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Spotting a sociopath

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Mark Easton | 16:28 UK time, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

How could anyone do those unimaginably cruel, inhuman things?

baby pThat is the question that, to most people, immediately flows from hearing the ghastly details of both the Sheffield man who fathered nine children by raping his two daughters and, of course, the tragic story of Baby P.

We seem to have any number of inquiries and investigations now under way into trying to find what went wrong, but I wonder whether the real answer lies buried in that initial question.

The 56-year-old Sheffield businessman who raped his children and the woman and two men who tortured a baby in Haringey would all appear to fit the definition of sociopaths: individuals with a deficit or absence of the social emotions (love, shame, guilt, empathy and remorse), but with a clear facility to deceive and manipulate others.

Mr X, as the rapist was known, refused to attend court to hear his sentence but in a letter to his brother said: "I haven't got any regret over what has happened. It's too late for that. It shouldn't have happened."

Also referred to as "anti-social personality disorder", the behaviour of such people is beyond comprehension to most people because it does not equate with our understanding of what makes us human.

Academics calculate that sociopaths account for about 3-4% of the male population and less than 1% of the female population. Professor Robert Hare from the University of British Columbia is one the world's experts on sociopaths and psychopaths. He writes of people "completely lacking in conscience and in feelings for others".

He describes how "they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret".

Such people are, however, very difficult to spot.

In her book The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless vs. the Rest of Us, American clinical psychologist Dr Martha Stout explains why she thinks this is:

Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless. You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience that they seldom even guess at your condition.

The individuals that society puts in the front line to try and spot the threat from sociopaths could hardly be more different. Social workers, doctors and teachers are, usually, natural carers - people who empathise easily with others. They are wired to see the best in people, to develop trust.

And most of the time, that is exactly what we want such professionals to do - to support and to help people through their difficulties. But we also demand that they retain a deep cynicism about the individuals they work with - constantly questioning and imagining the very worst.

Sometimes they must make professional judgments about people who are wired completely differently to themselves - people who do not share the basic qualities that define humanity as they understand it.

victoria climbie inquiryIn his report [pdf] into the death of Victoria Climbie in Haringey in 2000, Lord Laming wrote of the need for "respectful uncertainty" when dealing with a child's family and of "critical evaluation" of what professionals are told. He has spoken of the "over optimism" he encountered, the way in which social workers tend to "travel with hope".

When one reads the appalling details of 25 years of abuse and suffering in the Sheffield case, it does seem incredible that it went on for so long and without anyone in authority noticing.

But perhaps it is the very incredibility that explains why.

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  • 1. At 5:17pm on 26 Nov 2008, desmoh wrote:

    Excellent article Mark. You managed to explain how these people do awful things and get away with them without using the explanation to excuse them. They are one of the last truly hidden menaces to society

    But people should not imagine from these two horrible cases that physical brutality is their only trait - the "psycho killer". I have had the misfortune to come across a couple of "middle class" versions of these people. No criminal record but a chain of broken relationships and shameless actions. They are attracted to preying upon the weak and vulnerable so political groups (especially those on the fringe or with easy access to power) charities and religious groups are prime hunting grounds for them. Also, imagine the mentality of the sort of person who can invest your pension fund in something worthless and walk away calmly with their bonus. Sociopaths can wear suits too.

    Think of the number of people you have heard of for whom the phrase "how did they ever imagine they could get away with that ?" comes to mind. One characteristic of the sociopath is they plan ahead poorly. How could they plan when they, literally, cannot understand the consequences of their actions ? If you come across somebody whose attitude to something outrageous is "Whatever. Get over it", you know the time has come to walk away from them and never come back. I have and thoroughly recommend it.

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  • 2. At 5:55pm on 26 Nov 2008, Spare_a_Copper_Guv wrote:

    Mark,

    Thank you; a complex message but elegantly conveyed, and very sobering.

    It would do us a service to republish these thoughts every year or so.

    Thanks

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  • 3. At 6:11pm on 26 Nov 2008, grimble wrote:

    I'm not an expert in the field, but as a lay person who reads the media it's fairly clear that it's been well-established that there are 3 clear indicators of future problems - firstly much-reported research I believe from New Zealand showed that children who behave anti-socially towards their peers in primary-school playgrounds were at much higher risk of going on to commit a range of offences of violence, neglect etc against others later in life.

    Then there appears to be a substantial body of research showing that children or young people who show cruelty to animals go on to show similar cruelty to people later.
    Finally I believe it's incontrovertible that sadly victims of abuse have a much higher likelihood of going on to become abusers themselves than the general population.

    With all this evidence, why don't children in these 3 groups routinely get extra targeted help and support, and their progress monitored? It seems so obvious, yet it just doesn't seem to happen.

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  • 4. At 6:16pm on 26 Nov 2008, John Airey wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 5. At 6:19pm on 26 Nov 2008, Dezman wrote:

    Maybe this is the wrong place to post this, but the stories you mention both sicken and sadden me. But has anyone considered the lack of severity of the consequences of these actions.

    Most of the time, the accused party ends up with a luxurious jail sentence and anonimity, where it is the state's job to protect the accused from the outside world, which ends up being a burden on our society.

    And before anyone complains about the statement of luxiourious jail sentences, these are people who are 'conscience-free'. If you have no conscience, would you actually care where you were?

    You look at several other countries who have chemical castration and even capital punishment, and their rates of sickening acts like these are lower.

    It seems that the state is too busy trying to make up names for these sociopaths and put them in a catagory, when what should be happening is us removing these people from our society.

    My tax money is paying to keep the man from Sheffield in warm, dry accomodation, with three square meals a day and he doesn't have to worry about getting attacked by other inmates, as he will probably be in a relatively isolated area.

    I've got to worry about getting mugged on the way home from work, after worrying that my family may be homeless if I loose my job.

    Most within our society have no fear of the law or the consequences of breaking the law. What's the worst that can happen, jail and lack of freedom? If I were conscience-free that really would not bother me.

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  • 6. At 6:22pm on 26 Nov 2008, susan stewart wrote:

    Just escaped from living with a sociopath. Some of his friends (the rich ones) regard him as 'nice' and 'kind' and 'funny'. But he has crossed a number of people, and betrayed friends - usually the weak or vulnerable ones.

    He presents as a maverick business man, and has no regard for people's feelings.

    Sociopaths are manipulative and duplicitous. Always take the upper hand when dealing with them i.e. YOU set the agenda. And watch out for tears and displays of 'emotion'.

    How to spot one? They appear to be weak/gentle/helpless/needy but are Demanding. They are survivors.

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  • 7. At 6:25pm on 26 Nov 2008, stanilic wrote:

    A truly sympathetic article which goes to the nub of the issue.

    Anyone who has the misfortune to fall foul of a sociopathetic individual knows the pain and grief they put their victims through.

    However, their manipulative and controlling behaviour can be perceived from close observation but it takes time to analyse.

    The question we have to ask is how much time does a social worker have to spend on each case in their file. I suspect they have too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

    How to create, organise and manage such a qualified resource is the issue we have to address if we are to conquer such dreadful events in the future. It is not just a case of money.

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  • 8. At 6:37pm on 26 Nov 2008, big__ted wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 9. At 6:50pm on 26 Nov 2008, psychopomp wrote:

    The sad - and scary - thing is that psychology/psychiatry/neuroscience has identified a group of children and young people described as "callous-unemotional" (CU). These kids don't recognise fear, pain, distress in others, and generally not in themselves.
    One researcher described how young people were asked to identify emotions from photographs. One boy, shown a photograph of a man's terrified face, said, "I don't know what you call it, but it's what people look like just before you stab them."
    Sophisticated brain scans on these kids show parts of the brain associated with emotions and empathy are smaller - why? - nature or nurture? This isn't autistic spectrum disorder - with the CU children, their misdeeds are deliberate.
    These kids don't respond to punishment, apparently - although most people would hope they would, but only to consistent, laborious reward for pro-social behaviour, which isn't how most of us would want to treat them, intuitively.
    I've seen a few children/young people like this, and they scare me, not for now, but for the future...

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  • 10. At 7:02pm on 26 Nov 2008, redeyes999 wrote:

    i've met many sociopaths online down the last few years - thankfully (or at least I hope so) they confine their contact with others to the online world.

    If you've never met a sociopath then it's hard to understand the inability of the mind to truly believe the evidence/behaviour presented.

    "Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless. You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience that they seldom even guess at your condition."

    Even now my mind refuses to believe that sociopaths have no compassion, conscience or self awareness.

    Logically it makes no sense, but the reality is that these people do exist and they truly don't see that what they do is wrong. They really are not wired for the moral framework that all human beings are assumed to have.

    What surprises me is the small percentage. My guess is that the internet is self selecting for these people and so they congregate online - where of course anonymity gives them far more freedom and people to use for their amusement.




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  • 11. At 7:15pm on 26 Nov 2008, Nullius123 wrote:

    Super article Mark. In Britain people with antisocial personality disorder are usually referred to as "psychopaths". But psychopaths are not the only people with an empathy deficit. Those with "narcissistic personality disorder" (which is much more common than psychopathy - perhaps 5% of us) are also unable to feel guilt or regret or empathy - at least to some degree. But while narcissists are selfish, are content to use people, and seldom feel remorse, in psychopaths this deficit goes much further. The psychopath's emotional system is turned inside out - he isn't just unmoved by the suffering of others; he *enjoys* it - a psychopath feels good in situations where most of us would feel terrible.

    John Seabrook had an excellent article on this in The New Yorker last week - see http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/10/081110fa_fact_seabrook

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  • 12. At 7:16pm on 26 Nov 2008, And1962 wrote:

    Isn't the idea of someone being a sociopath a bit simplistic? Some truly horrible atrocities are carried out by people who then get on with their lives. Think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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  • 13. At 7:27pm on 26 Nov 2008, lordphilipwarren wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 14. At 7:38pm on 26 Nov 2008, preciousdottyone wrote:

    A beautifully insightful article. I was married to a sociopath for 20 odd years so I know very well how they operate and think. It is interesting however, to note that a lot of people instinctively distrust and avoid interaction with a sociopath. I believe it's known as 'gut instinct'. We should never ignore it. I did and paid the price.

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  • 15. At 7:40pm on 26 Nov 2008, smoxon wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 16. At 8:06pm on 26 Nov 2008, sweetsmellofsuccess wrote:

    If a sociopath has no perspective or empathy for others, presumably he/she will continue until stopped from doing so. As Mark pointed out, sociopaths are poor planners.

    This particular piece of work appears to have planned very well - his manipulation of those around him; controlling of who goes where and says what; moving house regularly; changing jurisdictions; and, I assume, not coming into contact with the authorities for any other reason (thereby avoiding accidental discovery).

    Does this not negate the idea that he was a sociopath? Surely he was a sadistic, manipulative and cruel individual, but perhaps not a sociopath as the definition puts it?

    That said, any system for catching those outside the rules of society, starts off on the basis of the rules of society. By definition, then, it struggles to deal with those who lie completely outside those rules. In the same way that modern society struggles to track those who stay 'off the grid' by avoiding using credit cards, telephone lines, bank accounts, etc.

    Our systems to protect society (and especially vulnerable groups like children) need to understand that there is a small number of people who need to be considered, who lie outside these existing structures and processes. That extends to the training of social workers, police officers, and others who are the first means of defence or discovery.

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  • 17. At 9:01pm on 26 Nov 2008, iknowsitnow wrote:

    This comment is not directly related to this blog, more to the accompanying article “PM 'outrage at unspeakable abuse' “

    At the end of that piece, we get the following comment;

    “Peter Duxbury, director of children's services at Lincolnshire County Council and chairman of the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board, said since the events child protection systems had been improved.”

