People don't just wake one day and become a psychopath– typically there a signs early on. These parents recall the moment they knew that something wasn't quite right with their child. Content has been edited for clarity.
We Knew The Signs
“My sister is…something.
I was younger by 8 years, and as kids and into tween-hood she would constantly try to get me to do derogatory things, and then physically hurt me if I didn’t do them. She gas lighted me and others, a lot. She’d boldly lie, even when caught in the act, she could make up a story to make herself seem like the poor innocent victim, despite her being the instigator. She seemed to have no empathy and actively enjoyed seeing others in pain or being upset etc. She really liked to manipulate others.
She had a crazy temper where she would bite, scratch, punch, rip hair out, and self mutilate too. She gave my brother a bloody broken nose when she was just 12. She would steal, damage or throw away other peoples belongings just because, and to see the reaction and enjoyed the drama.
My parents were actually afraid she might hurt herself or others, and took to hiding the knives because she had made threats about stabbing others, and herself.
They tried to get her help with the family doctor, school teachers, and counselor etc, but again, she was very good at feigning innocence and pretending to be a victim. So even the doctor and counselors ended up thinking it was the home that was the bad influence and wanted to put her into care. My parents tried for ages, but when she was sneaking out of the house, and getting caught out after curfew, they finally relented to putting her into care.
From there, she just became ‘better’ at garnering sympathy and making herself look like a victim. She was constantly shuffling through friends, boyfriends, and having dramas with everyone. Anyone could see and witness the cycle play out after a while and recognize that she was severely unstable…but with every move to a new home, and every new set of friends and every new counselor or case manager, she was able to start the manipulation again and get these new people to believe the world just had her wrong and she was hard done by. This just happened until she aged out, and she continued to get away with stuff.
The last I heard she is with an equally narcissistic punk of a guy and treats her daughter like garbage and occasionally finds God and Religion.
It’s just sad.”
We Have Other Issues Now
“My 10-year-old son was diagnosed with Early Onset Conduct Disorder (juvenile version of Antisocial Behavior Disorder) at the age of 7 years old. He is literally a tiny sociopath.
There were two main incidents that made me take him for assessment- he started torturing our new puppy and he tried to smother his 2-year-old sister with a pillow.
One of the common themes to many of the comments here is extreme violence. My son wasn’t VIOLENT. Rather, he would act out physically with a complete lack of empathy, but never with any malicious intent. He was usually ‘playing’ when these incidents would occur, rather than do it in anger.
He would also lie, steal, and manipulate. The manipulation was the worst behavior. Watching a 5-year-old child pretend to cry to get, say, a chocolate, and when it didn’t work seeing their dead eyes fix on you as they went from ‘crying’ to angry trying to get their way. Super creepy.
3 years and a lot of therapy later (for him and also for me to lean how to effectively parent him), and we are in a much better place. He has other diagnoses now also (ODD, ADHD and Speech/language impairment). I still need to keep a super close eye on him and can’t leave him alone with his sister.”
I Had To Give Up
“I’ve suspected a mental problem with my oldest for years. He is 24, we’ve had no contact for over a year.
He pulled some stunts last year that nearly got his younger brother killed. He showed no remorse, was extremely manipulative, abusive to his injured brother. I banned him from my home and my life unless he got mental help. He refused.
My ex kicked him out of his home because he refused to get a job, and was sitting in his underwear playing online all day, not showering or brushing teeth or shaving. When (before the incident) he would come over, he reeked, was dirty, his breath was unreal. He has health insurance and dental coverage. I can trust nothing out of his mouth. He is emotionally abusive to his girlfriend. He has no remorse, and doesn’t give a care that both of his parents and his two siblings have thrown their hands up.
I love him, but I’m not having my adult son live on my sofa and bringing his circus into my life. My ex and I divorced in 2011 and my oldest has used this as a weapon against both of us ever since. I know my son isn’t right, but I cannot do anything about him to help. He’s refused counseling since he was 12.”
An Earlier Incident Left A Huge Impact
“Not my kid, by my sister’s. My niece was beat up by her daycare teacher as a kid. It was horrific, the lady would scream and grab her by the face and throw her on the floor.
Ever since then, my sister and brother in law have decided not to discipline my niece whatsoever. She bites, punches, spits, etc. Now I might just say this is an undisciplined little girl, but it’s her reaction to hurting other people that makes it so creepy.
