This is a guest post written by Sandra L. Brown, M.A.
Sandra L. Brown, M.A., is the CEO of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling with a former specialization in personality disorders/pathology.
She is a program development specialist, lecturer, trainer and community educator, and is recognized for her pioneering work on women’s issues related to relational harm with Cluster B/Axis II/Sociopathy/Psychopathy disordered partners. She has taught Pathology Profiling to law enforcement, the judicial system, criminal justice professionals and the mental health/domestic violence fields.
Sandra is an award-winning author of the books Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm with Psychopaths, Sociopaths & Narcissists , How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved and Counseling Victims of Violence: A Handbook for Helping Professionals.
You can find out more about Sandra’s work at Safe Relationships Magazine and the upcoming www.adultcyberstalking.com.
“Who Does That?” Understanding the Mental Disorders Related to Cyberstalking
The challenge to understanding cyberstalking, as well as online defamation and hacking, is getting one’s head around the concept of who does this and why. The lack of understanding of the issues related to cyberstalking, as well as deficiencies in emotional support, legal interventions, and public recognition of the problem, is largely related to the lack of recognizing the disorders of the stalkers. This has been the same problem in acknowledging many other behavioral maladies of our society.
Who abducts children? Who commits repeated acts of domestic violence? Who rapes? Who steals stock options and millions from investors? Who abuses the elderly? Who hurts animals? While these appear to be different behaviors, they are all behaviors often associated with the same types of disorders that are related to stalking, cyber stalking, defamation, and hacking. When we are successful in linking the behaviors with the disorders, it’s easier to understand the motivation behind the behavior. It’s easier to answer the question “Who Does That?” and “Why?”
If we stand outside of the disorders associated with cyberstalking, defamation and hacking, we get lost in only viewing the destructive behavior of the extremely disturbed. We miss the ability to link and label the disorder and its normal sequences of behavior. It’s the ability to “link and label” that give us the best chance of understanding what cyberstalking is, what it is generated from, and who is doing it.
Our goal at The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education is to help survivors heal from the aftermath of exposure to pathology that is associated with the disorders that generate the behaviors listed above. The Institute’s primary earlier focus was related to helping people be able to spot the destructive behaviors in their relationships that are associated with permanent and unrelenting pathology.
However, since our own agency’s issues with victimization from cyberstalking, hacking, and defamation, our outreach has grown to include public pathology education about stalkers and their connections to the same type of pathology as seen in other criminal behaviors such as domestic violence, physical stalking, and abuse. (Our stories and the stories of others will be included on our site soon.)
Overt and Covert Forms of Pathological Behavior
Overt forms of pathological behavior are rarely questioned for the obvious mental health disorders that they are. For instance, few would argue that mothers like Susan Smith or Andrea Yates who drown their children aren’t terribly disordered. But the covert crimes of “drowning a reputation or business” on the internet may go totally unrecognized as pathology.
Those that shoot people they don’t know, or commit a drive-by shooting like the “Beltway Snipers” Muhammad and Malvo in the Washington D.C. and Virginia areas, clearly have pathological motives. While snipers shoot people they don’t know, cyberstalkers and defamers can destroy people they never met. Criminal profilers would rush to develop a psychological profile of gun snipers, but rarely are psychological profiles developed of “Internet snipers”.
The mafia which controls how other people run their businesses, who retaliate against witnesses testifying against them or extort money in exchange for non-harm, are monitored by the FBI and State Attorneys as criminals. But members of the “Internet mafia” which controls how other people run their businesses, who create defamatory websites when witnesses testify against them, and who extort money in exchange for non-harm are not prosecuted or recognized as criminals. There is no witness protection program for cyberstalking and defamation victims.
The deranged that break into homes to beat the elderly for money, like Phillip Garrett who terrorized those in assisted living facilities, have a notable bent of sheer brutality. But that brutality would not be noted in the deranged who cyberstalk or cyberharm the elderly. The elderly victim would be dismissed as “not understanding the internet” or having early dementia for feeling threatened online, and the pathology of the attacker would not be nearly as recognizable in cyberstalking as it would be in a physical assault.
