How to spot if your lover is a psycho
13:43 GMT, 23 April 2012
You’ve met a man who seems too good to be true: he’s charming, confident and you have endless things in common. But you soon realise things aren’t quite as they seem.
He vanishes for days on end and has a string of exes. You should move on, but it’s hard to put him out of your mind.
Or perhaps it’s your boss who dominates your thoughts. She takes too many big risks at work and treats you like a pawn in her game. Or a friend who’s always asking favours of you and borrowing your clothes, then moves into your spare room — and next moves in on your man.
Life's a scream: Janet Leigh in Hitchcock's Psycho
What have they got in common The tell-tale symptoms of being a psychopath.Most of us have referred to a ‘psycho ex’ or a ‘psycho boss’ at one time or another, but few really understand what the term means. Fundamentally. the word psychopath describes people who are utterly selfish, with no concern for others. Life to them is a game, and all that matters is they win.
As a forensic psychologist, I have been working with criminal psychopaths for 20 years — people who have ended up in jail for murder, violence and fraud. But I have become increasingly fascinated by how these traits manifest themselves in people who might never become criminals.
Between 1 and 3 per cent of the population exhibits psycho tendencies — so if you’ve got 100 Facebook friends, the chances are one of them is a psychopath. They might not be a criminal, but they are emotionally dangerous. Here’s how to spot one . . .
IS YOUR MAN A PSYCHOPATH
Jessica says a psychopathic partner will drive your self-esteem so low you're incapable of escape
Love can be blind, and psychopaths are incredibly skilled at mimicking loving behaviour. But it means nothing to them, and they do it only to get what they want. One client of mine gave a good insight into the way his mind worked when he said of a woman he was dating: ‘I would call her a regular associate, not a girlfriend. I like the fact she provides me with convenient sex, she does things for me and gives me company.’
A psychopathic partner declares love one minute, then threatens to leave you the next, until your self-esteem is so low you’re incapable of escape. He will disappear for days, take money from your wallet, cheat on you — but make you feel you are over-reacting when you confront him. He will twist the situation so it’s you who ends up apologising.
WHAT TO DO
Accept you are never going to change a psychopathic partner — and they’ll never be capable of loving you.
If you decide to leave, get legal advice if necessary and surround yourself with friends.
If you can’t leave straightaway, at least ensure you have a separate bank account.
Practise being assertive. Speak in a calm, low tone. Stay sure of your own mind and do not collude in your partner’s distorted version of events. If you are not a pushover, your partner will do you the inadvertent kindness of leaving you instead.
IS YOUR BEST FRIEND A PSYCHOPATH
This kind of friend will appear from nowhere but quickly infiltrate every area of your life. They are out to get what they can, but because they are great fun to be around, it’s hard not to get sucked in. They are the first to say ‘let’s party!’ because they rarely worry about the future.
They will create intimacy by supposedly telling you their innermost secrets (which will be completely made up) in order to encourage you to do the same. It’s even been shown that psychopaths are accomplished mimics, imitating your speech patterns and body language to create a rapport.
That’s when they start asking for favours. They might want to stay with you, or to borrow money.
A psychopath will find it hard to lure
you in if you avoid giving them intimate information, if you do not call
them and if you are not supportive of their plans…
When PR manager Vanessa met the shy new girl in the office, she took Heather under her wing. Within weeks they were going for lunch every day. Then Heather said her landlord was evicting her and asked if she could stay at Vanessa’s for a while.
Heather never offered to pay rent and was soon taking Vanessa’s clothes and food — but Vanessa felt she was being unkind in getting annoyed. Until one day, Heather vanished. It transpired she had contacted Vanessa’s parents, telling them their daughter was struggling to pay her mortgage and was too embarrassed to ask for a loan. Her parents gave the money to Heather. She was never seen again.
WHAT TO DO
Ask yourself: is this friend asking for bigger and bigger favours without doing anything in return Do they encourage you to cut off other friendships, or use your contacts to benefit themselves Do they seem to have no other friends
A psychopath will find it hard to lure you in if you avoid giving them intimate information, if you do not call them and if you are not supportive of their plans. They have no sense of loyalty and will move on to the next gift horse as soon as you stop playing ball.
IS YOUR BOSS A PSYCHOPATH
Experts estimate that, aside from the criminal population, psychopaths are most frequently found in the corporate world. Many qualities that make a successful business person — extreme self-confidence and ruthlessness — are classic psychopathic traits. They might be exciting to work with when things are going well, but watch out when things go wrong: they will blame anyone but themselves and leave a mess behind.
But an office psychopath doesn’t have to be a slick wheeler-dealer. Take middle-aged PA Judy. A mumsy, cosy character, she was the one who people turned to when they needed to offload their problems over a cup of tea. She overhauled the company’s accounting system, telling her bosses the old system was disorganised.
They trusted her, but eventually suppliers started saying they hadn’t been paid. One said Judy had called them at home, asking for money. The partners checked their books and realised Judy had stolen tens of thousands of pounds.
WHAT TO DO
Keep email records — this saves you from being made the scapegoat if something goes wrong.
Keep copies of any emails containing unreasonable demands or unprofessional conduct.
Don’t be persuaded to do favours for colleagues that make you uncomfortable.
Maintain an amiable, professional relationship with the office psychopath, but do not give them any information they can use against you.
All names have been changed. Extracted by Marianne Power from Is There A Psycho In Your Life by Jessica Fellowes and Kerry Daynes (6.99, Coronet).