Therapists and other mental health professionals see their fair share of crazy. It's something they are trained to handle on a seemingly daily basis. However, there are times when even the most seasoned therapists encounter a patient who shakes them to their very core. These are a few of those stories.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
"I've worked with several psychopaths. The most disturbing one was an ex-military guy. He had completed several tours in Iraq in the early 2000s and had killed people in the line of duty. He always seemed a bit off, but he told me one story that confirmed to me that he was, in fact, a sociopath. He claimed that he would do things like kill goats because families depended on livestock to survive. He also told me about making starving children fight over candy. He talked about watching kids fight to the death with rocks over candy he would throw on the ground. Awful, scary stuff. This person is currently a free man.
The second was more of a 'stereotypical' sociopath. He was arrested for possession, and during the arrest, he stabbed himself a few times while trying to stab the arresting officers. He was intelligent, but intentionally choose the life of a dealer because it was violent. I don't think he ever actually killed anyone, but he abused people. He dealt speed and enjoyed power tripping by messing with desperate addicts. He would make them do gross/painful/awful things to 'earn' their fix. He was also the only antisocial person I've ever met who had a weakened pain response. He once stabbed himself with a pen to prove to me he 'didn't feel pain.' And I mean like a legit, buried the pen in his flesh, blood everywhere stab."
"I worked at a juvenile detention center for two years. This center was the most secure facility in the state for young offenders. Part of my job was managing the child violater treatment program. This included weekly rounds, individual sessions, and groups. Often during groups or individual sessions, the residents would tell their stories in an effort to brag or earn respect from other inmates. I could always tell I was working with someone with an anti-social personality disorder when they would smirk or grin during certain parts of stories during their one-on-one sessions.
One kid, 16, described a woman cutting his grandmother off in the checkout line at Wal Mart. This offended him as he respected and loved his grandmother. He told his grandma he was leaving the store and would be home within an hour. He followed the woman out to her car, pushed her inside of her vehicle and violated her in the parking lot to repay her for offending his grandmother. The inflection when detailing out the event was flat. The only emotion displayed was when the client began to tell me he was late getting home and was upset that he disappointed his grandmother.
The second kid, 15, told me about how he was wondering one day what it would be like to have power over someone and see them terrified, so he left his house and went to a nearby neighbor, an older woman in her 40s, who he found attractive. She opened the door as she knew him and he held up a large knife and forced her into her car. He drove her to a nearby wooded area, tied her hands together, and cut her throat. He stopped his story to explain to me he was careful to superficially cut her throat so she would not die. He wanted to see her fear. He then got up and walked home. Not long after, police knocked on his door, and his mother answered. The reports state he casually walked down the stairs and told his mom, 'They are here for me.'
I once had a new resident come in, and I was conducting a pre-group screening session with him for a program for child abusers. During these sessions, residents are required to detail crimes, charges, and concerning behaviors. Having already reviewed this resident's file, I was aware he had a long list of offenses, and part of his treatment was to disclose all victims as he only named a few. At one point in the interview, I asked the age range of his victims. He was 16 and told me he had forcefully been with women as old as 60 years old (his own grandmother), and some so young they 'were not old enough to talk.'"
"I used to work in a group home for children with severe behavioral problems and psychiatric issues. Several of those kids had diagnoses of anti-social personality disorder (APSD), but I was always skeptical because that's a hefty label to give to a young child.
And then I met Adam. This child was 6 years old and beautiful. He was perfectly behaved, but many of our residents had a 'honeymoon period' of normal behavior for a couple of weeks after intake, so we were waiting for him to show his true colors, behavior-wise. His honeymoon period lasted eight months. None of the staff knew why this kid was there. His dad wasn't in the picture, and mom was serving time, and foster care wasn't working out, which is why we had him, but we didn't have any issues with him at all during those eight months. He was a perfect patient.
Then one day, something changed. I took the kids outside to ride bikes, and the second Adam was out the door, he ran to the backyard, grabbed a kitten, and killed it. The boys' bedrooms were in the basement of the house, they had windows that were on the ground level outside, and he saw the nest of kittens from his window. I was horrified and brought all the kids inside. He calmly told our facilities manager that he had no idea what I was talking about, and looked so confused that the manager questioned me, and I had to get the dead cat. I was visibly upset, and Adam just looked at me and grinned.
That was the first of several similar moments. Adam would instigate aggressive behavior to initiate a restraint. Once in a restraint, our procedure was to hold the child for 30 minutes. If they weren't calm at that point, the on-call nurse would give them a sedative to calm them down. Adam loved needles and offhandedly mentioned once that it was his goal to get one shot a day. In another incident, two staff had to transport Adam into a secluded area because he was violent. During the transport, something happened, and Adam cut his foot substantially. We went to get the nurse, and when she came to help him, he was laughing, digging at his cut to make it bleed more, and writing on the wall with the blood.