Terrorists who commit the taking of hostages and psychological torture like the infamous Stockholm Bank Robbery (which resulted in the coining of the term Stockholm Syndrome) are identifiable as probable psychopaths, but cyberstalking victims who develop Stockholm Syndrome due to their stalking victimizations are not identified as victims of probable psychopaths.
Who would argue the pathology of gang members or thugs like James Manley who murdered my father are highly disordered? But gangs of cyberstalkers who stalk together are rarely pegged as the pit of pathology that they are, or recognized for having an online gang mentality.
Serial killers like Ted Bundy who raped and killed at least 36 women leave no doubt that he was the worst-of-the-worst psychopaths. But cyberstalkers and defamers who have ruined the lives of equal numbers of others are often unidentified – or when identified, are not labeled with the diagnosis that helps us identify the swatch of devastation they have left behind.
Cult leaders who lead hundreds to death like Jim Jones remind us of the power and persuasion of pathology. But the power and persuasion of the Internet in the hands of the highly disordered is not recognized for its own version of cult recruiting.
Re-offending domestic violence abusers like O.J. Simpson convince us that not all domestic violence is fixable and that some some abusers’ brutality increases with each crime and are obviously disordered. But re-offending stalkers and defamers’ behaviors are rarely labeled as individuals exhibiting escalating criminal behavior.
The overt forms of pathology through criminality are recognizable by most of society, and many would agree that these people are horribly disordered and possible life-long dangers. Their overt criminality is the guiding definable behavior that points to their probable pathology, but in cyberstalking, hacking, and defaming where criminality is rarely pointed to, pathology flies under the radar along with prosecution and restitution.
Even professionals in the criminal justice and mental health system have difficulty naming the mental health disorders most associated with cyberstalking and online defaming. With little inroads being made into linking and labeling the behaviors with the diagnosis, is it any wonder so little is being done in the legal arena to stop these predators? Without the understanding of how this type of pathology manifests itself, it is unlikely the criminal justice system will have any interest in the long range and repeating behaviors of most cyber stalkers.
Low empathy is at the core of a cluster of pathological disorders that correlates to “inevitable harm” when it crosses the paths of others. Low empathy has its roots in reduced conscience, remorse and guilt. Without empathy, pathologicals find pleasure in harming others and enjoy seeing the physical or emotional destruction of others.
Sadistic, absolutely. But often sadistic behind fictitious names, a slew of proxy servers, or a spread sheet of online identities.
Getting On The Same Page About Who They Are
Why aren’t these pathological disorders that cyberstalkers have being better identified? That is the million dollar question since the main judicial, social, and mental health systems of our society deal with this particular cluster of pathological disorders day-in and day-out. Even if they are never identified as crimes, the fact is that the disorders associated with cyberstalkers and other societal abusers represent the majority of white- and blue-collar crimes that cataclysmically smash in our lives.
Unfortunately the reason society has not cohesively named this cluster of pathological disorders as the center of their focus is that each system has its own view of the specific behavior associated with a pathological’s disorders. Perhaps surprising to some, the pathological disorders are often the same disorders, whether emanating from a cyberstalker or rapist. While it might be assumed that there is a wide margin of behaviors separating cyberstalking from a vicious rape, the disorders that are commonly seen are often the same cluster of disorders in both groups, as well as child abusers, batterers, bank robbers and Wall Street swindlers – disorders that are earmarked by low empathy, pleasure in harming, and often the deviancy of hidden identity.
Consider the different labels that are used to describe attackers and their victims:
– Law enforcement calls them bad guys (if they are even caught)
– Mental health systems call them patients
– Domestic violence organizations call them abusers
– Batterer intervention programs call them perpetrators
– Criminal defense attorneys call them clients
– Sexual Assault centers call them rapists or sexual offenders
– Financial structures call them swindlers
– The online world calls them trolls
– Victims call them predators
– Children and adolescents call them cyberbullies
– The swindled call them con artists
– The judicial system calls them criminals (or not, if they are never identified)
– The church calls them evil or unredeemed
– The website owners call them hackers
– The defamed call them cyberstalkers
– Parents call them pedophiles
– Jails calls them inmates
– Prisons call them high security risks
– The FBI calls them targets and terrorists
As each system deals with its own view of the specific acts a person has committed, its easy to miss the broad category that these people fall under. We miss the bigger implication of what goes within that category. We miss the fact that those who fall under these pathological disorders normally have far more destructive behaviors than cyberstalking, and that cyberstalkers often straddle the worlds of online and offline deviancy.
But when we ask “WHO does that?”, we immediately become partners. We begin to see the “who” within the act, the disorder that perpetrates these same acts, behaviors, or crimes. It’s the same sub-set of disorders that have different focuses but the same outcome: inevitable harm.
Flying Under the Radar
How convenient for pathologicals that each system is only focused on its identified behavior. Instead of seeing the big picture of pathological disorders in action, the systems are focused on the sub-directory of behaviors associated with their system and one small aspect of the pathologicals destructive nature. For most large systems, cyberstalking and defamation are small potatoes compared to the other behaviors and crimes they are used to seeing, crimes such as domestic violence, pedophilia and child abuse. Cyberstalking victims are often told that what is done to them is small in comparison to other crimes. The systems fail to see that cyberstalkers are just as disordered as child abusers and that if we are concerned about the future behaviors of child abusers, we should be concerned about the future behaviors of their like-disordered sibling, the cyberstalker, because in fact they have the same or similar disorders. But in the end, we’re seeing the same disorder, just with slightly different faces, over and over again.
Who Are They?
The commonalities that these disorders of “inevitable harm” share is that they often fall within what is called “Personality Disorders.” These disorders consist of three clusters that share overlapping permanent and persistent symptoms related to impulse control, reduced empathy and conscience, emotional regulation disorders, a lack of fear of consequences, pleasure in harming others, and a reduced learning from negative experiences.
These disorders fall under “Cluster B Personality Disorders” which consist of:
Histrionic Personality Disordered * Borderline Personality Disorder * Narcissistic Personality Disorder * Anti-Social Personality Disorder (and associated disorders of Sociopathic and Psychopathic Personalities).
When I teach about Cluster B disorders, I see the moment of “aha” that comes across the faces of law enforcement, mental health, and judicial professionals when they recognize their own clients. Learning the emotional, physical, psychological, behavioral, financial, sexual and spiritual behaviors of these disorders quickly helps them to affirm what kind of person does that. Looking across the room and seeing law enforcement, judges, therapists, and mediators all nodding in agreement rushes them into the center of reality that we are all dealing with the same disorder in our offices, court rooms, therapy offices and pews. That whether they are a defamer, cyberstalker, repeat domestic violence offender, a financial con artist, or a killer, we are still talking about the Cluster B of disorders.
When asking my audience of sexual offender therapists if any of the pedophiles AREN’T within Cluster B, no one disagrees. When asking batterer intervention programs if the chronic repeaters aren’t Cluster B, no one balks. When asking forensic computer professionals if trolls, cyberstalkers, defamers or bullies are Cluster B, they readily affirm it. Sexual assault counselors agree that rapists are largely Cluster B. Judges don’t rush to disagree that high conflict cases (those people who file case after case, as many as 60 times to court) aren’t Cluster B. Mediators don’t disagree that those most likely to fail mediation are found within a Cluster B. Custody evaluators affirm that those most likely to tamper with evidence, perpetrate parental alienation and require supervised visitation are Cluster Bs. Stalking programs can easily see that stalking is primarily committed by Cluster Bs. Repeat criminals clogging up jail, probation, parole, and prison programs are often diagnosed within jail as a Cluster B disorder. Terrorists, school shooters, and bombers are easily identified as Cluster B.
Those who stay for years and years in counseling using up mental health resources without ever being able to sustain positive change are Cluster Bs (excluding here the chronic mental illness of schizophrenia or developmental disabilities). Those prematurely discharged from military service are often Cluster B. The overuse and misuse of most major societal services and systems are related to Cluster B. Some of the most brilliantly contrived insider-trading crimes of the century has been planned and executed by Cluster Bs. Are there many murderers that don’t have Cluster B?