Like last year, I come home for a weekend before Christmas, and my sister says ‘Hey come over help us pick a tree and decorate.’ Sure, no problem. Everything’s going great, I’m chatting with my niece and nephew sitting between them in the back seat, when all of a sudden my niece swings her arm as hard as she can across the car and almost broke my nose. She was quiet and smiling the whole time, kept swinging her arm trying to hit me in the face. She was trying to hurt me and that smile and look was the weirdest thing I have ever seen in a kid’s eyes.
She was 7 then, and her little brother was 4. Sad thing is, he follows her behavior, and he was trying to kick me.
One time when she was even younger, she asked to play with my Rubik’s cube and I said okay and handed it to her. She walked across the room to where my dad was sitting, showed him the cube, then started bashing his kneecaps with it as hard as she could. My heart breaks for that little girl.
I Just Know It Somehow
“While I don’t have the official doctorate to diagnose my sister as a sociopath/psychopath, she fits the bill pretty well– charming and pleasant on the surface, but a manipulative snake in the grass that wouldn’t bat an eye if you jumped off a skyscraper in front of her, so long as you weren’t of some use to her. She doesn’t really feel things, just apes them when the situation calls for it.
The first time I really noticed the completely detached demeanor where the mask slipped was when we were kids, waiting to be picked up in after-school daycare. I was playing with my best friend at the time, running around, doing dumb kid stuff. My sister was bored; all her friends had already been picked up. So, as my friend ran past her, she just nonchalantly knocked her legs out from under her. My friend landed on her wrist, and instantly, we both knew it snapped. She was sobbing and cradling her wrist, so I rushed over to help her up and walk her to the supervisor. All the while, my sister was cackling.
It was creepy as heck to see that my own flesh and blood would purposefully hurt someone for entertainment.”
Kill The Rabbit!
“My brother is totally a psychopath. The first sign? He tortured animals all throughout our childhood before he moved on to abusing humans. He started with the usual kid burning ants with a magnifying glass, then when that didn’t make them hurt enough, he moved on to burning them with matches and a lighter he found.
There was a hole in our grass and a bunch of toads fell into it at one point. When he was around 9-10, he took great pleasure in throwing the toads against the brick wall next to our house and laughed and laughed when they weren’t able to hop away after.
When we were teenagers, we went for a ride on my uncle’s farm with a couple of my cousins. As we were zooming around in the truck, we came across some rabbits and immediately my brother aimed for it and started maniacally yelling ‘kill the rabbit’ like a famous cartoon and laughed with such force when he managed to kick it to death from the bed of the truck.
This guy is now in the sheriff’s department of my home town.”
Look Out For That One
“I’m just waiting out to see if my niece is incredibly spoiled or will grow up to be a serial killer. Her parents show more love towards her than her siblings (she was the first child), and say yes to everything she wants.
This one time she was visiting my house (I live with my mom in another country) and for some reason my mom had given her a boiled egg, which was nowhere to be found. I asked her if she ate it, she said no. Did you throw it away? No. Did you hide it? No. Then what did you do? ‘I don’t know, I’m tired.’
At this point, I was getting angry because she wouldn’t answer. I didn’t care if she ate it or not, but she kept making up different lies to the same questions. In the end, she stopped answering and just stared at me smiling.
She clearly doesn’t care about anybody else and constantly lies about being sick or tired for the stupidest things. I saw her hit my cat and asked her why she did that, she said the cat had been mean to her. The cat was sleeping– I was there, in the same room.
I went to visit my sister this summer and we ran into one kid’s teachers, she warned my sister to be careful because her kid is very manipulative. My sister laughed it off.”
This Sounds Familiar
“My God-brother was such a sweet toddler, but as he got older he got more manipulative and violent.
In particular, once when I was babysitting him, he chased me around the house with a huge knife from the knife block and wouldn’t stop until I locked myself in my room. This was the last time I saw him, since I refuse to be involved with him any further. He was about 10 when this happened, and leading up to that he had been violent towards me, slapping, hitting, throwing coins at my head, etc.
Now he’s 15 and is finally at a special school after being suspended/expelled from every other school he’s been enrolled at. His mother still refuses to acknowledge that her son is less than perfect, and instead insists that the school system/his victims have treated him poorly. He terrifies me. It’s awful to say, but I know he’s either gonna shoot up a school or get offed by the police. It’s exactly like We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
Definitely A Strange Girl
“I’m not too sure if psychopath is the right term for this, but I’ve met this small child a few years ago. She was 8/9 at the time and I was 16.
