The Truth About Female Psychopaths, From Those Who Know
Image courtesy of Alice Popkorn. CC Some Rights Reserved
I’ve wanted to write a post
about female psychopaths for a while now, but each time I rolled up my sleeves and set out to find out the facts about them, I became frustrated. All I could find was a lot of conflicting information. Many experts say there are fewer female psychopaths than males… but some estimate there might actually be more. Some say they present differently. Others say the Psychopathy Checklist, considered a gold-standard test to measure psychopathy, is not accurate when used to evaluate females. There’s even a theory that women diagnosed with other psychological disorders may actually be psychopathic.
(UPDATE: I just came across the website of Rhonda Freeman, PhD, a neuropsychologist, and it has plenty of information about female psychopaths. This author is knowledgeable and compassionate, and she understands that “contrary to popular belief, the prevalence rate of males victimized by women in relationships is high.” Please check out Neuroinstincts: Men’s Corner)
In the article, “Female Psychopaths: Are there more than we think?” Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D, wrote “…new research suggests that some of the difference between men and women may not be in the existence of deceitful, manipulative, and exploitive personality traits but in the expression of them. Specifically, these researchers found that women may be more likely to express these personality deficits through behaviors that are typically associated with, and diagnosed as, other mental illnesses. For example, these researchers found overlap between some of the symptoms such as histrionic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder. A woman whose extreme fear of abandonment leads her to periodic outbursts of rage over real or imagined transgressions, flips between seeing her significant other as either completely perfect or totally evil, or who has to constantly be the center of attention certainly isn’t who we think of when we think of the classic psychopath. But she may be just as incapable of true empathy, and just as manipulative and deceitful, as the callous, unemotional male.”
Drs. Hare and Babiak discussed female psychopaths in their book, Snakes In Suits:
“Why aren’t there any female psychopaths,” an interviewer asked one of the authors. The fact that she could ask such a question reflects a curious wrinkle on sexism: the view, held by many people, that relatively few female psychopaths exists in society – or even prisons –and that those who do exist differ in fundamental ways from their male counterparts.
The issue is clouded by sex-role biases in the diagnosis of the disorder. Thus, when a female and a male each exhibit a psychopathic pattern of core personality traits – grandiose, egocentric, selfish, irresponsible, manipulative, deceitful, emotionally shallow, callous, and lacking in empathy, remorse, and guilt – a clinician will often diagnose the male as a psychopath (or with antisocial personality disorder) and the female as something else, usually histrionic or narcissistic personality disorder.
In each case the clinician’s diagnosis is influenced by expectations of how psychopaths should behave. That is, the clinician expects psychopaths to be tough, dominant, and aggressive, and a woman who does not project these characteristics therefore is not a psychopath. What the clinician fails to understand is that the behaviors of male and female psychopaths, like those of most other people, are shaped by the sex-role stereotypes cultivated by society. The same underlying personality structure may find different behavioral and social expression.
Although the process of socialization fails to embed in the network of inner controls we refer to collectively as conscience, it nevertheless makes them aware of society’s expectations about sex-roles, of what is expected of them as men and women. More than most people, they effectively use these expectations as potent tools for manipulation. So a female psychopath might make full use of the passive, warm, nurturing, and dependent sex-role stereotype in order to get what she wants out of others…”
Men who have been involved with psychopathic females describe them best. From what they say, male and female psychopaths are remarkably similar: They charm, they lovebomb, they declare true love early on. Behind the mask they are the same–cold-hearted, callous, lacking empathy, self-centered, manipulative–and the damage they inflict is identical.
Here are the experiences of men who have been victimized, in their own words. The following are all comments from readers of this website.
“I now know that I was the victim of a Psychopath. I am a man recently divorced and dealing with depression which has left me pretty vulnerable and open to abuse. I met this new woman on a night out and ended up back at her place that night on her insistence. She is a very confident, charming, intelligent and beautiful woman who had no problems socializing or reeling me in with her patter. The new ‘relationship’ lasted just over two intense weeks where I found myself smothered with affection, adoration and intense sex. My ‘great qualities’ were many and she was ‘falling’ for me so easily that I missed the initial red flags, until one night something clicked in my head and nothing made sense. Everything about her became improbable and her stories sounded more and more exaggerated. Red flags were popping up everywhere and her intimate behavior and demeanor was starting to make me feel really unsettled, although I tried to ignore it.
