The Sociopath Next Door

The Sociopath Next Door

by Martha Stout Ph.D.

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Who is the devil you know?

Is it your lying, cheating ex-husband?
Your sadistic high school gym teacher?
Your boss who loves to humiliate people in meetings?
The colleague who stole your idea and passed it off as her own?

In the pages of The Sociopath Next Door, you will realize that your ex was not just misunderstood. He’s a sociopath. And your boss, teacher, and colleague? They may be sociopaths too.

We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people—one in twenty-five—has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt.

How do we recognize the remorseless? One of their chief characteristics is a kind of glow or charisma that makes sociopaths more charming or interesting than the other people around them. They’re more spontaneous, more intense, more complex, or even sexier than everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced. Fundamentally, sociopaths are different because they cannot love. Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they are indifferent to others’ suffering. They live to dominate and thrill to win.

The fact is, we all almost certainly know at least one or more sociopaths already. Part of the urgency in reading The Sociopath Next Door is the moment when we suddenly recognize that someone we know—someone we worked for, or were involved with, or voted for—is a sociopath. But what do we do with that knowledge? To arm us against the sociopath, Dr. Stout teaches us to question authority, suspect flattery, and beware the pity play. Above all, she writes, when a sociopath is beckoning, do not join the game.

It is the ruthless versus the rest of us, and The Sociopath Next Door will show you how to recognize and defeat the devil you know.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767920209
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 02/08/2005
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 36,188
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Martha Stout, Ph.D. was trained at the famous McLean Psychiatric Hospital and is a practicing psychologist and a clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She is also the author of The Myth of Sanity. She lives on Cape Ann in Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

Minds differ still more than faces.

Imagine--if you can--not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools. Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless. You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.

In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world. You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences, will most likely remain undiscovered.
How will you live your life? What will you do with your huge and secret advantage, and with the corresponding handicap of other people (conscience)? The answer will depend largely on just what your desires happen to be, because people are not all the same. Even the profoundly unscrupulous are not all the same. Some people-- whether they have a conscience or not-- favor the ease of inertia, while others are filled with dreams and wild ambitions. Some human beings are brilliant and talented, some are dull-witted, and most, conscience or not, are somewhere in between. There are violent people and nonviolent ones, individuals who are motivated by bloodlust and those who have no such appetites.

Maybe you are someone who craves money and power, and though you have no vestige of conscience, you do have a magnificent IQ. You have the driving nature and the intellectual capacity to pursue tremendous wealth and influence, and you are in no way moved by the nagging voice of conscience that prevents other people from doing everything and anything they have to do to succeed. You choose business, politics, the law, banking, international development, or any of a broad array of other power professions, and you pursue your career with a cold passion that tolerates none of the usual moral or legal incumbrances. When it is expedient, you doctor the accounting and shred the evidence, you stab your employees and your clients (or your constituency) in the back, marry for money, tell lethal premeditated lies to people who trust you, attempt to ruin colleagues who are powerful or eloquent, and simply steam-roll over groups who are dependent and voiceless. And all of this you do with the exquisite freedom that results from having no conscience whatsoever.
You become unimaginably, unassailably, and maybe even globally successful. Why not? With your big brain, and no conscience to rein in your schemes, you can do anything at all.

Or no--let us say you are not quite such a person. You are ambitious, yes, and in the name of success you are willing to do all manner of things that people with conscience would never consider, but you are not an intellectually gifted individual. Your intelligence is above average perhaps, and people think of you as smart, maybe even very smart. But you know in your heart of hearts that you do not have the cognitive wherewithal, or the creativity, to reach the careening heights of power you secretly dream about, and this makes you resentful of the world at large, and envious of the people around you.

As this sort of person, you ensconce yourself in a niche, or maybe a series of niches, in which you can have some amount of control over small numbers of people. These situations satisfy a little of your desire for power, although you are chronically aggravated at not having more. It chafes to be so free of the ridiculous inner voice that inhibits others from achieving great power, without having enough talent to pursue the ultimate successes yourself. Sometimes you fall into sulky, rageful moods caused by a frustration that no one but you understands.

