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Sociopaths. How common are they?

(460 Posts)
Rhine Fri 25-Apr-14 17:25:37

I've just ordered the book "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout from Amazon after reading good reviews of it. It's made me wonder just how common they are? I'm 31 and I think I've only ever met one in my whole life, the ex partner of a family member. If I told you some of the things that she did you'd think it was the plot of a psychological thriller and not real life. I don't want to say too much for obvious reasons, but it's disturbing how quickly she got her claws into my relative and then very nearly destroyed his life.

I want to read up more about it to make it easier to identify them before one sinks their claws into me.

Just how common are they?

ThePriory Fri 25-Apr-14 17:43:23

Fairly common. Thought to be 1% of the general population and 25% of the prison population.

The problem about spotting people with this personality disorder is how adept they are at 'acting normal' or appearing decent/hard working etc usually highly intelligent, while actually lacking something fundamentally human about them.

A sociopath does not want to change, and believes they are fine (even perfect) and everyone else has the problem, so it's not something that can be cured through psychiatry.

This Martha Stout book is good, but Robert D Hare is the one to read anything to do with Sociopaths (aka psychopaths).

Robert D Hare created the Psychopathy check-list for practitioners to use, and Martha references his work a lot. She doesn't actually add anything new to the field.

You find sociopaths in all walks of life, politics, banking, prison... about half-way on the psychopathy spectrum you have NPD which is more common.

I knew one.

Rhine Fri 25-Apr-14 17:49:47

I know a few people who I think have narcissistic personality disorder, so I'm not surprised that is much more common.

Dawndonnaagain Fri 25-Apr-14 17:52:01

My mother has NPD. It is scary but interesting. She's not as intelligent as she needs to be to be a sociopath, but watching her manipulate people not as bright as she is both fascinating and awful.

anyumbrellas Fri 25-Apr-14 17:54:03

I know one, unfortunatly he is my dd's father. he has never been diagnosed as he is perfect in every way wink. He is never wrong, never admits anything including dv its honestly like nothing happened an im crazy. he is the most frustrating person i have ever met. he is the definition of one its scary

BorisJohnsonsHairdresser Fri 25-Apr-14 17:54:06

I am surprised only a quarter of the prison population has this. Are they diagnosed or estimations?

DigitConfusion2 Fri 25-Apr-14 17:57:48

I knew one.

If it wasn't so terrifying to see how coldly and calculatingly he manipulated people it would have been very interesting.

Zero conscience or empathy. Frightening.

BuzzardBird Fri 25-Apr-14 17:58:18

I have worked in sales most of my life, you meet a lot in sales as is makes them very good at what they do. <ponders whether I could be one?>

AgentSchraeder Fri 25-Apr-14 18:04:15

I believe my ex is either a sociopath or has NPD. he fits the bill

ThePriory Fri 25-Apr-14 18:05:13

BorisJohnsonsHairdresser - It's only an estimate, because while you can't actually sit down and give every prisoner the psychopathy checklist, even if you did psychopaths are liars, and very good ones so it makes a true diagnosis very difficult!

But then again, (in the USA in particular) most prisoners are only there because they are black, and poor, rather than a psychopath... Sorry, controversial. I would say it's a good estimate.

ProminentSnoz Fri 25-Apr-14 18:08:54

I am one smile

We'll according to dp and that channel 4 quiz anyway...

OnaPromise Fri 25-Apr-14 18:11:02

Anti social personality disorder is not uncommon, and especially in the prison population. I have come across a few people with this diagnosis and you don't need to be particularly intelligent to have the diagnosis. Not sure if there's a distinction between this and sociopathy or psychopathy but my understanding was they were basically the same thing.

Purpleroxy Fri 25-Apr-14 18:12:40

I know one. She hides it well, almost nobody knows. She is absolutely evil. But appears to be sociable, natch!

hiddenhome Fri 25-Apr-14 18:17:30

My mother is one (diagnosed). She's horrendous. Very cold hearted, totally selfish with absolutely no conscience. Doesn't take any responsibility whatsoever for her many misdeeds and nastiness.

I haven't seen her for about 15 years now apart from a brief episode last year when I managed to get into her lair house and get some of my late dad's stuff.

ThePriory Fri 25-Apr-14 18:20:34

OnaPromise- glad you brought up Anti social personality disorder.

The term 'psychopath' is not listed in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM). Anti social personality disorder is the official psychiatric association term for the more popular cultural terms sociopath/psychopath. It is grouped with the narcissistic personality disorders, of which there are different types.

BorisJohnsonsHairdresser Fri 25-Apr-14 18:51:58

Hiddenhome, do you feel it has made you struggle as a result of that upbringing?

Samu2 Fri 25-Apr-14 18:59:47

My father is one and I know two others.

Samu2 Fri 25-Apr-14 19:01:29

And yes my dad fucked my head up for many years. I only see him at funerals these days and then I go to pieces for a few weeks.

shouldnthavesaid Fri 25-Apr-14 19:02:02

My father is one - we suspect, anyway. I don't know what he's like with his current wife but he's been awful with everyone else he knows. He just seems not to care at all about anyone other than himself.

MrsMeow Fri 25-Apr-14 19:20:39

There are differences between sociopaths and psychopaths, sociopaths being more controlling and subtle and having much more impulse control than psychopaths.

OP I have that book too and found it a brilliant read. I second Robert D Hare too.

I've noticed that theres a v high percentage of people with anti social personality disorder being admitted to mental health wards. On reading their histories there is always, ALWAYS a reason why they present like they do, usually stemming from trauma as a child. It absolutely fascinates me.

hiddenhome Fri 25-Apr-14 19:25:23

Yes, I struggle a great deal because of it. I was brought up in care, but sent back to live with her at the age of 12.

The social workers and her psychiatrist will have known about her disorder and I felt like a lamb led to the slaughter because I had no idea. She then proceeded to shred my life and mind for the next 10 years when I found out about her diagnosis by a pure fluke. I'm glad that I did because I emotionally cut off from her right there and then. She was nothing to me. I managed to 'escape' from her when I was 25.

Being involved with her ruined my teens and 20s and I look back with terrible regret that I didn't have any freedom at all back then. I would love to go back and do some of the things I really wanted to, including overseas aid work. I really longed to do that. I can never forgive her. I would dance on her grave if she was dead.

MizTiggle Fri 25-Apr-14 19:40:18

I think I've known 2. There's definitely something wrong with them anyway!

KingJoffreysBloodshotEye Fri 25-Apr-14 19:58:15

I've worked with two people who were sociopaths. Another who was 'in the zone' or a definite narcissist.

All three were nurses.


I'm fairly certain my father is a psychopath. I've been NC with him for about 7 years and it has been a huge weight lifted.

Rhine Fri 25-Apr-14 20:30:08

It's quite frightening how many of these people have managed to get themselves into positions of power isn't it?

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