The Love Bombing, triangulation, the way she talked intimately about her past and other people so quickly, the questioning about my exes, her behavior out of context, etc. It was all there. I believe she saw a little of the turmoil in my head so she embarked on a new course of action to end the relationship, blaming her crazy ex for throwing a wrench in the works. At the end of a long and ‘deep’ final conversation she acted so coldly and behaved so unconcerned in comparison to her words, and I knew I had been duped. Now I feel emotionally raped and unsettled. I am now questioning my own sanity and feel so upset that I have allowed this to happen to me just when I thought I was getting over my marriage breaking up. It sounds crazy that a two-week thing could be so intense and wrong, but it was. Women are just as capable of being psychopaths as are men…”
“I think my wife is a psychopath. I live in fear of going to jail, and of being heartbroken. She lies about me constantly. Since we’ve been married, every time we fight she becomes blind with rage. Very abusive verbally and physically. With as many excuses as you can think of to do so. I have a very strong feeling she is sexist as well. Whenever she doesn’t ‘get her way’ she calls my family, her relatives, the police, our neighbors… anyone that she can think of to create incredibly awkward and manipulative situations for me to look like I’m either doing something I’m not or being someone I’m not. I feel like I don’t have any strength to leave her because I care about her. And because marriage is an important thing to me. But I’m just so desperately miserable. I mask it with music in my life… but I don’t know how to live like this and be happy.”
“My problem at this stage isn’t understanding what happened so much as understanding why someone who I thought was lifelong companion would do it? And worst of all, where do I go from here? HOW do I go from here? I’m still reeling from this. I can’t even believe it happened, let alone move on.”
“I still can’t believe it happened to me. My wife did so much harm I would bet most people who knew her on the surface wouldn’t believe me. They would think I was jaded and mad because she discarded me, which I am. However, I would take a dozen polygraphs to state my case and clear up any misconceptions…
And this was — and is — a woman I love! How screwed up is that? I don’t think she would spit on me if my hair were on fire! That’s the hold she has. I know it’s psychological and makes no sense. Yet that’s the truth. I miss the ideal I had in my head, not the many more times of emasculating, criticizing, lying, and gaslighting…”
“I’ve just recently been attacked by a psychopath. We met many years ago and were great friends right off. We reconnected a little over a year ago some 25 years later. It was a long distance relationship where we saw each other every other weekend. This woman was my soul mate. Those words flowed often. We were so in tune with one another. Yes, the sex was over the top… magnificent! We would take out-of-town trips and go to concerts. She was spontaneous, free spirited, fun, sometimes ditzy, but she had a dark side — she loves skeletons and psychological thrillers, mostly. She was into self help books, which now seems so odd as she was the picture-perfect presentation of love and caring. One of her favorite lines when writing or describing herself is ‘in loving kindness.’ But her real game is heartbreak. Like a serpent, she wound herself around every emotion and weakness I have. At the perfect moment, she cut me loose with no good reason. I hit the bottom hard and almost immediately afterwards, had a loaded pistol to my head. The pain was unbearable! Fortunately, I was able to apply some reasoning and delay my demise. About 2 weeks later after trying to sort through this, it dawned on me what I may be dealing with. Thanks to websites like this, I have no doubt that this woman is a full-blown psychopath. The pain is gone as I now know what happened. The bad thing is, the next man might not be as insightful.”
“I ran into a woman who is just for herself. She met me, used me, borrowed money, moved into my house, stole my money, and when I asked her to leave she moved out and went to police and charged me with mischief and assault. I am 58 years old and may end up in jail because I fell in love and felt sorry for her not having any place or anyone to help her.”
“I’ve spent the weekend trying to reconnect with relatives (I had to go back three years in e-mail to find a phone number) and I found out that two months ago, when I was discarded, my ex called my sister-in-law to secretly tell her that she was leaving because I had been verbally abusive to her and she wanted to protect my daughter! She even prefaced it with saying that she should hear it from me instead of her, and to please not tell me that she told her and to wait for me to contact them… really? So my family has known for 2 months, been told I abused her, and hasn’t reached out to me because she asked them not to?
… The pain of betrayal is unbearable. Even with learning all I have, I am completely bewildered….
My relative told me I should seek legal advice and begin documenting everything. I told her. I was scared to death to have her find out I was doing that. I feel completely defenseless against her. I feel powerless against her tactics and feel that anything I say or do is going to play into whatever her next sick plan is. I’ve been destroyed as a man and as a human being, and I don’t think she’s done yet.”