But you do enjoy jobs that afford you a certain undersupervised control over a few individuals or small groups, preferably people and groups who are relatively helpless or in some way vulnerable. You are a teacher or a psychotherapist, a divorce lawyer or a high school coach. Or maybe you are a consultant of some kind, a broker or a gallery owner or a human services director. Or maybe you do not have a paid position, and are instead the president of your condominium association, or a volunteer hospital worker, or a parent. Whatever your job, you manipulate and bully the people who are under your thumb, as often and as outrageously as you can without getting fired or held accountable. You do this for its own sake, even when it serves no purpose except to give you a thrill. Making people jump means you have power-- or this is the way you see it-- and bullying provides you with an adrenaline rush. It is fun.

Maybe you cannot be the CEO of a multinational corporation, but you can frighten a few people, or cause them to scurry around like chickens, or steal from them, or--maybe best of all--create situations that cause them to feel bad about themselves. And this is power, especially when the people you manipulate are superior to you in some way. Most invigorating of all is to bring down people who are smarter or more accomplished than you, or perhaps classier, more attractive or popular or morally admirable. This is not only good fun--it is existential vengeance. And without a conscience, it is amazingly easy to do. You quietly lie to the boss or to the boss’s boss, cry some crocodile tears, or sabotage a coworker’s project, or gaslight a patient (or a child), bait people with promises, or provide a little misinformation that will never be traced back to you.
Or now let us say you are a person who has a proclivity for violence or for seeing violence done. You can simply murder your coworker, or have her murdered--or your boss, or your ex-spouse, or your wealthy lover’s spouse, or anyone else who bothers you. You have to be careful, because if you slip up you may be caught and punished by the system. But you will never be confronted by your conscience, because you have no conscience. If you decide to kill, the only difficulties will be the external ones. Nothing inside of you will ever protest.

Provided you are not forcibly stopped, you can do anything at all. If you are born at the right time, with some access to family fortune, and you have a special talent for whipping up other people’s hatred and sense of deprivation, you can arrange to kill large numbers of unsuspecting people. With enough money, you can accomplish this from far away, and you can sit back safely and watch in satisfaction. In fact, terrorism (done from a distance) is the ideal occupation for a person who is possessed of bloodlust and no conscience, because if you do it just right, you may be able to make a whole nation jump. And if that is not power, what is?

Or let us imagine the opposite extreme--you have no interest in power. To the contrary, you are the sort of person who really does not want much of anything. Your only real ambition is not to have to exert yourself to get by. You do not want to work like everyone else does. Without a conscience, you can nap or pursue your hobbies or watch television or just hang out somewhere all day long. Living a bit on the fringes, and with some handouts from relatives and friends, you can do this indefinitely. People may whisper to each other that you are an underachiever, or that you are depressed, a sad case, or in contrast, if they get angry, they may grumble that you are lazy. When they get to know you better, and get really angry, they may scream at you and call you a loser, a bum. But it will never occur to them that you literally do not have a conscience, that in such a fundamental way, your very mind is not the same as theirs.

The panicked feeling of a guilty conscience never squeezes at your heart or wakes you in the middle of the night. Despite your lifestyle, you never feel irresponsible, neglectful, or so much as embarrassed, although for the sake of appearances, sometimes you pretend that you do. For example, if you are a decent observer of people and what they react to, you may adopt a lifeless facial expression, say how ashamed of your life you are, and talk about how rotten you feel. This you do only because it is more convenient to have people think you are depressed than it is to have them shouting at you all the time, or insisting that you get a job.

You notice that people who do have a conscience feel guilty when they harangue someone they believe to be “depressed” or “troubled.” As a matter of fact, to your further advantage, they often feel obliged to take care of such a person. If, despite your relative poverty, you can manage to get yourself into a sexual relationship with someone, this person--who does not suspect what you are really like--may feel particularly obligated. And since all you want is not to have to work, your financier does not have to be especially rich, just reliably conscience-bound.
I trust that imagining yourself as any of these people feels insane to you, because such people are insane, dangerously so. Insane but real--they even have a label. Many mental health professionals refer to the condition of little or no conscience as “antisocial personality disorder,” a noncorrectable disfigurement of character that is now thought to be present in about four percent of the population--that is to say, one in twenty-five people. This condition of missing conscience is called by other names too, most often “sociopathy,” or the somewhat more familiar term, “psychopathy.” Guiltlessness was in fact the first personality disorder to be recognized by psychiatry, and terms that have been used at times over the past century include “manie sans délire,” “psychopathic inferiority,” “moral insanity,” and “moral imbecility.”

