She is usually singled out as the classic example of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. But many researchers believe that females with BPD are very close to male sociopaths in their thought patterns and behavior. If you come into contact with a sociopath, watch your back. They will hurt you, betray you and mentally and emotionally abuse you. stay tuned for more next week.

  Mary Kennedy is a licensed psychologist in private practice in the northeast, and the author of The Talk Radio Mysteries for Penguin. Visit her at www.marykennedy.net

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