So, how do you know if you're dealing with a sociopath?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by welcometowitsend, May 11, 2012.

  1. Not saying my difficult child is a sociopath - I wouldn't presume to go running around diagnosing him like that. It will be interested to see what the counsellor says about him after a while - but I do see a lot of sociopathic traits in this kid.

    He has little affect - he seems flat and often disengaged

    nothing has ever really made him happy - nothing is ever enough

    he doesn't care to make others happy

    he is extremely self indulgent and always has been - he stole pledge money that was supposed to go to feed starving children and thought nothing of it - laughed and joked about it in front of us.

    has made no effort to get in touch with family members in the last 6 weeks that he's been gone and we are a close family - doesn't seem to miss anyone.

    he never really seems sorry -he used to say it but it never seemed like he really meant it

    the only time he really gets upset is when something causes a problem for him or a punishment affects him - not because he feels bad about what he's done

    he is weird for Christmas and birthdays - he expects a lot but if you remind him that he should get a gift for his sister/father/mother he will not see the need/point in that. Last year I gave him some money to do a little Christmas shopping for his dad and sister - he spent almost all of the money on himself and bought them each something worth about $1.00

    I've been reading some information on it and I just wondered if anyone has any experience with sociopaths and what they are like. Apparently it's more common than I thought. 1 in 25 people is a sociopath - that's a lot.

    Anyone know or have known any sociopaths? What confirmed it for you? What was the give away? How do you deal with people like that?
  2. lovelyboy

    lovelyboy Member

    It sounds pretty much like Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) stuff to me!
    I think a sosiopath will go out of his way with well planned manipulative ways and behaviour to hurt other people or get his way.....Doesnt sound as if your son is putting lot of planning into his inappropriate behaviour.....?
  3. Giulia

    Giulia New Member

    Be careful. It's not because he laughs and sounds happy that he is really happy.
    Someone can be sad but does not know how to show it : so he laughs because he does not know how to show his sadness.

    The main difference between sociopathy and other diagnoses are the planning. It does not sound that he plans his inappropriate behavior and plans to get away from it.
    It does not sound that your son is such a good manipulator as you think. A sociopath would be a much much better manipulator than what you are describing.
    The "me first" behavior can be found in other conditions than sociopathy, like Prader-Willi syndrome, FASD, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) etc etc.... It's not specific to sociopathy.

    He can seem flat and disengaged from other conditions than sociopathy, like Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), schizophrenia....
    In these cases, psychiatrists say that moods (what emotion you show) and affects (what your words say) are not congruent, they don't match. A good way to remember it is the video when Droopy says : "You know what ? I'm happy !" whereas he seems very depressed.
    It can be seen in many conditions.
    Again, it is not enough to diagnose a sociopathy.

    Sociopathic traits does not mean necessarily that your son has sociopathy.

    The fine threshold in sociopathy is that he plans his manipulative behavior, and a sociopath is a much better manipulator than what you are describing. And also, he plans to hurt other people. It does not sound that your son plans to hurt someone else.
    So if I were you, I would not stop to sociopathy because the root cause is certainly elsewhere.
  4. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    I read your previous post, too - the one about the phone conversation with girlfriend's dad...there's an epidemic of weirdness going around, isn't there? As far as your son's behavior, I know precisely where you're coming from...I was in your shoes 2 yrs. ago.
    All of the observations you made about your son's behavior and affect are identical to my difficult child. My son didn't turn "bad" overnight, but there were subtle things going on from the time he was very young. When he was 14, 15 y/o he experimented with pot and meth and maybe other things, and it seemed to completely transform his personality - I also thought he was a sociopath - he certainly has those traits. Even my sister in law, who is a nurse, thinks he is either bipolar, antisocial pd, or borderline. The psychiatric he was seeing never gave us a definitive diagnosis, as the drug use could also present as any of those things. Mostly, I think, my difficult child doesn't have a strong personal identity, so he is like a chameleon and easily influenced.
    See what the counselor says. Some people have sociopathic traits, but do not hurt animals (my son never did), but they will emotionally torture people. It is awful, but apparently sociopaths never really accept help, because they're always too clever by half. They have a sneering contempt for "puny humans." The only remedy is to remove yourself from their sphere of influence in your life, as no good will ever come of it. Natural consequences of their behavior, like poor relationships, not getting their way, seem to send them into a seething rage, but they can be very patient, and wait for the right moment to strike. No amount of counseling would ever help a sociopath, because they don't want help...they want everyone else to obey their every whim. Very frustrating. Time will tell, but I've been told it is quite rare - what we see are traits, but probably not sociopathy. It's hard to stay one step ahead when you don't naturally think like they think...but you must try.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

  6. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Sociopath isnt something I would look at but definitely consider conduct disorder at his age. Really take a good hard look at what his behaviors have been like since say 10 or 11 and see if they fit the criteria. A conduct disorder can turn into antisocial personality disorder when a person becomes an adult or they can develop other personality disorders.