According to the current bible of psychiatric labels, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV of the American Psychiatric Association, the clinical diagnosis of “antisocial personality disorder” should be considered when an individual possesses at least three of the following seven characteristics: (1) failure to conform to social norms; (2) deceitfulness, manipulativeness; (3) impulsivity, failure to plan ahead; (4) irritability, aggressiveness; (5) reckless disregard for the safety of self or others; (6) consistent irresponsibility; (7) lack of remorse after having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another person. The presence in an individual of any three of these “symptoms,” taken together, is enough to make many psychiatrists suspect the disorder.

Other researchers and clinicians, many of whom think the APA’s definition describes simple “criminality” better than true “psychopathy” or “sociopathy,” point to additional documented characteristics of sociopaths as a group. One of the more frequently observed of these traits is a glib and superficial charm that allows the true sociopath to seduce other people, figuratively or literally--a kind of glow or charisma that, initially, can make the sociopath seem more charming or more interesting than most of the normal people around him. He or she is more spontaneous, or more intense, or somehow more “complex,” or sexier, or more entertaining than everyone else. Sometimes this “sociopathic charisma” is accompanied by a grandiose sense of self-worth that may be compelling at first, but upon closer inspection may seem odd or perhaps laughable. (“Someday the world will realize how special I am,” or “You know that after me, no other lover will do.”)

In addition, sociopaths have a greater than normal need for stimulation, which results in their taking frequent social, physical, financial, or legal risks. Characteristically, they can charm others into attempting dangerous ventures with them, and as a group they are known for their pathological lying and conning, and their parasitic relationships with “friends.” Regardless of how educated or highly placed as adults, they may have a history of early behavior problems, sometimes including drug use or recorded juvenile delinquency, and always including a failure to acknowledge responsibility for any problems that occurred.

And sociopaths are noted especially for their shallowness of emotion, the hollow and transient nature of any affectionate feelings they may claim to have, a certain breathtaking callousness. They have no trace of empathy and no genuine interest in bonding emotionally with a mate. Once the surface charm is scraped off, their marriages are loveless, one-sided, and almost always short-term. If a marriage partner has any value to the sociopath, it is because the partner is viewed as a possession, one that the sociopath may feel angry to lose, but never sad or accountable.

All of these characteristics, along with the “symptoms” listed by the American Psychiatric Association, are the behavioral manifestations of what is for most of us an unfathomable psychological condition, the absence of our essential seventh sense-- conscience.

Crazy, and frightening-- and real, in about four percent of the population.

