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Spotting a sociopath.

Eddie Mair | 06:50 UK time, Thursday, 27 November 2008

Our Home Editor Mark Easton talked about that on the programme last night. Here is his blog post on the subject.


  • 1. At 07:43am on 27 Nov 2008, philtblog wrote:

    A very interesting article with quite a long list of comments already attached on Mark Easton's blog. I'm not sure I believe that 3-4% of the male population are sociopaths, or if they are, what the value of the term is since a far smaller proportion is involved in this kind of horrendous crime. The blurring of psychiatric conditions and criminality always makes me uncomfortable since it tends to lead to stigmatisatioun and distrust in the mental health community and opens the 'evil' vs mad debate which is probably unhelpful. It's very easy to say that someone who can do this kind of thing 'isn't like us'.

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  • 2. At 09:43am on 27 Nov 2008, Sid wrote:

    philtblog (1) - if you don't believe it's 3-4%, what do you believe, and on what basis?

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  • 3. At 11:04am on 27 Nov 2008, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Good article and as philtblog has pointed out, a long list of comments.

    Interesting to note how many people who commented have had contact or relationships with sociopaths or psychopaths.

    I did too, for a long time, and was nearly murdered. They are terrifying, manipulative, totally demanding and extremely good at convincing everyone else that they are innocent of their barbaric behaviour.

    In my experience the perpetrator was insane and should have been permanently locked up in a mental asylum for his own safety and the safety of others.

    Sadly, he would spend some months in a psychiatric unit in Chertsey (where he'd spent most of the previous sixteen years of his life), then be deemed by the doctors "fit" to be released back into society and the whole cycle would start again.

    I was told by my local police that, despite panic buttons connected directly to their patrol cars, they could not guarantee my safety. It's one of the reasons I moved back to Ireland but he's still living in the same Surrey village (near Windsor) and he's still insane, violent and dangerous.

    Every time I hear that someone has been murdered in the area I listen for his name.

    It's only a matter of time.

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  • 4. At 5:04pm on 27 Nov 2008, Screamingmuldoon wrote:

    Where does conscience and empathy come from? We're not born with it. How many of us have said - endlessly said - "Darling, you must share your toys and be nice, otherwise you won't have any friends left."? It carries on into school, and into work, marriage, the lot. So, if you never get that indoctrination, does that make you a sociopath? There must be more to it.

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  • 5. At 7:32pm on 27 Nov 2008, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Screamingmuldoon @ 4, interesting question. One can tip it the other way, too: not all children who don't get told all the time how to behave end up not knowing how to behave. Just as not all abused children end up abusing their children. I know one fantastically successful mum whose mother was a monster of selfish manipulation, and these days would have been charged with abuse, and whose father and stepfather were also utterly dreadful -- none of the three children of that dysfunctional family has ever been anything but a splendid person as far as I have ever heard or seen, and my friend's grown-up children show no signs of ever abusing *their* children, so the taint seems to have come to a full stop with one generation.

    Lady Sue, I wish you the very best of continuing good fortune, and a secure escape. I fear that only the death of the person you describe really makes anyone safe from him.

    I think that in order to be any sort of success as a sociopath, a person must be both manipulative and convincing: otherwise they wouldn't get what they wanted, quite early on, and either might learn that their behaviour didn't pay, or might be incarcerated for the crimes they had failed to 'get away with'.

    Regarding that '3-4% of the male population are sociopaths' figure: is a con-man who takes a pensioner's life-savings, or indeed any thief, a 'sociopath', or is such a person merely a thief? Where is the boundary? I will cheerfully credit that 3-4% of the population (male and female, let's not be sexist about this) is self-centred to the point of criminality, but does that make them sociopathic?

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  • 6. At 10:12pm on 27 Nov 2008, chedblog wrote:

    It is easy to stigmatise and use the term 'sociopath' to rationalise someones behaviour because it fits but when you can look at yourself in the mirror and be content with who you are and know it is not you then you look at that someone you live with and ask the question: Who or what are you? Because I can't make sense of it.

    I am going through a divorce that I knew was going to be difficult and traumatic. My wife was not a murderer or someone that stood out. But there was a dark side to her personality that I could not understand, her behaviour was alien to me. For those of us who are in a relationship with someone who often has a rage that erupts from nowhere, will do things that shock and then in a moment, carries on as if nothing has happened which leaves you hapless and questioning your own behaviour. This wasn't the normal trials and tribulations of married life. I was living with someone who was incredibly manipulative, a compulsive liar and could never say sorry even when presented with incontovertible evidence. She was continually projecting onto me, which left me non-plussed. When I went and had another look in the mirror, I was till me and happy with me...I knew it wasn't me. There is a spiral of abuse which leaves you questioning yourself. There was no blood, no bruises and to the outside world no evidence.

    By leaving I took control of my own life again, I can now set the agenda. I care passionately for my children and it is they I worry about. I can now provide a safe haven for them, some normality.

    Sociopaths are amongst us, they do not have their personality disorder stamped on their forehead. It is when you are involved in a relationship with one that you have to watch out. You excuse their behaviour initially, it is the way they are but over time they become that 'dementor' and start sucking out your soul.

    Your weakness is that you have a conscience.

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