    I firmly believe my son had conduct disorder when he was younger and he has been dxd with personality disorder not otherwise specified because he has traits of several different personality disorders but not enough of any one to actually be dxd with one. As he gets older he has learned to control some of his issues but some of them still remain. I am not sure that the ones that remain are actually due to the PD's or more because of impulse issues. Or both.
  7. Liahona

    Liahona Guest

    There are parts of your list of sociopath that I don't identify with a sociopath. The flat affect, nothing makes him happy, doesn't care to make others happy. Sociopaths are charming people. They know what emotions to show to others to get what they want. They can fake being happy very well and make you feel like you are the only person on Earth who can make them happy; the only one to really understand them. They make others happy in order to manipulate them. They know exactly how to make others happy.

    Something else, x would get a look of pleasure on his face when he was saying something he knew would hurt someone else. Your son might have some big problems and might end up with a personality disorder, but I don't think he is a full blown sociopath.

    Here is a link I found about it.
  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Welcometowitsend, that all sounds very, very Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to me.
    I have known 3 sociopaths.
    They ALL bought Christmas presents. And birthday presents. It's one way they know how to woo people. They are VERY personable. The opposite of your son. VERY manipulative.
    They don't "get" that they are causing other people emotional pain. But they can be taught. I have to say, it's way harder to teach a sociopath than an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) because the sociopath will memorize it to be Machiavellian. The Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) will memorize it because he likes order, or because a parent has put a reward along with-it.
    NONE of the sociopaths had flat effects/affects.

    I just met someone 2 mo's ago on a FB Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) page, and her son is in jail for 6 yrs. They had no $ for an atty, and the judge and prosecutor noted the flat effect as a lack of remorse. Arrgh! I feel so sorry for her! (And the son.) This wk, she rec'd two letters from others who knew him in the pen, and said that he is a model of decorum, respect and calm. Never once has he complained about how unfair life is.
    A sociopath would be claiming his innocence and calling the press.

    Think: Blogdanovich. Eddie Haskell. :)

    I hope that helps.
  9. Thank you all for your replies. You are all very right - he is not manipulative enough to be a sociopath.

    MWM - Thanks for the link - it was very interesting. Many of those characteristics seem to describe difficult child very well.

    • Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder
    • Disregard for right and wrong - right now he doesn't seem to care - if it feels good or keeps girlfriend happy then it's right.
    • Persistent lying or deceit - If his mouth is moving then he is lying - he even has girls he is flirting with on the side that girlfriend doesn't know about - and he is supposedly in love with her.
    • Using charm or wit to manipulate others - he can be very charming, funny and is smart and super polite. His teachers for the most part love him as do his friends. Although he is polite beyond normal and it puts some people off (like girlfriend's father - he commented on it the other day).
    • Recurring difficulties with the law - This one does not apply - hope it never does. Except for that one incident when we called the police on him he hasn't had any problems.
    • Repeatedly violating the rights of others - I think the only rights he violates are those of his family members. He is very careful to respect his friends - and he has lots of friends.
    • Child abuse or neglect - nope
    • Intimidation of others - only immediate family
    • Aggressive or violent behaviour - only immediate family
    • Lack of remorse about harming others - he has zero remorse for anything he has done to his family - not sure about other people.
    • Impulsive behaviour - yes - he is self indulgent and lacks self control to regulate himself and have balance in his life.
    • Agitation - Yes
    • Poor or abusive relationships - only in the last 6 months with husband and I.
    • Irresponsible work behaviour - Isn't really interested in getting a job right now but takes zero responsibility for chores or help around our house or girlfriend's when he is living there.
    Those were symptoms for antisocial personality disorder - but I would think if he was antisocial he would be antisocial all the way around, right? - I'm just looking for some answers.

    I also looked into the asperger's symptoms again and while he did have some trouble with transitions when he was younger and had some issues with social cues when he was small that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. He has quite a lot of friends, his teachers like him, he gets jokes and sarcasm and uses it well. He does have a large vocabulary but that was because we read a lot when he was younger - and he likes to look smart and make other people feel dumb by using big words that he understands and they don't - it's a bit of an ego trip for him. And he has always had issues with fine motor skills but gross motor skills seem to be ok - he's a great skier, learned to ride a bike early, but his handwriting is terrible (but so is mine and my husbands and my daughter's). When he was younger he definitely had a tendency to bore me to tears with conversations about things like the characters from Lord of the Rings or a video game he was into - does that qualify for one-sided obsessive interests? I should clarify about the flat affect - I don't think it's necessarily an asperger's thing but possibly more of a depression or he just doesn't care about participating in the situation so he shuts down. He's not like this with his friends - he's very animated, laughing, smiling, joking around. So he does have some aspergers stuff - not sure if it's just overlapping symptoms from the Tourette's or if he has both.