Most of our children were wards of the state, but Adam's grandparents came and visited him. The other kids would be jealous, but Adam would (quite convincingly) act like he didn't know his grandparents, and then later he would taunt the others who never had visitors. When I left, he gave me a picture he drew of me. It was a typical little kid picture, but there was an X over the mouth, and the eyes were scribbled out. I asked him why he drew me that way, and he said, 'You don't deserve eyes because I don't like it when you see me. You don't deserve a mouth because you say things I don't like.'
I still work with kids with severe behavior problems, psychiatric issues, and severe disabilities. I love them. I have worked with hundreds during my career. I STILL think about Adam."
"I worked in a locked inpatient psychiatric unit for 5 years. I saw many things that scared me but the most bone-chilling patient I ever worked with was a handsome, charming 35-year-old man we will call Mark.
On our unit, if you told your nurse you were actively suicidal, you were placed on a 1:1 meaning you had a staff person assigned to you at all times to be in any room you were in to make sure you didn't hurt yourself. Mark nonchalantly came up to his nurse this particular day and stated he was suicidal and needed to be assigned a staff personnel. Even though we knew that he was lying, we had to provide him with a 1:1. I was the only available staff person and was therefore assigned to him. He asked me to walk 'laps' on the unit with him. I said sure.
As we walked he asked seemingly meaningless questions about things like my favorite food or holidays I enjoy. I am always cautious about giving out information and felt his questions were harmless. About an hour into our walking he commented that He gathered I care deeply for others. Then took his head and smashed it through a glass window. Blood gushed from his face and glass was stuck all over his head. We had to transport him by ambulance to our emergency department.
Two days later he returned back to our unit, medically/physically cleared. Upon coming back he came up to me to apologize for 'scaring me', winked, and walked away. I fully believe he caused pain to himself to put that ever terrible visual in my head and scare me into knowing that if he could so easily hurt himself, he could do the same for others."
"I was an intern during college at a non-profit that worked to keep children with their parents. We were working on a case where there had been extreme abuse by the stepdad towards two little boys, a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old. Anyway, kids were removed from the home after the mom was found unconscious from a beating and dad had strung up the 2-year-old by his neck on the ceiling fan for punishment because he wouldn't stop crying.
The stepdad was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and the mom received custody of the two boys, now aged 12 and 10 years. We hadn't been working with the family for some time when the mom called us and said she needed help with the 12-year-old, who had become violent and out of control. We asked what is going on, and she said he kept putting his younger brother in harm's way (telling him to grab something out of the oven with his hands or taking him out in the woods and leaving him there). There were also issues at school with conduct and being mean.
We implemented a reward system and let the boys choose their own rewards for every tier they moved up. The prizes started small, and as they did more chores or went more days without getting in trouble at school, the rewards got bigger and better. Both boys wanted to play baseball that spring, so we told them that if they went a month without getting in trouble at school, they could play in the local league.
A month went by, both of the boys were perfectly behaved and did everything asked of them. We showed up with a surprise of baseball equipment. The mom was also very excited about the improvement in behavior, so she got them a 6-week-old kitten.
The day after we gave them the baseball bat, the 12-year-old tied up the 10-year-old and made him watch him beat the 6-week-old kitten to death with the baseball bat. The kid had no remorse, and when his mom came home, he was sitting there watching TV covered in the kitten's blood with his younger brother hysterically crying. The mom immediately called us, and we had to put him in a psych unit, in which he said he was disappointed and thought it would be more fun to kill something.
Last we checked in; he was still in the unit three years later with no improvements. He was the scariest child I've ever met."
"I am a nurse in the mental ward at my local hospital.
A patient I gained a lot of trust with once told me about this person he and two others tortured to the brink of death. I remembered seeing the case on the news, where I saw he was sent to prison. He proceeded to go into the details about the torture, which included making hundreds of cuts to the person's body and giving them an acid bath.
He claimed the person had violated a girl with Down Syndrome in his neighborhood and the torture was his form of payback.
This guy was in our ward for about a month because he continually threatened to commit suicide if were discharged. After weeks of knowing him and gaining some form of trust with me, he ended up admitting to me that he had made up the lie about the girl because he didn't like this guy because of an argument years back.
The thing is he stood trial as a minor and threw his mates under the bus, claiming they were the instigators and that he was just going along with it. His accomplices are still in jail."
