January 28, 2023 | Jess Silverberg

Therapists Share The Exact Moment They Realized They Were Treating A Sociopath

"You should never tell a psychopath they're a psychopath. It hurts their feelings."

Sociopaths aren't necessarily murderous, but there is something about them that isn't quite right—something amiss in their interactions with other people. Sociopaths are characterized by an inability to empathize and a weaker conscience than would be found in the average person. Many sociopaths are not deranged, criminal, or even abnormal by some standards. In fact, many successful business people could be categorized as such. That said, they do tend to teeter on the line between good and evil.

In terms of psychotherapy, the sociopath condition is one grounded in science and isn't often diagnosed as much as movies would like us to think. But, that doesn't mean there aren't real-life sociopaths out there seeking analysis. Curated from the top Reddit comments, these are some of the most chilling moments when therapists realized a true sociopath lay before them on the couch.

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Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!

#1 Unknown Dangers

I used to work with this teenage girl who needed support. I was an independent living skills specialist so I'd be with her after school making sure she did her homework, did her laundry, etc. She was very, very smart and hyper-focused on certain things she liked. She was taller and larger than me so she would try to intimidate me physically (which worked on her parents) but I never fell for it. I've seen her lie about terrible things that her parents or sibling did that I knew for a fact were untrue. It got to the point that her own parents told me once that if I was ever scared, I should call the police on their daughter. Her own parents told me that she scared them and they meant it. She was lovely and funny sometimes but sometimes she would say things and do things that freaked me out. This was a couple of years ago. I hope that family is doing okay.


#2 Microwaving The Cat Might Be A Tell

I'm not a therapist but I was left to watch a questionable kid for a girl I liked in high school once. First, he was acting like he was having a tantrum. Then when he didn't get the reaction he wanted out of me, he got the family cat and tried to put it in the microwave, asking me if I wanted some Chinese. I stopped him of course. When the girl got back from the shower I bolted and never looked back.

#3 No! Not The Puppy!

While one cannot be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder (the disorder most associated with what the layperson understands as sociopathy) until adulthood, Conduct Disorder is often the place-holder diagnosis given to children who meet similar criteria. While working as a Clinical Supervisor/Clinician at a mental health crisis-assessment facility, I had parents who brought in their 6-year-old son. This kid was freaking adorable, soft-spoken and polite. When queried as to history, the parents remarked that among numerous incidents of animal cruelty/abuse, he had 'really hurt' his new puppy with a broom handle. The injuries were so severe that the puppy had to be put down. That one still haunts me.

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#4 A Bird Named Jimmy

He had a wealth of dead birds under his bed that he poached himself. Each of them was named for a childhood friend he "once knew".

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#5 The Logic Of Tyranny

Not a therapist, but I am a teacher!

A student of mine was arguing with me for 10 minutes straight, justifying why it was okay for him to bully other students. His logic: he wants other students to do as he wants, and if other students are afraid of him, they'll do as he wants them to! Simple logic.

#6 That Does It—Winking Is Always Creepy

I worked in a locked inpatient psychiatric unit for 5 years. I saw many things that scared me but the most bone-chilling patient I ever worked with was a handsome, charming 35-year-old man we will call Mark.

Mark nonchalantly came up to his nurse on this particular day and stated that he was suicidal and needed to be assigned a staff personnel. I was the only available staff person and was therefore assigned to him. He asked me to walk “laps” on the unit with him. I said sure.

As we walked he asked seemingly meaningless questions about things like my favorite food or holidays I enjoy. I am always cautious about giving out information and felt his questions were harmless. About an hour into our walking he commented that he gathered I care deeply for others. Then took his head and smashed it through a glass window. We had to transport him by ambulance to our emergency department.

Two days later he returned back to our unit, medically/physically cleared. Upon coming back he came up to me to apologize for “scaring me”, winked, and walked away. I fully believe he caused pain to himself to put that ever terrible visual in my head and scare me into knowing that if he could so easily hurt himself, he could do the same for others.

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#7 If You Play With Fire...