    Something else my sister suggested was depression - it does run in our family. She said often depression in males surfaces as aggression and anger - which he seems to have a lot of towards us. Funny because initially the anger was all geared toward husband and now 3 weeks later husband is no longer the horrible abusive father and his aggression is all directed at me. It doesn't seem to be directed towards anyone else although girlfriend's dad says he won't talk to him anymore because he tried to address some issues with difficult child. I guess if difficult child feels like you're not in his corner then he's done with you.

    He definitely seems to have some cognitive distortion in his thinking. I home schooled him until grade 9 and I wonder if the reason I didn't see distorted thinking was because I was the biggest influence on his thinking. Now that he has this new group of friends (his friends last year were ok) they are his biggest influence. These are kids whose parents don't particularly care what their kids are doing, where they are going or when they come home. So, this is difficult child's new thinking.

    I looked up the conduct disorder - he doesn't meet that criteria at all. With the exception of his very recent behaviour I only saw him get violent one other time when he was about 7 years old and he got really violent. Kind of scared me - this other kid was teasing, teasing, teasing him and difficult child lost it and just beat him up and even started choking him. I had had enough (the other kids mom wasn't doing anything about it and my words weren't working so we had decided to leave). I think difficult child thought that was unfair that he had to leave because of this other kid and when the other kid did one more thing difficult child went off. I'm not sure what he would have been like if he'd been in school.

    It is just that so much of his reasoning and rationale just don't make any sense to me - or anyone else that hear's it for that matter. He'll say things like "I'm not riding my bike home because you refuse to pick me up." Or it's not his fault he skipped on Tuesday because he didn't get his homework done on the weekend so he had to skip school to do it. Well, he wasn't doing anything all weekend. Or, it's ok that I stole $5 from the pledges for the 30 hour famine because I had $55 in pledges and I only needed $50 to participate. And he didn't participate because he cares about the charity - he participated because all the kids got to stay up all night, hang out with friends, go midnight bowling and see a movie at 2 in the morning.

    Maybe the counsellor we are seeing will have some insight. Sorry for going on and on......
  10. Giulia

    Giulia New Member

    Welcometo, if he does not meet the criterias for conduct disorder, then he very unlikely meets the criteria for Auditory Processing Disorders (APD).

    It's not because you meet the criterias for Antisocial PD that you have Antisocial PD.
    Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Antisocial PD overlap a lot, but the root cause is very different.

    Also, if he really had sociopathy, he would refuse to go to the counselor and he would try to conn the counselor.
    From what you are describing, it's not the case. He would know how to show the right emotion to conn someone. It does not look like at all.

    The more I read about your son and the more I think about a social blindness : he lacks so much of social skills that he appears of not caring, not feeling anything inside. Even if he catches up jokes and sarcasm well.
    It's not that he does not feel remorse after what he did, he just does not know how to show it.
    Also, it's not because he catches jokes and sarcasm well that it means he has no possibility of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

    Another possibility can be a NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) - Non Verbal Learning Disability - which mimics Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) but the person catches very well the verbal, not the non verbal cues.
    (my ex psychiatrist suspected a NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) for me, aside with a Maths Learning Disability)
  11. buddy

    buddy New Member

    I have not read the responses yet. I dont know the diagnostic criteria of sociopaths but if it is based on the issues in your post, then I suspect many people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental diagnosis that have cross over issues would have to be diagnosed as being sociopaths too. In a disorder where a common symptom for many is not being able to take another person's perspective, wouldn't they naturally end up looking like a sociopath in some ways?

    But I view a sociopath (again I have no real clue what this is in terms of diagnosis) as someone who has evil motives. I guess that is my movie/tv view of it. Like for example, my son does not do these things in a manipulative way...fooling the outside world into thinking he is a great guy then acting differently while committing crimes or doing evil things. That is how I view a sociopath but again, that is just my general population view...totally uneducated in this diagnosis.

