Some reported no warning signs, but others said their partner was evasive; arrogant; excessively adoring; controlling and aggressive; had an intense but empty stare; or told sympathetic but far-fetched life stories.
When Jackson Mac Kenzie, now a 27-year-old IT worker based in Boston, was coping in 2010 with his own failed relationship involving a man he suspected of being a psychopath, he founded a recovery community he called Psychopath
It grew to 18,000 registered users and 16 million annual visits by 2016.
So many people simply can’t understand how they could get so deceived. About a year into her tumultuous relationship, Sandra found herself Googling the warning signs and came across one such forum, where many recognize the erratic behaviour that left them heartbroken and searching for answers. Once, after discussing graphic novels, he stole one of hers, later thanking her for the thoughtful gift. “It felt like I was high all the time.”The message boards, she says, felt like therapy or an AA meeting.
She now thinks that was “gaslighting,” a strategy of manipulation designed to make someone question their sanity. At one point she was spending four hours a day online.
(Sandra is a pseudonym, which the Star is using to protect her identity and the identity of others involved.)The pattern, she would later discover, is common and linked to psychopathic traits.
While pop culture — the TV show — suggests psychopaths are cold-blooded killers, there’s a growing awareness of the damage the subtler variety can inflict on others. According to victims, it starts with idealization, which could include personality mirroring and over-the-top affection.
That means about 27,000 people in the city of Toronto could be considered a psychopath.