    For me, this is the crux of the issue about social services failings.
    For those of you who don’t know (and to cut a long story very short), Safeguarding Children Boards were set up by every local authority to monitor child protection issues within that local authority. It monitors the work of all agencies, but in particular the work of the lead agency, which is the social services Dept. The legislation that created these Boards gave the Boards the option of having independent Chairs, i.e. an expert from outside each attending agency.
    Unfortunately, so many of them chose not to take up this option and are chaired, in the majority, by people like Peter Duxbury. I don’t know Peter; he may be a good worker, conscientious and challenging, able to dissociate himself from his day job and really confront all the issues and difficulties inherent in chairing his local Board. Or maybe not.
    Can you honestly believe that anyone in his position could effectively analyse and criticise the work of his own Dept in front of his peers and representatives from all the local agencies such as the police, health etc? Yes, you’re right because so many of them don’t. These meetings are simply a backslapping talking shop where no issues or difficulties are ever really confronted, aired or dealt with. Before you ask, I know because I used to sit on one.
    All around the country, the same arrangements are made to manage this process. If you don’t believe me, phone your local social services Children’s Director/Director for Children. Ask the secretary who answers, who is the chair of the local Safeguarding Children Board? Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the answer will be that the person supposedly responsible for independently monitoring the quality and rigour of child protection work will inevitably be the person who’s job it is to actually provide those services in the first place.
    And so on it goes.
    As for Peter’s comment at the end about how things are different now?
    Again, a sick joke.
    Every public enquiry into the death of children over the years has inevitably been followed by the local Director giving the same glib answer. The worse thing about this is that Peter himself probably believes this statement.
    The answer? I don’t know, but what I do know is that until the responsibility for child protection and looked after children is removed from the hands of councils and councillors for whom the two interlinked issues are probably the lowest priority on their list (in my experience, below the bins and dog litter), this situation will not improve and will happen again and again.

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  • 18. At 9:18pm on 26 Nov 2008, kickedoutof chatroomsoonestchamp2006 wrote:

    Lordphilipwarren and others' attempts to define the 'sociopath' lead to the current phenomenon of 'medicalisation' at the extremes of the broad spectrum of human personality and behaviour. One consequence of this is likely to be efforts by lawyers to mitigate defendants' behaviour with excuses of a 'condition.' Social workers and mental health professionals would do better to exercise the 'respectful scepticism' recommended in the courts recently.
    Also, membership of a political party, of whatever view, is a clinical indication of nothing. Whoever suggests as much is at least as worthy of suspicion...
    If 3-4% of males have sociopathic personality characteristics (as suggested above) the chances are that everyone who is socially active knows someone fitting this description. I am a health care professional who has worked with 'sociopaths,' none of whom were/are patients...

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  • 19. At 9:29pm on 26 Nov 2008, kikidread wrote:

    Your gut instinct does not lie.

    But there is a screwed up psychology where people are imprinted to abuse from an early age by being scared, screamed at or receiving abuse from someone else who had also been abused.


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  • 20. At 10:05pm on 26 Nov 2008, astoundingAndi wrote:

    As a professional in this field I think that Mark Easton has summed up a very complex issue very succinctly. I hope he can get across to everyone how astonishingly devious and manipulative these people are.

    Yes. we are often not suspicious enough as professionals but it is difficult to be confronted by a parent or carer who is either righteously angry at being falsely accused or reactively angry because they think that is how they SHOULD react.

    Intrinsically, the 98% of us who are decent people still find it difficult to believe that "this kind of thing goes on" and we often look for rational explanations first. We want to cling to 'innocent until proven guilty' and those of us who are parents may shrink away from asking the deeper questions because we would not want to think that anyone is believing that of us.

    Ultimately, it is almost impossible to legislate for these sociopaths. There are always avenues leading them away from the system. We do not want a police state where children are raised in sealed state homes. There is much that state services can do and better inter-departmental communication is #1 but this situation will happen again. It is inevitable.

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  • 21. At 10:42pm on 26 Nov 2008, casio_pal wrote:

    From the comments I have read, it seems people deem sociopaths as 'evil'. Yes, they are responsible for many of our modern day horrors.
    However, surely the way forward is to accept that society will produce people with these traits, somehow they need to be supported to recognize and deal with their problems before any acts are committed.

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  • 22. At 10:44pm on 26 Nov 2008, Biscuiteater wrote:

    Really good article, and it certainly explains the person that stole my half of a thriving business from me.

    He is so good he has convinced everybody that he is the good guy. I would never have done this to him, and I was too trusting. When I realised what he had done it was too late.

    The trouble is of course I am sitting here thinking he will one day see what he has done and feel guilty, and your article says he never will. Now that is depressing.

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  • 23. At 10:50pm on 26 Nov 2008, rimcell wrote:

    As a retired Police Officer I found the details of these two cases very disturbing.
    However recriminations of whom is to be blamed will not help. We all have a duty to do what we can to prevent these type of incidents happening again.
    The article highlights the devious nature of these type of people, and the " street cunning" with which they so often dupe child care professionals.

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  • 24. At 10:58pm on 26 Nov 2008, Medieval-Evil wrote:

    "If you have no conscience, would you actually care where you were?"

    Dezman, I fear you missed a critical point about a sociopath. Their sole goal in life is their own gratification. If you remove someones freedom, you are removing their ability to impose their will on others and to seek out the kind of pleasures they are being punished for pursuing.

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  • 25. At 11:29pm on 26 Nov 2008, NicolaHale wrote:

    Following on from #9 (psychopomp), I wonder what the prospects are of social workers using a scientific test to inform their work... Something like an improved version of Blair's empathy/emotion test for psychopaths..? It wouldn't be a definitive test of course, but surely a useful tool?

    You point out an important issue... and I think the problem may be even worse then you state, because social workers tend to be among the more empathic in our society - they certainly aren't doing the job for the money. And since everyone uses their own mind as a model for interpreting the motives of others, social workers are surely among the least likely to posit malevolent intentions.

    I'd also like to relate this issue to your recent talk about British people improving their own communities. What has struck me most (though not necessary surprised me) about the Baby P case and others is the total failure of the community to pick up on the abuses or to intervene. There aren't the channels for people to communicate their concerns to the right people.. and on a more fundamental level the overwhelming absence of society and community is demonstrated. Yes, these abuses are not just a recent phenomenon, but there have been important changes... There is now surely less silent acceptance of these atrocities where they are known about. But at the same time people know less about their neighbours' lives - that is a blessing and a curse but I can't believe we have the balance right.

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  • 26. At 00:17am on 27 Nov 2008, Nick wrote:

    There are three signs of a budding psychopath that appear in the life history of virtually every psychopath who comes to the attention of law enforcement, bedwetting beyond the age of 10, cruelty to animals and firestarting.
    Members of the same sex can see through them far more often than members of the opposite sex, to whom they are superficially very charming. As a serving police officer, I can only reiterate the advice of others above, that if you are with a person like this, run and do not stop running until they can never find you. My wife had the misfortune to end up with one when she was younger, she got away 12 years ago and is still paying the price.
    Look for a book called 'The Mask of Sanity', by Hervey Cleckley, and if you recognise someone you know between those pages, then head for the door. You _must_ change your life to protect yourself, because they will never change.

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  • 27. At 01:00am on 27 Nov 2008, Doublemartiny wrote:

    Was Napoleon a sociopath? Seriously, it seems to me that the range of characteristics described can be attributed to some of the "great" leaders and adventurers of history. Just perhaps, for all its terrible manifestations in the cases cited, it is just another human trait that can have its time and place and would be advantageous and admired in those scenarios. In normal affairs of day to day living in society a trait that is an absolute menace though. Even if we could spot sociopaths amongst us what should we do about it? Are they all an utter danger to the rest of us? I'm not clear from views on this blog as to what we do when we discover them, other than giive them a wide berth.

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  • 28. At 01:24am on 27 Nov 2008, John wrote:

    Thanks for a very succinct article on a difficult subject.

    I had the misfortune to be married to an antisocial for many years. Most don't murder, but they are immensely destructive. The key characteristics that struck me after the superficial charm had worn off were:

    1. No conscience.
    2. The attitude that everyone else simply existed for her benefit, for her to use and abuse as a plaything.
    5. A deep-seated 'need' for victims, preferably helpless dependants.
    4. Complete inability to learn emotionally from experience, from life. Whatever their intellectual abilities, their emotional development never get beyond the infant school playground.
    5. At a fundamental level what fuels them is resentment and rage (well hidden most of the time).

    Ultimately, 'anti-social personality disorder' is a medical term for depravity. Let's call a spade a spade.



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  • 29. At 01:41am on 27 Nov 2008, hiddencolours wrote:

    I disagree with the view some of you have expressed that the psychopathic condition is just an 'excuse' donned by psychologists and lawyers to explain away the horrible actions commited by these people.
    I don't by any means condone their behaviour, but I think that if there's something different with the way that their brains are 'wired,' then how can they take responsibility for not being metally capable of being different? How can you ask them to recognize that what they're doing 'wrong', when they are physically incapable of doing that very thing? Think of this: You might as well ask as a perfectly morally healthy individual to comform to the rules of a (hypothetical) society filled with psychopaths.
    That being said, it raises the question of whether you can even 'punish' someone for simply being themselves (i.e. without deliberate intent despite awareness of wrongness of their actions - isn't that the reason we go easy on minors anyways?: "they didn't know what they were doing," etc).

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  • 30. At 03:45am on 27 Nov 2008, ishkandar wrote:

    #12 "Some truly horrible atrocities are carried out by people who then get on with their lives. Think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the culmination of more than 20 years of Japanese conquests, mass destruction, mass rapes. mass murders and forced physical and sexual slavery on hundreds of millions of people throughout Asia !! They had to be stopped from more of those atrocities !!

    It is the people who deny this that are the true sociopaths, just as the deniers of the Holocaust are !!

    Anyone who can justify murder or other criminal acts by blaming it on the victims are, by this definition, sociopaths !!

    Anyone who supports war on another country on the flimsiest of excuse and justify the bombing and killing *specifically* of their civilians as "collateral damage" are also sociopaths !!

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  • 31. At 03:57am on 27 Nov 2008, ishkandar wrote:

    #28 I sympathise with you since I know this only too well, to my sorrow !!

    The sheer manipulative manner of these people can be far more destructive than what appears on the surface, extending deeper into the social and familial framework.

    Unfortunately, the damage, though extensive and excruciating, are all but invisible to others !! More unfortunately still, any attempts to reason with them are turn back at you and labeled as *trying to manipulate them* !!

    The only solution that I can think of is a parting of ways but that just leaves the problem for others to deal with !!

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  • 32. At 04:20am on 27 Nov 2008, suedealien wrote:

    I agree with hiddencolours in that this condition is not merely a medical excuse. However, I would argue that there is no moral dilemma to putting a violent sociopath behind bars. While prison is often used as a form of punishment, it is also quite simply a practical way to remove those who are harmful to society.

    Imagine you had a child with a penchant for breaking glass. You would not have to blame the child or conclude that he was a bad child in order to justify keeping him away from your bone china. Similarly, one does not need to believe germs are immoral in order to wash his hands.

    I do have to wonder about the assumptions behind this article as well. Terrifying though the prospect of sociopaths is, there's also something reassuring to chalking such horrors up to this condition without in-depth psycho-analysis. I think that our natural desire to find out the rational, human reason behind these atrocities serves a purpose. We ask questions like, "If I were Baby P's mother, would I have stopped the abuse?" and we assure ourselves that we would, thereby building our own moral framework and increasing the chance that in a similar situation we will act in a moral manner.

    As soon as you attribute these atrocities to sociopaths, on the other hand, you externalize the issue by creating an 'other' to blame. It may be true, of course, that all of the adults in the Baby P case are sociopaths. But it is also possible that only one is or that none are. If this is the case, then it is important to investigate the motivations, terrible and unjustified though they are.

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  • 33. At 04:32am on 27 Nov 2008, Nick wrote:

    hiddencolours, a psychopath can recognise that society recognises what they do is wrong, they are not stupid, most of them have at IQ of at least 120, and the very fact that they deceive to get what they want shows they recognise that their views and society's views are different. I'm afraid after a 3 year psychology degree, the most succinct definition of psychopath I ever saw was "someone who knows the difference between good and evil, but just doesn't give a sh*t!", that from my abnormal psych. lecturer.
    I don't buy the analogy that you might as well ask a normal person to live within the rules of a psychopathic society, a normal person understands a situation and its consequences, and has the empathy to live by another set of rules. Spies and undercover police officers learn to live by another set of rules, so well sometimes that in the case of FBI agent Donnie Brasco, even when he was giving evidence against the mafia men he lived and worked with for 9 years, some of them still could not believe he was not a true mafia member.
    And I quite agree that punishment does not work. I was told of one experiment to expose psychopathic behaviour in Uni, you strap your suspected psychopath into a chair, connect him to an electrode and a heart/pulse monitor, and have a light in the corner of the room. You ask him questions, and every time the light goes on, he gets a painful electrical shock shortly afterwards. After a few shocks, most peoples pulse, blood pressure, skin conductivity (from sweat) etc goes up in anticipation of the shock when the light goes on, but a psychopaths body will not react, even when if you ask them what the light means, they can tell you. Incarcerating a psychopath does not make them learn from their behaviour, but it does protect the rest of us.

