Therapist Says My Ex-Girlfriend is a Sociopath

Reader’s Question

I had been seeing a counselor. I had several sessions with him. I think the guy is pretty good. He says I do not need to come back anymore, but I just need to deal with ending what he described as a very unhealthy relationship. I was in a relationship with a girl whom he describes as a sociopath. In short, she has absolutely no true feelings for anyone but herself. Moreover, every experience she told me about in her life was told from the point of view of a victim. She never took any responsibility for anything. However, she has maintained some friendships for years, although they do look a little parasitic. Is this possible for a sociopath? My counselor told me the relationship was painful and like “hugging fog.” It hurts more than ever now that it is over. I have so many questions. Is this normal?

Psychologist’s Reply

Sociopathy, or Psychopathy, has been with us since the dawn of time, but only recently has this disorder received renewed attention. It is a very serious disturbance of personality and character and is characterized primarily by a callous, senseless, and remorseless use and abuse of others rooted in lack of empathy and conscience. A parasitic lifestyle can accompany the disorder, but it is not the most essential feature. The most essential feature is the total lack of conscience. Psychopaths often have a superficial charm and can “con” or manipulate people with relative ease. They are masters of “impression management.” Sometimes they use the tactic of “playing the victim” to prey on the sensitivities of others. I have written about this in my book In Sheep’s Clothing, my upcoming book Character Disturbance, and in many blog articles.

There are other disturbances of personality and character that have features similar to psychopathy (alt: sociopathy), and the diagnosis needs to be made with caution; with ample, reliable evidence; and with accepted techniques. Hopefully, your therapist had sufficient justification to make the call. Fewer women than men have the disorder, but that doesn’t mean females can’t be sociopaths. But because of the increased “popularity” of the disorder and because it’s such a serious (and at this point a relatively non-treatable) condition, it’s very important that the label not be applied unless it’s truly warranted.

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It’s not uncommon at all for persons who have been involved with psychopaths to have intense and conflicted feelings. Most of the time, reckoning with the psychopath’s true character challenges everything most decent people want to believe about other human beings and creates an intense degree of cognitive “dissonance.” This can be quite emotionally upsetting, and it’s very interesting to me that you acknowledge such distress yet your therapist suggests you don’t need to come back. The fact is that traditional therapy is both meant for and benefits those of decent character but who are in emotional pain, as opposed to those with serious disturbances of character and who are not bothered by what they do. If your therapist is right and your ex-girlfriend is a sociopath and you are still emotionally reeling from your experience with her, it is you and not her that needs and can benefit from therapy.

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