Skip

Living with Psychopaths. Need Help.
October 15, 2012 7:50 AM   Subscribe

Dealing with Psychopaths. The textbooks please.

I've just found out that there are psychopathic personalities in my family and a disturbing trend in my community. I do not want to continue to be a victim or to allow them any leeway in my life. The time has come to put up every single mechanism to keep them at a distance, away and in the know that I am not to be messed with on any level. But I also want to rise above this situation in the most elegant, powerful way.

So - putting out the question - where can I learn every single aspect of the inner world of the psychopath and how to actually DEAL with them? Resources online please. Videos, articles, google books, downloads. I am ready for a complete education on the subject.

Am seeking the How To's when dealing with a psychopath, in the family schemata and business world. Defense mechanisms, what works, what doesn't, tone of voice, innuendos to use, when to defend, and when to terminate the connection - with what tools and boundaries.

Thanks so much.
posted by watercarrier to Human Relations (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
An actual psychopath: My solution was about 3000 miles in between me and them and no contact. And Yes this was close family.

I found there was no rational or sustainable in person approach. Giving absolutely nothing sort of worked but not really.
posted by French Fry at 8:09 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Definitely "The Sociopath Next Door".

Also, the best way to deal with them is to get away from them. If you are certain there is a sociopath in your life, it's a lost battle and could get very ugly. Mostly because nobody will believe you due to how charming they are. This may be my trauma talking, but take it into account!
posted by Tarumba at 8:11 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


The gift of fear by Gavin DeBecker (sp?)

Take care of your own shit through therapy, building your own resilience and being aware of your vulnerabilities or hot spots is the only defence. BooK's are no replacemetic f or the feedback of a professional when dealing with predators.
posted by saucysault at 8:29 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dr Robert Hare is one of the most well-known researchers into psychopathy and criminal psychology. He deloped the Psychopathy Checklist, which is a widely-used diagnostic tool to identify psychopaths, and was the first to discover differences in brain responses to emotionally valenced words between psychopaths and non-psychopaths. He has written a book for laypersons:

Without Conscience, the Disturbing World of the Psychopathy Among Us.
posted by Ladysin at 8:44 AM on October 15, 2012


No offense but this question is a little vague. Ex. I'm not sure what a "disturbing trend in your community" could mean in this context ...?

I would recommend Jon Ronson's "The Psychopath Test" as another primer, an engaging book that also includes a lot about Dr. Hare and his checklist. But if you can be a little more specific about your relationship to these people and how they're victimizing you, you might get better suggestions. The best advice and resources might have nothing to do with whether they're technically "psychopaths" or not.
posted by pete_22 at 9:04 AM on October 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Gift of Fear is a good book but it deals with stalkers, who may or may not be psychopathic.
posted by dfriedman at 9:05 AM on October 15, 2012


The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.

I strongly encourage you to read it, but the upshot is: GET OUT.

Imagine you're in a haunted house movie where the house is saying in sepulchral tones "GET OUT". That's what you have to do.

I am ready for a complete education on the subject. What a thorough education on the subject will tell you is GET OUT. You will learn this one way or the other. Frankly, the list of tactics you want to use on psychopaths suggests that you've already learned to spend a lot of psychic energy managing and deflecting and defending yourself, and life DOES NOT have to be that way.

Out, out, get out. The house is telling you.

On preview: The Gift of Fear deals with a lot of different kinds of frightening people in ones life. The important message is DISENGAGE.
posted by endless_forms at 9:10 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Snakes in Suits by Paul Babiak is an interesting book that addresses the everyday havoc psychopaths can cause
posted by InkaLomax at 9:10 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


>how to actually DEAL with them?

This isn't possible because they do not behave like other people. They are not rational actors and you can't count on them to behave consistently when facing risks or rewards.
posted by anti social order at 9:16 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just expanding on the community trends - the reference is to neighborhood grinning punks and thugs who wantonly destroy other people's property, act out, get drunk in the park, ride ATV's along residential roads, throw rocks at vulnerable people showing zero remorse. I am personally being drawn into this as I'm targeted as well. Since I can't move immediately, a course of action that involves smart maneuvering, survival tactics when calling them on their shit is warranted, Law enforcement is almost non-existant here as it's a rural and remote area.
posted by watercarrier at 9:24 AM on October 15, 2012


What you've got there sounds more like assholes than psychopaths.

Same advice applies, if you are smart enough to identify them as a problem then you are smart enough to know that you should get away from them.
posted by Cosine at 9:32 AM on October 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


From what I have read, sociopaths/psychopaths make up less than one percent of the population. They are untreatable. Even when confined to a mental hospital, no matter what kind of treatment they receive, they will not change. Their behavior may change temporarily if they see benefits in being cooperative with hospital staff, but their personality traits will remain the same.

This describes such a small set of the populace that I feel it's important to warn you away from describing people in this manner. Because it's basically a word that means Monster, incurable and evil by nature. You should NOT diagnose someone with psychopathy without the assistance of mental health professionals.

If there is a group of people who have been harassing you, they are likely not sociopaths. Again, less than one percent of the population can be accurately described as psycho/sociopaths.

If you want advice on how to deal with vandals, that's a separate question to which I'm sure there are good answers.
posted by brina at 9:35 AM on October 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


If there is a group of people who have been harassing you, they are likely not sociopaths. Again, less than one percent of the population can be accurately described as psycho/sociopaths.