WHO does that? If we take all the behaviors listed above (and often crimes from those behaviors), put them in an analyzer funnel and watch the behaviors clink and clunk down the spiral Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders identifier, it would spit them out in a file with Cluster B printed on the front.
Cluster B’s behaviors are generated out of a complex interweaving of emotional, developmental, neuro, biochemical, and even genetic abnormalities. Obviously, this is not a simple disorder or there would be less “inevitable harm” associated with everyone and everything they touch. This complicated group of disorders single-handedly sets society on edge. It keeps us in court, in therapy, in prayer, in the lawyer’s office, in depression, in anxiety, on edge, on the offense and sometimes even willing to end our lives simply to be away from such menacing, yet often normal appearing, deviancy.
Who wreaks more emotional havoc than Cluster B’s? 60 million persons in the United States alone are negatively impacted by someone else’s pathology. In cyberstalking it drives people to therapy, to commit their own petty acts of revenge to avenge their own powerlessness, drives people to drink, to run away, to get offline and never look back, and sadly leads to uncountable amounts of suicides every year especially for teens being cyberbullied.
These groups of disorders single-handedly cause financial disruptions to the working class who are demoted or go on disability because of attacks they’ve suffered due to too much Cluster B exposure.
Cluster B impacts the legal market. It keeps attorneys in business through never-ending court cases, it employs judges and prison systems, and it keeps forensic computer and forensic accountants frantically busy. This level of pathology also funds domestic violence shelters, rape centers, and children’s therapy programs.
In other words, pathology is big business. It is what our large service systems in almost every field are driven by the need to protect, defend, prosecute, or treat the effects of Cluster Bs.
It employs threat assessment professionals to ward off stalkers and online reputation defenders programs to repair cyberattack damage.
It drives TV, radio and talk shows. Cluster Bs are often the persons on daytime TV and reality shows. Who do the media often want to talk about in the celebrity world? The Cluster Bs. What kinds of crimes does the media flock to? The crimes often perpetrated by Cluster Bs.
It drives the medical field due to stress-related disorders and diseases normal people develop as a reaction to the abnormal pathology of Cluster B behavior.
Surely pharmacology is partially driven by medications for depression and anxiety perpetrated by the no-conscience disorders of Cluster B.
It generates new products every year to track, expose and identify Cluster Bs who are hacking computers, sending viruses, or putting chips on phones and cars to invade others lives.
While clearly pathology generates jobs for many, it is still the single most destructive group of disorders that exist. And until all the major systems – judicial, legal, and mental health – get on the same page, we will continue to be stuck in this maze of pathologicals flying under the radar, undiagnosed, unrealized and wreaking havoc in millions of people’s lives.
Jennifer Hancock says
Wow – very powerful. When I was dealing with a stalking, my main reason for seeking legal help really was to get my stalked psychological medical help. Because I understood that was what was wrong and if it went untreated, it was going to continue to impact me and whoever else the guy was stalking in addition to me. Thanks for putting a label on it because it is much needed.
If you define brvaery in terms of the number of times ones seeks confrontation intentionally, then yes brvaery could be perceived as being affected. If you define brvaery in terms of intensity i dont beleive it is affected beyond natural levels that would normally be displayed in any given situation.I don’t believe brvaery is reduced or increased beyond your natural tendencies. however, you may choose your battles more carelessly when suffering from anxiety disorders. This is basically due to being more sensitive about life. we tend to focus on the more unimportant things. This is not to say you will become more aggressive or less aggressive. Thinking time on what aggravates us is certainly increased, being unfulfilled ect. But from person to person, it will be different in terms of increased aggression, outward confrontation, inward bahaviour or avoidance, however, in general, behaviour is usually increased in either inward or outward behaviour or eradic bahaviour. But the level of brvaery attached to any given situation i dont beleive will change beyond what you would normally do in that situation.Please contact me if more help is needed, i have a lot of experience in ocd through personal experience.