“I feel completely alone, discarded, with all the strengths that made me who I was defeated. I keep reminding myself of a saying I once heard, that bravery is not acting without fear — bravery is acting when you are afraid.
Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe, like the walls are closing in… I found the courage to tell her I didn’t feel I was being treated fairly (emotionally, love, compassion, consideration, etc.) and she needed to decide if she really wanted to be with me. Of course, I suffered the usual wrath that I knew would follow, about how invalid my thoughts and feelings were and how it was all my fault… She had proven over the years she had no capacity for empathy (even once saying her brain was wired differently from mine). Even knowing she would never feel any compassion for where she’s left me, I can’t stop thinking how could she do this? Doesn’t she know what she’s doing to me, to us, to our daughter? I know the answer, and now I’m beginning to understand why, but it doesn’t help at all with this searing pain of loss and of being discarded.
It’s embarrassing to even speak about, and I know I’ll be put under a microscope to even suggest that I might have been abused, since I am the man in the relationship. I had mentioned to her several times over the years I felt I was being emotionally abused and she would roll on the floor laughing hysterically at me, saying something to the effect that I was a wimp to even say it, since I was the man, and a woman can’t abuse a man.
Nearly every article I’ve read on this has described my relationship with her exactly, right to the part where I feel like no one is going to believe me. I left the dream job I had worked toward for twenty years, one year after meeting her. I’ve bought three houses up and down the east coast, had five different jobs, and my finances are destroyed. All, I thought, because I loved her so much it was my job to do what would make her happy. Now, six years from being eligible for retirement, I will begin paying child support and won’t be the normal ‘Daddy’ I thought I was going to be. A decision made for me.”
“She told me the first week we began our ‘love’ affair that she wanted me to father her children, that she wanted a daughter. She wanted to take care of me when I got old, told me I would never be alone again, and said she would never leave me. At least I know now this was the ‘love-bombing’ phase. I kept hoping that once-in-a-lifetime love I had would return one day, but it never did. Literally overnight, when the love-bombing ended, I asked what was going on and her response was ‘the relationship has progressed.’”
“When she was married to her first husband she initiated contact with me (I was the friend of a friend), confided how she had been abused, and said she really connected with me. I was her soul-mate, her savior. I swore I never would be involved with a married woman, but she made me believe we were meant to be together. She said so many things that left me in shock, like I was a character in a movie where my deepest fantasies of finding my true love were unfolding. I was absolutely convinced. I’m a warm, loving, nurturing person by nature. I was physically and emotionally strong before we met. I was in touch with my feelings and confident in my capacity to respect the feelings of others. I’m now an emotional train wreck, with numerous stress related illness and completely isolated from my old social support network. I feel ashamed that I couldn’t stop it, and my self-esteem is long gone.
I’m certain she is telling her friends and family that she is getting out of an abusive relationship, the same thing she told everyone when she sought me out while she was still married to and living with her first husband. She was physically abusive in the beginning and rationalized it as the result of her abusive relationship with her husband. The physical things stopped (grabbing me by the ear and yelling into the side of my head, etc.), but the tirades never did. I thought I was the strong man, there to let her vent and heal, and that she needed compassion for the hell she had been through, which I doubt now was even close to the stories she told. I’m embarrassed to speak of this to anyone and I don’t know where to go.
I have a hard time ever asking for help, and now I feel like I have to justify myself to even ask. The number of incidents of cold, callous behavior would fill a novel. I just really needed to tell it to someone…”
“My life has been completely ruined several times. At 54, I am having to have faith that somehow I can start again after psychopaths have stolen everything from me that I worked so hard to create: an emotional healthy attitude and financial wealth… If I gave the details, anyone with any knowledge would know I have lived a living hell. I find it hard to trust anyone anymore, or function, though I must and I am worried because I am tired and breaking down physically. I have to pray that I don’t become homeless and starving because with the zeitgeist of our time, it’s likely.”
“I started dating a sociopath a little more than two years ago, the summer when I was 18 and she was 17. We met through a mutual friend, and she rushed the relationship while I wanted to take it slow. For the longest time I considered that one of the best summers of my life because of how euphoric she made it all out to be. I stopped hanging out with pretty much all of my friends and started neglecting my family, all the while just spending more and more time with her.