I work with kids. The boy was very charming and confident, polite and well mannered. But I knew that he attempted to burn his sister and he liked to smear feces on the wall. He ran away a lot too. He attempted to hurt himself and was hospitalized. I asked my supervisor what would become of a kid like that. She said he was a sociopath in the making. Generally, you don't label kids as such but his behaviors for a 10-year-old were extreme. Sad case. Sad and horrifying.


#8 The Good Son

Great kid during the day, tortured his foster siblings and videotaped it at night. Loved being the “good kid” in the house during the day and “didn’t understand why Jimmy would scream and hit so much.” Meanwhile “Jimmy” was his target at night but wasn’t verbal and couldn’t tell anyone. The sociopath was always kind to the verbal child so only Jimmy was prey. In front of the foster parents, he seemed like a model teen. Finally, a video surfaced through sheer dumb luck and now he is in jail. No one believed it until they saw the video. He’s handsome, charming, and will ruin lives because his youthful offender status means he won’t have a criminal record.

#9 Impatient Patient

This guy comes in. His first time and he has an appointment. He is greeted by my teacher’s secretary. The doctor is with another patient, running 5 minutes late. The patient is upset because he was told he would go in at X time sharp. He sits down. After 5 minutes the patient gets fed up, stands up from the reception chair, goes to the secretary’s desk, grabs the 15 inch CRT computer monitor and crashes it into the secretary’s skull.

He leaves, calmly.

The secretary suffered several vertebral fractures along with a skull fracture.

I don’t know if the police caught the patient afterward.

#10 The Spoils Of War

I've worked with a few—the most disturbing one was an ex-military guy. He had served time in Iraq in the early 2000s, and he had killed in the line of duty. He always seemed a bit off, but the story he told me that was like, "oh no he's a sociopath" was when he told me about how he would do things like kill goats because he could get away with that and some families there depend on livestock to survive. He also told me about making starving children fight over candy. He talked about watching kids fight to the death with rocks over candy he would throw on the ground. Awful, scary stuff. This person is currently a free man.

#11 Locked In An Awkward Position

Therapist here. I’ve had several clients that were a bit extra. The one that sticks out the most was during my work as an inpatient therapist where a borderline, HIV positive, promiscuous client tried locking me in her room during rounds and offering “favors”. This was followed by a barrage of self-harming comments after I politely said no. I haven’t done therapy in 2 months now and I think I’ll stick to academia for now.

#12 Ye Old Pencil Trick

One time he was throwing things at a teacher so his pencil or whatever got taken away. He said sorry, got the pencil back, then said: "I can't believe you fell for that" and threw it at her again.

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#13 No Need To Worry, Doc

One of my dad's patients, a very large gentleman, began visibly melting down during a session, pacing around the office and acting increasingly erratic. My dad's thoughts turned to the fact that his wife and three kids were now in the same house with a big dude who was clearly unstable. He slowly positioned himself by the door in case the guy tried to bolt for it. The guy noticed this, pulled out a gun, and said, "Don't worry, if I wanted to hurt you or myself, I would have already used this by now."

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#14 Take Him Back, Please!

We had a foster boy that was exactly like this. Only he could charm the pants off of anyone and everyone he met on the outside but behind closed doors, he was a nightmare. He would scream. Just inconsolably scream and scream (not cry, just scream) for 5-6 hours if he didn't get his way. If that didn't work? He'd bang his head into a wall, destroy our house, etc.

When he would talk to us, it was always about how we were too old, fat, short, or whatever he could think of. He hated everything and would go on and on about how much he did. When someone would come to the house he would fake being hurt and/or be crying, then look at us and wink or smile...Ugh, just thinking about what we went through makes my blood boil!

#15 This Girl Should Write For Crime TV

Teenage girl—she came into foster care purely for her own misbehavior. An only child, and both her parents had essentially disowned her after her repeated false claims that they abused her. She “disclosed” horrific details that sounded straight out of Criminal Minds (and in one case, was the actual plot of a Criminal Minds episode that had aired three days before our session, which I knew because I had seen it).

