O.J. Simpson is being called a 'narcissistic sociopath' — but what exactly is that?

Korin Miller

O.J. Simpson is back in the news after Fox aired an interview Sunday night in which the former football star gave a “hypothetical” explanation for the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. The interview was conducted in 2006 but never aired — until now.

O.J. Simpson at his parole hearing in 2017; he was released after serving nine years of a 33-year prison term for a 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping. (Photo: Jason Bean-Pool/Getty Images)

In it, the former football star, who also wrote the book If I Did Itwhich described how the murderer would have committed the crime, tried to proclaim his innocence but said things like “I remember I grabbed the knife” and “everything was covered in blood.” Simpson was tried for the murders of his ex-wife and Goldman but was found not guilty in 1995. In 2008, Simpson was imprisoned for an unrelated armed robbery and kidnapping in a failed attempt to recover sports memorabilia from two collectibles dealers. He was released in October 2017.

Fox executive producer Terry Wrong revealed in a teleconference, according to Fox News, that the families of the victims were aware of the footage and gave the release their blessing. “Their thinking is, ‘We know he’s free again. We know him, and we think he’ll hang himself in this interview by implicating himself, so let’s see it,’” said Wrong. “Let everybody see it.”

In the interview, Simpson speaks hypothetically about what might have happened on the night of the murders. He says that he was hypothetically accompanied by a friend named Charlie and thought that his ex-wife was spending time with questionable people.

“This guy Charlie shows up, a guy who I recently became friends with,” said Simpson. “And I don’t know why he went by Nicole’s house, but he told me, ‘You wouldn’t believe what’s going on over there.’ And I remember thinking, ‘Whatever’s going on over there, it’s gotta stop.’”

Simpson mentioned that he always stashed a knife in his car “for the crazies.” He then said that he, his ex-wife, and Goldman got into a hypothetical confrontation outside her home. “As things got heated, Nicole fell and hurt herself,” he said. He then said that Goldman “kind of got into a karate thing.”

Simpson then claimed, “At that time, I think Charlie had followed this guy in, to make sure there was no problem, and he brought in the knife. I took the knife from Charlie … and to be honest, after that, I don’t remember, except I’m standing there and there’s all kinda stuff around. Blood and stuff.”

Simpson then said, “It’s hard for me to describe it. I didn’t think anybody could be murdered the way they were without everybody covered in blood. We’ve all seen the grisly pictures after. Everything was covered, would have been covered in blood… It was horrible. It was absolutely horrible.” Again — this is all “hypothetical.”

People had feelings about the interview on social media:

The word “sociopath” is thrown around a lot, but what does it mean, exactly? By definition, a sociopath is a person who doesn’t adhere to the rules and norms of society, licensed clinical psychologist John Mayer, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Worth pointing out: “Sociopathy” is not an official diagnosis in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the handbook used by health providers to diagnose mental disorders.

However, licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, PsyD, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the term is “used to describe a cluster of clinical characteristics.” The DSM-5 generally defines these traits as antisocial personality disorder. “Clinicians still use the term ‘sociopathy’ to describe a set of behaviors and attitudes that have at their foundation a profound lack of empathy for others and a willingness to harm others for personal gain,” Clark says. “This profound lack of empathy is believed to be the reason such people can create so much suffering in others without remorse.”

Narcissists are focused on their own needs, but unlike sociopaths, they care a lot about what other people think of them, Clark says. “Impulsivity and aggression are also not typical of narcissistic personality disorder,” she adds.

People who are sociopaths don’t usually seek treatment on their own, Mayer says, but they may be urged or forced to do so by family members or the law. However, since sociopathy is considered a personality disorder, treatment for it is “difficult, and some would say not even possible, since there is little motivation to change behavior,” Clark says. “Sociopaths do not feel a need to improve their behavior unless forced to do so.”

Treatment, if someone actually undergoes it, usually involves cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy that takes a person’s negative patterns of thought about themselves and the world and challenges them in order to change unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders. They may also have interventional treatment with their family, employers, school, and loved ones to help shape their behavior. “It’s like training,” Mayer says.

But again, it may not accomplish anything. “Whether such treatment is effective at changing behavior is a source of ongoing debate,” Clark says. And while the people of Twitter may have diagnosed Simpson, that is of course unofficial.

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