Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is Your Ex REALLY A Sociopath?


Most of us are familiar with the current diagnostic criteria of the DSM's label “Antisocial Personality Disorder.” While my ex certainly hits almost ALL of the requirements for sociopathy, the evaluators primary concern was his “lack of conformity to society evidenced by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.” In court, opposing council took full advantage of the fact my ex was born in France, construing “failure to conform to societal norms” as people tend to misunderstand other cultures.

The judge bought it. I'm going to intentionally bypass the sheer ignorance of that argument. Let's just say that I feel very strongly there needs to be a better way to underscore how harmful these personalities are.

I came across a recent article in Psychology Today that indicates there could be a significant change in the way sociopaths are diagnosed using the“Dark Triad.”

The term was first coined in 2002 by researchers attempting to explain why women were so attracted to bad boys. The Dark Triad has three main traits- Narcissistic, manipulative, and guilt free.

Sounds exactly like a sociopath, right?

Anyone who scores high on all 3 traits is most definitely a sociopath.

The three traits were previously measured by administering separate testing on personality inventories. In 2010, researches from the University of Florida and University of South Florida introduced a streamlined test procedure for detecting the Dark Triad. It's known as the Dirty Dozen, and appears to be gaining momentum. You can read about it here

There is a free online version, although I'm not sure it's the real deal. It does appear to be somewhat legitimate, as it is published by researchers. The test is here

Of course, you know that I had to take the test myself!


I have some real concerns about the validity.

First, any reasonably intelligent person could pick which answer to give to keep the scores low. Given how honest sociopaths are (ya, right!), it's hard to imagine them admitting that they feel the need to make people pay for wronging them (revenge seeking).

Secondly, some of my answers caused my Machiavellian score to increase to a 1. Although I don't consider myself manipulative, I do have a skewed view of people's vulnerability to being manipulated. I have watched it happen a LOT during my custody case.

The question: Do you believe that people are easily manipulated?

I originally answered no. After thinking about it, I decided the answer was yes and changed it. The result? My score jumped .7 points! In general, I see myself as being easily manipulated and I see how the sociopath uses pity to manipulate others.

Third- my ex has a very strong fourth component to his personality... sadism. He enjoys hurting people and animals, although it seems to mostly be towards those he perceives as too weak to fight back. I feel sadism is very relevant to diagnosing a sociopath, especially for evaluating the potential of violence.

While I think the rise of the Dark Triad's popularity probably a good thing, I wonder if a test like this would really be beneficial. I’m curious- what are your thoughts on this? Did you take the test? How did you score? Did you try answering for your ex? What do you think about the Dark Triad as a basis for diagnosing sociopaths?

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