From the U.S.: Alright, I am a male just shy of thirty. When I was fourteen years old I began having severe anxiety and have dealt with OCD since I was a child. I realize that OCD enables us to imagine things, which may be the case here. I have an uncle that is a psychopath. I realize that psychopaths aren’t wired to feel anxiety or irrational thinking, which, the anxiety alone would preclude me from possibly being a psychopath, but am still worried about the possibility of sociopathy.

There are a host of reasons that I feel I am not antisocial/a sociopath, which consist of: 1). I have never mistreated animals. I love animals and have several pets. 2). I have never engaged in truancy, arson, skipping school, running away from home, destruction, never stolen anything, 3) I have never had any problems with the law or felonies or misdemeanors. 4) I was always obedient and never argued with teachers, professors or superiors, 5) I have never intentionally hurt anyone on purpose, 6) I feel I have a conscience because one time when I took my frustrations out on someone else I felt badly for mistreating them.

Now, the reasons that I am scared I might be consist of: Since I was a kid I have always been a liar, which I still am. I never intended to lie to hurt anyone. My lying has always been because I have had low self-esteem and lied about my accomplishments or to make myself look better. Or lied to my parents about my grades so they wouldn’t be angry with me. My motivation for lying and unfortunately, continuing to do so, has been either because I am ashamed to admit the truth about myself or to keep others from being angry with me or to avoid facing something that worries me.

I do feel I have a conscience because it has bothered me over things I have done, but unfortunately, my conscience doesn’t bother me as much as it should about lying. I do want to stop lying now, which hopefully means I am not a sociopath. But, I have done unbelievable things through lying and deceit. In fact, one time I made a facebook profile and had pseudo friends to appear popular and well liked, and ha lf of what was posted was a lie. I know aliases, are part of sociopathy, but am hoping that use of aliases in sociopathy pertains to frauding others, and not for my motivation which was to look popular or appear to have friends. I have also been irresponsible at times, which I hope doesn’t pertain to following a life plan. I am a college graduate and have plans for graduate school.

The other thing that concerns me is I know sociopaths/psychopaths have “dead” eyes. From the time I was a kid until about 25, my eyes looked caring in pictures. I haven’t taken any recent pics, but took a few the other day, now at almost 30 with a cell phone, and my eyes looked empty and detached. Not sure if that’s an effect of the old flip phone camera or what, but am concerned with my history of lying and deceit, and possible empty eyes that I could be?

Any insights would be helpful since I cant stop worrying about this.

A: Thank you for writing. You’ve got yourself in quite a painful spin. Let’s see if I can help.

From what you wrote, I don’t think you are a sociopath. I do think you are averse to conflict, that you have limited social skills and that you suffer from low self-esteem. The combination has led you to develop a “cover” for yourself; an alternative reality of someone who is socially skilled and has high self-esteem. As you are finding, it is very, very difficult to keep such a cover going. Lies have a way of coming undone. Sometimes it may even be difficult for you to know when you are lying to yourself.

Fortunately, this is all fixable but you probably can’t do it on your own. (If you could, you would have done it long ago.) I highly recommend that you get into therapy with a licensed mental health counselor. Bring your letter with you to the first session. It is an articulate and honest description of the problems. With the support and advice of a counselor, you can develop a high enough self-esteem and become more confident in your social skills so you won’t need the deceptions.

Please — give yourself the gift of a course of therapy. You are obviously smart. Writing here was a good first effort. now keep it going. Get on the phone today and find yourself the help you need.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie