First Know Who You’re Dealing With:

How do you leave someone with antisocial personality disorder?

Who are you dealing with? A psychopath or a sociopath? Or are they one and the same?

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorders.

These disorders share many common behavioral traits which leads to some of the confusion. Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include:

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent or aggressive behavior

They have their own behavioral characteristics:

Sociopaths are often nervous and easily agitated. These individuals can be volatile and have emotional outbursts or go into a rage. They are dangerous because they are impulsive.

They are usually less educated than psychopaths and have more trouble holding down a job.

Sociopaths appear more disturbed or erratic. If they commit a crime, it tends to be haphazard and spontaneous.

Erratic individual versus the planner:

A psychopath plans his crime and often has a contingency plan in place. They are calm in a crisis. In other words, they are good at being criminals. Therefore they are very dangerous individuals.

Psychopaths are unable to form any emotional attachment and feel no empathy. They are aggressive and predatory. They view people as objects.

Beware Of The Charmer:

Even though they lack empathy, psychopaths are often charming individuals. They are manipulative and easily gain someone’s trust. 

These people learn to mimic emotions even though they can’t feel them. So they may appear normal. It is difficult to know when a psychopathic predator has targeted you.   

I’m going to empathize that: It is difficult to know when a psychopathic predator has targeted you.  

How the professionals define them:

Professionals list both in the category of antisocial personality disorder as defined by the Mayo Clinic.

Definition: “A mental condition in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others harshly or with callous indifference. They show no guilt or remorse for their behavior.”

The numbers:

About 75 percent of sociopaths are men, while 25 percent are women.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (psychopathy or sociopathy) is often intertwined with other traits. This includes but is not limited to bullying, narcissism, gaslighting, bigotry and misogyny.

Getting Out:

See an attorney and form a plan.

Record & Document

When you are divorcing an individual with antisocial personality disorder, they will try their best to manipulate you. Documentation of their behavior will become an important lifeline.

Don’t Let Them Control The Situation

They thrive on chaos and will run over you whenever possible. Often they will ignore court orders and delay the divorce as a means of control.

Stick To Your Plan

Once you have a safety plan in place and are proceeding with divorce, you must not waver.

A spouse with antisocial personality disorder thrives on controlling, dominating, and humiliating you.

Email Only

When detaching yourself from someone with antisocial personality disorder insist on “no contact.”

Insist on written communication only. He/she will fight this because they know it is easier to confuse you via phone or in person.


Why i’m writing about this topic:

If you are wondering why I am focusing lately on this topic, it is primarily due to the emails I am getting. They are from women who are facing difficult relationships and some hope to find way a out of them.

I am trying to educate them on the behavior they might expect and the danger they could potentially be in, especially when they leave. And then to plan accordingly.


Psychology Today: Differences Between Psychopaths & Sociopaths

Divorcing A Sociopath

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  1. I was just chatting with my coworker about this today at Outback steak house. Don’t remember how in the world we landed on the topic in actuality, they brought it up. I do recall eating a excellent fruit salad with cranberries on it. I digress

  2. You’re providing a service to those women who have nowhere else to turn and don’t have anyone they can talk to about this difficult and scary subject.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy 2019 to all –

  3. Thank you SO much for addressing this so clearly, Brenda!

    This used to describe MY life, until I got lots of counseling and into a 12-Step group for Relationship Addiction (called SLAA). Had been impossible for me to get out and get emotionally healthy alone!

  4. The added twist to this scenario would be a woman/man with a child trying to get out safely. Child custody and legal issues surrounding children of divorce is a tangled web that often leaves a woman continually exposed to the very behavior she is needing to escape from and leaves her/him vulnerable long term.

  5. Excellent and essential information, Brenda, for those who are dealing with the type of person you are describing. I have never had this experience but it must be so frightening and debilitating to deal with. I hope everyone who is involved in a relationship with a sociopathic or psycopathic person can use this information to escape and build a better life.

    Thanks for your research and for sharing the information. It may just save someone’s life.

  6. This information is much needed and sometimes uncomfortable to think about. I see a lot of women growing older alone for reasons of divorce or just not finding a good partner. Other reasons too, of course. But this sort of encouragement and information is needed, and we won’t find it in grocery store magazines. Like the comment above said, keep it coming!

  7. Brenda, you are so kind to educate and help the women who are emailing you. Thankfully I do not have a husband like this. Sadly, I have a sister that almost every relationship that she has ever had is with a controlling, verbally abusive, nasty man. The one man she found who treated her fabulous sadly died just after they were engaged. She has now decided she is better off alone. Thank the Lord because the stress of wondering of one of these wackos was going to hurt her was horrible for our family to deal with, not to mention the toll on her.

    I hope you, Charlie and Abby are well.

  8. Very helpful information and support. Keep it coming.

    Why haven’t I been smarter sooner? I can only figure that the anger and control is insidious, day after day, growing stronger without my awareness. My female need, generational maybe, to be supportive and a good wife is what feeds it.

      1. I wasn’t planning to leave when it happened. We were in a very stressful time, and I went to visit some friends. While there I got sick and went to the ER, and found out I’d forgotten to take out a tampon. I had a severe infection and high fever, so my friends thought I shouldn’t go home and called my husband tell him what was going on. When I called him the next day, to say I was still pretty sick and wanted to stay one more day, he got really angry . I realized he hadn’t even asked me how I was feeling or expressed any concern about me. I thought, I just can’t go back. And, I actually never did go back and spend another night in that house with him. It’s amazing it happened that way, because it was not like I was bold and courageous. It was just fear and some craziness that kept me from going back. I got an apartment and we did go to marriage counseling for six months, trying to figure things out. I didn’t want to go back to how things were, but, I hoped we could figure out how to move forward. But, it just seemed like things were the same. He just kept being mad about different things. Also, because I had left, he then started being the victim, saying I abandoned him. Oh brother. He had pushed me away for years, and then he got to be the victim? That didn’t seem right. So there I was, feeling scared to go back, but also feeling guilty for leaving. But I did not go back, except to make a trip to get some clothes and a few things. I left a lot of material stuff behind. I felt sad that my marriage ended, mostly because I had lots of hopes and dreams that didn’t get to happen. But, I felt so relieved not to live with him anymore. My life has continued to have problems. But there are two good things about my life — I have learned more about who I am, and I am a more authentic person than when I was in my marriage and I was acting fake all the time to try to keep someone happy. I am a pretty insecure person, with a mess of a life in some ways, but, I still like being this real mess of a person more than I liked the more perfect fake person. And, the other thing I have is relief to not be in that marriage. I don’t necessarily have peace and happiness and joy, but, I do have relief. And I treasure it.

        1. Oh Wow……..thank you for writing all of this . I only hope it will help that one women who needs to hear these words. I pray that some day you find the peace and happiness you so much need.

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