Netflix’s ‘You’ follows Joe Goldberg as he leaves a trail of dead bodies on his search for the perfect partner. Our hero has a habit of falling obsessively in love with women and killing anyone who threatens to come in between them. To win over his ever-changing objects of desire, Joe also employs appalling means that are highly illegal. However, his charming demeanor keeps him under the radar even as his body count rises, and Joe Goldberg keeps falling in love again and again. He has often been described as a psychopath, but opinions have differed on what exactly ails our hero. Let’s get to the bottom of it, shall we?
Is Joe a Psychopath or a Sociopath?
Joe Goldberg is often described as a psychopath, but this is largely because the term “psychopath” has become a popular tag for the (fictional and real-life) violent killers that grace our screens. The term “sociopath” is also often used interchangeably with “psychopath,” but the former, in fact, refers to a person with Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD). According to the British NHS, someone with ASPD is characterized by being manipulative, deceitful, and reckless. Many symptoms of ASPD, like difficulty sustaining long-term relationships, having a lack of guilt, not learning from one’s mistakes, and repeatedly breaking the law, seem to be clear red flags that Joe suffers from ASPD. However, our hero also channels traits that are not covered by this diagnosis.
According to NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), psychopathy is technically not a psychiatric diagnosis. It is, however, widely considered to overlap with ASPD, and research shows that a third of the people with ASPD also fit the description of a psychopath. Another reason why ASPD and psychopathy are often used interchangeably and continue to be so difficult to separate is that both are mainly studied in terms of their effect on society, as opposed to the impact they have on the person inflicted by them. A few additional symptoms that psychopathy has when compared to ASPD include a lack of guilt, excessive vanity, charisma, and a lack of empathy.
Hence, Joe seems to have a form of ASPD (sociopathy), as opposed to him being a complete psychopath. Of course, he does seem to have a fair amount of charisma, which means he also imbibes psychopathic traits. The fact that both ASPD and psychopathic tendencies can stem from environmental factors also brings us to the rest of our romantic serial killer’s diagnosis.
As we get to know more of Joe’s past, other conditions that arise because of his troubled childhood begin to surface. As we see in season 2 and season 3, his troubled childhood and the fact that he was abandoned by his mother seemingly gave Joe severe codependency issues. According to Mental Health America, symptoms of codependency include a need to control others and an unhealthy dependence on relationships. In fact, codependent individuals can sometimes define themselves based on their relationship, as opposed to having their own identity, which is something we see the protagonist do quite often.
Hence, Joe clearly has issues with codependency, which inform the relationships he forms with women. Since he is a fictional character, the more we find out about him in subsequent seasons, the more accurate a diagnosis of his mental state can be made. The initial tag of being a psychopath, though not wrong, doesn’t tell the complete story. Joe seemingly suffers from ASPD, with hints of psychopathy that cause him to commit heinous crimes but remain charming nonetheless.
His issues also seem to stem a lot from his childhood experiences, which make him obsessively codependent on his partner (or someone he envisions as being his partner), and when things don’t work out, the antisocial (ASPD) tendencies kick in.
Read More: How Many Did Joe Goldberg Kill in You?