She was the grandchild of our neighbors at a camp site in the south of the Netherlands. We were very close with the neighbors and occasionally they brought their grandchildren. This girl was just really insane, I remember sitting in my front garden and she walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to see her private parts and if she could see my ‘organ.’
I told her that that’s not okay and that you should never ask someone that and that it is very dangerous. Also, I was kind of embarrassed since I was afraid that people around us could hear what she asked so I told her to just leave.
Later on the day she ran into our front garden while we were eating completely unclothed and she told my parents that we agreed for her to do that. I asked her why she was lying and she whispered in my ear (everybody could hear it), ‘I just wanted to have fun.’
I have no idea if this counts, but I’m glad we don’t go there anymore.”
His Face Just Looked Wrong
“When my son was a baby. I’m being serious here, like a newborn. I’ve never told anyone this before. His dad and I both saw this at separate times. When my son was a newborn, his face changed from this cute innocent baby face to this monster, scary looking face that scared the living bejesus out of me. I didn’t say anything. The following night the very same thing happened with his Dad. He told me, I told him. We’ve never told another human being until now. That was almost 15 years ago.
I didn’t know at the time THAT was the moment something is not right with my child, but looking back now I know. There were a lot of tell tell signs starting even as a baby that something was wrong with my child, even from childbirth. I just thought I had a difficult kid with ADHD.
By the time he was in the first grade he was diagnosed with ODD and I was told he was destined for prison as an adult. Not out loud, but I told that doctor where to shove it (it is a hard pill to swallow being told your kid is messed up no matter how true it may be). It broke my heart. I tried treating my son to best of my ability with all the help in the world from the school, friends, mentors, etc.
His mental health progressively got worse and well, he will be 15 in a couple of weeks and despite how hard I tried, he is already in jail. He gets out in March. I try to have hope every single day that things will be different when he comes home, but the letters I read don’t indicate that.
For Some Reason, I Get Blamed
“I am no parent, but my half-sister is certainly on the spectrum of psychopathic.
She is 6 years older than me and as far back as I can remember she would abuse me any chance she had.
When babysitting me, she would physically assault me. Not like hair pulling and general scraping. She should dig her nails into me until I would bleed for her amusement. She would force me to watch violent and graphic material. I was about 7 or 8 when my parents found out and put an end to her babysitting me.
After that, she went through a phase of self mutilation for about 4 years. And would during this time force me to watch her or threaten to kill herself and in a suicide letter blame me. Being the little kid I believed her and thought the police would take me away. Oh, the ideas she put into my head. At one point when she was 16, she wanted to go out drinking with friends at about 10:00 pm on a school night. Of course my parents who cared about us and wanted us to be educated said no. She proceeded to take scissors and slice down her arm to rebel. She blamed me, a 10-year old in part for not covering for her when she was arguing with our parents.
Weeks later, to spite them again, she told the police our parents had been domestically assaulting and physically violent to both of us every day. When the police did come that day to inspect the claims and asked my sister to show them the bruises, she admitted after a few hours it was a lie to embarrass my parents. It worked; they were embarrassed. She walked around smiling so much next few days like she had done a good deed.
She would also tell me things to manipulate my head and try to fill my head with delusions of what people say about me and what I should say to people. She tried to manipulate me telling me mom and dad are brainwashing me into thinking corrupt and horrid thoughts without me realizing.
As I started to age, I began to question all those years of manipulation. However, it was difficult to talk to my parents about as anything messed up my sister did was shrugged off as ‘Because she has depression she does XYZ’ or ‘She does not mean those things. She says and does those things because of depression.’
To this day, my parents do not know I have depression. If they found out they would blame themselves like they blame themselves for my sister having depression, which is why I don’t tell them. If they did know, however, they would realize a high functioning responsible person with depression does not scapegoat his problems on depression and nor should anyone else. My sister needs mental health help for undiagnosed problems beyond just depression.
When I was about 12, I was moving to Australia to live. To spite us and try to change my family’s plans of moving, my sister, who was going to join us decided to get pregnant to a guy she met less than a month prior. Less than 24 hours before we were about to leave she left her pregnancy test on her bed for my mom to find.
She ended up not moving and, surprise surprise, the random guy she met in the bar was abusive and wanted to spend his life drinking and fighting. Shocker! Called us timing it so we could get the call at hours we were sleeping every other night. After 9 months of this when we found out the baby was being hurt and could finally afford it we moved back because of her.
She was very happy we did but soon after refused to let us see the baby unless my parents did this or that for her. Mostly give her money for things or take care of the kid. Some time later the province took away the kid and since the kid was about 3 and my parents have taken him in. My teen years were a careful balance of hanging out with friends and raising a kid 1/3rd of my free time. Not complaining, I got a lot out of it too.
