Sociopath Or Sociopath-like Product Of My Environment?


Hello Dr. Schwartz. My wife is leaving me because I am unable to show her the love that I say I have for her and am unable to empathize with her. That being said, I broke up with her before we got married because I didn’t want to hurt her. I respected her so much and I did not believe I was capable of love. I show many characteristics of a sociopath, except that I do feel bad when I screw someone over, but I don’t feel bad while doing it. I believe it is possible that I have taught myself to feel that way, along with other emotions, so I can connect with others. I also had a very traumatic childhood. I was accused of bringing a gun to school because I was an outcast like the shooters in columbine. I had stated to a large group of peers that the conditions I am put under are the main reasons why someone would kill their peers. I was also sexually abused, and was present when my mother was physically abused, and present when she attempted suicide. I have read that traumatic childhood events can cause sociopathic behavior as a defense mechanism. I hope that this is true because I want to love, and that would mean that once, a very long time ago, I could. If you search Google for the word “sociopath,” you get a lot of information on how to stay away from one, and a lot of unprofessional tests to self diagnose. I have taken the tests and they all say I’m worse then Hannibal Lecter. I find nothing on how to cope with not being able to feel emotions other than sadness and emptiness and the anger I turn it into. If you have any advice, please give it. I would greatly appreciate it. – Matthew

P.S.:  I do have a therapist, but he is on vacation. I just happened to stumble upon this myself while he is gone, and I feel lost. Thank You.

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.


It is always a mistake for someone to try to engage in self diagnosis. In psychiatry and psychology, diagnosis is extremely difficult. The reason that it is so difficult is simply that people, human beings, do not fit into neat categories like many of us are led to believe. In addition, these self tests are extremely inaccurate, unreliable and lack any data to support a person doing his or her own diagnosis. For example, it seems that you have a rather low opinion of yourself. That would skew or bend the way you answer questions even if you are trying to be honest.

Clearly, you experienced a huge amount of trauma when you were a child and that had a very negative impact on your psychological health. Many people who have been through the kinds of things you experienced report feeling empty inside, numb and even unable to be connected to life and to other people. They also report lots of anger and rage. This does not mean that they are Sociopathic Personality Disordered people. Yes, maybe they can have some sociopathic behaviors, and, maybe not. It is not so simple and direct.

I do not know you and cannot and will not make a diagnosis. I will say that you report too much remorse to be a someone who is characteristic of that type of personality disorder. People who are like that do not mind exploiting others and have no feelings about either before, during or after they do it. They are really criminals with no regard to the feelings of others and feel noting inside. It seems as though you are reporting feeling and it seems you do have feelings like guilt, remorse, regret and empathy for others, like your wife.

During the time that your therapist is away and even after he returns, I want to direct you to our Online Support Community. The links for it are everywhere around our web site. You will find other people struggling with issues similar to your own. It is completely free and anonymous. There is lots of help, advice and points of view expressed there and it has succeeded in being a great source of comfort and help to its many members. Please join.

One last item about diagnoses in this field. Each human being is unique and distinct. We use diagnoses only to be able to prescribe medications when and if someone really needs a drug to help them reduce depression, hallucinations or other types of biologically based problems. Even then, the key to recovery is psychotherapy.

So, my point is that you are an individual and, through your psychotherapy, you will work to remove the road blocks to being able to live a relatively happy and productive life.

Best of Luck

More "Ask Dr. Schwartz" View Columnists