    PS...did I see that in the new DSM conduct disorder was not allowed to be given until 18..or is that intermittent explosive disorder?? I just thought it was interesting. Whenever I go to an ER or some mental health person adds a diagnosis like that to Q (he never had conduct disorder but someone did say intermittent explosive disorder) I read up on it, and it says things like.........can't otherwise be accounted for by a brain injury or neurological disorder...etc.......... things like that. Wonder why they do that??? Why not take the time to really learn about the primary diagnosis and help work on that?
  12. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a developmental disorder, a communication problem. They are very often unable to read people enough to manipulate and plan how to hurt them. Antisoscials can read people and use that skill to use them for their own good. They feel no remorse. Many hurt animals, peed and pooped inappropriately, and had a fascination with fire as children.

    There is a forum for antisocial personality disorder that I have visited a few times out of morbid curiousity :) Perhaps this will give you insight from the actual antisocials. I hope so. It was eye opening to me. Also, reading Robert Hare's books are very enlightening.
  13. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Conduct disorder is given below 18 and has to have signs before age 15. PD's are "normally" not diagnosis'd until age 18 which to me is such a crock of BS. It is like when bipolar and depression werent dxd in kids before 18. I joked with my psychiatrist and therapist about that. Bipolar came in on my 18th birthday with the cake and birthday presents all wrapped up in a nice shiny package. The day before I wasnt bipolar but suddenly because I turned 18...I could now be bipolar. What happens to people who are born on a leap year? Do they have to wait 4 years to get the diagnosis for real?

    Ive been around long enough to see that things seem to go in trends. Right now it seems that autism spectrum is the trend. A decade ago it was bipolar. Who knows what will be next. Just look on this board...almost 3/4 of the kids here are some form of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
  14. No, he is definitely not a sociopath. After reading more and reading your posts I am still not sure what it is but it's not sociopathic.

    A lot of this behaviour is very sudden and recent - he was a typical teen before but in the last 4 months he has turned into a difficult child. It seems as if it has happened overnight.

    I ask him why he's changed and he says he's grown a backbone. But you can grow a backbone and still be reasonable, you can grow a backbone and not try to bully your mother, or call her horrible names or leave home because you don't get your own way.

    I'm searching for things that I may have to wait for answers for. I will resign myself to that and look upon him like he has 'something', I just don't know what it is. It is much easier to not be angry and hurt by everything that is happening if I look at him as sick or impaired in some way.

    I am definitely going to do more Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) research because that could be what it is. His guidance counsellor's at school both hinted at emerging mental health issues and one mentioned bipolar but I think the best thing is to wait and see how this goes. I'm sure the private counsellor we are seeing will have some insight.

    Thank you all - I'm sure I'll be back with more questions on this as we progress through this.
  15. oh yes - MWM - I was looking at a couple of books by Robert Hare on Amazon. Was thinking of ordering them.

    And I will check out that link that you posted as well. Thank you.
  16. Liahona

    Liahona Guest

    Autism is a life long disorder. It wouldn't just appear in late teens. There might have been signs that you missed, but if he made it to age 16 without any social skills, sensory, executive functioning, ect... problems he might not have it.

    Bipolar and some other diagnosis can onset in the teenage years. Sometimes after a stress. It might be drugs. Have you had him tested by a neuropsychologist or developmental pediatrician?

    Good luck.
  17. keista

    keista New Member

    Well, if this is new behavior, it's wouldn't be Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is inborn - it doesn't develop. Different stages of a child's life, different symptoms can become more prominent and more troublesome, but it's the kind of thing you'd be able to look back an identify from when he was little.

    Has drug use been discussed? One of your more recent posts sounded like drugs would be the most likely explanation.
  18. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    The biggest reason for a total change in behavior in a teenager is drug use. Has that been checked out?

    Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is lifelong and does not appear in the teen years.
  19. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I second those who say that with sudden change in the kid, suspect drugs first, other addictions second. Other things that can also cause rather sudden change could be onset of bipolar or depression (depression in younger males often shows as challenging behaviour, not so much with the symptoms you usually expect in depression) or traumatic event. With teens it often feels that the mom is last to know.

    Does your son has any good old-time friends? Has he changed friends recently? Maybe you could talk with some of his old friends, or their parents, and ask what they think is going on. That would of course make your son very angry, but at this point he seems to be vcery angry with you anyway and there is not that much good rapport left between you anyway, so the benefits of finding out what his friends think is going on could trump the negatives.
  20. buddy

    buddy New Member

    I'm confused because your signature says he has Tourette's, , ADHD, Aspie symptoms (maybe overlapping) so really his underlying stuff is not new right? I keep being told that the testosterone/puberty etc. put together with the neuro symptoms can really cause a mess for several years. Could it be that he has these underlying life long developmental issues that are complicated by puberty (and maybe other teen issues....drugs, girls, peer pressure, hormones, whatever....)???

    Anyway, glad you are comfortable it is not that he is a sociopath! It sure is a rough ride sometimes.
    Last edited: May 14, 2012