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  • 34. At 06:17am on 27 Nov 2008, STVFraser wrote:

    I have yet to meet a personality that was not defined by their background. Do you remember your School days? How many of these people do we help to create?

    It is obvious that it is easier to demonize and depersonalise "sociopathic" behaviour than it is to understand, to take responsibility for, or to accept as a product of our flawed process of teaching and parenting our children.

    The definitions and explanations of the "sociopath" above do not hark to some absurd social Frankenstein despite the incredulation of the general populace. They define an individual for whom the lesson of subjective importance comes alongside a deficit of empathic care. These are individuals that care about themselves first and foremost. In a child this is an unfortunate manifestation of some form of abuse, worthy of the attention and care of sympathetic teachers and relatives. In an adult it is an inexplicable social deformation.

    We forget that children grow up to be adults. Teach your kids to be nice, teach them why they should.

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  • 35. At 06:39am on 27 Nov 2008, Dayvine wrote:

    Your article is very interesting, as is the reference to sociopathy.

    Unfortunately this article oversimplifies. People do horrible things for many reasons, not simply because they have no fear of consequences or no sense of social propriety.

    What should be more terrifying is that people who feel very much the same as the rest of us can, and do, carry out these heinous acts as well. These people are probably ignorant, deluded and possibly mentally ill, but they are not of a different class to the rest of us.

    The woman in the case of Baby P does not seem of a sociopathic nature, simply deluded, self obsessed, ignorant and desperate not to lose her lover. I would not be surprised if she were from a background of abuse and, or suffered from established and possibly documented emotional difficulties. However her lack of conscience over her child does not make her unable to feel. It is likely that she simple didn't care, or convinced herself that her relationship was more important. This is perhaps less comfortable for all of us.

    In an attempt to distance ourselves, and humanity in general, from events such as these it is easy to forget that sociopathy makes committing crimes easy in so far as dealing with guilt, but it does not make a criminal.

    Some people are just not very smart or nice.

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  • 36. At 06:46am on 27 Nov 2008, waterMariposa wrote:

    An excellent website - with blog - on this subject:

    http://www.lovefraud.com/

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  • 37. At 06:49am on 27 Nov 2008, Dayvine wrote:

    #34 STVFraser

    Excellent comment.

    A common misconception with children who misbehave and act in a destructive manner with others is that they need therapy.

    They may very well do, but it is more likely that their parents are the cause and will need to be helped themselves before anything can get better.

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  • 38. At 07:42am on 27 Nov 2008, Zeitlauf wrote:

    I'm a mental health social worker and have been such for the past 20 years. In my experience it is not just social worker sbut managers who are loathe to acceopt that people are psycopaths, sociopaths or have otehr problematic personality disorders.

    I and colleagues have been on the receiving end of the problems which some of these peopl,e generate and have found management to disbelieve us though in the long run we have been proved wrong.

    Working with such people is draining and endlessly challenging and achieves very little. They suck the sertvices dry and use up large amojunts of time and effort to no avail. They will often oput in complaints which are dealt with in such a way that thr worker seesm to be the one who is the problem.

    Oh yes and not to forget that their are psychopaths, sociopaths and people with serious personality disorders in the so-called caring professions - once they are in management , well, what hope is there?

    Sadly society ios peppered with these people and in some situations we think they're wonderful - politicians, go-getters, tycoons.....

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  • 39. At 07:46am on 27 Nov 2008, John1948 wrote:

    Are sociopaths born or is it a learnt condition? Whatever the answer the very nature of our society will have an effect.

    The footballer who dives, the X factor contestant who says vote for me because I deserve it, the fathers who go on about their rights without mentioning the needs of their children, the mothers who go on about their rights without mentioning the needs of their children, so-called business men whose motivation is purely the 'deal' and the quick buck, the person on the train who blasts their mobile phone conversation for everyone to hear, adults who confuse seriously involving children in decisions with always letting them feel that they have a right to be in control. Most could never be described as sociopaths. However, these and many more like them are people who are adding to the 'me' society.

    Small wonder that people with sociopathic tendencies become more sociopathic.

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  • 40. At 07:48am on 27 Nov 2008, prettycynders wrote:

    making this brief as it is still raw.Came back to live in town I left when retired.Was given a local newspaper with a picture of a man who was sent to gaol for raping a 12 yr old girl in the same area as I had lived for approx 10 yrs.He was the son of my EX-partner.He was married with a good job and lovely wife.I felt sick to my stomach as he was a great young man.To this day I remember him as I knew him and sometimes feel guilty when people I know,now,as my surname is the same as his,tell me about him.I just keep my mouth shut.Do not think about his sentence as he has done wrong and is serving it.last person in this world,to me,to have committed such a heinous crime.Cant judge him but also cant forgive himand do not make excuses for him.To rape a child is,to me,not forgivable

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  • 41. At 08:40am on 27 Nov 2008, Jack Rainbow wrote:

    Hello Mark, please understand this is not a personal attack, I am attacking you rideas only. I don't think 'Spotting a Sociopath' does actually explain anything at all about how to spot a sociopath. Also, only someone very naive would describe social workers as 'natural social carers who emptahise easily'. In fact, anyone who says that has to be living well away from planet earth. In my considerable experience, social workers do not evince anything at all of empathy or 'natural' caring. Do try to wake yourself up and get with the programme, my man! I think what you've written, Mark, is what you and many of your readers would like to believe. In my view, a 'sociopath' might do extremely well as a social worker, they would be in a personality-compatible environment. My doctor, by your trite definition, would be a sociopath; he lacks the merest glimmer of empathy and has no apparent human feelings.
    Your article completely fails to mention how it is that an individual becomes a 'sociopath'. Understanding this process of becomming is the real key to knowing how to 'spot' a 'sociopath'. All you have done in your extremely ignorant writing, Mark, is use your ideas about 'sociopaths' to express your anger, you have not told us anything useful at all. I am surprised there seems to be not one single writer working for the BBC who truly understands how a child grows up in our society to become a monster. Please have a re-think about what you have said. For example, what is it one should look for, exactly, to root out and denounce a 'sociopath'? By the definition you have offered - someone without human feeling - then perhaps you should look at your own unfeeling determination to utterly ignore the underlying causes of unfeeling behaviour. One could single out any major public figure and quite reasonably accuse them of unfeeling behaviour, particularly political figures and so-called journalists. So how does your article 'Spotting a Sociopath' help us to understand anything useful at all, apart from your determination to blame, accuse and insult?

    Please, in the interests of good journalism, rethink what you have said and look at the underlying causes before giving your opinions in future.



    Jackaranda Rainbow

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  • 42. At 08:50am on 27 Nov 2008, jon112uk wrote:

    Be careful about using 'sociopath' and 'psychopath' interchangably - psychopaths as defined by Hare's PCLR test are a much smaller group (~1 in 200 ?).

    Problem isn't spotting them, the issue is what to do about them. They have a high rate of offending but not all will offend. Do you lock them up before, or after the offence? When the government proposed preventive detention for them in 2002, the media went beserk about civil liberties.

    Personally I think the issue in this case is not psychopaths.

    The issue is the casual acceptance of children having babies at ages which demonstrate an unlawful act has occured.

    If these girls had multiple pregnancies and babies at 13-14 years of age then why was the crime not investigated as a crime?

    Given the power of DNA, the investigation would not have been difficult.

    The same appears to have happened with Huntley - who at one stage was living as man and wife with a child and nothing was done. If he had been convicted of that he would never have been in a position to be working as a school care taker.

    Why are people - police, health, social services, just ignoring crimes?

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  • 43. At 09:01am on 27 Nov 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    If 4% of people are sociopathic thats 1 in 25. Put into context that means that sociopathy is almost as common as having a university degree or being gay.

    It almost certainly includes me. I can turn on & off emotions almost as if I'm flipping a switch, I know that I have an evil temper if anyone truly provokes me, but I have an almost unnatural ability to stay calm under pressure. I'm also happily married, am kind to animals (to the point that I fund raise for the RSPCA and cats protection) and teach students remarkably effectively (in no small part to the fact I don't take nonsense and I think most can tell that within seconds of meeting me)

    1 in 25 of the male population are most certainly NOT serial killers or incest rapists, or even violent. I'd suggest that many if not most succesful businessmen, doctors, lawyers, adventureres etc share the same traits. If you want to see 5 succesful sociopaths watch dragons den.... it worth pointing out that all of them are happily married with great family lives too.

    Being able to switch off your emotions and act logically and calmly is an essential skill for a doctor.... if they couldn't do this they'd go mad. How else could people like Eisenhower plan the D-Day assaults knowing full well that he would be sending at least 3000 men to their deaths? Just as well he did though.... if britain was a nation of social workers we'd have been invaded in 1940.

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  • 44. At 09:03am on 27 Nov 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #42 "The same appears to have happened with Huntley - who at one stage was living as man and wife with a child and nothing was done. If he had been convicted of that he would never have been in a position to be working as a school care taker."

    Ian Huntley used the name Ian Nixon at the time. Humberside police failed to pass his alias onto Cambridgeshire police so 'Huntley' came up clean. Its one of the few convincing argumenst for a national ID & police database.

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  • 45. At 09:04am on 27 Nov 2008, Russellde wrote:

    As a sociologist of 30 years standing, I advise strongly against going down the 'sociopath' route. They are easy to describe after the event, nearly impossible to identify before without seriously breaching the individual's rights. And therein lies the root of your problem. People who suffer from a total loss of affect (e.g. burnout cases) or the so-called socio-pathic personality evidence their 'deviance' in myriad ways. At the extreme, the rapist, child abuser or murderer, Jack the Ripper, The Yorkshire Ripper, Ian Brady ... are extremely rare and it is their one-off, isolated, separated nature that means they are only identifiable after the event.
    Should you set the hounds running, then you risk a moral panic where every socially isolated individual will be viewed as a potential offender. Phases that young people pass through will become pathological evidence of their sociopathy. First, examine the society where the cases originate - the processes of inclusion for some, initiated in the last 20 years, have meant exclusion and isolation for others. And that exclusion and isolation breeds our blindness to the 'socially isolated' and pathological, what Reissman called the 'Lonely Crowd'. Reverse the process of identifying insiders and outsiders, of social engineered division, and let 'communities' look after their own and take responsibility for themselves. Create Gans' Urban Villages but be prepared to cede political power, resources and responsibility to them. Centralised political power and universal policies will inveitablly sustain the isolated pathological fringe, beyond the constrained resources of hard pressed care and control agencies.

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  • 46. At 09:12am on 27 Nov 2008, bootsola wrote:

    We have all met people who have to learn human emotion, to whom the sadness of loss or the joy of birth are not innate, they truly have no concept of "feeling", they are focused solely on their personal goals, their id and ego.
    Whilst the staggeringly awful actions of some socio/psychopaths reveals the depravity of their actions, we as a society overlook the most egregious of these character types because of their success.
    Are the actions of a country or corporate leader any less in tune with this syndrome than the nut bars that kill, rape and maim?
    Because is it not all about them, their aggrandizement, their being adored/feared? (Stalin, Kim Jong Il, Idi Amin,)
    The victims of their actions are remote from their thinking and thus not deserving of emotion, not that they could show it even if the victim were close to them, as in the case of Mr.X.

    For the most part the glitterati celebrities, the corporate leaders and other hyper achievers are lauded in the media as being paragons of some form of virtuous behaviour due to their "success". Yet really they are as detached from the damage they cause and the lives that they shatter as is anyone discussed in your essay?
    Yet because their "crime/action" has brought them wealth and power, we as a society hold them in esteem, in the face of their opinion of "us" of indifference and disdain.