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Sociopath Next Door 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 221 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book is wonderful. Of course the intent is not to get people out there labeling, slandering, and harrassing people they think are sociopaths. That would be sociopathic, wouldn't it?! This book is not a sword, its' a shield! The idea is to understand what it means when someone behaves this way, and know that it's not you, you can't change it, you can't cure them, and what you see may not even be real. And that the only solution in dealing with someone who is seriously wronging you in the ways described, is to remove yourself from them, stay away from them, to preserve yourself. And that there's absolutely nothing wrong or selfish about keeping yourself safe. (Which is something many a sociopath will try to convince you of.) As far as the inclusion of political figure reference. I have NO clue whether she was referring to Bush or Clinton or neither. But the fact is, both have been accused of lying, and that is a hallmark of a sociopath. Does that mean everyone who lies is a sociopath? Of course not. Are Bush or Clinton sociopaths? Who knows. Maybe, maybe not. It's impossible to know the full social workings of a celebrity, because of the very nature of celebrity. (Personally I think they're both immoral baffoons, but that's neither here nor there for the topic.) I think it's like others have said, that the author was merely pointing out behaviours which can be signs of trouble. And how they can present themselves in all walks of life, at all levels. Again this book is not meant as a psychology text book or a diagnostic tool. It is good for one thing, and one thing only - understanding the nature of why some people might operate the way they do, and to pull the scales from the eyes of those of us who previously didn't know that sociopaths do not change, that their behaviour is inherent, and it's not our fault, and not our responsibility, and beyond our control. Thereby freeing us. I can say that I felt a great relief after reading this book. Not because disillusionment is pleasant. But because enlightenment is calming.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I used this book as part of my research for a graduate school term-paper. Most of the information was useful and pretty accuarate, however, for the level of work that I needed to do, Dr. Stout's information conflicted a little bit with my other research. The terms "sociopath" and "psychopath" are used interchangably by most of the general public, and although they are similar, there are still some significant differences. The main one being that psychopaths primarily do not have a conscience, and sociopaths do have a conscience, but play by their own set of rules to justify their deceit and manipulation, as with the majority of the criminal element. And, unlike what most people believe, most psychopaths are not outwardly violent or crazy, and they are not all serial killers or in prisons. They also live out in the world with us. The traits that Dr. Stout uses to describe sociopaths are very helpful to keep in mind, and I appreciated her advice on what those of us with a conscience can do to protect ourselves. That is pretty much all we can do, because they will not stop. They will move from person to person until they use us up and wear us out. I speak from experience. I was married to this type of person for 10 years, not understanding why my life was so in chaos. This book helped me to comprehend how and why I was gaslighted. This is a term used in the book to explain how a person without a conscience uses deceit, manipulation, sympathy and guilt to distort your sense of reality, to where you no longer know what is true and not true. It's been a tough road to get my life back on track, but now that things are going much better for me, I realize that nearly all of the bad things that happened to me had little to do with me, and more to do with the things that he did. I made bad choices based on wrong information, lies, broken promises and the guilt he used by telling me that I was not a good wife for not helping (enabling) him. I was abused emotionally, psychologically, verbally, physically and financially. It did not start out this way, but happened very slowly and methodically by him over a long period of time. He was similar to the husband described in the book, the one who did not desire to work and made little efforts on his own, preferring to live off the sweat and hard work put forth by others. I would recommend following the advice Dr. Stout offers throughout the book. You do not know how deeply you are sucked in until you are all the way in, and then have to dig yourself back out. Protect your children, especially your daughters, from people like this, particularly men that they would potentially date or marry. Do not be afraid to speak up if something does not feel right. Actions speak louder than words. Learn to look at people's actions and see if their words match. The superficial charm and flattery that sociopaths and psychopaths use can cloud your judgement. I am thankful for everything I learned by my experiences. Once you go through something so bad, you recognize when you find what is good, and appreciate it so much more. We all have only one life. Make sure that it is the best that you can make it. This book will teach you how to do that.