Sabine Faustin says
The person who is currently cyberstalking me was correctly identified as a person with a Cluster B personality disorder, mainly narcissistic personality disorder, and in response to this “outing” she has gone on to exhibit all the characteristics attributable to her disorder. Can those with Cluster B disorders be rehabilitated? They have to WANT to be rehabilitated and most often, they do not.
The answers by yeye and efx suhold help so I wont go into it to far as there onto it. There is one proses that I would like to add and that is the proses of thought. First of we get the thought, second we wrap the thought with emotion, then if we can get over our emotions our mind can move into seek and search, and then we can take action either say something or do something, and then we have created knowledge or knowing and that’s the 5 step proses of healthy thought. We can get stuck in a loop of think and emote and this is were we can become anxious . We also have Primary and secondary emotions like needs and wants they are two different emotions you may need a operation but I bet you don’t really want one. So learn to take control of your thoughts and don’t get caught in emotion it can stop us from seeing the clear picture. I hope this helps in understand how our mind works through understanding and acceptance we can move forward.
Gregory Gibson says
Hi Andrea. Im glad you’re involved in this and taking a stand. Im right beside you 100%. It was/is good to meet you and I hope we can talk again.
I like the description above referring to “Cluster BS”…it fits. 🙂
To me, this is still the gold standard definition of the personality type you are trying to define:
THE SMEAR CAMPAIGN — TRADEMARK OF A SOCIOPATH
a.k.a. Anti-Social Personality Disorder or Psychopath
lf you are under libelous attack by a person who has deceived and defrauded you, there is a possibility that the person is a sociopath. Sociopaths have no heart, no conscience and no remorse. They will lie, cheat and steal from you and then tell everyone that it is all your fault.
It is impossible for healthy people to imaging how a sociopath thinks. Try for a moment imagining having no conscience? The best way to sum it up is “You are not a person to a sociopath”. The shortest route between a sociopath and his or her agenda is a straight line, regardless of who or what stands in the way. A personality disorder is not an illness per se; it is simply a disorder. Many mental health professionals will tell you that apart from a miracle of God, they cannot be treated or cured; they are programmed for life.
“Since their information — including emotional information — is scattered all over both brain hemispheres, it takes too long for the brain to retrieve and process information, and the entire process of socialization becomes so ponderous that ultimately it fails.”
(From the book “Without Conscience” by Robert Hare, PhD.)
Carolyn van der Linde says
There is an extremely dark side to this kind of thinking. Having been a victim of domestic violence, stalking and repeated character assassination due to an extremely abusive prior marriage I would like to add something. Any time that people begin throwing mental illness out as a reason for criminal behavior there is going to be an enormous problem. First of all, it simply isn’t true. Second of all labeling a person with a diagnosis without proper valuation is condemnation prior to investigation and does more harm than good. After seven years of over 29 lawsuits leveled against me in the custody battle from that marriage and a court system riddled with lawyers that was more than happy to say that I was at fault since I did not have as much money, after years of stalking, loss of jobs, friends and even family support through that absolute hell I have to say I disagree. Pointing a finger and calling it someone else’s mental illness and therefore someone else’s problem is like trying to treat the problem with the same thinking that created it. If you want to end this sort of thing get the police to set aside their egos and actually do their job. It should never be up to a police officer to decide who is telling the truth. If there is a mandatory arrest, then discipline an officer who tells the husband to go for a walk instead and cool off- as if that will do anything but prolong the abuse. Nobody disciplines the police when they absurdly choose to take the place of judge and jury. I can’t tell you how many times I would be told that the reason they don’t press charges is because the women never show up and then, when I would show up, then I was called a slut, gold digger, ‘victim’- in a nasty way with a sneer. I was not believed. The DA would not prosecute a valuable member of society. (Anglo Saxon professional male.) This happened over and over and over and over and over. Nobody believed me until one night I fled. I drove 2,500 miles away in the middle of the night and I told no one. One month later I was accused of multiple crimes against this person until they found out it would have been absolutely impossible if any of the laws of space and time as we know them are real. Finally, they stopped harassing me. Why didn’t they believe me? Because during our divorce he hired a woman to “diagnose” me with these cluster B type things. It has taken me ten years of therapy to undo what that woman did. Ten years. Be very very very careful before you start slinging mental illness diagnosis around like mud. It is the worst way that I can think of to destroy another person. Please. Just consider- what if you are wrong? What would the effect be on a person’s life? And if a person is not careful, running around saying such things about other people or supposing that all offensive people are somehow mentally ill, is many times more dangerous than the original stalking- taking an individual atrocity and turning it into a pandemic. Labeling people is not an answer. It’s part of the problem. If you really want to fix the world, you gots to start with yourself.
