Friday Counseling Issues: What is a Sociopath?

This is Ted Bundy.  He doesn’t look like such a bad guy, does he?

However, he was  a truly bad guy.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say (Wiki isn’t always right, but this time they’ve got it.  I remember very clearly reading this same stuff in the news back then:

Theodore Robert “Ted” Bundy (born Theodore Robert Cowell; November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989) was an American serial killerrapistkidnapper, and necrophile who assaulted and murdered numerous young women and girls during the 1970s and possibly earlier. After more than a decade of denials, he confessed shortly before his execution to 30 homicides committed in seven states between 1974 and 1978; the true total remains unknown, and could be much higher. (

He is known as a sociopath or a psychopath.  They’re really pretty much the same thing.  To me, the most chilling characteristic of a sociopath is that there is absolutely no conscience.  This person has no regret, no remorse, no sense of guilt or wrong done to another. He believes that what he wants is what he must have, no matter what the cost to anyone else.  He will do whatever is necessary to get what he wants.  If that involves taking someone else’s life, well, that person shouldn’t have gotten in the way.  Or deserved to die.

A lack of conscience makes way for a long list of sociopathic behaviors.  Right up at the top would be lying.  Constant, deliberate, manipulative lying; not slips of the tongue, not an effort to avoid detection (although that certainly plays a part) but more of a cold, calculated and purposeful achievement of reaching a goal.   Mr. Bundy was a master of deception, luring his victims in with charm, personality, and flat-out lies.

So what is the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath?  It seems to be a matter of degree.  Sociopaths can live in normal society without doing physical damage to others.  They may be considered antisocial, but many people with sociopathic tendencies are actually quite charming.  They can be glib, engaging; wonderful story-tellers, good with kids, and humorous.  Just don’t stand in their way or call them to account for bad behavior.  You’ll see the dark side.

A psycopath is usually more of a risk seeker, impulsive, and fearless, as well as not being able to socialize normally. Sociopaths go to great lengths to look “normal” and even their families don’t always know who they are.  Psycopaths take it to the next level, becoming more and more difficult to live with as time passes.



Remember Scot Peterson?  Handsome guy, financially successful, married to a beautiful young woman, They were happily expecting their first baby when Scot killed her, dumped her body in the ocean, and claimed she had disappeared.  Well, I guess she had.  He was finally “outed” by his mistress when he slipped up and said something that made her suspicious and afraid.

What I remember about this case is that after his conviction, his mother stood on the courthouse steps and said, “That whole jury needs to be drug-tested!  My son in innocent!”

It is not unusual at all for sociopathic men to have been the adored golden boys of their mothers, who believed they could do no wrong and always came flying to their recue if they got into trouble.

Sociopathic behavior, of course, is not limited to men.  Women can be even scarier, in my opinion.

There’s lots of information on this topic if you want to search.  Just be careful and discerning when you read, because almost everyone has a little different perspective on these folks.  Some think they were born bad, others that they were the products of their upbringing.  The old “nature vs. nurture” controversy.

More on this topic next week.


5 thoughts on “Friday Counseling Issues: What is a Sociopath?

  1. This particular behavior is quite interesting. The people who possess it have an uncanny knack for easily manipulating most people, it seems, and it takes some very aware and sharp people to see them for what they are. I don’t know how it happens, but it is true that these people seem to have no feeling for others; no empathy, no sympathy, no concern about inflicting pain, or even touched by the pain they inflict.

    Gonna do a big jump now: Imagine these kinds of people in very powerful positions. And imagine that their grandiose plans are so huge they affect the course of world history and even put their stamp on it. Imagine Stalin who killed 30 million of his own people with no remorse, or Mao who killed 40 million of his people. They had goals and were going to meet them no matter what.

    Then think about those who think abortion is a good thing… Ted Bundy was indeed a monster and admitted it. But many of these people admit nothing.


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