"They came into the hospital after making a suicide pact with someone and didn't follow through with it and the other person completed. Acted really broken up and said they felt guilty about it and seemed genuine. It was all an act. Later on, during the inpatient stay, they made another suicide pact with another patient who then told us about it and said the sociopath was pushing them to come up with a plan and pick a date to do it. Apparently, they had done this with like 3 other people and getting admitted to psych units was their way of finding vulnerable people to target."
"I work in a residential substance abuse program. I don't take offense to most clients behaviors; they are in the midst of their addiction, and they're trying to get better for any number of motivators. I've worked with convicted murderers who were remorseful and great to work with, but I've also had some cases that didn't work out too well.
After approximately 30 minutes talking to with one patient during intake, I could tell how well he might be able to manipulate those he believed were 'dumber' than him, and he stated as much. He mimicked my language and posture, spoke eloquently, and was extremely charismatic. But something was just off. I took note of this and moved on. As he continued in the program, it became more apparent. Everything was someone or something else's fault. Failed relationships, his addiction, his inability to hold jobs; he had no accountability or responsibility. My client even blamed his brother for getting upset after my client had stolen his car in the dead of night and drove it into a ditch and abandoned it; then he lied about it and stabbed his brother for being 'annoying.' He manipulated other clients and staff, and was good at it, except for a few of us who would call him out in group sessions or through behavioral contracts.
He was my individual client, and during a session, I was challenging him because there were inconsistencies in something he shared. Then he finally came clean. He was HIV positive (I was aware of this). He contracted HIV by cheating on his partner or sharing a needle; he wasn't sure. He had discovered he was infected before his partner's return. He sought treatment and then didn't tell them at all. He still hadn't at the time I stopped working with him, and I believe they are still together.
Additionally, he shared that he sedated this partner, who had a family history of substance abuse, for his own pleasure. The partner would have severe 'anxiety attacks' afterward. You could see his whole body light up in relaying these stories. He laughed when he stated that he couldn't believe that they believed and trusted him. He had a complete disregard for others.
He completed treatment by going through the motions and is now out in the community. He is young. I have a strong feeling that at some point he will move to even more malicious acts, and I wouldn't be surprised if he kills someone in the future."
"I had a patient who was a great kid during the day but would torture his foster sibling and videotaped it at night. He loved being the 'good kid' in the house during the day and 'didn't understand why Jimmy would scream and hit so much.' Meanwhile 'Jimmy' was his target at night but non-verbal and couldn't tell anyone.
This kid was always kind to the other foster children, and so only Jimmy was his prey. In front of the foster parents, this sociopath seemed like a model teenager. Finally, a video surfaced through sheer dumb luck, and now the kid is in jail. No one believed it until they saw the video. He's handsome, charming, and will ruin lives because his youthful offender status means he won't have a criminal record.
I am confident that this young sociopath will grow up to use his foster care history to seem vulnerable and pull in a woman to torment and manipulate."
"My dad is a psychologist. Back in the '90s, he was working as the director of psychology for a large housing and treatment facility for the severely mentally disabled. He wanted to get into doing some therapy sessions for non-disabled folks on the side, just to mix things up and stretch his professional wings a little. Our house had a home office 'wing' with a separate entrance, so he decided to start seeing a few patients on the weekends.
This plan lasted about three weeks before he realized that he'd made a terrible mistake.
One of his patients, a colossal man, began visibly melting down during a session, pacing around the office and acting increasingly erratic. My dad's thoughts turned to the fact that his wife and three kids were now in the same house with an unstable giant. My dad slowly positioned himself by the door in case the guy tried to bolt for it. The guy noticed this, pulled out a weapon, and said, 'Don't worry, if I wanted to hurt you or myself, I would have already used this by now.'
My dad utilized the same skills that he knew from working with violent patients at his main job to talk the guy into putting the weapon away. He escorted him from the premises, and never saw another patient at home again."
"I am a foster care therapist. My state requires children in foster care to undergo therapy.
One of my patients, a teenage girl, came into foster care purely for her own misbehavior. She was an only child, and both of her parents had essentially disowned her after her repeated false claims that they abused her. She 'disclosed' horrific details that sounded straight out of 'Criminal Minds.'
She was placed with a great foster family. Her foster mom worked at an elementary school, and her foster dad was older and on dialysis. He was really sick, although it wasn't obvious at first. There were two other teenage girls in the home as well.