I agree, start with your self.
But then, who will defend us against the unfair brutes, when we cry for justice and they have no conscious, they will always win, telling their own truth and leaving you emotionally and financially destitute. I was fortunate, I paid attention before a real commitment was made.
The fact remains there is illness of the emotions, and millions walk around undiagnosed. Children involved only gives them leverage with their lies and there ultimate goal to simply win, with out regard for you or the children. I have no answers, it is probably next to depression and anxiety, one of the greatest tradgedies of our existance with one another.Gard your heart and mind feircely my dear. No labels, but reality dictates.
Raquel Aceves Padilla says
Hi Ms Brown,
I had the chance to be lucky when I talked to you over e-mail after I bought your book “How to spot a dangerous man” I cybertalked with my ex husband be married for 10 years. We cybertalked for 2 years phone and internet, I came to met him and was the same after two and after I was engaged, with no money to return to my country(I’m from Mexico City)I regret the kind of stubborn I was trying to find the “man I met online” and I only put 10 years of suffering in my life that has ended in a nasty divorce second time with a DVO and I swear forever, he is still chatting with women with different names, and what is terrible and they are still believing in them. I was the 14th couple in our room in yahoo married, the only one with bad luck was me. Now is not possible to play that game. I would to talk with all the women of the world but we do not hear and that is very sad. I do not stop talking about it even with my daughter, they still think that I am still very hurt of what happened to me and talking wrong and misjudging people for my own experience. Anyway, the purpose to come to you was to thank you for the immense lessons you have offered me in your book and now I shared with friends in a way they can listened to have them considered the benefit that I am right and they could be more cold minded in their relation when is not going good because of the abuse, hardship, and depression moods common and in a wrong relation. Thank you, thank you.
Raquel Aceves Padilla says
I want to correct one of my lines
1. After the very first two weeks engaged and have met him, with no ticket to return to my country; the reality of who was he started
2. My ex still chatting with different names with other women, and what is terrible is that nowadays women are still believing in cybertalked when now is public and open to everybody how cyber talking is turned bad to anybody. When I started wasn’t that bad but my profile was the perfect one to be fished by his kind of fishermen.
Perhaps we could discuss a situation in which the previous relationship with the sociopath ended, then he convinced his current relationship to move in across the street. No stalking necessary. He has convinced her to hate me with out question (no communication between us, this is best), so she will not know of his sickness from me. He is extraordinarily patient and careful, guarding his every action with rational, even the befriending of my boy friends ex-wife. Each day I am reminded of his treachery.Fortunately, Erich and I choose each day not to play his superficial ‘reality T.V.’ game. The pressure is great sometimes, it helps to have silly nicknames for him (3rd grade, the disease,the pod, an anachronism for ‘peddler of discontent’). I know it seems childish, but it is only between us, and we find a sense of humor helps tremendously. He is a scarey creature, he will cover the truth of who he is as much and as long as he can.We won’t expose him because he will just twist it. One day I will move, but I have responsibilities here and no money to either move or to get help for PTSD. It really isn’t a matter of being brave, just poor. I will keep my integrity and character intact regardless of this emotional brute. Erich has been patient, even to the point of not saying anything against him and wanting me to discover on my own what he really was. That was a traumatic moment. My compassionate , empathetic nature still gets to me, but I trust less. And I now know to ignore Dempsey (no matter how many times he try’s to,covertly, break through my battlements) is to love myself.