What is Sociopath?
The term “sociopath” refers to a person living with a social personality disorder (ASPD), just like the term “psychopath”.
The latest edition of the Mental Disease Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental health conditions, provides ASPD with a consistent review of rules and regulations. Also describes repeated human rights abuses. Compared to others.
People with this condition may at first seem charming and charismatic at least, but they often find it difficult to understand the feelings of others. They often:
- Violation of rules or regulations
- Act aggressively or emotionally.
- Feel the slightest guilt for the harm they have done to others.
- Manipulation, fraud and use of controlling behavior
Social psychology and psychopathy have become accepted terms among mental health professionals, but neither is an official assessment. They also have a lot of ugly scars, especially for people with personality disorders, so it’s best to avoid describing someone who is aggressive or manipulative. “Sociopath” or “Psychopath”.
Instead, focus on specific behaviors and actions. Instead of calling a former security guard a sociopath, you could say, “He always reminded me that he was following my social media activity.”
Experts began using the term “sociopathy” in the 1930s. Unlike “psychopathy”, it is not easily confused with “psychosis”. This premise also reflects the widespread belief that the traits and behaviors associated with sociopathy are related to socio-environmental factors.
Until the inclusion of ASPD in the third edition of the DSM in 1980, many researchers have used sociopathy and psychopathy together.
What’s the Difference Between a Sociopath and a Psychopath?
In medical settings, there is no clear difference between social therapy and psychopathy. Even a psychologist does not diagnose.
Some psychologists and researchers make a significant difference between sociopathy and psychopathy. But the term offers only two slightly different ways of understanding the diagnosis of ASPD.
In this interpretation, psychopathy is sometimes associated with more systematic behavior. This behavior may not necessarily be violent, but it is usually pre-planned. Research confirms to some extent some of these differences.
Robert Hair, the psychologist who created the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R), defines social psychology as the inclusion of conscience and the sense of right and wrong, or ethics. But this sense of morality is incompatible with cultural and social norms. In contrast, sociopaths often make excuses for actions they deem “wrong.”
In short, people with sociopathy may have little sympathy and a habit of rationalizing their actions. But they know the difference between good and bad. Psychopathy, according to Hair, is not about morality or empathy.
A 2013 study suggests that differences between psychopathy and sociopathy may be due to differences in the brain, including the amount of gray matter and the development of the amygdala. In people with sociopathy, an increase in neural functions in certain parts of the brain can affect the development of certain moral feelings.
What are the symptoms of sociopathy?
There is no standard list of sociopathic symptoms, but ASPD signs and symptoms include a persistent pattern of ignoring others. For example:
- Ignoring social norms and rules, breaking school or workplace rules, violating social boundaries, stealing, bullying and harassing others, and destroying property.
- Dishonesty and fraud, including the use of false identities and collusion with others for personal gain.
- Difficulty overcoming the effects and planning ahead or acting without considering the consequences.
- Aggressive or violent behavior, including frequent fights or physical conflicts with others.
- Ignoring one’s own safety or the safety of others.
- Difficulty handling responsibilities, such as being present at work, completing work, or paying rent and bills.
- Less or no guilt or remorse, or the tendency to justify actions that negatively affect others.
People with ASPD often show little emotion or interest in the lives of others. They can:
- Considered arrogant or conceited, with a fixed mind.
- Use humor, intelligence and charisma to manipulate.
- They look attractive at first until their personal interest is revealed.
People with ASPD often find it difficult to maintain friendships, relationships, and other relationships that complement each other. These difficulties may be related to nature, for example:
- Empathy and low emotional intelligence.
- Mistakes are hard to learn.
- Less concerned about the safety of others.
- The tendency to intimidate and threaten to maintain control.
What Causes Sociopathy?
Many experts consider sociopathy to be more ecological construction than genetics.
Yes, brain chemistry and inherited genes play a role, but parents and parenting patterns are most affected, along with other environmental factors. (Psychopathy, on the other hand, seems to be more about natural biological factors.)
Children who do not receive parental attention from their caregivers grow up realizing that they need to take care of themselves because no one else will. Some children who have been bullied, abused and manipulated since childhood can set an example by dealing with their own conflicts.
Research also suggests the possibility of “achieving” sociopathy. Trauma or damage to the frontal lobe of the brain, which can result in a head injury or a progressive condition such as dementia, can lead to some anti-social behavior.
How is a person’s sociopathy diagnosed?
Again, it should be noted that DSM-5 does not differentiate between Sociopathy and Psychopathy or any particular subtype of ASPD.
Mental health professionals use the standards established by the DSM to diagnose ASPD. This assessment can be applied to a person whose behavior is in accordance with the accepted definition of sociopathy or psychopathy.
Diagnosis of ASPD requires at least three of the seven characteristics listed above, and some additional criteria:
- This attitude is manifested in different areas of life.
- This person is at least 18 years old.
- They had some behavioral symptoms before the age of 15. It helps to differentiate ASPD from criminal behavior that starts in adolescence.
