Can Psychopaths & Sociopaths Suffer?


We have covered in other articles how psychopaths cause significant amounts of distress and suffering to others with their toxic behavior, but can they actually feel suffering themselves? Do psychopaths suffer as normal people do?

As fundamentally hedonistic and shallow characters at the core, psychopaths and sociopaths are constantly looking to flee from any kind of legitimate anxiety and suffering. As a result they stay one dimensional and shallow right the way through their lives, never facing hardship and never growing or changing as a result.

They have often faced significant suffering and oppression in the distant past, which explains why they have turned away from facing any kind of real suffering. They have decided they want nothing to do with that anymore, and become extremely selfish characters who enter relationships purely for their own self serving needs, and not for genuine connection or mutual respect.

As a result of having power denied to them earlier in life, psychopaths have shut off from the difficult emotions associated with this, and instead project all their internal grief and anger onto the world at large. They often want revenge on the world for the way they have been treated by others. They make their problems other people’s problems.

Let’s look in more detail at the different characteristics of the psychopathic or sociopathic personality which make them averse to real pain and suffering.

Psychopaths Cannot Feel or Suffer in the Same Way as Others

A more fundamental barrier to psychopaths suffering is simply that they in a more general sense struggle to feel emotions in the same way normal people do. They tend to have a very limited, and in more extreme cases absent, emotional range, characterized by negative emotions like relentless boredom, occasional anger and envy.

They tend to be cut off from more vulnerable feelings and emotions like stress and anxiety, which normal human beings tend to have. They have lowered states of physiological arousal and so don’t tend to get anxious or stressed in the same way as normal people. See our article on whether psychopaths feel things like stress and anxiety.

In this sense, their emotionally deadened state somewhat immunizes them to suffering in terms of intense daily emotions. However, what replaces this is a more low level, underlying state of chronic unhappiness for the psychopath, where they are constantly bored, emotionally anaemic, disconnected from others and need constant stimulation and immersion in the material world to “turn them on”.

This explains the constant hedonistic tendencies of the psychopath, which we will go into in the next section. It also explains why they tend to take pleasure in other people’s suffering and unhappiness, since they are chronically unhappy themselves. They get a kick out of the fact someone else has been brought down to their level, since they can never feel truly happy themselves. This is classical envy and symptomatic of small minded people.

Hence, on an underlying daily level, the psychopath is suffering, since they remain disconnected from their own emotions and authentic relationships with other people. Their is a background dullness and emptiness there, which they seek to alleviate by creating drama, politics and distress for others.

However, instead of properly dealing with the deficiencies in their character, they choose to project their internal toxicity onto the world, manipulating, deceiving and causing suffering for others as a kind of vengeful compensation for their own misery and suffering.

“If I can’t be truly happy, then I’m not going to let anyone else be happy either. If I see happiness in other people, I’m going to destroy it because the world has wronged me” would be a good way of summarizing the psychopath’s mindset.

Psychopaths as Hedonistic Characters (Avoiding Suffering)

Another way of looking at this is that the psychopath or sociopath’s mindset is compulsively and extremely hedonistic. By this, we mean they are always looking to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

On the surface, this philosophy sounds reasonable. Who doesn’t want to maximize the happiness and minimize the suffering they experience? But the psychopath takes this idea to such an extreme that is becomes impossible for them to grow and change or hold down any kind of authentic relationships.

Suffering is built into life just as happiness as, and so at some point has to be faced if we want to live an authentic life. Sad things happen in life. People die, we lose jobs, we have other setbacks. It is often only by suffering that we learn, grow and change. Suffering is part of evolution.

The psychopathic mindset literally refuses to face any kind of legitimate suffering in this regard. They have a constant, low level underlying misery we mentioned above, but in terms of day to day difficulties or emotionally difficult issues or events, psychopaths constantly flee from properly dealing with any of this in their daily lives.

This will show up if you are in any kind of regular contact with a psychopathic character. There will be a shallowness and immaturity there in relation to suffering, difficulty and sadness that will stand out to anyone with human qualities and traits.

Here are some ways this rampant hedonism will show up with the psychopath or sociopath:

  • They don’t have emotional reactions to things they should, like the death of close relatives or friends, or other obviously sad events. They seem unaffected, or only very slightly affected by things other people would be devastated by.
  • Related to this, they don’t really feel the sadness of obvious injustices or tragedies in the news for example. They shrug it off or even joke and smirk about it. They don’t care about the suffering going on in the world.
  • In terms of personal relationships, you will notice the person values not you, but the feelings, experiences and stimulation they get when they are around you. They don’t value people for themselves, and drop them cold and move on whenever they stop getting whatever they were getting off the person.
  • The psychopathic character will also not be there to support others in times of sadness or need. They are gone as soon as the fun times stop. This is a huge one to look out for.
  • Psychopaths often underwork and overspend with predictable consequences, often behind on rent and bills and borrowing money from others.
  • In more general terms, they tend to “blag” and stumble their way through life, from one day to the next, never really planning or showing any kind of maturity and self control in the way they live their lives.
  • When their life is falling apart, instead of dealing with their issues, they turn away from them ever more strongly, keeping up the party “fun times” persona ever more. Instead of getting on top of their bills, they go out and spend even more money.
  • All these traits combine to mean that the psychopath never grows or evolves over time, staying stuck in a shallow, superficial mould. This will start to show up more as they move into their thirties and beyond.

If for whatever reason you are met with some legitimate suffering in your life, something in your family, or something is bringing you down… will definitely not be met with any sense of care or support from a psychopathic character.

In fact you’ll be met with the sound of bags being packed and taxis pulling up outside and ‘adios amigo’……..They don’t value you; they value the feelings that are awakened in them when they are in your presence…….You’ll find they’ll be gone from your life faster than the Roadrunner, the moment (these positive feelings they are getting off you) starts to head south.

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Psychopaths Often Come From Troubled Backgrounds

To further understand a psychopath’s relationship with suffering, it is important to acknowledge that many psychopaths have indeed suffered in their early lives. It is very common digging into toxic character’s pasts to find a history of abuse and trauma in their own upbringing.

All the psychopath’s destructive behavior can be seen as a projection of this unresolved psychological baggage onto the world. They think they have been wronged by the world, and that other people should suffer because they have.

There are a couple of problems with this mindset. Firstly, it is driven by envy, the most destructive of all the emotions. Instead of fixing and improving oneself, including wounding and trauma, envy instead just wants to bring others down to their miserable level.

Secondly, this mindset does not account for the difference between fault and responsibility. If it is indeed true that a psychopath has themselves been hurt in the past and made to suffer by others, then that is not their fault (incidentally, some psychopaths appear to display these toxic traits whilst on the surface having had a very loving childhood).

However, it is their responsibility to sort this emotional pain out, as with anyone else with a personality disorder resulting from poor upbringing. Psychopaths disown this responsibility and instead project all their unresolved toxicity onto others as a way of temporarily offloading it and making themselves feel better.

The psychopaths use this defence of psychological projection to such an extreme, that in their worldview, it is literally never their fault for anything, even when it clearly is. They are never at fault; it is always the world at fault for the psychopath or sociopath, hence the constant gas-lighting, invalidation and inversion of reality that characterizes relationships with them.

From this we can see that the psychopath has usually suffered in the past, but has now shut themselves off from this suffering by living a purely hedonistic lifestyle and disowning responsibility for any kind of growth or change.

Their lives are still characterized by a chronic, low level unhappiness, hence their destructive behavior towards others and their desire to also see others suffer.


I like to draw on my personal experience and research to write and raise awareness about pathological personalities in the modern world

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