    Action against another without empathy for the effect of it, defines this to a tee.
    The feeling of power and control is the mental reward, because joy and guilt by definition do not apply, it is alien to their thinking.
    Sociopaths in their many guises are at the head of banks, car companies, oil companies, governments and in the real areas of power.

    The craven scramble for wealth and power aspired to by so many and the trampling of so many lives along the way in their attainment of it, proves that a socially accepted sociopathic zeitgeist is the norm, and perhaps the driving energy behind society as we know it.
    It is a behaviour which has no defining line; above which one is a sociopath and below which one isn't. Rather it is a trait that at one end is stunning power and success and at the other it is a revolting display of feral cruelty. In either case massive damage is done to a few or a lot, just degrees of scale, but in both regards it should be realised as being deviant or damaging.

    Are the people who are responsible for milking the economy dry by their financial shenanigans and causing misery and heartache to millions any less sociopathic than Mr.X?
    Society as we are creating it, is becoming sociopathic by decree, where the human elements of empathy and understanding and the effects of edicts on the very humanity of our lives are ignored under the power of those who lead us and who are sociopaths by definition.

    As Dougal put it "it's mad Ted"

    If you work for someone who would lie, cheat or steal to make a buck, you might think about changing jobs.

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  • 47. At 09:50am on 27 Nov 2008, John Airey wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 48. At 09:57am on 27 Nov 2008, stress_bunny wrote:

    Thank you for this article. People need to become aware that these people are out there. Most refuse to see it, at all. When I see them in action, I now say nothing. In the past I have just been called a trouble maker for pointing out what is going on. These people can be very personable, and are more socially acceptable than the bearer of bad tidings.

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  • 49. At 10:19am on 27 Nov 2008, Brian Berlin wrote:

    "You look at several other countries who have chemical castration and even capital punishment, and their rates of sickening acts like these are lower."

    Nonsense. The overwhelming mass of evidence shows that increasing the severity of penalties does not reduce crime. You should perhaps ask yourself why you are so keen to focus on punishment rather than prevention? Retribution is such a worthless emotion, can't you see that it makes us like them? If they really are sociopaths, then cruel punishment won't help at all. And it won't help the victims, or future ones. Who does it help then? Just people like you?

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  • 50. At 10:44am on 27 Nov 2008, AmberDextrose wrote:

    Great article and some enlightening comments.

    I agree with a lot of what has been said about the dififculties in dealing with people with sociopathic tendencies or personality disorders.

    Sociopaths are frequently good actors or even shapeshifters: able to adopt the persona they think will best suit the occasion. Sometimes you can spot them by their 'talking in dialogue' (a sense that a camera is filming them; they are listening to themselves talk or watching themselves act), but these tend to be the merely self-absorbed sort. The kind that have your worst interests at heart are usually watching you intently, flattering you by appearing to be what you most want them to be. You're a bug under their microscope and then they squash you.

    These people are drawn to their polar opposites - the carers, the fixers, the givers - because it's a way of getting more of what they want at little cost. Usually these are the only people who don't see through them and are sadly the people least equipped to deal with the sociopath's ways: they keep giving and caring in an attempt to 'fix' the problem. And what's not to say that both sides aren't equally damaged? The need to keep giving and fixing often comes from a troubled past as much as the sociopath's need to take or destroy.

    However, it doesn't automatically do so. My sociopathic stepfather was the only child of wonderful and doting parents. I know two other people with similar personalities, both only children from loving homes.

    I was over-empathic and hyper-sensitive as a child and used to think it was because of abuse from my stepfather. Now I'm a mother and I can see my eldest son has the exact same personality despite being in a happy caring home. My brother meanwhile dealt with the early breakup of our parents differently and whilst not sociopathic definitely has trouble empathising. But he is still a good and kind person. Some personality traits have to be inherited, not created.

    There are no easy answers and I agree with the commenter who said that excuses must not be made for sociopaths on the grounds of their disorder.

    Most of us have a dislike of one law or rule or other but we know why they exist and mostly accept that we cannot cherry pick laws, expecting some to be upheld in our favour whilst breaking others.

    As has been said above, sociopaths are usually intelligent; they know the rationale behind the laws or rules they break. The ones I've met just arrogantly assume that they are above them but figure that if people are stupid enough to abide by them, they deserve to be abused.

    Allowing ourselves to excuse their behaviour - as though they were cats bringing in mice - helps no one and doesn't allow us to see the evil lurking in all of us. Who knows what triggers might not enable any of us to act vilely or ruthlessly?

    As adults we can only warn our children that people exist - of all ages - who don't feel the same as us and who can manipulate and hurt us. Sometimes those people live with us, sometimes they'll be partners or 'friends'.

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  • 51. At 11:15am on 27 Nov 2008, anotheremptyvessel wrote:

    In the real world there are no absolutes only relatives, therefore I respectfully suggest the lives of the general public are more likely to be negatively impacted by the now endemic passive aggressive personality disorder, than the far rarer and impossible to cure sociopathic personality disorder.

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  • 52. At 11:22am on 27 Nov 2008, hazifantasi wrote:

    The more we disown negative traits and create the 'monster' other the further down the road to never making a difference we go.

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  • 53. At 11:25am on 27 Nov 2008, mr bloggy wrote:

    Mark asks how could anyone do those unimaginably cruel, inhuman things, isn't the answer that yes of course we are human and need to see the consequences?
    He quotes Professor Robert Hare from the University of British Columbia, one of the world's experts on sociopaths and psychopaths who writes of people completely lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, who selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret - but Mark remarks: such people are, however, very difficult to spot.
    Oh! Really?
    What about that nice suit with the nice car and the nice house in the country with the nice partner with nice kids in the nice school who has recently shorted the nation and hasn't bothered yet to step out and make reparations to the negative equity homeless but has put out for the extra big bung to stop up the wopping bethnal hole in the fabric of the normal society that the punks had a song about with "Gordon" now back out on re-release?
    Mr X from the generation X writes to his bro that he hasn't got any regret over what happened. It's too late for that. It shouldn't have happened, but that is what is repeated constantly by media now, not the song but the bleating of those only twenty letters away from the first real one of how they should be described rather than as "bankers", with the Head of House only able to coo platitudes about how funds should really be used to ease financial plight, imagining to appeal to some imagined figment of moral rectitude supposed to exist among the rapine vampires who acclaim that title now ascribed to them and revel in the gore they disgorge from the remains of us supposed to accept that the self appointed and presumed good have clean hands - ready to Pilate a way back to safety and good healthy living...?
    Mark, the lady Dr Martha Stout indicates how easy it is to interpret her words to explain how we have arrived at this situation with those choosing to be politicians able to hide their conscience nearly effortlessly, not held back from any desire by guilt or shame, and never (effectively) confronted by others for cold-bloodedness.
    Brits are said to have the sang-froid but perhaps in meltdown some pictish robustness is needed in a leader to shout out that the guilty must pay up or else get to be accommodated in the very quick only remaining des.res for socio-econopaths and child molesters.
    "Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless" Robert Hare

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  • 54. At 11:49am on 27 Nov 2008, Gill wrote:

    I was married to one of these people and often compare it to owning a pet crocodile. You can care for, nurture and love a crocodile for 20 years and it will make no difference to it whatsoever - it will just as gladly kill you today as the day when you took it in as a hatchling.
    It's been very theraputic to read the comments of people who've suffered similarly. I have no idea how sociopaths should be helped or dealt with though, my ex continues to exploit his present partner and both financially and emotionally abuse and neglect our daughter. Even more alarmingly, his daughter seems to have inherited or imitated some of his personality traits. She's about to leave me at last and become an emotional parasite on her soon to be husband, all the while presenting herself as a weak victim in need of help and demonising everyone around her who has tried to help her as those "to blame" for anything she does that is picked up as wrong. Like her father (a very successful businessman) she is a masterful manipulator, attractive and highly intelligent.
    Once, her father became violently ill with meningitis worsening during night and was at possible risk of death Had he died all my financial and social problems would have disappeared. Because I have a conscience I had to call the doctor. I feel good in the knowledge that I am ultimately morally superior to my ex, but one little bit of me (probably the result of social conditioning in our greed-ridden society) feels I was truly the gullible idiot my ex so often said I was.
    How can we help sociopaths? Is it even possible? My ex once confided that he thought he was "not quite human" because he knew he didn't feel what others feel. But we can't execute or imprison people for a birth defect beyond their control, so what is the answer?

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  • 55. At 12:19pm on 27 Nov 2008, Rapedwife wrote:

    I was married to a violent man who raped me and otherwise abused me and committed acts of violence and abuse against our children. Social Services and CAFCASS, despite seeing reports describing him as "extraordinarily convincing and manipulative", sided with his portrayal wounded innocence. And the children and I are left without their support, and in fact branded vexatious. I disagree with anything that suggests certain groups in society are to be set aside as diagnosable monsters, leaving the rest of society with a clear conscience. Sociopaths operate by manipulating society and collusion with them leads to Baby P, the Sheffield Sisters and all sorts of other cases, my own included. Believing victims who come forward would be a decent start to tackling the problem.

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  • 56. At 12:41pm on 27 Nov 2008, aidyonline wrote:

    good article. however this story immediately reminded me of that paediatrician who suspected two separate women (i think there were two) of killing their children and he gave his opinion in court.

    one of the cases i recall he made his suspicions after watching a tv programme on the case. they subsequently were jailed but later their cases were reviewed and overturned and he was jailed and struck off the GMC!

    so we expect doctors to somehow read minds and spot psychopaths and we strike them off the GMC if they don't, yet if they do suspect someone and they're wrong they get struck off too! hardly fair, is it?

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  • 57. At 12:45pm on 27 Nov 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #55 "Believing victims who come forward would be a decent start to tackling the problem."

    There's two problems with that: firstly as you say, sociopaths can be convincing and manipulative and are quite capable of presenting themselves as being the victim. There have been several cases of sociopathic women who have abused their husbands brutally claiming the reverse was true and that THEY had been battered and the male victim ends up in a cell. The word of someone who is "extraordinarily convincing and manipulative" stands a good chance of being believed.

    The second is that in most cases its one persons word against anothers and this should never be enough for the authorities to take physical action .... imagine if your kids were taken into care because 1 person said they saw you abuse them? Its the sort of situation that happened in Orkney and it did more harm to child protection policy that anything else. You will end up saving a few kids at the expense of hundreds of innocent families being broken up.

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  • 58. At 12:50pm on 27 Nov 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #56. Roy Meadows wasn't struck of for giving his opinion in court.. he was struck off for repeatedly stating totally incorrect data about the kids injuries and the probability of their deaths being natural and refusing to accept he'd made a mistake.

    Expert witnesses are expected to present inpartial evidence to the court, not decide to head up the prosecution. In fact Meadows total refusal to admit any fault or show any regret for the women wrngly convicted was itself rather sociopathic!

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  • 59. At 12:52pm on 27 Nov 2008, Apo_crypha wrote:

    I think the artcile is spot on ,we assume others have similar boundaries and are governed by similr moral codes.My ex partner was/is a sociopath ,he was diagnosed in 2002 sadly two years too late for me ,the damage he did to me and my sons has taken 10 years to repair and still the scars remain.One has to witness first hand the total lack of moral compass ,empathy , insight and emotion that makes us human to even begin to comprehend it.Their ability to fool therapists,officials,police and the general populance is immense .I truly believe the condition is incurable as the lack of insight prevents any will to change or learn.More training needs to be available for mental health workers as often there are other telltale clues such as substance abuse which can lead them to attend clinics where their condition coul be spotted early ,quite what the hell you do with them after that I really dont know.

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  • 60. At 1:23pm on 27 Nov 2008, Mermaidlady wrote:

    Can I say that 3 signs of a Psychopath as posted by Nick are a bit sketchy. Bedwetting over the age of 10 is usually down to Eneursis which has not been sorted by attending an Eneursis Clinic. In the child with Eneursis, a hormone called Vasopressin continues production of urine whilst the child is asleep, in non-Eneuretic people/children the hormone reduces whilst asleep. So to say that people/children who bedwet over the age of 10 may be a sign of Psychopathic tendencies is a bit misleading

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  • 61. At 1:31pm on 27 Nov 2008, nagaiah wrote:

    One simple way to quickly identify a sociopath is that they all practice their religion (Christianity, Islam, Hindu, Jewish) PUBLICLY.