#16 Has Your Kid Ever Threatened to Deport You?

Not a therapist, but a school psychologist. When talking to a student, he casually mentions how he keeps his parents “in line” by threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to have his mother (undocumented) deported. He doesn’t care about his family in the least, and they have zero control over him. His two siblings are typically developed and are terrified of him.


#17 Okay, You've Proven Your Point!

He sold illegle substances and enjoyed power tripping off messing with desperate addicts. He would make them do gross/painful/awful things to "earn" their fix. He was also the only antisocial person I've ever met who had a weakened pain response. He once poked himself with a pen to prove to me he "didn't feel pain". And I mean a legitimate, flesh visable kind of stab. Yeah...

#18 Yeah, That's Not Really The Point Of Counselling

My best example was after this guy's wife had broken down crying in our third session about how he talked down to her, I asked them both what some goals for therapy might be. His Immediate response was: "I want to work on understanding why my wife makes such stupid decisions." She broke down crying again and ran out of the room. The guy just looked at me like, 'women, am I right?' He had no idea that what he said was hurtful, or he wanted to hurt her. Either way, it was chilling to watch. Spoiler alert: she left him two weeks later after he threatened to shoot her if she left him. Yes, she's safe and much better now.

#19 Playing The Godfather

He had self-referred, hoping that I would diagnose him as being unfit to stand trial. He turned out to be absolutely fascinating. He was absolutely guilty of everything he had been accused of and had been working as an enforcer for various drug cartels. During the interview, he tried to be very intimidating; he wasn't at all concerned with trying to trick me into thinking that he might have been mentally ill. He thought it would be enough to simply threaten me, that he or someone else would ensure something horrible happened to my family or I if he ended up in jail.

#20 At Least She's Honest

When I saw through an ex and accused her of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, she agreed 100%, "but that's other people's problem, not mine."

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#21 It's A Trap!

...when he posted a trap question on Reddit to see if his therapist is on to him.

#22 Time With The Teacher

As a former kindergarten teacher, I can tell you what a kid who got me concerned did...

[The girl and I] toss a ball and I do some magic tricks but after a while, I hear the other teachers calling out the names of several 3 and 4-year-olds and I tell her I have to go help.

She's furious, telling me they're ruining her fun and screaming like a wounded pterodactyl.

It turns out she had locked half the group in a shed for trolleys, and keep in mind that this was in Norway in February, so even though they were dressed warm, their tear covered faces were ice cold.

#23 An Unashamed Monster

He casually admitted to domestic abuse in the same way someone would admit they left the hall light on by accident...to me, in front of his partner!


#24 A Serial Pact Predator

They came into the hospital after making a life pact with someone and didn't follow through with it, and the other person completed it. They acted really broken up and said they felt guilty about it and seemed genuine. It was all an act. Later on, during the inpatient stay, they made another pact with another patient who then told us about it and said the sociopath was pushing them to come up with a plan and pick a date to do it. Apparently, they had done this with like 3 other people and getting admitted to psych units was their way of finding vulnerable people to target.


#25 That Killer Smile

This child was six years old and beautiful. I took the kids outside to ride bikes, and the second he was out the door, he ran to the backyard, grabbed a kitten, and crushed its head. I was horrified, obviously, and brought all the kids inside. He calmly told our facilities manager that he had no idea what I was talking about, and looked so confused that the manager questioned me, and I had to go get the dead cat. I was visibly upset, and he just looked at me and grinned.

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#26 Dispatched

There's one guy that comes straight to mind, though; he was in the military (maybe a sniper?). He was sent to the hospital, and it was sort of unclear why he came. He was just quiet, and then at some point, he just said "I want to leave." Told him he had to be evaluated prior to being released because of his involuntary status.
Like he flipped a switch - started verbally berating everyone, punching the wall, kicking things around. He just went to his room, blocked himself in, and declared he would kill anyone who came into his room by beating them with a chair he was holding above his head. We were fortunate that a few of us talked him down, and luckily there was a police officer on campus who was also ex-military and kind of bro'd out with him for a bit enough to get him to take some sedatives.
The next day, we're talking, he casually says he just got into the military to hurt as many people as he possibly could - he's likely being discharged from the military, and he says this is going to be a bad decision because he will not find another job where he is happy.