Then I started college at a university about an hour and a half away from where I live, and she started her senior year of high school. What I didn’t know was she had already reeled me in. Things were fine at first, we thought we could make it work for a year until she graduated. But everything changed about midway through the semester. She became distant, and never wanted to talk anymore. But I had been home to see her every damn weekend and most Wednesdays we met in between to eat and do other things. She blamed me for our relationship being so awful. She said it was my fault we were so far apart because I went to a school an hour and a half away, when there was a community college I could be going to about 30 minutes from where she lived. I tried to explain to her I made the decision to go there months before I even met her. She didn’t care.
I would finally make it home for the weekend and then things would be fine. Until Sunday night. When it was time for me to leave she would cry and pitch fits, not letting me leave until 1 AM or later, with an hour and a half drive to my dorm and an 8 AM class. She didn’t care. It was all about her.
Then her crying and sobbing on Sunday nights got worse. She began to start fights and try to leave me over stupid things, but because she knew how much I cared for her she knew I wouldn’t leave until I ‘fixed things’, which involved sitting there telling her how amazing she was and how ugly, stupid, and annoying any girl I had ever been with in my past was.
During the week, all I did was lay in my dorm and wait for her to call. I pretty much had two friends my whole freshman year of college: my roommate, and a cousin who lived in the area. This was strange for me because in high school I was a very sociable person. (I played varsity football, basketball, and baseball, and received an academic scholarship to the university I attend). She completely changed who I was. I hated myself but I loved her. I had no idea there were people like her in the world.
My dad finally intervened the summer after my freshman year. He told me he would kick me out and never help me out financially again unless I ended it with her. I knew he was right, but I just couldn’t explain the hurt I felt when I tried to leave her. He and the rest of my friends and family just could NOT understand. I finally left her. I went into a rampant alcoholic stage, at the age of 19. Things started to get better and I started getting off the bottle until (at this point it had been about four months since I had talked to or seen her) we got back in contact. What a stupid and life changing mistake that was!
We dated in secret until February of this year, until I found a strong core of new friends who helped me end it. She had actually taken an attempt at my life, which just totally blew my mind. I realized she was mentally sick and un-healable. I told my dad of our secrecy and he was pretty pissed, but he understood. I was finally done with her for good.
Until she came to me a month later with a signed piece of paper from a doctor saying she was 2 months pregnant. I said, ‘I thought you said you were on the pill!! What the hell?! How did this happen?’
‘I lied,’ she said.
Such a simple yet life changing statement.
My daughter is almost a month old now. I am still not with her, and she is engaged to some other poor soul now. We are about to start an extreme custody battle. I feel like I’ve been through the hell of a lifetime, but the hell has only just began. It’s just so much to handle, yet I do my best to stay positive. How can I deal with all this? And by the way, I’m 20 now and still in college. So I’m cursed to make that Godforsaken drive every other weekend to see my little girl, and I’ll have to see the sociopath who changed my life…”
“There are an equal amount of female psychopaths out there as male ones. Females tend to fly under society’s radar as they are less likely to commit criminal offences, just moral ones. I have two children with a female psychopath who has used as tools to dismantle my life and my soul, and she greatly enjoyed herself in the process. This enjoyment of cruelty is the hard fact to come to terms with, and it baffles us all.
They are very good at creating a good impression of themselves and portraying their victim as the real culprit. This is what really gets me. I’ve been in hell and everybody thinks I’m the monster… except a few who have had experience themselves.”
“I never knew such a thing as emotional rape existed until my relationship with a sociopath ended. We were only together for two years but the constant onslaught of lies, deceit, emotional swings, lack of reciprocity, and personality shifts turned things sour in a real hurry. I was always at fault because I would react to being lied to or saw a lack of reciprocity. I’ve had the police called on me for no reason twice, almost had my vehicle stolen and house seized. You don’t realize what’s happening in this scenario because you love this person so much and will take any and all abuse to try and maintain the relationship. We’ve been apart for a month and I’m just starting to see and feel the ill effects of this toxic relationship. I have trouble sleeping, night sweats, severe anxiety, and an overt lack of a sense of self. I was used in every imaginable way, and now I feel like I’ve been robbed of my person, my soul, my mind, and my being. To make matters worse, she has her masters in psychology…
… May God have mercy on that woman’s soul.”
“I feel like I just had an epiphany.”
“This book told me in a very concise format what I haven’t learned from two years of very expensive psychoanalysis AND a Master’s degree in Counseling: I’m not crazy! My intuition was not wrong.”
“This book provides instant clarity.”
“This book has clarified more for me than I have ever understood in my entire lifetime… The author tells you exactly what you need to hear. To the author, thank you for opening my eyes.”
“This author nails it.”