Over the next 10 years I grew more and more distant. My sister spent these years scraping by working the streets doing substances. No surprise I felt better without a sibling in my life. To this day my mom keeps trying to guilt me for not being close with my sister.
My sister. The person who failed high school, failed college, had a kid in her teens, has since had an additional 2 kids. Has to keep asking my parents for money to raise her kids.
Meanwhile, I have completed high school with honors, completed multiple years of college, never had a kid, never abused or assaulted anyone or thing. For this vast difference in our life choices, my sister managed to manipulate my parents from me having control over the assets once my parents pass (as I have never had money problems) to my sister having a secret % of control. I was honest with my parents. I advised them I would use the assets to pay off any debts owing and pay 50% of the assets to my sister over several years to avoid her over dosing on substances at the beginning.
She is somehow in control of my future. I know she has in the past used her infant kids lives as bargaining chips against my parents to force their hands. If all this is not signs of a psychopathic personality, then I am really not sure how to gauge mental stability.”
Now He Has To Be My Caregiver
“At age eight, I found my eldest son had a book about antique weapons in his room and was showing an obsessive fascination about swords and how to protect himself. This was becoming a common theme in his conversations almost daily. He would keep ‘stabby things’ close to the head of his bed within reach at night and I wouldn’t allow him to have any weapons back then. At this time, he also began having restless legs and restless arms (both problems). We’d tried Melatonin and natural methods to help his body rest.
As he became a teen, he began purchasing sharp knives/swords and learned how to sharpen complicated blades. He was always traveling with a knife in his pocket at all times (we also tried weed at this time, without relief). He got caught with a penknife/switch-blade while in high school. This kind of weapon was illegal in California and we had to go to court which put a misdemeanor on his public record and it showed his arrest at age 17, which further complicated all job attempts. He was unable to return to court to have it removed. As his Mom, I refused to go do it for him (I thought it was important he figure it out).
After graduation from high school, he stopped interacting with others in person– staying home around the clock and allowing few friends to visit. At that point, I began to see an intense fear of other people was surfacing and he became argumentative and withdrawn. He began wearing all black and stopped bathing on a regular basis unless told to do so (he finally put himself on a bathing schedule).
He remains Agoraphobic (an intense anxiety disorder that keeps him housebound). I’ve kept him in behavioral therapy since. He is only comfortable leaving the home if I, his Dad, or brother are with him, so I still spend a part of my time sitting in the waiting rooms with him. As long as he sees I am still in the lobby whenever he gets nervous, he remains in therapy. I also keep my cell phone on me at all times for him.
When we left California, it was with a lot of drama. A month ago today, he’d have trouble sleeping and had to be admitted for observation (strange behaviors, bordering on bizarre, including a threat to leave home– he actually removed food from the freezer to take with him as he was trying to leave and left my kitchen table full of frozen meat to put away). In the weeks leading up to his, he’d prepared a ‘bug-out bag’ in case he needed to leave home, only then did I discover he’d not been sleeping for three days. I took him to the ER who transferred him to a treatment facility out of our area and they put him on strong sleep medications, watching him or a week to make sure he got some sleep. Our life has more or less gotten closer to ‘normal’ again.
As a result of this event, I’ve removed doors from my room and his to prevent him baring access to his room. We put a fabric panel up instead for privacy. His room in very close to mine in the home. While he was gone, I discovered he’d taken my weapon and it fits in his new ‘bug out bag.’ I removed the weapon and it’s out of sight and reach.
I’d had a stroke in 2014 and he’s been my primary caregiver since then. He’s my primary encouragement to stick with my rehab! We really have no choice but to take care of each other. His younger brother has PTSD from his time in Iraq (he watched his best bud get decapitated from enemy fire while sitting in an armored transport together. My son was unharmed physically, but the emotional damage and around the clock heavy fighting took its toll on him). The sounds of backfire on a vehicle or fireworks makes his life awful. Lucky for us, my two sons get along decently and the eldest son is willing to spend whatever time necessary with his younger brother to keep him calm.
My younger son won’t talk with me about the deaths he saw or caused, but will speak to his Dad. Their Dad and I divorced 25 years ago. I’ve insisted he remain in contact with our sons in spite of my strong hatred for the man after giving me an STD (he is unable to remain faithful to me or any of his successive other four wives). The man is a major skirt chaser (as was his own father).”