The conventional wisdom in the psychology field is that symptoms of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)/psychopathy decrease as affected individuals reach middle age. New research on senior sociopaths by Lovefraud Education and Recovey challenges this view.
Survey respondents described romantic partners, family members, work colleagues and friends who they believed showed traits of ASPD/psychopathy and were over age 50. Of those who knew the individuals both before and after 50, 93% reported that their manipulation, deceit and antisocial behavior were just as bad — or worse — as they aged.
Surviving Senior Psychopathy: Informant Reports of Deceit and Antisocial Behavior in Multiple Types of Relationships, by Donna Andersen, of Lovefraud Continuing Education, and Emma Veltman and Martin Sellbom, of the University of Otago, reports that antisocial behavior does not necessarily “burn out” with age. The paper was published by the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology.
The study examined the relationship between traits of ASPD/psychopathy and harmful behaviors perpetrated by older individuals from the perspective of informants, who were, in most cases, victims. A total of 2,119 Lovefraud.com readers responded to an online survey. Of them, 1,215 completed the entire survey, including rating their family members or acquaintances according to ASPD/psychopathy traits derived from the pre-publication first draft of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association).
According to these informant ratings, 935 individuals showed levels of disordered traits considered indicative of ASPD/psychopathy. While these individuals were over age 50, survey respondents reported, 99% were manipulative, 94% engaged in antisocial behavior, 93% were emotionally abusive, 89% were psychologically abusive, 58% were financially abusive and 47% were violent.
Many survey respondents provided narrative descriptions of what they witnessed and experienced. One woman wrote about her ex-husband, “The older he got, the more abusive he became. He lied, cheated, used, and stole. As he aged, he seemed to care less about hiding his behavior, and he seemed to openly enjoy being cruel. The ‘fix’ he got from being abusive became more important to him than the ‘cover-up’.”
Another respondent wrote about her mother, “Nothing ever changed. She exploits, lies, throws tantrums, rages, abandons, pouts, defames, threatens, and would still be physically violent if she had the physical strength.”
Survey respondents reported significant harm caused by these over-50 individuals: 68% lost money, 45% incurred debt, 26% were physically abused and 27% had their lives threatened. Psychological harm was even more widespread: 88% of survey respondents said they became anxious or depressed, 76% said the stress of the involvement made them ill, 70% said they suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and 31% considered or attempted suicide.
“Our new research on senior sociopaths reveals that people with antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy never stop their manipulative and deceptive behavior,” says Donna Andersen, founder of the Lovefraud Education and Recovery nonprofit and lead author of the study. “Anyone who is waiting for a senior sociopath to grow up or calm down — whether this person is a romantic partner, family member, work colleague or friend — should stop wasting their life and escape. He or she will not change.”
Andersen explains the research more fully in her new book, Senior Sociopaths— How to Recognize and Escape Lifelong Abusers.