Verbal Bulimia and the Art of Over-Disclosure

by Sandra L. Brown, MA

I wrote about ‘verbal bulimia’ in my Dangerous Man book, discussed it again in Women Who Love Psychopaths, and frequently remind everyone of it in the newsletters, and yet I still see this embarrassing behavior among women that not only sounds inappropriate to anyone else listening, but also puts them at tremendous risk among pathologicals.

Years ago when I had a few psychopaths in group therapy, I asked them how they chose their ‘targets’ and they said, “I just listen. If you get them talking, they rapidly over-disclose. Women tell WAY too much! You pick up everything they just said—what they like, their values. Feed it back to them. Become what they are looking for and—VOILÀ—you’re in!”

On my flight back from our Dangerous Man Workshop Cruise to Cozumel a few years ago, I had one of those over-disclosing women sitting in front of me. Ladies, this is the kind of person that makes you want to switch genders so as not to be associated with the behavior! She was purposefully loud so that others would hear her. In fact, she was so loud, the rows around her couldn’t even have their own private conversations because she was ‘holding court’ in the middle of the plane where it was mostly men.

LOUDLY she announces to a girlfriend (who must have been deaf either before the conversation started—which is why she YELLED—or afterward from yelling in her ear) that she was going to THE CLIFFS where she OWNED a CONDO so she COULD GOLF on TIGER WOODS’s golf course. (I am illustrating the way she talked with her volume up on the important parts of her braggadocio story.) And that she FLEW back and forth to her OTHER HOME to THE CLIFFS to enjoy THE COUNTRY CLUB and GOLFING. (Just imagine if you were a psychopath sitting within hearing range of this conversation…)

Oh, and THANKSGIVING, she was going to have 35 people over AND HER LARGE DINING ROOM could easily accommodate them. She was going to HAVE A COOK COME IN and help her prepare the meal. And ANYONE WHO NEEDED A PLACE TO BE on Thanksgiving was welcome to come (as she offered with a gesture of her hand to those sitting around her). (The psychopath is totaling up how much her jewelry and big screen TVs are worth about now…)

Then it was on to her OTHER VACATION travels she had recently been on… while all those around her were rolling their eyes and sticking their fingers in their ears (except for the psychopaths on board who were checking to make sure they had packed their suntan lotion—dreaming of a future trip WITH her).

FINALLY, glory to God, the plane landed, and it seemed like I could get away from her. She stood up, adjusted her breasts, fluffed her hair, and sucked her stomach in as she noticed the guy in my row had a three-piece suit on (gag!), a gold chain and, to her, I guess, ‘potential.’ This highly accomplished multi-home owner who had been loudly touting her own virtues, all of a sudden couldn’t manage to get her bag out of the overhead, turning into Scarlett O’Hara: “Could some big strong man help little ol’ me here?”

She was staring straight at the gold-chain guy, so he felt obliged. Then she inserted something that had nothing to do with her bag being stuck. She stuck her hip out and leaned into his face, “You know what I HATE?” “What?” he asks. “There are three lanes on a highway—one for 70 miles per hour, one for 80, the last one for me—which is get out of my way! The thing that drives me the MOST crazy in the whole world…” (I’m wondering—poverty? Abuse? World hunger? Obviously not psychopaths—what?) … is people who drive too slow so that I can’t roar my BMW Z4 at 95-100 miles per hour.”

She glances around to see who MIGHT have heard her. I have my ‘therapy gaze’ on her now—like, “Girl, GET a therapist!” The guy winces at that statement and stares at his shoes. However, several other guys in line shift their positions to move closer to her. Instead of heading out of the front of the plane they are turning around and going to the BACK of the plane, not out! What psychopath doesn’t want to con her out of a BMW Z4?? Or her country club membership? Or that dining room table that seats 35? Or those boobs she just pushed up?

OK, OK… not ALL women who over-disclose do it so garishly and obnoxiously as this woman did. But they DO do it! There isn’t a pathological who isn’t wired to hear the hints and home in on them. They don’t have to remember to listen—it’s as natural as breathing to them.

Maybe your disclosure is more subtle, like at church: “Pray for me, I’m going through a divorce.” Or in personal ads—“Recently divorced attractive woman looking for her soul mate.” Or on a chat forum: “Yeah, I was really hurt when he ran around on me. I’m just looking for a nice guy to settle down with—someone who likes children and animals, a church-goer—someone who shares my love of art and hiking.”

TMI! TMI! Too.Much.Information!!

It’s hard to remember that all the ears and eyes that are exposed to you are not ‘normal’ ones…that pathologicals are listening for the signs that are a green light to them to make a move on you. That includes any hint of what you’re looking for (Fine, I can be that! he thinks) or loneliness (I’ll solve that!) or pain (Oh, baby, you’ve gotta let me redeem the male species! We aren’t ALL like that!)

Some are listening for your financial info. Many are parasitic and are looking for ways to live with others so they can conveniently lose their job while with you or to just bilk you out of your money quickly and be gone.

Others are listening for your need of a partner, companion, ‘just friends’ status, a stepfather for your children, a spiritual mentor, a shoulder to cry on…

Others are listening to your unrealized dreams so they can ‘support you’ in your journey to being a writer, a painter, a therapist, or going back to college, or starting your own business…

Still others are listening for your needs: Sexually hungry? Emotionally needy? Bored? Not listened to? Abused? Abandoned? Lonely? Tired? Angry?

Remember the church song when you were little: “Be careful—little eyes what you see… Be careful—little ears what you hear… Be careful—little mouth what you say…” Remember that? It reminded us that our eyes, ears, and MOUTH need to be careful. The song went on: “For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little mouth what you say.” If we ONLY had the Father to worry about, this wouldn’t be an issue. One in 25 people have no conscience, and thus are pathological. There are ears and eyes watching and listening to you to make you their target.

So, you’re probably wondering what I did about the obnoxious, verbally bulimic woman on the plane. I flipped my business card at her with my finger and, as luck would have it, it landed in her cleavage, and I kept on walking. Imagine her thoughts as she read my card: “The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education, Psychotherapist & Author of How to Spot a Dangerous Man and Women Who Love Psychopaths.”

Too bad the plane was too crowded to turn around and see her reaction!!

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about Pathological Love Relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)