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As my regular readers know, I receive many questions about psychopathy and sociopathy. Some of these come from people who ask how to deal with a psychopath in their lives, and some others come from people who complain that I should be condemning psychopaths, not trying to understand them, but most come from psychopaths asking me if they can be helped to change. Here are two like that:

ask dr-robert

Dr Saltzman, 

Last year at about the age of 49 it finally hit me like a ton of bricks that I was a psychopath ... I have never had feelings for anyone else, I can almost never tell the truth, have used people all my life long, and have never 'felt' love for anyone or anything but myself.  (This in spite of raising 4 children in a rocky 1st marriage, and being step-dad to 4 in a second.  I never even felt 'love' for my biological children.)

This came home to me after a seriously-failed business venture a little over 2 years ago.  Long story short, I made a lot of money and unintentionally hurt a ton of people doing it.  I am now left personally financially devastated, possible jail time, and have hurt everyone around me.  And to top it off, I was self-deceived enough to think that I was a Christian man, only to have the 'blinders' lifted in my mind to understand that I am a social deviant of the worst sort and not even normal, let alone 'Christian.' 

In my mind now I wish I could change, to get something I finally realized I never had: the ability to love people, my wife, children and especially to love God ... but I absolutely cannot feel anything positive at all ... no love, joy, sadness, fear, sorrow, ambition or even lust ... ALL my emotions and feelings are completely dead.  I can still feel irritation at small, inconvenient annoyances (the sound of crunching ice for example.)  My intellect has diminished greatly, to the point that I almost cannot function in daily life, although I graduated with honors from an ivy-league school 30 years ago, have distinguished military service and went on to get an MBA, high honors.

I have tried talking to God, researching the internet for hours on end, nothing has helped.  I am too cowardly to admit my lack of feelings to my current wife; truthfully, the only thing I look forward to each day is to sleep at night to get out of the drudgery of life ... I just 'get-by' each day, in spite of having a beautiful loving wife, comfortable lifestyle and step-children who adore me.  I now feel like what I imagine most of the men felt like at the rescue mission where I used to volunteer.

I was raised by loving, sacrificial parents in a 'normal' setting; I was ambitious as a young man, but I have never had feelings of love for them or for anybody else.  When I finally 'got rich' my life became a total void.  Now, I am a complete lie, and truthfully I am just a walking skeleton with meat and skin on, and limited mental capacity at that...and I trace it all back (now) to my first sentient thoughts, where I FELT resentment and no love for a loving mother and father, and just went on to become more twisted on the inside as the years went by.

Am I beyond hope?  Have I been beyond hope since birth?   I feel the answer to both questions is yes, that somehow my psyche as an infant rejected the world and I never got over it.  I would sure like to find out otherwise, and how to get to at least 'normal' from here, if that is possible.


ask dr-robert

Hello, My question is fairly simple........

My name is David, I am 23 years old and live in glasgow scotland.

I have reason to believe i may be a sociopath.

My upbringing was normal. It was me and my mother, My father didnt take anything to do with me, In fact i met him for the first time when i was 18.

My mother done the best she could for me, and my grandparents helped out a lot.

From a young age i noticed i wasn't like everyone else, I didnt enjoy the same activities, I didn't care about the future and what i was going to do. I tried to blend in by acting like others around me. I would often skip school, disobey teachers and my parent/guardians, often for no reason other than, I could.

At a young age i had fantasies about violence and death, Often regarding my mother. I would think of situations to put my mother in and see how she would cope. I enjoyed "playing" with them.

I have violent out bursts, Often over small or petty things. My mother and grandparents have been on the receiving end of this, I threw tables at my grand dad, Had knifes at my mothers throat.

During my long and pointless life i have had a few problems and experienced many things,

I was sexually assaulted at a youngish age by a random person,

My mother had many boyfriends, Many of which didnt have the time of day for me,

My mother was beaten by one of her boyfriends, and i saw the aftermath, a lot more has happened to me, But over the years i have made myself forget.

My personality:

I am a pathological lier, I often lie just because i can, and to see if i can get away with it.

I have no emotional depth, I often feel nothing (No love, No hate, No happiness, No sadness)

I like to play with people emotions, I see others as my toys

I often feel better than everyone else....... Sometimes i see myself as a god.