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#27 Vulnerabilities

I used to be a social worker in an inpatient mental health facility. I was very young and very inexperienced and I’ll never forget his almost telepathic ability to zero in on my vulnerabilities.

Genuinely one of the most chilling people I’ve ever met.

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#28 That's A Bit Extreme

I lived as a roommate to a sociopath. Originally I felt bad for her cause there was always someone out to get her and she claimed to be hurt by men multiple times. I believed her and felt really bad for her. She was very manipulative and she felt this need to get revenge on people as well.

The horrible part is that she works for a women's health centre where she has access to patient information. She claimed this classmate of hers from college harassed her which resulted in her taking in his information from her work where he went and using the information to call immigration on him and his family.

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#29 Monkey See, Money Do

My mother is the head of quite a dangerous psychiatric ward. I don't really know what she does now, but last time we spoke her job was to meet with people who had been incarcerated, do a full evaluation, then decide if they were fit to go back into society or into her ward.

The thing is, it's my mom that displayed so many qualities of a sociopath. She's the most manipulative person I have ever come across and incredibly stone cold. She always said once you turn 16, I'll kick you out because legally I'm no longer obliged to support you.

Sure enough, she did. I had seen her cheating on her third husband, so she'd turned everyone against me and kicked me out for good. Truthfully, I was too scared to say anything at the time.

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#30 Those Eyes

We've had many sociopaths through our unit in the 9 years I've been here. Only one truly sticks out for me though; a 40-something year old male with seemingly no psychosis to be noted when I met him. He was covered head to toe in tattoos with many being offensive.

I read into his history and he had worked as a bouncer and ended up throwing a 20 year old patron through a two story plate glass window to the sidewalk below.

When I met him, he was very non-verbal, but when he did speak, it was chilling. He's was the only person I've ever met that I was genuinely afraid of. I didn't like looking him in the eyes but made a point of it, so as not to show weakness. His eyes were entirely empty; it felt like you were looking into a soulless void, as cliche as that may sound. When he was angry, he didn't show it, he simply stared blankly at you which was more than unsettling.

I tried not to be too hard nosed with him, but we eventually found steady footing through mutual respect. He eventually left the ward and continued to physically hurt many more people while he was out.

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You may or may not be surprised to learn that many folks in leadership positions at large companies often haveantisocial personality disorder. It just happens that their symptoms manifest in different ways. It's not easy getting to the top - so it's to their advantage to not feel empathy for those they stomped on on the way up.

Of course, please don't take this as meaning that all organizational leaders are sociopaths - it's just a lot more frequent there than with people who hold lower level positions.


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#32 It's More Than A Feeling

You know how you can tell a fake plant from a real one by feeling its leaves or petals? It's hard to describe, but treating a sociopath is kind of like that.

There's something different and some kind of vitality and connection missing. It's usually very subtle. It's different from people who've been traumatized and are a little dissociated. It's different from psychosis where the person is very disconnected from reality. The person looks and seems like everyone else, but as you go along you get an odd feeling.

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#33 Don't Cross Me

He showed up to meet me with a red face of rage and all he wanted to talk about was himself and how he would get vengeance over the people that crossed him.

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#34 Are You Getting Played?

When he tried to con me on the first visit. Sociopaths think that they are entitled to their cons, and don't realize how transparent they are. Trust your gut: if it feels like you're getting played, you probably are.

#35 What Prize

A younger kid I worked with was placed into a facility after trying to harm the family dog again and had already injured his newborn brother. He told his roommate in the facility that if they hurt someone, they would earn a magical prize.

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#36 Teacher Sees It

One of my students in dissection class is constantly in other people's personal space. He also asks a lot of odd questions. He's very concerned with the inner workings of bodies. What eventually got to me was that he wanted to rip all of the organs and our rats apart with his bare hands. Kind of gives me the creeps.


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