Antisocial Personality Disorder

By Dana Morningstar

The terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” have been combined under the term “Antisocial Personality Disorder” (ASPD). Some common traits of ASPD are that the person is usually charming, highly manipulative (using domination, charm, guilt, sympathy, pity, obligation, or intimidation to get their way), has a disregard for rules and others (usually behaviors that are based on either exploitation or cruelty, often leading to time in jail as an adult), has a lack of remorse, and a lack of empathy (although they can do an award-winning performance to really make others believe that they are sorry and that this time will be different).


Example: Jill met John shortly after she graduated from college. It was a whirlwind relationship, and Jill remembers how she instantly felt a soul-mate connection with John. He was charming, funny, and intelligent and pursued her relentlessly. When they became engaged, John’s mother pulled her aside and tried to warn her about him. She said, “There is something wrong with John. He lacks the ability to love.” Jill always thought that was an odd thing for a mother to say about her own son. Jill married him anyhow, and their relationship was a series of over-the-top amazing behavior followed by the discovery of jaw-dropping awful behavior that she never saw coming, such as a double life, lying, credit cards she didn’t know about, and an overall total lack of regard for how his actions impacted her or anyone else. It was like John was a great guy until she found out he wasn’t. Then, he’d flip a switch and go back to being this amazing guy that everyone loved.


Jill often said that John lied so much that he’d lie even if the truth would work better for him. Jill believed in commitment and marriage and didn’t want to divorce John…and John was relying on that, so he’d continue to say or do enough of the right things (or would prey upon Jill’s good nature, using guilt and sympathy) to get her to stay. It wasn’t until Jill’s mother encouraged her to join a support group for narcissistic abuse that she realized she wasn’t in a marriage, she was trapped in a manipulation, and if John really loved her he would be faithful and honest, not lying and siphoning funds out of their account to take other women on dates.


Example: Sarah was incredibly charming and had most people around her thinking she was a devoted wife and mother. She ran a successful real-estate firm and led a women’s group at her synagogue. Only her family and very few people knew that she was a pathological liar, cheater, and incredibly selfish. Her husband has had to run off more than one of her boyfriends, but he always took her back because she seemed so sincere when she promised this would never happen again. Sarah’s children grew to resent her for all of her lies and empty promises. Her youngest daughter recently told her father that she felt Sarah just wanted to have kids because they were like props to make her look good, and Sarah’s husband often wondered the same. He couldn’t understand how a woman could be so emotionally detached from her children, but when other people were around she could act like mother of the year. Sarah’s husband recently found out that she embezzled over $150,000 from her business. When he confronted her about this, she began fake crying and blamed her stealing on voices she was hearing, and her numerous affairs on being a sex addict. Her husband was shocked by this, as she’d never mentioned hearing voices before, or a sex addiction, and his anger at her softened into concern and was redirected into getting Sarah the help she needed…which is exactly what Sarah wanted.


Example: Susan met Rick on the internet. She knew about him from around town. He had several children by several different women and a history of jail time for theft and domestic violence. But despite all this, she found herself really drawn to him. He gave her more attention than any man ever had, and for the first time in her life, she felt like she really mattered. When Susan asked about his previous relationships, Rick told her that all of his exes were either addicts, had cheated on him, or that they had filed false charges against him which kept him from seeing his children. Susan felt bad for him, as he seemed like such a great guy who had been involved with a lot of the wrong types of women. She believed everything he told her, and within a few months they were married. Soon into their relationship she became pregnant, and that’s when Rick began to verbally and physically abuse her.


Several months later she found out that she had an STD, and when she confronted Rick about it, he began accusing her of having sex with other men, which she hadn’t. During their fight, Susan went into premature labor. Rick became even more upset when she called 911 to go to the hospital, and told her that she was just being dramatic and manipulative and trying to get him into trouble with the law. Rick refused to go to the hospital with her, and Susan delivered the baby later that night. Susan texted him to let him know she had a boy. Much to her surprise and sadness, he never bothered to text back. The social worker at the hospital encouraged her to go to a domestic violence shelter, and Susan was shocked when she mentioned this. She knew her relationship with Rick wasn’t the best, but she didn’t think it was abusive. She went to the shelter, and when she filed for divorce, Rick became threatening and began telling everyone around town that the baby wasn’t his, and that she was a gold digger who was trying to trap him into paying child support. To make matters worse, his friends and family believed him, and Susan was being stalked and harassed everywhere she went. She ended up contacting two of his exes, who told her that their experience with Rick was the same—that he started out as this amazing man, but over time became a total nightmare, and for Susan to run and never look back.

Dana Morningstar is a former psychiatric nurse turned domestic violence educator who specializes in abuse awareness and prevention. Her passion is working with survivors of abuse to reclaim and rebuild their self-esteem, boundaries, confidence, and identity. She is an author of multiple books on the subject, and also has a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel, as well as several online support groups, all of which you can find under the name “Thrive After Abuse.”

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