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  • 62. At 1:42pm on 27 Nov 2008, COROVICD wrote:

    Quote: "individuals with a deficit or absence of the social emotions (love, shame, guilt, empathy and remorse), but with a clear facility to deceive and manipulate others."

    All humans have deficit and absence of social emotions. This "feature" is not limited only to so called sociopaths.

    All humans are perfectly happy to suppress the above mentioned emotions in the name of the perceived temporary benefit of the larger group, like nation. Interlude into the wars provide repetitive example, several times within experience of the single generation, without any evolution in moral judgment.

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  • 63. At 1:46pm on 27 Nov 2008, The Fickle Finger wrote:

    The perpetrators of this kind of abuse should definitely be named and shamed (or maybe they won't feel shame, just mind embarrassment) because I, and the bulk of the GB Public don't know them. We don't know them, their children or their families. But it might be useful information if we should ever meet them in the future. Not naming them doesn't protect the children - I don't know them either, and logically, their photo wouldn't be published, so I'd not know them if I met them in the future either.
    The only winner, from not naming is the perpetrator. I also object very strongly to protecting this woman. She was NOT a young child when she did this to her baby. She made the choice - she should live with the consequences.

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  • 64. At 2:18pm on 27 Nov 2008, johntory wrote:

    As the adoptive father of a child who suffered serious neglect I see this kind of sociopathic behaviour regularly. And it is absolutely true that punishment has a very limited impact. Reinforcing good behaviour may seem counter-intuitive but it works more effectively. This child is regarded by teachers

    I hope that good parenting now may help my child overcome these problems and learn to live without the social skills that will never come. If we are successful we may have prevented another sociopath from future disasters. I don't want to contemplate failure. I do know that if my child had remained with the birth parents, they would have done nothing and another potential monster would have been created.

    I am sure there are many reasons for this kind of behaviour and the knee jerk 'Daily Mail' response will not solve any problems. Understanding the root causes and trying to educate the children may help. Educating the support professionals (social workers, teachers, NHS staff, etc.) to recognise the behaviour would also be much more helpful.

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  • 65. At 2:39pm on 27 Nov 2008, xanthrus wrote:

    "I think I know the truth, however harsh, quite clearly.

    A sociopath can be charming, highly intelligent and attractive...and often are superb actors. In reality they

    have no feelings for anyone, though they may disguise it.

    There is no empathy, no care, no concern, no awareness of others' feelings. All they are capable of is

    pretense. In truth, all they have is their own will and agenda. The rest of us are no more than pawns on the

    chessboard.

    There is no treatment, there is no cure. They are born a sociopath and they will die one.

    Steer clear!


    Sociopaths have never developed the ability to love, empathize, or affiliate in real life with another person.

    They will show more emotion toward their pet or a personal artifact than toward a person. Or, they may live out

    their emotional life by watching TV (identification with soap opera characters is a common pattern). Dating and

    marriage relationships will be very barren and empty. They won't get along with the neighbours. They live in a

    shell. They have a cold, callous attitude toward human suffering or any social problem in the society they live

    in. They just don't care because it's outside their range of empathy. Most will believe they are justified in

    this because they feel they were cheated in some way themselves by society, and a few will be more than happy

    to rant and rave about it to anyone who listens and underneath it all, they would like to see nothing better

    than all of society destroyed.


    Sociopathy is chiefly characterized by something wrong with the person's conscience. They either don't have

    one, it's full of holes like Swiss cheese, or they are somehow able to completely neutralize or negate any

    sense of conscience or future time perspective. Sociopaths only care about fulfilling their own needs and

    desires - selfishness and egocentricity to the extreme. Everything and everybody else is mentally twisted

    around in their minds as objects to be used in fulfilling their own needs and desires. They often believe they

    are doing something good for society, or at least nothing that bad.

    Some common sociopathic traits include:

    Egocentricity; Callousness; Impulsivness; Conscience defect; Exaggerated sexuality; Excessive boasting; Risk

    taking; Inability to resist temptation; Antagonistic, deprecating attitude toward the opposite sex; Lack of

    interest in bonding with a mate. Never smile when being photographed, except to fake openess as a politician

    or car salesman etc.


    Organized Sociopathic Hatred:
    Superficial charm and "good" intelligence
    unreliability
    untruthfulness and insincerity
    lack of remorse or shame
    inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
    poor judgement and failure to learn by experience
    pathological egocentricity and incapacity for love
    general poverty in major affective reactions
    specific loss of insight
    unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
    fantastic and uninviting behavior with and sometimes without drink
    sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
    failure to follow any life plan"

    Oh Yes, they don't smile when being photographed unless trained - like Tony Blair!

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  • 66. At 2:56pm on 27 Nov 2008, LeedsDemon wrote:

    Why do we attach labels to men and women who abuse children and other vulnerable people? They are not sociopaths/pyschopaths, they are truly evil.

    The do-gooding social workers who worked with Baby P's mother, providing her with a child-minder so that her son could be looked after, enrolling her on Mellow Parenting classes, were sadly lacking in common sense.

    In today's politically correct Britain, people are too scared to tell the truth; when there are cases of parents who cannot cope or who do not want to cope with their children, or when vulnerable people such as the elderly suffer abuse, the authorities 'pussy-foot' around and try to work with the abuser.

    Unfortunately, there is no ultimate sanction to use against the murderers of Baby P or the man who repeatedly raped his daughters, and it is pity that there isn't!!

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  • 67. At 3:20pm on 27 Nov 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #65. I'd suggest the exact opposite is true. Sociopaths (and I count myself as one) have a VERY clear life plan. Anything I want in life I will get by a sheer bloody mindedness and I have very little compulsion about stepping on people in the process. Your Tony Blair analogy is probably spot on but directly contradicts many of your other points. Blair knew exactly what he wanted in life and has followed a highly scripted life plan.

    A lot of of your other points however are accurate- generally I've been far fonder of my pets than other people, however I've got a great marriage, mainly because my wife is my exact opposite and cancels out most of my worst traits.

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  • 68. At 4:01pm on 27 Nov 2008, xanthrus wrote:

    #66.

    Yes, I think you are correct in so much that whilst no two people are the same, no two sociopaths are the same. Failure to follow any life plan is more conducive to those sociopaths with less intelligence.

    However, one area that I disagree with in the original article is the percentages quoted as to how many there are. There is some evidence that sociopaths abound in western nations whilst they are few and far between in the developing world. I have met many sociopaths over the years and would estimate the figure to be 6 to 8 percent with no difference between the genders.

    Lastly, I admire your honesty and candour.

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  • 69. At 4:50pm on 27 Nov 2008, angryand wrote:

    I've found this description of a sociopath and I can't help seeing comparisons with how one would describe a politician

    http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

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  • 70. At 7:34pm on 27 Nov 2008, victoria333 wrote:

    i didn't manage to read all the previous posts and only skimmed through them due to eye strain, but i do agree that there are probably sociopaths in every field of work. Not all sociopaths are killers though, some are just out to exploit people and get what they can. Its one thing to be cold and not care about others or be touched by what is happening, but its another to actively seek out victims and inflict suffering upon them. I'm not 100% sure, but i think the latter variety are defined with them receiving a comorbid diagnosis of 'severe and dangerous personality disorder' which is the extreme form of antisocial personality disorder. The common sociopath lurks among us all, cold and opportunistic. They may not all inflict death, but they will damage whatever it is you've worked so hard for without a shread of remorse.

    We must not confuse the innocent with the sociopath, but the sociopath wants your pity. He/she will make you feel guilty, also they will make you feel shame. Some people are just troubled, damaged victims of sociopaths who may display rage due to mistreatment. But the real sociopath will manipulate you into doing things you are not comfortable with by playing on your pity, your guilt and your shame (as well as violence). Often remaining calm and sociably charming, whilst implicating the maimed victim who dares to rebel against the suffering and manipulation inflicted upon them. How do i know all this - i have been preyed upon by a sociopath who has severely torn my life to pieces, and then gone off laughing unscathed with a pat on the back. Now i can trust nobody and am continually enraged about it. And such behaviour does not seem sociable, whilst the perpetrator goes round charming (manipulating) people. They smile, they laugh as it was not their life ruined, no, it was somebody elses life that was ruined. But afterall who want to listen to the miserable person banging on, when they are being charmed by a sociopath - and that is not something to feel guilty about, its just human nature, to want what sounds so good, though a lie, as opposed to the gritty truth.

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  • 71. At 8:08pm on 27 Nov 2008, primevalatom wrote:

    loving people are as capable of seeing the weaknesses of others as anyone else, and health proffesionals, social workers etc, are also among the most hard nosed people around. Looking for the worst in people is not helpful, rather seeing were they are falling down and failing themselves and others, and working towards a solution which works is the answer. No one is going to accept jack shit from someone who views them as not even in the realm of humanity. There is no black or white here, but a continuum between love and ignorance and all of us are somewhere on that continuum. This idea that this kind of behavior is completely alien and impossible to understand is simply being dishonest with oneself in my honest opinion.

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  • 72. At 8:33pm on 27 Nov 2008, leda12 wrote:

    I worked for 10 yrs for a psychopath, one of the higher functioning ones. You tend to find these in top management, and this is where he was. Utterly callous, but fabulously "sympathetic" when needed. It was breathtaking and also destroying to observe this man. He could feign anything - and once when a young policeman interviewed him about an RTA, my psychopathic boss even adopted a meek, humble physical posture together with the cocked head pretending to hang on to every word the PC was saying. He overdid it, but it worked.

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  • 73. At 11:26pm on 27 Nov 2008, Nick wrote:

    Shellspacebabe (#60), I quite agree that bedwetting beyond 10 on its own is no indicator, but my point was that the three present together is a common feature in psychopaths. Sorry if my post wasn't clearer! :)

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  • 74. At 03:07am on 28 Nov 2008, nomoreroomonthebroom wrote:

    I am an experienced early years teacher in an inner city primary school in Manchester. During my career I have occasionally encountered children as young as 3 or 4 years old who fit the description you describe. I refer to a small minority of children who show a lack of genuine emotion and empathy. Alarm bells have always rung immediately for me when I have been involved with these pupils. Years ago there was very little importance placed on my observations of children under five, certainly no one involved any outside agencies or made any effort to monitor their social and emotional development. People only seemed to become interested when the children were much older and behaviour was becoming an unmanageable issue or a serious incident had occurred. Fortunately, now there is more importance placed on such observations than in the past and children are monitored more closely. However, there is not enough active intervention at this stage. Special Educational Needs is not prioritised highly enough by the government and money should be available for schools to provide support for the child and teacher, or to access outside professional help at a much earlier stage. Nursery or reception classes very rarely have assistance in my experience. We do all the paperwork, record detailed observations but access little or no help. Any funding is left up to the individual school to provide and if the school has budget issues, there are no funds to access. Some children who fall into the category of displaying no empathy may fall somewhere in autistic spectrum. These children may have a range of other problems and eventually they will be recognised by the authorities as requiring specific support. Much more worrying are those children (and I have only ever encountered a small handful) who seemed to function in other areas of development as an average child. However, they show a chilling lack of empathy and emotion, their eyes reflect an 'emptiness' or 'deadness' when you communicate with them about hurting others. This is quite different from a child who shows aggressive tendencies or argues that they aren't to blame or stubbornly refuses to admit guilt or apologise. Perhaps this empathy block is the result of experience in very early childhood - I suspect in some cases that may be a possibility. Perhaps there is an area of the brain which hasn't developed for other reasons. I would be interested to hear of any research which may have been done in this field. An earlier blogger talked of dealing with these children by reinforcing positive behaviour as they do not respond to reprimands. I am a firm believer in encouraging and reinforcing positive behaviour, although there needs to be a balance of the two. However, intervention and extra support needs to take place when a child is first identified. Waiting for the the lengthy administrative process to progress is not good enough.

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  • 75. At 07:53am on 28 Nov 2008, sociopathic1 wrote:

    I've been diagnosed as a sociopath. I've done some horrifically violent things, been imprisoned for some of them, and been ostracized by my community and local media. Does this mean I'm a bad person? Should I just kill myself and rid the world of the threat that some see my livelihood as posing?