I don't see right or wrong, I do things because i choose to do so,

I don't have any interest in the opposite sex

I have no guilt or remorse for any of my actions

I often act on impulse

I am bored very easy

I cant tolerate boredom

I dont care if i hurt people (strangers, friends or family)

I manipulate people to get what i want

I prefer being myself,

I have a general hatred for society and what it stands for

When in public for long periods of time, I often vision myself slaughtering everyone around me

hat's pretty much the gist of it,

ask dr-robert

I have done research myself and done the Hare's Psychopathy Checklist* , and scored a 34.

I often try to hide my true self others, I try to create emotions for myself. I act in front of "friends" and family.

I have had girlfriends in the past, During the start of the relationship, yes i tired to be the so called perfect boyfriend, but after a few days to a week, I lost interest.

I have hurt many people in the past and it has not effected me in anyway, I dont feel guilty for what i have done, And i made no plans to make it up to the person.

For the last few years, I have been smoking cannabis to help calm me, Personally i feel it helps. It helps even me out, And often i am to stoned to act on any impulses i have. Many people have told me that the cannabis is helping create my problems, But i felt this way before i started.

After alot of searching on the internet i came across a lot of useless information on people dealing with socio/psychopaths but nothing about actually helping them. Most of the time you will see the words "STAY AWAY" or "RUN AWAY" from them, But what help is that to anyone?

I understand in most cases socio/psychopaths cant be helped or cured, But i was wondering if anything can be done to level/stable my mind. As i said cannabis helps, but this is very expensive.

Somedays i wake up, and feel that i could be normal, But after a while it fades away and i am back to being empty. Sometimes i question myself, How could someone feel nothing? I have to feel something i am a human after all.

I believe the only human part of me, Is my body. My mind is primal.

Honestly i dont' know what you can offer me, But any advice you can offer would be helpful.

Either to help rehabilitate me or help me understand this disorder more.

Thank you,


ask dr-robert

Hello, Wayne. Hello, David--

I have received hundreds (literally) of letters like yours—letters from people who have come to see that their emotional stance towards the world, and especially towards people and other sentient beings, puts them in a special category which has become known as "psychopathy" or "sociopathy." Because I have addressed this kind of mind without judgment or blame, but simply have tried to understand as best I could, my website has come under attack by people (most of them self-proclaimed "Christians," by the way) who believe that I should be condemning psychopaths, not offering them understanding and tolerance. A brief visit to the Dr. Robert Forum will show you what I mean, even though I have already removed the most threatening or stupidest of the postings on this subject, including those which quote the Bible at length as if somehow that book had some special, unquestionable authority in the realm of human psychology or ethics.

However, in addition to the vitriol poured out by religious nuts and other haters of openness, compassion, and non-judgmental consideration of human psychology, my acceptance and sympathy for the psychological type called "psychopath" has led many people like yourselves—self described psychopaths--to ask me if there is any help for the loneliness of the psychopath, and if such a personality can be changed by means of psychotherapy.

I have explained at length elsewhere that psychologists lack any good theory of the causes of psychopathy, and that this lack of a working etiology, along with other factors, raises obstacles to the psychotherapeutic treatment of psychopathy. In other words, I am aware of no method of treatment which can change a sociopath or psychopath into the more usual type of human being who feels guilty about behaviors which injure others, and who is capable of compassion, respect, and sometimes even love. Nevertheless, given your desire to be helped, and the motivation to change obvious in your last paragraph, I suggest that you look for a hard-nosed therapist—a bleeding heart type won't do—willing to take you on. I continue to believe that no condition whatsoever is totally impervious to change, and that suffering such as yours should and must be addressed.

Be well.


*David is referring to Dr. Robert Hare's psychopathy checklist which works like this:

For each characteristic that is listed, the subject is given a score: 0 for "no," 1 for "somewhat," and 2 for "definitely does apply." The end total is the score.

1. Glibness/superficial charm

2. Grandiose sense of self-worth

3. Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom

4. Pathological lying

5. Conning/manipulative

6. Lack of remorse or guilt

7. Shallow affect

8. Callous/lack of empathy

9. Parasitic lifestyle

10. Poor behavioural controls

11. Promiscuous sexual behaviour

12. Early behaviour problems

13. Lack of realistic, long-term plans

14. Impulsivity

15. Irresponsibility

16. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

17. Many short-term relationships

18. Juvenile delinquency

19. Revocation of conditional release

20. Criminal versatility

21. Narcissism

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