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this to be a highly readable study of a difficult subject-people without consciences-but in the end I was put off by its marshmallow spiritualism. Simply put, what does Buddhism and the Dalai Lama (however admirable) have to do with such an extreme condition as psychopathy? I felt a little as if I was standing in the Born-Again choir watching damned souls writhe in Hell. Dr. Stout's advice-Stay away from those in such straits. Well, yeah. More troublesome was the post-mortem and from-a-distance typecasting of everyone from Genghiz Khan to Charlie Manson as pure psychopaths. The concept that, while nature may make some people hard, environment may make normal people just as bad, seems lost on the author. There are conditions in life, including narcissitic personality, the affective disorders, plus plain old self-centeredness, that create effects quite similar to psychopathy. This, along with the possibility that a weak conscience under extreme conditions might lead to no conscience, (sociopathy), is not explored. Overall, a disappointment. Read Dr. Hare's WITHOUT CONSCIENCE for more concrete insights into the subject. The ultimate fictional account of the condition, one of the scariest books ever written, is William March's BAD SEED. Go to your library for this one-it's out of print- or see the great movie with Pattie McCormick.
Epicurean.Art.Lover More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me by one of my friends. I am extremely impressed with the knowledge and wisdom of Marth Stout. A very easy read, well written and an amazing book written sucinctly about the Sociopaths. Hats off to Lady Doctor Marth Stout! I wish I could meet this amazing and incredibly smart, talented and gifted author in person. A must read for all Psychology majors and Criminal Justice majors.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent read for someone looking for a light, quick understanding of sociopaths. They are not all criminals, and specially not scary looking. Now I know to follow my instincts. I recently dealt with such a person, for a short time thank God, however it did leave me feeling very disappointed and pretty 'mad at the world'. I can only image what years of such a companionship must do to someone. The book offers 13 ways to deal with a sociopath, the number one gets you to win half of the battle. Good stuff to know.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book fascinating although it took me a while to get into it. This book is easily read and written for the average person. I recommend it and would make my friends and family aware. You never know when someone sociopathic will cross your path and you need to know how to defend yourself. My reason for reading it was purely self defense, but after I got halfway through, I found out I had dated at least one sociopath. Also my good friend recently ended a 7 year relationship with someone we can now see was a serious sociopath. He used all the tricks on her, extreme flattery, compulsive liar, unfaithful, history of sexual harrassment, really didn't bond with his children, took advantage of everyone, from family to business associates, yet sought pity from everyone, and had no friends. That relationship drained and devasted her and left her wondering how she could have been so blind. But all along she kept ignoring her instincts and giving him the benefit of doubt, the benefit of conscience. I am sending this book to her in the hopes she can see that it wasn't her 'fault', and no, she is not dumb by any means. She just trusted someone who didn't deserve it and who was a master manipulator.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plainly stated and argued gracefully, the sociopath does not possess an aspect which most people have that make us legitimately human, and that is an actualized conscience - a voice, a feeling that guides us to do the right action, and not hurt our fellow human beings.  The single argument in this highly accessible thesis, the one that is down-right astonishing, (though not so after reading the reasons why) is that most of us "instinctively" know when there is a sociopath in our midst, but more often refuse to intellectually or rationally call them for what they are...why? The reason is that we would prefer to believe that the human being is fundamentally good, and pure evil is something rare or something beyond our day to day reality. On the contrary, there are people who move through their lives without a hint of guilt for their acts of harm.  Oddly these are some of the most engaging people we will ever meet. Sociopaths, Stout tells us, are as ordinary as a virus. An intimate association with a sociopath carries its own warranty of being a party to a train wreck. Sociopaths can feign every kind of emotion; yet they know but feral pleasures. Sociopaths find rewards in the hunt. Their joys are in conquest and winning. They understand love, but can't feel it. Hence, sociopaths are condemned like the Flying Dutchman of legend to cruise the shoals of real emotion as distant observers, never finding the safe harbor of family, lasting friendship, or love. Stout's work is especially useful for victims.  The Sociopath Next Door is a text for just about anyone interested in how evil, real evil operates and how to deal with them. Well written, highly recommend.     
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book wasn't written to cover all of the details of psychopathy - it was written to jolt the average reader into an awareness of their environment. In this respect it deserves 5 stars... if you are coming to this subject fresh it's going to be a shocker and it should be. Dr. Stout provides us with the awareness we need to recognize the sociopaths in our lives, and for that the book belongs in every home. (Politics? Really? I missed that. Of course, I thought she was talking about Clinton, not Bush. Ha!) One reviewer mentioned a disappointment with diagnosing political figures. I couldn't agree more. You can't - and should never - diagnose from a distance. But my impression was that she was giving examples of behavior that appears sociopathic so that the lay person recognizes it easier. I may be wrong. In any case, our understanding of these people is poor, and just beginning, Hopefully this work will spur some interest by the public. One of the strongest points of this book is that it looks at the average sociopath, and doesn't focus just on the serially violent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having had first-hand experience over a long period of time with a sociopath, this book really hit home with me. It's absolutely essential that EVERYONE know how to spot one and this book is a great starting point to help you along with that knowledge. Read this book and while you're at it, recommend it to everyone you know.