    Personally, I don't believe I'm a sociopath. I experience compassion, regret, shame, empathy, sadness, etc. I have yet to feel love. I have many friends, the majority of whom are healthy, responsible and educated adults, who believe in the potential for my betterment. I'm in treatment, I have a successful career, I'm a community organizer and I actively go out of my way to help people out of a genuinely selfless desire.

    But yet I'm capable--and have caused--incredible destruction. I believed for a long time that I was the true victim of my actions--that I was powerless to stop myself. I've read otherwise, but is sociopathy not treatable once one realizes the depth of their selfishness? I discovered that the foundation for much of my behavior has been seated in deep feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, loneliness and fear. Upon realizing this, I began intensive therapy and have since learned to see the world in a new way.

    Can other diagnosed sociopaths not do the same? Or are they perpetually doomed to view the world from heartless, inhuman perspectives? Assuming that it's possible I'm a sociopath, would that mean that I'm merely pretending to have changed, or perhaps that I've deceived myself into believing the impossible?

    Should society take action to control diagnosed sociopaths, especially those, like me, who've committed violent atrocities?

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  • 76. At 08:57am on 28 Nov 2008, chriss-w wrote:

    It seems to me that it is too easy to ring-fence the problem by identifying a minority of people who have a pathological condition. Reading these comments two thoughts occur to me:

    First, that from their first childish tantrum almost everyone engages in manipulative behaviour to "get their own way". The normal limits to this behaviour are probably a complex mix of nature (empathy) and conditioning (guilt).

    Second, that if society sets "norms" which sanction the pursuit of individual gratification; and avoid attributing responsibility or blame, then it can inadvertently reset the limits on this behaviour.

    I, like others, am no expert: and there may be individuals at the end of the spectrum who are clinically different from the rest of us. They can be termed sociopaths, but sociopathy could also be used to describe a disease afficting society as a whole.

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  • 77. At 09:44am on 28 Nov 2008, nagaiah wrote:

    Publicly Practicing Religion = Voodoo

    Voodoo = ASPD aka Anti-social Personality Disorder

    ASPD = Sociopath (devoid of love,shame,guilt,empathy,remorse)

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  • 78. At 2:14pm on 28 Nov 2008, NewsMonitor wrote:

    Quote:
    Social workers . . are wired to see the best in people, to develop trust.
    . . . they retain a deep cynicism about the individuals they work with - constantly questioning and imagining the very worst.

    Am I the only one to spot this total contradiction here? In my experience, it's pot luck which way the dice falls when a Social Worker interferes with your - and your family's - life.

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  • 79. At 2:25pm on 28 Nov 2008, NewsMonitor wrote:

    I've met a lot of CEOs and top-level execs. in private industry that meet this description of a Sociopath. So - is sociopathy a natural consequence of the Capitalist System of the West? It has already been observed that it is it far less prevelant in developing nations.

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  • 80. At 4:00pm on 28 Nov 2008, stalisman wrote:

    "He describes how "they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret".

    Such people are, however, very difficult to spot."

    Are you being serious?

    People like that stand out a mile!

    Don't think so? well how many are in your circle?

    I dare say none.

    It is the cowardice of people to call a spade a spade that is the real problem.

    That and the 'being paid' attitude that makes people makes people decide to switch off as it's hometime and it can wait another day.

    Vunerable people may be in 'continuous situations of abuse' yet are only merrited 'discrete' attemtion.

    When those who see themselves on the frontline feel free to 'knock off for the day' for after all they have families too, what hope do the vunerable have for ever seeing justice when every help is punctuated?

    Society has to move past the 9 to 5 attitude if it wants to realy win this War.

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  • 81. At 4:53pm on 28 Nov 2008, nmarks wrote:

    "Nonsense. The overwhelming mass of evidence shows that increasing the severity of penalties does not reduce crime."

    But equally where individuals go through life committing anti-social, harmful or even criminal acts without being detected and punished they grow in confidence, sophistication and callousness to commit ever more vicious crimes until we get horror stories like Baby P.

    Typically the more corruption there is in a country's criminal justice system the more these events happen.

    These sorts of events are tragically all too common in say Indonesia where the police are hopelessly corrupt but in neighbouring Singapore crimes like this are - as in the UK - thankfully rare.

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  • 82. At 4:56pm on 28 Nov 2008, nmarks wrote:

    By the way Mark I'd like to thank you for raising the issue of sociopaths.

    The more we the public can learn to spot these monsters the faster they can be removed to a place where the only danger they can pose is to themselves.

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  • 83. At 5:29pm on 28 Nov 2008, Patrick Slavin wrote:

    Not every Sociopath chooses to be or can be considered evil, there are extremes everything. Often people who do not adhere to society guidlines are the ones that make the greatest changes. History is full of people who by todays standards were Sociopaths. You should not consider everyone that lacks empathy or does not understand or follow your cultural norms as a monster.
    I often help people as it is the right thing to do at the time and not because of gain. Ouside of my profession (forces/security services) I have never knowingly harmed another living creature and never would. Where a person knowingly harms other living creatures for no real reason they should be removed from society ... permanently, whether they are considered Sociopaths or not, these attempts to label everything that breaths often prevents us from seeing the fact that there are those for whom only one label applies ... EVIL.

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  • 84. At 8:07pm on 28 Nov 2008, verycleverowl wrote:

    I have just split up from my girlfriend this month after dating her for over a year. Although we had lots in common, had some great times together and were both looking for marriage and family life I had to end it as there had been "behavioural" problems throughout the relationship that rang alarm bells.
    Last month I did some research online and worked out that she had Anti-Social Personality Disorder (APD) and may or may not be a Sociopath.
    She was very demanding at times and I experienced possessiveness, controlling and manipulative behaviour, histrionics, psychotic episodes, emotional blackmail, pushiness, intimidating stares, meanness, sulks and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at various times throughout the relationship.
    I agree with the comment above though that no too cases are alike so it would be cruel to lock all these people up.
    Whilst she never showed any signs of guilt, remorse or shame, she could be very loving, she could be caring and had concern for the wellbeing of others but there was a lack of empathy and did not consider my feelings most of the time. As the love was genuine and we had had some wonderful evenings together it made it hard to walk away.
    I felt really sorry for her because I'm convinced that the condition isn't her fault. I think her behaviour is partly affected by chemicals in her brain (as she seemed okay some of the time) and partly because the part of the brain which governs reasonable adult behaviour is underdeveloped. I assume this is what you call the conscience.
    As the conscience was underdeveloped she often had urges to control situations or make decisions based on emotional feelings rather than rational thought.
    Another interesting point is that although she was very articulate and had worked in the legal profession, she could not tell the difference between aggressive and assertive behaviour. One of the articles I read said that this was a tell tale sign.

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  • 85. At 02:54am on 29 Nov 2008, sizzler wrote:

    Spotting them.

    Look in to the eyes, there's no one there.

    They lie.

    They spend life pretending to be normal. But it's all exagerated.

    They think they know you better than you know yourself.

    Messy lives.

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  • 86. At 2:56pm on 29 Nov 2008, Spiny Norman wrote:

    What I find depressing about many of these posts is that so many people assume that their exes are sociopaths simply because their relationship has failed.

    Their partner didn't 'do what it says on the label', so they must have a pathological condition. It doesn't seem to occur to them that there's another side to this and that maybe they didn't meet their partner's expectations, either.

    To get back to the original topic, maybe a 'sociopath' is just someone who enjoys harming other people. Similarly, a 'carer' is one who enjoys helping other people.

    Both are engaged in pleasure-seeking activities, it's just that one harms the community and one helps it.

    Most people are not restrained from raping children by society's constraints - it simply would never occur to them to do so.

    Those who do get their pleasure by harming others have to learn to dissimulate in order to achieve their objective. Those who can't do this find themselves in trouble with the law very rapidly. The result is that those who survive are the more intelligent and manipulative.

    'Mr X' is a prime example of this - yes, he should have been discovered much earlier, but he did everything within his considerable power to avoid detection. Knowing the right lies to tell the authorities was a vital part of the process.

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  • 87. At 7:10pm on 29 Nov 2008, Unholy Angel wrote:

    Emotions are one of the few things that sets us aside from most other animals. Therefore the shock of what a sociopath has done is not from the inhumane acts themselves but rather from the realisation that another human being could be so callous and unfeeling as to inflict this treatment upon a loved one (in the case of the father abusing his daughters) or a innocent (baby P).
    I find it quite odd however, that although the people in question must have no conventional emotions, they must posess at least some. Fear possibly. Whether fear induces them to cover up their actions in case they are jailed or because they are afraid their victims will be taken away from them (and therefore the power they feel), they still have a sense of right and wrong. I personally believe that those who violate the human rights of their victims (especially the most basic right of all - the right to live) deserve no human rights as they have not acted humanely. Why is it that criminals show disregard for other peoples human rights, we do everything to uphold THEIR human rights? Where was this consideration when Baby P's basic human right was taken away from him?
    I could never inflict these injuries even on my worst enemy and why is this? Because i have compassion. And it is this emotion i believe they lack.

    On a further note, I have spotted a possible sociopath. My friend was married to one for a short time and during that time he abused her mercilessly, it was her 4 year old daughter who told me what was happening and asked me to do something (which was heart wrenching to say the least). And although i am not a fighter, i will lay my life down for my friends and family. And in his own twisted way, he respected and feared me because i was the only women in his life to ever stand up to him. She is now happily divorced and moving on, while he was sentenced to 10 years in Scotlands finest just last week for subjecting another female to even worse (if possible) abuse. And i feel for this girl (theres that compassion again), especially because if i had had my way, he would have been locked up 5 years ago when i spotted him as the monster he is.

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  • 88. At 8:49pm on 29 Nov 2008, stalisman wrote:

    Most people only seem to show their emotions when driving and avenging some imagined insult.

    Extreamly animated to say the least.

    Yet when the comute ends they sit a home watching tv or exploring some hobby as if they were of the Earths salt.

    You know who they are, who you are and how you let emotion rile you into stupidity.

    Do not use the term sociopath lightly.

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  • 89. At 08:00am on 30 Nov 2008, drewp2008 wrote:

    I once read a very in-depth book about this. It was called 'The Witches' by Roald Dahl.

    But seriously, seems a bit overboard. I've never felt the need to label or segregate people. If they're a bit of a Richard Head then leave them be. Common sense isn't it?

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  • 90. At 10:22am on 30 Nov 2008, WestCornwall wrote:

    The front-line workers in schools are teachers: well-paid, mostly good graduates, professionally regulated, with some standing. Contrast this with the front-line social workers many of whom are excellent caring people but not of the same quality or pay-grade.
    We need to establish a substantial cadre of highly-skilled family workers (a new title would be needed) who would have legal knowledge as well as a more detached professionalism. This proposal will cost money, so will not happen.
    I also question the assumption that the "multi-agency" approach is the right one. It requires a huge amount of communication to operate successfully. Even arranging meetings is difficult for such busy people. Highly-skilled family workers could take the lead.
    The profession I think should be most criticised in the recent cases (Baby P, the ghastly rapist father) is the medical one. How can anyone with an education in medicine (surely includes human genetics) not spot the possibility of incest given the evidence?
    Incidentally, the BBC website separates Education and Health - and has no link for Social Services. Perhaps the website should reflect modern reality with a Children and Families link.

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  • 91. At 4:21pm on 30 Nov 2008, Anarchyrulesok wrote:

    One can read too much into certain indicators. Many children, especially if bullied, will exhibit sociopathic behaviour towards small mammals. The key issue is whether they grow out of it. As a smallholder I regularly have to kill chickens for food, and send ruminants to the abattoir. I take no pleasure from it at all, but I believe it is my responsibility to kill what I eat. There are far too many here pontificating on these issues whilst enjoying their steak and chips.

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  • 92. At 4:58pm on 30 Nov 2008, Joan Olivares wrote:

    I disagree with Mr. Easton's statistics that only 3-4% of the population are considered to be sociopathic. The lack of empathy is seen everywhere, on every school campus, street corner, neighborhood, family and every brothel in the world. It's the young child who won't allow a classmate to play in a game or the young teen who harasses the passerby on the street or the neighbor who spreads mailicious gossip in the neighborhood or the mother who physically abuses her baby or the father who initiates his son into a brothel. These are all heinous acts committed by sociopaths who are allowed to spew their mental contagion.
    We're all so guilty of this illness because we're all so unconscious of how we continually hurt each other. Transforming one's life is about ending our own pain and the pain we heap on others through our unconscious sociopathic acts.