Estimates of the prevalence of sociopathy differ; some are as high as seven percent.

A more common pattern than "a gang of sociopaths" is a gang of followers, led by a sociopath.
posted by endless_forms at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


You are mistakenly conflating the bad behavior of a bunch of drunken assholes with symptoms of genuine mental illness. I sympathize with your situation, because shitty horrible neighbors - especially in a rural area - is an awful thing to have to deal with, but I'm not sure your proposed solution (researching coping mechanisms for people in contact with the mentally ill) is particularly viable.

Your idea re: smart maneuvering around these people is a good one, especially if coupled with determined avoidance. Befriend others in your area who are also being victimized and maybe form a neighborhood watch, and work together to look out for individuals in the community who may be more vulnerable.
posted by elizardbits at 10:05 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Your neighbors sound like jerks, but not psychopaths.

This may not be exactly what you're looking for, but this episode of This American Life, "The Psychopath Test" shows just how incredibly pathological weird psychopaths are.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:31 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found that the dangerous aspect of dealing with (a person I consider to be) a sociopath was that after I'd made it clear that I wasn't "on the team" anymore, the relationship turned into a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Any attempt to limit or undermine their power was met with escalating retribution and it was purposely made clear to me that I was dealing with a person who wasn't constrained by any normal sense of propriety.


Re: the community thing, if people are acting like psycho/sociopaths, then they'll only respect the blunt, in-your-face power that cops can wield. Best to make plans to get out.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:39 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Young people running wild like that is best/ only addressed by breaking up the gang. It'll happen naturally over time but you can accelerate the process various ways too. Pretty much all youth programs try to do just that so maybe look there for examples.

And yeah, document and call the cops. Video cameras and pressing charges are your friends here.
posted by fshgrl at 11:10 AM on October 15, 2012


Sam Vaknin's youtube channel
posted by leigh1 at 11:19 AM on October 15, 2012


Yeah, the premise of this question is a bit strange, mostly because it seems like you may be conflating bad behavior and psychopathy. There can be many many reasons for bad behavior, interpersonal or otherwise, that are not psychopathy. Further, you aren't really going to "manage" a psychopath except insofar as you can keep them from having any significant control over your life, and except insofar as even psychopaths have far more regular than "psychopathic" interactions with people (despite what the movies might suggest).

Psychopathy is not a defined psychological diagnosis in psychiatry, although there are several instruments used for study and informal diagnosis. The Psychopathy Checklist has already been mentioned. There is some argument about this, but most psychological clinicians see psychopathy as a sub-type of Anti-Social Personality Disorder, which is a bit more behaviorally based, and psychopaths often have traits associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder as well. You could read up on ASPD if you're interested, but I will say that those folks I've worked with who truly had ASPD were simply not to be fucked with. I remember one patient who stabbed his brother seven times because his brother was trying to wear the patient's jacket without asking. He was a psychopath and completely without remorse for his actions. He didn't even care about the jail time he'd done as a result. There was really only one way for his brother to have avoided the situation: keep the hell away from him.

On the other hand, if folks with ASPD are remorseless and uncaring about social norms, there are other problems in personality functioning that can make relating to people very difficult, but that have very different origins. When interacting with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder you may feel that they are exhibiting "crazy" behavior that causes you to feel emotionally and physically unsafe, but folks with BPD are not psychopaths by anyone's definition.* Indeed, their actions and reasons for action are arguably caused by the opposite of the psychopaths, by an intense anxiety and caring about maintain social relationships.

Folks have suggested The Gift of Fear above, and I'd nth that recommendation. This is a complex topic, and true psychopaths are not people you will learn how to interact safely with in your spare time (which is not to suggest that you are likely to be harmed by a psychopath, it basically comes down to whether you are in their way in some way). Conversely, there are many reasons you might be having trouble with people that have nothing to do with psychopathy, and labeling folks, even to yourself, as psychopaths when they are not is likely to be counterproductive.

* The archetypical "psycho girlfriend" is one portrayal of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. Note that I'm bracketing, in the interests of just trying to keep this simple while showing some of the complexity, the sexism inherent in the diagnosis of BPD and the way it's deployed to demean women who are very frequently victims of trauma.
posted by OmieWise at 11:24 AM on October 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Thanks everyone. I appreciate the replies, knowing it was a hard question to address. Will do what I need to including getting away. Much obliged for your help. Cheers :)
posted by watercarrier at 12:17 PM on October 15, 2012


the reference is to neighborhood grinning punks and thugs who wantonly destroy other people's property, act out, get drunk in the park, ride ATV's along residential roads, throw rocks at vulnerable people showing zero remorse

Oh, those are different. That's garden variety holliganism. Restraining orders and documented noise and nuisance complaints work wonders here, as the cops love an excuse to harass perceived threats to public order.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:36 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Check out No Nonsense Self-Defense.
posted by gentian at 1:14 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


If there is a group of people who have been harassing you, they are likely not sociopaths. Again, less than one percent of the population can be accurately described as psycho/sociopaths.

Estimates of the prevalence of sociopathy differ; some are as high as seven percent.


This is probably the difference between the actual disorder, and psychopathic/sociopathic behavior that people may be able to grow out of.
posted by gjc at 8:06 PM on October 15, 2012


« Older I'm upgrading my late-2008 Mac...   |  In Excel 2007, is there a way ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post