BookAddictFL More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I thought it was well-written, in simple language that anyone can understand. I liked the way the author wove her personal experiences into the factual information. I found the information both interesting and entertaining. Martha Stout gives us great insight into human nature.
Jenna Slade More than 1 year ago
Wow what an informative book, even if you have no psychology background .
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am fascinated by this book and plan to read it again soon. If you work or deal with difficult people who seem to find enjoyment in sabotaging your work and relationships then you will want to read this book immediately. The book is well written and the case studies are both interesting and, at times, chilling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not all sociopaths are alike. Just because someone lacks empathy and remorse does not mean that they do not act by some kind of moral code .  I do not have natural empathy. My mother was a bit of a flower child so I was raised in a home that valued empathy (although, my parents were divorced, and when with my father, things were different, to say the least).  The author paints us all with a very broad brush, and in the years since I've read it, I've grown to dislike it even more.  Some of us try. Just because I don't feel what you feel as a natural response does not mean I want to hurt you. It makes it easy for me to hurt you, but I'm not trying. In fact, I waste a ton of precious energy on trying to fit in and being friendly. It is very awkward.  And remember, none of us asked for this... Condition? Gift? Curse? I don't know. But when you're on a road trip with me, and you're driving and you hit a baby deer and the two halves of its body go flying in different directions and its guts get all over the grill, I will be there, in perfect mental faculty to not only drive your car to wherever we were going, but I'll even hose down the bits of intestine and fur from your car, my poor, sweet, sensitive, empathic friend.  We are not all terrible. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a way to open your eyes to another world that most people do not understand. I am a Master's student of Psychology and Antisocial Personality Disorder is a complicated world. This book puts it into a perspective that is easy for everyone to understand. My sister is a sociopath, and in order to protect myself from her, I needed to dislodge her from my life. I am able to connect to this book in more ways than one and am constantly recommending it as well as lending it out to people. Definite read!!
PatsyAnn More than 1 year ago
The information in this book is something I feel everyone should know about. I felt that it was not an easy read and a bit confusing at times. The book contains useful information about recognizing the sociopath in everyday society not just the serial killers on the news. You'll be shocked to find out that your idea of a sociopath might not be accurate. And even more shocked to find out that you actually have worked, lived with, or are related to a sociopath.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't recommend this book highly enough. I am a psychologist and it has been tremendously helpful in my professional like, as well as in my personal life. I have recommended it to several friends and patients. Easy to read and will really help you to understand those who you previously couldn't. It is very difficult for those of us who are not sociopathic to fully grasp and conceptualize the mind of a sociopath. This book will provide clarity, guidance, and healing. A MUST READ!!!
dkelly More than 1 year ago
I was blown away before the end of the first chapter and wound up reading the entire book in one sitting! Stout will scare you with her insight and knowledge on this subject... be prepared to see the world in a whole new light!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book for all to read. Informative and applicable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At once profound and down to earth, Martha Stout, clinical psychologist--specializing in victims of sociopaths--takes us through true-to-life case studies all the while interpreting the thoughts and emotions of the sociopathic personality as well as those of his or her victims. Sociopaths are often charismatic, beguiling, smart, and attractive, which just feeds into their need for control. Stout does all this in very readable style. In both plain and technical terms, she analyzes just what it means to live without a conscience--with no concern for others. Of greater importance, Stout illustrates superbly just how disrupive such lives can be to both the sociopath and the rest of us. One in 25 of us lives next door to one if not with one. They look just like us. Their behavior in public normally does not give them away. Nevertheless, Stout illustrates how to recognize and deal with these amoral creatures. She offers hope for the future from logic based on 25 years of clinical experience, not wishful thinking. The antisocial fringe will laugh at her book. The rest of us should read it carefully and absorb its lessons. They bear critically on our times, for history mainly recounts the misdeeds and too few deeds of this personality type when it holds the reins of power.