Our girl stole some headphones from one of the other girls and lied about it to foster parents, even after they found the headphones with her belongings. So the girl got agitated to the point of foster parents calling our agency for crisis services. We could hear her in the background of the call screaming. We got to the house, and she was on the front lawn SCREAMING that the foster dad violated her. She was literally laying on the lawn, screaming, 'HE VIOLATED ME! HE VIOLATED ME!' A neighbor had called the police who arrived not too long after we got there. I sat down with her and a cop, and she proceeded to tell us that her foster dad grabbed at her chest at the dinner table when it was just him and her. She said that when she got up and said no and walked back to her room, he chased her to her room and forcibly held her down and violated her multiple times. This poor sweet foster dad couldn't even walk the length of the house without losing his breath. There was no possible way for this to be true. She declined to go to the hospital. Her foster parents were inconsolable. We all know this was untrue but rules are rules, so we had to move all three girls that night. It was difficult.
So this girl went to a different home. All is ok, right? Not even 12 hours later, the new foster parents found her with blood running down her arms. She had cut herself in a 'suicide attempt.' The new foster parents freaked out, an ambulance was called, and she was rushed to the hospital. The case manager couldn't go, so I had to go it alone. The hospital was an hour and a half away from our office. When I finally go there, she was laying in the ER pretending to sleep. The foster mom told me she barely cut herself but squeezed a bunch of blood out and rubbed it all over her arm to looked worse than it was. The foster mom left, so now it was just the girl and me.
She was eventually evaluated by a hospital social worker for psych treatment and told them she was fine and just wanted to go home and that it was just overwhelming being assaulted by her foster dad. The social worker asked me, and I told her that the girl was lying and that she was doing this for attention. So the girl got angry at this and began to scream again that I'm hitting her. We were in full view of the nurses the entire time, who saw I was not hitting her. I began to get a little worried because if she reported me to my licensing board, even if it were proved untrue, it would still be a major fiasco for me.
She was eventually medically cleared, and I had to drive her an hour and a half back to my office to find her a new foster home. The girl caught wind of this and refused to get in the car with me. I said fine, I'll outwait you. Two hours passed. I called the police. They couldn't do anything. Three more hours passed. The girl said she wouldn't ride with me because I would lie and accuse her of doing something bad. Then she said she would jump out of the car if she had to ride with me. Three more hours passed. We were in the ER for 11 HOURS at this point.
She finally agreed to go with me. We got to the car, she opened the door and bailed out. We waited TWO MORE HOURS until she finally got sick of it and got in the car. She then proceeded to spend the entire car ride saying the most hurtful things I have ever heard.
When we finally got to the office, I could have kissed the ground. She ended up exiting foster care and going to live with her grandmother, the only family member who hadn't disowned her because there was not a single foster home in the entire state willing to take her."
"As a former kindergarten teacher, I can tell you about a student with concerning behavior.
On the first day of school, she was all snuggly like a 5-year-old who hadn't quite reached the level of 'I'm almost 6 and about to start school' sass which usually sets in. She followed me around like a duckling, talking, bubbling with joy. Then I had to go to another group and help younger students, and I told her I'd come out and play later.
She seemed to accept this and went back to the playroom with her peers. So I sat down with the 4-year-olds, and a few of them started playing, and I started lifting them up in the air. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the 5-year old girl from earlier peeping through the glass of the door, but she was gone before I could wave.
Later on, we all went outside to play, and I was once again with the older group. 'Lets play,' the girl cheered and dragged two friends and me across the yard to a remote corner.
We tossed a ball, and I did some magic tricks, but after a while, I heard the other teachers calling out the names of several younger students, and I told her I had to help.
The girl was furious, telling me they were ruining her fun.
It turns out she had locked half the group of younger kids in a shed, and keep in mind this was in Norway in February, so even though they were dressed warm, their tear covered faces were freezing.
The school was not unfamiliar with her acting out. Her dad had left about a year earlier, and she had been a bit unstable since."
"I once had a patient that made me feel scared and panicky to be in the same room. Part of being a therapist is you build a solid client-therapist bond, and there's a lot of empathy/openness in the room, so things can get quite intense and emotional. With this guy, I felt like a trapped little animal in the room with a dangerous predator.
He had no remorse for his actions. He'd slip in remarks meant to impress/threaten, then look somewhat annoyed when I did not react. On the outside, he looked normal and seemed ok, but after talking to him for a while, there was this emptiness that I found quite disturbing.
In a group therapy session with his wife, he casually admitted to domestic abuse in the same way someone would admit they left the hall light on by accident. He mentioned it in passing, and seemed to be more like, 'Oh, for God's sake, this isn't even worth mentioning. Why did I bring this up? I'd rather be talking about myself' rather than 'I tried to strangle my partner.' He just didn't care.
I remember just nodding and remained calm while drawing a giant exclamation mark on my notes. I made it through the session somehow, then immediately told my supervisor and had him transferred to a different counselor.
I've honestly never been so scared of another individual just from a 'vibe.'"