Jodi Arias -- victim or sociopath?

For anyone keeping up with the Jodi Arias circus, you are aware that this salacious trial has it all. The accused is a 28 year old beautiful, sensuous woman, while the deceased is Travis Alexander, a 30-year-old handsome, active male, a motivational speaker who was seemingly living a strict Mormon lifestyle. That is, until he met Jodi.

The courtroom discussion has included: XXX sex, graphic audio tapes, pornographic photos, lies, secrets, jealousy, obsession, violence and the ultimate in dirty laundry -- both literally and figuratively. At times, the details are just too graphic to believe and the crime scene photos are grisly and shocking, and portray a love gone very, very wrong.

As a psychiatrist, the question I get almost daily is, “so what’s the deal with Jodi”? Is she a battered woman, an obsessive woman, a femme fatal or a sociopath?


Sociopath is the lay term for the psychiatric diagnosis called anti-social personality disorder. Below are the symptoms. With the understanding that I have not evaluated Jodi and that this is an opinion and not a diagnosis, let’s run through them and see if she qualifies:

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• Failure to conform to societal norms: Jodi has no respect for the law or the rules of society. She not only viciously killed another person, she openly and unabashedly sneers at the prosecuting attorney and the courtroom proceedings.

• Pathological lying: Ms. Arias has no problem lying. We've all seen it and know she's good at it. Sociopaths lie easily and keep their cool because a lie is not considered wrong or immoral. It's merely a way to get what they want. In the early stages of the investigation, Arias came up with three different lies for the police which explained what happened, changing her story as they disproved each.

• Manipulation, deception, and cunning: Arias hacked into Alexander's email and Facebook accounts. He found her hiding in his closet when he returned home from a date. She introduced him to sex, playing the submissive partner though she was actually dominant in order to control him. It is the prosecution's speculation Arias eventually filmed and recorded Alexander in compromising situations to blackmail him if he tried to leave her.

• Impulsiveness: A co-worker claimed Arias continuously called Alexander from work. If there was no answer, she would drop everything and leave to track down Alexander. She didn't care if she lost her job, as long as she didn't lose Alexander. Another point: while in the act of murdering him, Arias dropped a camera, and incredibly it snapped a picture of the murder taking place. Instead of taking the camera with her, along with the rope, the gun, her bloody clothes..... she impulsively threw it in the washing machine and ran it through a cycle. Miraculously, the images remained on the film.

• Irritability and aggressiveness: Arias was becoming increasingly irritable and when Alexander started seeing another woman she turned up the heat. She stalked, vandalized, plotted and then murdered. Twice she slashed the tires on his car. She sent a threatening email to Alexander's new love interest.

• Reckless disregard for safety of self or others: We do not have record of Arias disregarding anyone else’s safety at this point other than Alexander- she killed him or herself; threatening suicide when Alexander would try to cut the ties. Ultimately the person she killed wasn't herself, but Travis Alexander, the one person who consumed her thoughts, her life.

• Persistent irresponsibility: In her 20s, Arias worked at several dead-end jobs and was in and out of relationships, but nothing stands out. No convictions, jail time or other legal issues.

• Lack of remorse or guilt. In Arias' mind, Alexander was not a person but her possession. He took her to interesting places, and she introduced him to sex. When he tried to pull away, she would reel him back with ever more outrageous sex practices. Eventually she killed him so no one else could have her possession. At the funeral, she did not shed one tear. Since the murder, the investigation, the arrest and the trial, not once has she said "I'm sorry."

• Before age 15 and continuing, a history of  antisocial behavior. Here is the real problem with labeling Arias as a sociopath. This condition starts in the young teen years, if not before. It is a persistent and consistent behavior over the first three to four decades of the individual- some say for a lifetime. No one has come forward with any prior behavioral issues, legal issues, problems with work, family or friends. She was reportedly a very "good girl" in high school and very “normal.” At this time there are no known problems with previous boyfriends.

Jodi Arias, as you can see, fits the sociopath profile in many, many ways, except for the most important criteria. There is no past history. Based on this, unless there is much we do not know she does not technically meet the DSM IV criteria as a sociopath.

So, now the question is why did she do it? That's the million dollar question.

This is a case of a love that turned obsessive and toxic and brought about the ultimate betrayal. It had the signs: jealousy, possessiveness, and fear of another love interest. Arias was obsessed with Alexander, and he was rejecting her. HE was the one she loved. HE was the one who made her happy. HE was the one she wanted as a husband. Yet, HE wanted to leave the relationship, and she became desperate.

Arias was fixated on Alexander. Without him, she felt she was nothing. Desperate, as Alexander repeatedly tried to break away, Arias' love likely became delusional, creating the perfect storm of obsessive love in a fantasy, self–constructed world. At some point she made the decision she would kill him before she'd let him leave.

A true life fatal attraction, if she couldn't have him, no one would. Alexander was shot with a .25 caliber handgun. The same type of gun was stolen from Arias' grandfather's home shortly before the murder. Perhaps Arias went to Alexander's house that night prepared to kill him, but willing to give him one more chance.

They engaged in sex and afterwards Alexander took a shower. What they discussed is anyone's guess, but I suspect it included the other woman and the results were fatal.

Why? She controlled him before, but now she was losing control. He wanted to return to his Mormon roots and lifestyle. In other words, he could go on without her, but she couldn't handle the rejection. She had a twisted sense of love and she was not going to let him go.

Observing Jodi Arias on the stand is fascinating, and it has both commentators and professionals trying to make sense of what she did, only it's senseless. Still convinced she did nothing wrong, she was quoted as saying "No jury is going to convict me, because I'm innocent, and you can mark my words on that one. No jury will convict me."

Arias has rationalized Alexander's murder in her mind and she's sticking to her self-defense claim, despite inconsistencies and forensics that dispute her details. Some experts claim she's a sociopath and it would be easy to bend the rules and say she is close enough to the diagnosis. She lied, disregarded everyone but herself, manipulated, conned, deceived, took a life and refuses to express remorse. But all this occurred after she met Alexander. There was nothing before that.

The final answer is that there is no mold or diagnosis that defines Arias’s behavior. She was obsessively in love and was willing to do whatever it took to keep and control her man. Chillingly, this is a much worse situation, because there would be no way to predict this or ever see it coming. Not for Travis, not for the pundits, not for me and not even for Jodi, herself. A cautionary tale indeed, if you find yourself in an obsessive relationship.