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr Stout's compelling account of people bereft of genuine emotion and conscience is as important as it is beautifully written. The Sociopath Next Door is a gripping read about those who have are unable to know real remorse or love. Sociopaths are dangerous by definition. They live to control, manipulate, and win. Yet, strangely, they are some of the most interesting and attractive people we will ever meet. Sociopaths are gracious, charming, attractive, and a menace to all who come close. Stout calls them 'Ice People.' It's not that they are killers, or criminals, though some clearly are. Most are people we meet in everyday life: lovers, relatives, fellow workers, even parents. Sociopaths are incapable of remorse. Stout's advise is to stay away, wholly, completely. There is no winning and no compromise with a sociopath. The only safety is distance. Interwoven in these amazing narratives-composites taken from a long clinical practice and many years of luminous academic experience- is one of the best discussions of the nature of conscience to be found in contemporary letters. Stout's book has been as controversial as it has been successful. Perhaps it is her literary, philosophical or scientific and sociological range that confounds some. Or, maybe it is her hauntingly lyric language that puzzles others. For victims of sociopaths--and eventually, nearly all of us have had [or will have] encounters with people who turned out to be harmful, and were deliberately so--- this is an important book. Indeed, it is mandatory reading. By dent of the sheer prevalence of sociopathy [one in twenty five, at least¿male and female alike], we are bound to encounter sociopaths. Their only purpose is to use us and make us less. As sharks have to swim and feed, sociopaths can do no other than bring us low when it serves their interests. This book is an amazingly useful admonition. No book will ever serve you better or remain longer in the mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book after a year and a half recovery from a relationship with someone who I now believe to be a sociopath.  For those who doubt the book's, or subjects veracity I would say you've never been involved on a personal level with someone who has this disorder.  These are extremely dangerous people who appear to be genuine, caring human beings but really are missing empathy and the ability to attach themselves to others emotionally.  I personally suffered a nervous breakdown along with PTSD and severe depression from being in love with someone who had turned out to have almost every symptom of antisocial personality disorder.  I've read some book reviews that poke at some of the context of the book and its chapters on spirituality and so forth, but the ability to love and empathize is connected to the soul and these people were either not born with one or lost theirs along the way.  Also I've seen some remarks about the author stirring up paranoia over the subject, but again the subject and the people who possess this disorder are VERY real.  Life is a game control, manipulation, lying, and ultimately winning whatever they are after, whatever the cost, without regard for the damage and devastation they cause to other people.  If you've never had an up close and personal situation with a sociopath, consider yourself lucky and try and absorb the information in the book regardless, along with the other reading material mentioned by other reviewers.  It may seem far-fetched to you now, but if you ever become involved with one of the monsters in some way in the future may the material with help you pay a little more attention to the red-flags in you sub-conscience and act accordingly. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Our daughter's counselor correctly identified our son-in-law as a Narcissistic Sociopath. This book was good for providing insights on the behavior patterns of sociopaths. I like the stories about different types of sociopaths. We were able to identify at least 5 out of 7 of the traits in him. It helps while working on getting her out of the abusive situation and on with her life. The statistics on how many in our society are sociopaths is startling. If you suspect someone (boss, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, suitor, etc.) then read this book. Best advice: if they are, get away from them fast!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stout's book is written with astonishing clarity and great narrative strength. The book, in hard cover for over year, was a huge seller. And rightly so. No 'self help book' was ever so so compelling or useful to explain the inevitable confrontation we all have--or will-- with evil in some form or another. The Sociopath Next Door has a scary cover. But its purpose is not frighten us rather, it is crafted to cope by naming what otherwise might seem all but unfathomable. A winner of this year's 'Books for a Better Life' competition. The hard back became an instant classic, and will be rightly seen as necessary reading as long as there is otherwise inexplicable evil. An elegant book, filled with timeless truth and helpful guides to the mystery victims always ask: 'why did they do?' Stout's answer, is cold comfort and a hard, but essential truth: 'because they could.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be fairly redundant and felt she repeated herself constantly througout the book. Although some of the information was interesting I just felt like the book dragged considerably. Considering how interesting the subject of sociopathy is, she made is sound insanely boring. And although I didn't enjoy the book, I highly disagree that it has any political propaganda. She never mentions President Bush by name and I never once got the impression that she was even alluding to him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book and many others on the same subject. this one rated nothing compared to Without Conscience by Robert Hare