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  • 93. At 6:14pm on 30 Nov 2008, Jamesay wrote:

    Good thought provoking article. I take issue with Grimble22350 saying, "Finally I believe it's incontrovertible that sadly victims of abuse have a much higher likelihood of going on to become abusers themselves than the general population."

    Where is the EVIDENCE for this.... I am a psychotherapist who works with male survivors of childhood sexual abuse and know that there is NO conclusive evidence that people who are abused become abusers... PLEASE stop peddling this MYTH! By doing so you harm the case for survivors and cause a smoke screen of witch hunts which damage the abiity to do any form of credible work in examining abusers.

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  • 94. At 6:40pm on 30 Nov 2008, nomoreroomonthebroom wrote:

    I agree with West Cornwall's observation that a need for a different level of expertise and experience is required within the Social Services. I am certainly aware of children who have been flagged up as highly vulnerable and subsequently registered with Social Services. However, their needs are clearly not being addressed. I know that social workers have visited a home where NO food at all is evident in the house. The family has a variety of problems. The 4 children are visibly undernourished and the mother has claimed to be just about to go out shopping. This has happened on more than one occasion. The social workers have accepted the mothers explanation and left the house without ensuring food would be available for the children. Although there is a need to work with the family as a whole, perhaps social workers all too often find themselves in the difficult position of trying to gain the trust and confidence of the parents, while at the same time looking out for the welfare of the child. At all times the child's welfare must be the priority - perhaps someone should be acting solely on their behalf? Certainly only someone who possessed exceptional expertise and life experience should be give the responsibility to work in such a position.

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  • 95. At 03:15am on 01 Dec 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mark

    i think that there should be ways to spot a sociopath in society.....

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  • 96. At 09:30am on 01 Dec 2008, george144 wrote:

    Emotions and morality are only dictated by society they are not built in at any base level rather things like what is good and bad are taught by society and are not part of human nature so what if you take advantage of people who are weaker then you to get what you want as I see it its a form of natural selections.

    Also why bother with guilt and remorse I do not believe in any form of god so who is there to judge me, will society? no it won't if it never finds out therefore what is there to stop you taking what you want but your own stupid conscience which is just an idea created by society in order to bind you to its rules.

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  • 97. At 12:55pm on 01 Dec 2008, DeniseCullum222 wrote:

    We are born with narcissistic traits and life is supposed to help us become adults and not stay children but this does not happen in many case and this man who did this to his children was is a psychopath does not believe he should answer to anyone should be allowed to do as he pleases with whom he pleases when he pleases, others are objects and are viewed as belonging to him especially family. When they say my daughter they mean it. Theirs in body and soul. He will not be on his own and others will know about him but go along with what he wants. As for Social services they to have psychopaths like all work places working for them not all kill but all harm in some way or other, and they know each other as well. There is much talked about them but I say they are born but a few are created.
    You have to believe that they own you and you can not get away and also to have someone who can help you many people will not get involved as there is much trouble when dealing with them as they are revengeful as they have no empathy for anyone.

    few people get through life without having dealings with them. This man should never be let out as he will do it again they do not learn ever no matter what you do for them it is about power over others.

    I have read books on the subjects but the only experts I know are those who have dealt with them, to me they are the dark side of being human. Which is what they are?

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  • 98. At 1:13pm on 01 Dec 2008, DeniseCullum222 wrote:

    NPD
    Traits

    Conscienceless and amoral

    Authoritarian
    Love themselves and how they look
    Contemptuous of others like to destroy what they can not make like family , relationships
    No one is good enough
    very cruel to anyone
    If they give you anything like a gift it will not be what you want but what they want and you will have to give them twice as much back or do something what they want you to do
    Does not like being pulled over anything so you walk on eggs all the time
    Go off and do what they want no matter who gets hurt as long as it is not them
    I found them to be humourless
    Competitive to wards most people but specially to children whom they do not like but will pretend to if it is of interest to them like sexual.
    Secretive never get a straight answer out of them as they are pathological liars and they are pathologically jealous as well They are hard to have a good time with because they do not like to do so I think they do not know how too.
    Seductive and flirtatious no one is out of bounds to them either sex nor age, they are predictor sexual and any other way
    They are fantasises like a five year old is they make up stories many are Walter Mittys. But the stories are usually what other people have done even yourself they have always done better no matter what you have done.

    they hate to live alone, but no one wants to live with them.
    They feel entitled to anything and anyone these are the people who get angry if rejected.
    And vain as none of them see them selves or I would say know them selves even if looking in the mirror they think they are better looking than are or better sexually than they are.
    Abusing his own as this man sees it there is nothing wrong but he does not want people to look at him with disgust he wants to live in the world that he has chosen of the powerful man whose daughters wanted him to do that to them and enjoyed it and it was not really his fault and so it goes on, they have always been around like the cold so next time when you met a person you do not like or who makes you sick check it out then leave.

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  • 99. At 4:26pm on 01 Dec 2008, victoria333 wrote:

    Do most people believe that not having a conscience is the same as not having empathy? What is the official view on the matter?

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  • 100. At 4:42pm on 01 Dec 2008, loveoneanother wrote:

    If only paedophiles and child-abusers were honest enough to admit what they were doing to begin with, instead of trying to deceive the authorities, then these poor Haringey social-workers would not be made scapegoats, as if they were the criminals.

    I have heard that about one child a week in the UK dies because of ill treatment. Why aren't all the other social workers and authorities in those regions being given the same treatment as meted out to this particular council?

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  • 101. At 09:43am on 02 Dec 2008, SuperCritical wrote:

    Are we not all sociopaths then?

    The problem with these diagnoses is that they are so comprehensive that we all exhibit traits from time to time. #65 mentions 'not smiling in photographs' and then 'fake smiling'.

    There is a strong drive in society to be 'normal' and therefore define what that is and worry when we see people deviate from this. Then endpoint is the definition of what is acceptable becomes narrower and narrower. The comments here have been subverted from talking about the most serious abuses in society to whining about failed relationships and doing internet diagnoses.

    Isn't self-absorption another trait?
    By that measure, half the people here should be locked up.

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  • 102. At 10:45am on 02 Dec 2008, aka_bluepeter wrote:

    Sociopaths make up a very small minority of the population, so by default the vast majority of social workers are unlikely to ever come across one in their lifetime.
    This must make them difficult to recognise as against the problems they normally come across which are driven by social depravation and misery.
    It is utterly utterly wrong to jump on individual Social Workers backs to assuage media driven calls for blood to which Policticians respond by demanding sackings. I am unconvinced by the way that most people in either group of sociopathic organisations really care what happens.
    Sacking people introduces more fear than they already deal with on a daily basis. How can that help.
    What they need is understanding and positive outcomes to the problems, not sackings and negative outcomes.
    Othewise why not sack every referee that has failed to spot the cheating diver.

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  • 103. At 5:22pm on 08 Dec 2008, verycleverowl wrote:

    I wrote comment no. 84 last week.

    After further research on the internet I believe that my ex-girlfriend would probably be classed as a "serial bully" not a "sociopath". This is because she had feelings of love and concern for the wellbeing of others although she did not have feelings of guilt, remorse or shame and only considered peoples feelings half the time. When she did not consider peoples feelings she would make you guilty for not taking her feelings into account.

    It just goes to show how complex this topic is. There is a fine borderline between a serial bully, a sociopath and someone having anti-social personality disorder. Someone can fall into two of those categories and there are lots of overlaps.

    I would also class her as a serial bully because she intended to try and control people by intimidating them through eye contact and voice tone as she could not distinguish between aggressive and assertive behaviour. This method of controlling people is also common to a "sociopath".

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  • 104. At 9:51pm on 08 Dec 2008, kickedoutof chatroomsoonestchamp2006 wrote:

    brinberlin suggests there is no evidence that punishment prevents crime. Why is it, then, that statistical comparisons for murder rates before and after the Abolition of the Death Penalty are impossible to find? Could it be that such information is not published because the truth is just too politically incorrect?
    To be effective as an evolutionary force appropriate punishment will have to prevent procreation - but always works after the event. However as a deterrent it works well, I've no doubt, and it's high time it was extended.
    Am I the first to bring up this issue or have the others been edited out (as i expect I will be)?

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  • 105. At 08:27am on 11 Dec 2008, Winseer wrote:

    I think you will find that in today's society, a lot more than 1-4% of people have only self-interest at heart. Secular behaviour is now commonplace, and with it a warped sense of morality that makes anything one does "ok" and any argument against others able to stand up.

    For instance, how many men and women do you know that are "one girl guys/one man girls" and yet indulge in what I call "serial monogomy" where the number of sexual partners over a period of time, say 10 years, is legion and would have been unthinkable a couple of generations ago.

    Just because one only has "one relationship at a time" however makes a huge number of the public believe in their own sociopathic behaviour. You try and argue with such people for actually indulging in anti-social behaviour. How many benefit claimants are single parents who only split up because it is easy to do so? How many routinely go around upsetting people merely because "they thought it was right"? - Is this not antisocial?

    Here is my list of anti-social behaviour patterns I see in the most people - way above the so-called 1-4% "sociopath" threshold.

    (1) Self-denial promiscurity - "I've slept with over 100 people, but that's OK because I never two-timed anyone!"

    (2) Anti-Religion - "We should do away with it all as all wars are caused by it". No they're not - try the bringing to heel of any WEAK nation who's social engineering projects are out of line with your own. The Holocaust was known about years before the rest of the world did anything about it. Today, "human rights abuses" never seem to involve wars against countries that would kick our butts if we declared war upon them. Wars are started and stopped by politics not religion.

    (3) Atheism among the learned. "I'm prospering, so I'm not going to rock my boat with any religious belief that may offend the people around me. Atheism is the high-flyer-s creed of choice!"

    (4) Uncontrolled reproduction among those not wealthy enough to support themselves. "It's OK the state will support me innit!"

    (5) Lack of stable relationships for bringing up children. Having kids out of wedlock makes it a lot easier for parents to split up. Not every parent breakup involves abuse. More often it is a throwback from (1) "Hey, I fancy him/her but I'd better dump my current partner before setting out with them - then it'll be alright!"

    If I'm wrong, then how come people doing the leaving always seem to be doing it to run off with someone else?

    (6) "Can't pay won't pay". Debts are going to be a lot harder to collect from this type of person who despite having plenty of cash to make payments, decides they are not going to because (among other reasons) there is a good chance the creditor might go under and therefore go away if they hold out on payment. Everyone who won't forgo a treat to pay the bills also fits into this antisocial category. Take a look for red bills on the doormats of your friends who've just put that 4x4 back on the road for another year, or booked another fortnight in Tenerife...

    (7) The Craving of celebrity over self-improvement. Trained and skilled future workers are in decline because too many young people today are drawn to "wannabe" industries like media, sports, and showbusiness. The overpay to this section of society allows all the other things above to become ensued in popular culture. On the other hand, teachers, medical, police, armed forces, and other essential people are badly underpayed.

    The light at the end of the tunnel is that the downturn might bring this entire sociopathic edifice down on the unworthy heads of those who have brought this country down to the depths it has reached today. History shows the 1930's to have been a lot a lot more moral than the 1920's.

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  • 106. At 1:50pm on 14 Dec 2008, Bloofs wrote:

    Some people will always commit horrendous crimes and it is unrealistic to assume we can prevent all such tragedies. It can't be prevented while we all have free will. Some choose to commit evil acts. It worries me that in people's desperation to prevent tragedies we end up being given less responsibility to act for ourselves. We may even lose freedoms. Punishment and detention is all we can do in some
    cases.
    No-one is willing to say that, sadly life is often tragic, often cruel. The universe is cold, empty, filled with disease and death and silence. We are so lucky to be in the developed West (where we are mostly very comfortable)- but even in the West, tragedy can happen. It is impossible to prevent all tragedies, and I'm afraid to say, we should not try, because in our effort to bring perfect safety, we will ruin our quality of life.

