How Do We Protect Ourselves From an Antisocial Personality?

Reader’s Question

I am a private detective who has worked on a divorce case in which the wife/mother is believed to have a personality disorder. Her own psychologist stated if she were lying and manipulating in her accusations against people (including her ex husband, the police, the judge, attorneys, court reporter, all witnesses, doctors, social workers and physicians, and the list goes on) that she is “acting in a criminally sociopathic manner.” She has been in jail for the past 3 days due to her criminal contempts against the court and her ex, after being jailed 3 prior times for false reporting (including pouring kerosene on her children — both babies) and a false rape charge against her ex. She is extremely vexatious and appears to stop at nothing to be a constant victim. How do we all protect ourselves from this person? I have been subpoenaed 6 times and then have had complaints of intimidation or threats for being around her, although she is the one who forces my physical proximity to her via legal means. It is believed she plans to kill my client, and there are rumors she killed her former attorney.

Psychologist’s Reply

In my experience, the most dangerous client is an antisocial/criminal personality who is severely depressed — an antisocial personality having no concern for those around them complicated by a severe depression that produces no concern for themselves. Personality Disorders (see my introduction to personality disorders on this website) do all those things you describe — lie, manipulate, threaten, make false accusations, try to harm others, orchestrate set-ups to then victimize others, etc. They also accept no responsibility for their behavior, feel totally entitled to harm others without regard for the consequences, and have no sense of morality/guilt/conscience. However, their self-preservation instincts typically keep them from threatening so many others in the environment.

When depressed or stressed, the above-listed attitudes and behaviors of an antisocial personality are amplified and exaggerated to the point that they become a danger to themselves and others. Antisocial and criminal (severely antisocial) personalities are totally selfish and have almost no boundaries — operating with the attitude that any behavior is justified if it meets their goals. What can we do when we are involved with these individuals?

  • Try to keep the interactions strictly business and witnessed. Make your responses to their behavior business as well.
  • You are describing a very aggressive and out-of-control individual who will begin having more problems with the legal and law enforcement system than with you. That system has more experience dealing with antisocial personalities as evidenced by assigning her days in jail.
  • Keep a log of all contacts, threats, and accusations. Never agree to meet with her alone or outside the context of a legal/court meeting. Report all threats to local law enforcement.
  • There is no such thing as a change of heart in a person with Antisocial Personality Disorder. A change of heart is a change in her strategy and may actually be more dangerous to you, just like playing the “victim” role is a strategy criminals use to gain sympathy and support from others. No criminal has ever robbed a bank while thinking about how his mother didn’t love him as a child. That becomes a strategy at a later time to gain sympathy from the jury.
  • If you feel your safety is an issue, consult with local law enforcement regarding recommended strategies. You can find additional recommendations and techniques by searching for information regarding protection from stalkers. Victims of stalkers must often vary their routes home, install security equipment, use secret phone signals and other strategies, etc.
  • Assume that this aggressive individual doesn’t think normally. Be prepared for just about anything.
  • Consult with the court regarding the subpoena abuse. She will be targeting anyone who is likely to have given support to her husband. In her criminal paranoia, she now views everyone involved in the case, even the court recorder, as someone who has worked together to harm her.

You have good reason to be concerned. From your description, she is attacking people in all directions, a behavior that makes her more dangerous, unpredictable, and behaviorally unstable than we normally find in even severe personality disorders.

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