According to the WHO, upwards of 1 in 4 people will experience mental health disorders at some point in their life. For many of them, this presents a major challenge to their day-to-day activities and relationships. For others, you might never know there was an issue at all.
But no other mental health topic is as little understood but overly represented—often fictionally—as psychopathy. This puzzling personality disorder has long fascinated humanity, not least of all mental health professionals.
When asked to share the stories of the moments they realized they were working with true sociopaths or psychopaths, this is what the professionals had to say.
I’ve been a licensed therapist for going on three years now, but I’ve been seeing clients (with an Intern license) for about five years. The vast majority of my clients have been on probation or parole and have had a wide range of mental illnesses, including anti-social personality disorder (ASPD).
My mentor described folks with ASPD like this: “It’s in the eyes. They’ve got shark eyes: cold and predatory, like they’re staring right through you, looking for your weaknesses to exploit.” And, having worked with several people with that diagnosis (and adolescent precursor Conduct Disorder), it’s pretty damn accurate. People with ASPD are some of the most manipulative people around, and many of them enjoy it. Manipulating people is almost a game to them–well, a mini-game to indulge in while they work on whatever else they’re planning, even if it’s as simple as “present as normal.” And, let me tell you: they’re good at it. It’s incredibly difficult to out-play someone with the diagnosis at their own game because they’ve been playing it their entire lives. Since my clientele are court-ordered, most of the manipulation revolves around trying to cover up whatever else they’re doing (abusing their domestic partner, abusing substances, etc.). Some are more impulsive than others with the diagnosis, but they all have the shark eyes. (FraterEAO)
Honestly, he made me feel scared and panicky to be in the same room. Part of being a therapist is you build a very strong client-therapist bond, and there’s a lot of empathy/openness in the room, so things can get quite intense and emotional (in a good way). With this guy I felt like a tiny trapped little animal in the room with a dangerous predator.
He had no remorse for his actions. He’d slip in remarks meant to impress/threaten, then look somewhat annoyed when I did not react (I was reacting inside). I do not fully recall his name/looks and wouldn’t on here anyway, but on the outside he looked totally normal and actually seemed kind of ok. But after talking to him for a while, there was this emptiness that I found quite disturbing.
He casually admitted to domestic abuse in the same way someone would admit they left the hall light on by accident… to me, in front of his partner!! [….] He just didn’t care.
I remember just nodding and remained calm, whilst drawing a huge f***ing exclamation mark on my notes. I made it through the session somehow, then immediately told my supervisor and had him transferred to a different counsellor.
I’ve honestly never been so scared of another individual just from a ‘vibe’. (d3gu)
Not a therapist, but was counseling a student. The student was female, 15, smart, had a good amount of friends, and liked cutesy things. Here’s some things she said to me that made me suspect something was really wrong with her. Keep in mind that I have no qualifications to diagnose someone. I just think she’s abnormal.
Was dating a boy. Told me she had no feelings for him, but was dating him because he was “useful” and did things for her. She did nothing in return for him, and he was very sad about it. When I asked her if she felt bad for making him sad, she told me, “No. If I make him sad, that’s his problem. Why do I have to care about his feelings? I can’t feel what he feels. It doesn’t affect me.”
When I asked her if she felt guilty for using him, she said, “No, he started hanging around me because he likes me. If he likes me, then he should make himself useful to me. What else is he good for?” She had no concept of romantic affection, but that may have been excusable for a 15 year old depending on maturity.
She told me her friend’s dog had died and she pretended to care because that’s what she was “supposed” to do, but it was her friend’s problem and she didn’t understand why she was supposed to feel anything about the situation.
She told me that one of her teachers had told her friend to stay away from her because the teacher noticed that her facial expressions often seemed faked and forced. She did not understand why this was an issue and asked me, “Doesn’t everyone fake emotional reactions? Like if someone tells a joke, don’t you pretend to laugh? Or if someone tells you someone died, don’t you pretend to feel sorry for them?”
She asked me to explain to her what genuine emotion felt like, and what empathy felt like. After both explanations, she was completely confused and told me that she had no idea what I was describing and had never even suspected that everyone around her wasn’t faking emotion and empathy just like she was.
She left the conversation convinced that she was normal, and everyone else was just weird. (17032018)