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  • 107. At 10:07am on 15 Dec 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #104 "Why is it, then, that statistical comparisons for murder rates before and after the Abolition of the Death Penalty are impossible to find? Could it be that such information is not published because the truth is just too politically incorrect?"

    You're not looking very hard. Its a piece of cake finding annual reported murder figures going back 150 years. Whats not easy is making any sense out of them. The world is a far more violent place than in the 50's and countries that do execute such as Jamaica or the USA have far more violent crime than we do. When the UK's most prolific hangman Albert Peirrepoint says that the hanging wasn't a deterent I'm rather inclined to listen to him, not the daily hate and fear.

    For what its worth I'm more or less pro-death penalty for simple financial reasons: I see no reason why £100K of taxpayers money a year should keep people like Ian Huntley alive. I don't think the threat of a rope would have stopped him killing.

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  • 108. At 10:12am on 15 Dec 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #105 "The Holocaust was known about years before the rest of the world did anything about it"

    No it wasn't. Hitlers anti-semitism was well known (and shared by many high powered Brits from the ex-King downwards). However the final solution was decided upon at the Wansee conference in winter 1942. Three years after Britain had gone to war with Germany. There was precisely nothing we could have done about it then unless you're one of those people who think we should have bombed the camps and done Hitlers work for him.

    Incidentally my grandad liberated one of the satellite camps of Belsen and had absolutely no idea what was going on until he saw it for himself. My gran saw the same thing on newsreels in the UK and the whole cinema crowd was truly shocked. The general public had very little idea about the third reich at the time.

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  • 109. At 11:26pm on 28 Dec 2008, tgimacb wrote:

    So, you wanna know why the world is as it is? EVIL

    A family with children and parents is under siege. You see, we have what the psychopath doesn't and the envy is manifested itself in heinous acts. She has no remorse. She is right. We need to be punished. That is that.

    We all pay the price.

    Since Cain and Abel, Israel and Palestine, or Christian and Jewish, even the person who parks in handicapped (without physical handicaps) you will find someone persuasive, unaccountable and quick to blame.

    Who am I to question whether an individual is a physopath, sociopath, narcissist, melgomaniac?
    I am enduring their clever, maniacal behavior.
    Thanks for the article. Perhaps more dialog will help uncover the EVIL that it is.

    Pray for you all

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  • 110. At 1:40pm on 09 Feb 2009, rubyblog wrote:

    I was pleased to read your article on child abuse and those with personality disorders (sociopatic behaviour).

    As a recent target (victim) of a serial bully see: www.bullyonline.org, I was delighted to see that you are raising awareness of a common problem. However, I feel that little else has been done to educate the nation/s on the characteristics of this dangerous and potentially life threatening illness.

    Perhaps the BBC could fund a programme or even a whole series, on an area of society that remains relatively unexplored.
    Certainly, the general public could experience the advantage of the alert that such an exposure could bring and hopefully prevent others from experiencing the unfortunate events that many of us do, silently.

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  • 111. At 4:05pm on 10 Feb 2009, virtuousNettys wrote:

    So sad reading the news about sociopaths.

    I have not had any close experiences. Thanks for that!

    Some friends have. They say you can see it in their eyes. Yes, they have no conscience. I would not trust all teachers or clergy.

    One has to be very careful!

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  • 112. At 6:31pm on 10 Feb 2009, The_judge_of_it wrote:

    Brinberlin #49 said: "The overwhelming mass of evidence shows that increasing the severity of penalties does not reduce crime."

    Could you please post links to some of this overwhelming evidence? I would be very interested.

    A quick search on Google yielded these studies:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    http://www.civitas.org.uk/data/twoCountries.php

    The main conclusions are that deterrence works and that imprisonment works. Besides, if severe sentences didn't work, how would you explain the low crime in multi-cultural Singapore.

    Peter_Sym #107 said:"countries that do execute such as Jamaica or the USA have far more violent crime than we do."

    You make it sound as if executing people increases violent crime. Instead, do you not think that capital punishment was retained in these countries BECAUSE of their high level of violent crime (to contain it)? Besides, executions are rather rare in the US and most of them happen in Texas only. Therefore it is wrong to use the death penalty in Texas as the explanation for all crime in the entire US.

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  • 113. At 8:37pm on 10 Feb 2009, divadlo wrote:

    I spent some years working with sociopathic teenagers in the 1980's and 90's
    however, at that time (don't know about now) the psychology professionals were were pretty much 'closed rank allies' in agreeing that because of the complications of adolescent social and psychological developments and anomolies commonly occurring at that stage of growth they were commonly not prepared to make such diagnosis in teenagers. This is actually well documented.
    Psychology is of course not a concrete science but there are lists of well researched 'indicators' of sociopathic behaviour (as you say now called antisocial personality disorder) that I always found very reliable. Perhaps the media 'blame game' attitude, especially TV, puts incredible pressure to be 'right' on anyone working in the welfare field which invariably means many who may see the signs (if they know about them) are not likely to put forward their thoughts particularly when the psychology professionals are not prepared to make a diagnosis either. And so we wait until we have such incidents as mentioned before we do anything about it!
    Perhaps another issue putting pressure on the 'caring professions' is that there was virtually no therapies for those with antisocial personality disorder...almost as if "well, if we know we can't do anything with them what's the point in diagnosing them?"

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  • 114. At 6:53pm on 19 Feb 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    after reading your article i put my son too bed and read him jack and the beanstalk, i left him after reading the story feeling jack fits into the description of a sociopath, manipulates the giants wife to gain access to the giants castle for some bread and cheese, then plunders the giants belongings for his own greed before murdering the poor giant, with no shame or remorse. Should we be promoting jack as a hero or the villain he really is?

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  • 115. At 6:05pm on 21 Feb 2009, bigsammyb wrote:

    Its funny that many religeons would argue that all non religeous people have no morals because they lack belief in a religeous moral framework.

    But the fact that being a sociopath is truly a very rare and unatural state of being proves that we all have a inbuilt inherant sense of morality regardless of faith or lack of it.

    Therefore why do you need a set of rules in a old book to tell you how to be moral?

    Could it be that religeous people are themselves lacking in genuine empathy for others? Could it be that sociopaths seek out religeon because they are able to feel fear, fear of how they might one day be punished? And so through religeon are able to 'cure' themselves?

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  • 116. At 01:21am on 07 Mar 2009, sociopathvictim wrote:

    I have been surfing the net for years looking for help when dealing with a sociopath. I have read many stories, mainly from the US. I have unfortunately had a child with a female sociopath. Every time something bad happened or her behaviour had become intolerable, another pity story arrived. I knew there was something wrong with her, and at first her symptoms were that of a manic depressive, but there was also something far more sinister there. I could give you a book full on what has happened, and I am afraid to say mine has got worse. I have known she is a sociopath for about 5 years, and am unable to run away because of my child. If I could I would run to the other side of the world. The courts cannot protect me, my family, or my child who has to live with her as she won residency, regardless of every fact dictating otherwise. Still the rights of fathers is not the issue here. My Sociopath has recently gone to new extremes to hurt me, my family and my child. I am currently in the court system, but have little faith that I will be protected, as unfortunately I am a man, and a father. Her distinguished acting skills and the inability of others to comprehend the sheer number of lies she can tell, leave me in a difficult position. I have had to work tirelessly to present a case that I hope will counteract these lies, yet it is incredible how a woman can make a serious allegation against a man, without needing any evidence and I am immediately condemned. I have had to deal with several serious allegations and lies spread far and wide. I have been attacked, and yet not believed. I am really worried that my family is in serious danger from this woman, as she is relentless. If anybody knows of any help that is available with respect to being a victim of a sociopath, or if there are any professionals in this country that can help with bringing them to justice, with respect to helping in a court it would be most appreciated. I read, and others have been victims, but is there any body that can help?

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  • 117. At 10:46am on 12 Mar 2009, Noelene Nicholas wrote:

    sociapath victim
    I am sorry to hear your story.Is there any way you can catch your partner's behaviour on camera?
    My daughter left her partner 3 weeks ago,she is living in a friend's house with her children(not his).She can only go out in the daytime if he is at work.He constantly sends her texts,going through the different cycles,threats,remorse,love.Mean while he is going on with his life,working,out with friends,playing poker,eight-ball.The majority of people who know this man would not believe what he is.We have nowhere to turn.We cannot risk her trying to pick up any pieces of her life until she knows she is safe from this man,he has stated that he won't live without her,he is doing fine without her at the moment,but we are scared that he will turn at any time.It is so hard to know if he will carry out his threats,or if he will find somebody else and lose interest.It's the not knowing that is the worse.You should be able to say to a person,this relationship is over,and both walk away,that doesn't happen when you are dealing with a person who does not take no for an answer.He never has during their relationship,and he isn't now.We live in a smallish city,if only she could move interstate,but that would mean leaving her grandchild and family,and forcing her son to go,plus no money,no friends interstate.It would feel like an over-reaction to take that step,but can she challenge him by trying to live a normal life without him?

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  • 118. At 9:16pm on 23 Apr 2009, RIPTAKER wrote:

    i regard myself as a victim of a sociopath, they are manipulative, lying cheating and totally self absorbed and often play the role of the victim when in truth they are the aggressor, one can be totally taken in until it is emotionally too late you find yourself almost in denial of the extent of thier ruthless behaviour because of the normal moments they display which of course are all a charade albeit a very convincing one, my advice for anyone in any sort of relationship with one of these monsters is to end it, walk away and never never go back , because if you want to know what future behaviour will be like just look to the past.

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  • 119. At 9:14pm on 13 Sep 2009, Eva_Jo_Frogster wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 120. At 9:41pm on 13 Sep 2009, Eva_Jo_Frogster wrote:

    Dear Sociopath victim from 7 March,
    I don’t know if you will ever read this, but I hope so. Regarding help when dealing with a sociopath, there is none or hardly any. There’s only the generalist stuff. I am a major victim of sociopathic manipulation so I have had to spend hundreds of hours reading psychology books. A vague hope is in the ‘Maturation Retardation Hypothesis’, suggesting that sociopathic behaviour becomes less heavy as the sociopath gets older because the ‘brain matures’, after the development of the brain was arrested during adolescence, which caused sociopathy. Having said that, the 44-year-old male sociopath who has ruined my life has been flooding his environment with lies, I cannot imagine what he was like at the age of 22 if it is supposed to get better with age. Another factor to consider is, is your child male of female? Socipathy can be inherited and for every female sociopath there are 8 male sociopaths. If your child grows up to be a sociopath, he/ she will become sociopathic from the age of 14/15 onwards. It is chronic and lifelong. There is no cure. It’s one of the 10 or so personality disorders and while others are treatable (for example, borderline personality disorder), successful treatment of a sociopath is very rare. Can you run to the other side of the country?
    Have you read Dr Sally Caldwell’s book “Romantic Deception – the Six Signs He’s Lying”? Dr Sally Caldwell wants to study me, and there is enough there for me to write a book. She’s a bit ill at present.
    You should worry that your family is in serious danger, but she will only be violent if she is unintelligent. The massively sociopathic intelligent man that I have encountered has never been violent towards anyone, not that I know of.
    I have over 30 witnesses and over 30 pieces of documentary evidence in my case, can you try and gather some?
    I think if someone will stick her brain in for an MRI scan the result will come out as sociopathic. Is it possible to get that done!!!
    I want you to know that you have my sympathy. I have lost half of my friends from encountering a massive sociopath. I have been severely underhelped, what’s up with all the organizations as well, nobody wants to get involved and nobody wants any trouble…

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  • 121. At 10:06am on 15 Sep 2009, Eva_Jo_Frogster wrote:

    After my extraordinarily traumatic encounter with a socipathic man, who is also a pathological narcissist, who preyed on a whole load of other people as well and not just me,
    I told the Prime Minister Gordon Brown about this experience through a song that I wrote. He responded to this by issuing a thank-you letter to me from 10 Downing Street in July 2009.
    The song cost me over a hundred pounds to make, but you can enjoy it FREE OF CHARGE in the link below, "Gordon Brown be my Angel"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCEWhEuhRoo
    "Gordon Brown, Gordon Brown, will you be my angel?
    Guardian angel is what I meant, will you rescue my soul?"
    "Gordon Brown, help me SLEEP...."

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