- Antisocial traits and behaviors were not related to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
To make a diagnosis, see a physician or psychologist:
- Ask questions about a person’s feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and personal relationships.
- (With permission) Ask family members and romantic partners about their behavior.
- Review your medical history for symptoms of other conditions.
Keep in mind that personality disorders, including APSD, are related to traits that no one can overcome. These traits go beyond the pursuit of personal gain and persist over time, causing difficulties.
Could it be a different condition?
Other mental health conditions can involve symptoms similar to ASPD:
- Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) involves extreme and repeated verbal or physical outbursts. These outbursts, driven by impulse or anger, can be directed toward people, property, or animals. IED commonly begins in adolescence and usually before the age of 40. On its own, it doesn’t involve low empathy or lack of remorse.
- Conduct disorder involves antisocial behavior that typically begins by the age of 16. Experts consider this condition a major risk factor for ASPD. Adults must show signs of conduct disorder in childhood to be diagnosed with ASPD. Someone who doesn’t meet full ASPD criteria might be diagnosed with conduct disorder.
- Schizophrenia often involves trouble recognizing facial emotions, a trait also associated with ASPD. The condition may involve aggressive or antisocial behavior — but not always. It also involves psychosis, while ASPD does not. Experts won’t diagnose ASPD before treating schizophrenia.
- Bipolar I disorder Episodes of mania can involve impulsivity, aggression and irritability, and increased thoughts of suicide — symptoms also linked to ASPD. Experts won’t diagnose ASPD during an episode of mania.
Treatment and support for sociopathy
People living with personality disorders don’t always recognize any issues with their behavior, so they often don’t consider getting professional support.
They might choose to work with a therapist if prompted by a court order or someone in their personal or professional life.
Work supervisors, family members, and romantic partners might notice traits, like impulsivity and a tendency toward aggressive outbursts, for example, and they may recommend professional support.
Some people also try therapy to address other challenges or mental health concerns, including:
- difficulty coping with boredom or stress
- substance use disorders
But since many people living with ASPD never choose to go to therapy, little research on helpful treatment approaches exists. That doesn’t mean treatment can’t help. But therapy and other approaches generally only work when someone willingly puts in the effort.
Possible treatments for ASPD include the following.
Therapy involves talking to a therapist about thoughts and feelings that can prompt harmful or aggressive behavior. It might also include anger management tactics or treatment for substance use.
Potentially beneficial approaches include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) CBT can help people learn to consider their responses to people and situations, which may lead to more productive behaviors. Therapy can, for example, help someone recognize the benefits of using negotiation rather than violence to solve conflict or disagreements. CBT also involves psychoeducation, which can teach people more about ASPD.
- Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) This approach aims to help people learn to better identify and understand mental and emotional mindsets — both their own and those of others. A small 2016 study suggests MBT helped reduce hostility and anger, paranoia, self-harm and interpersonal difficulties in people living with both ASPD and borderline personality disorder, along with leading to an improved mood overall.
- Democratic therapeutic communities This approach, often used in prisons, involves therapy groups of various sizes that help participants make collaborative decisions as part of a group and work together on problems affecting the community. It can help boost community-minded and prosocial thinking in people living with ASPD.
- Contingency management This approach offers rewards to encourage treatment progress. Older research suggests it can help people living with ASPD limit intake of alcohol and other substances.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any medication to treat the symptoms of ASPD.
A doctor or psychologist may prescribe medication for the symptoms associated with the condition, such as:
- Antipsychotics such as risperidone (Risperdal) as first line therapy for aggression.
- SSRI antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or mood stabilizers such as lithium to treat aggression.
- Anticoagulants, such as carbamazepine (Tigretol), to help reduce anxiety
According to a small 2014 study, the antipsychotic drug clozapine (closaril) showed promise in treating men with ASPD. After several weeks of taking the drug, all seven participants experienced an increase in ASPD symptoms, including anger, agitation, and violence or aggression.
How to deal with someone who shows signs of sociopathy?
If you want to work on maintaining a relationship with someone who has ASPD, this might help:
- Admit that they do not fully understand their feelings.
- Explain how your behavior affects others.
- Set clear boundaries to protect your physical and emotional space.
- Encourage them to seek professional help.
Marriage or family counseling can also help you build more positive relationships with loved ones living with SADR.
Eventually, they may decide to push your boundaries and continue to hurt you emotionally or physically. In that case, ending the relationship, or at least leaving it, may be the safest option.
Working alone with a therapist can also help you:
- Find result-oriented communication.
- Develop coping skills
- Identify signs of abuse.
- If necessary, work on a plan to end the relationship safely.
Therapists may also offer more specific guidelines for dealing with problem behaviors, including manipulation and control tactics or resentment.
What is the opinion of anyone with sociopathy?
Researchers and personality specialists continue to study the nuances of sociopathy and psychopathy. However, unique criteria for diagnosis have not yet been established, and ASPD is the closest diagnosis to what is commonly considered psychopathy.
There is no cure for ASPD. However, numerous studies have shown that antisocial behavior generally decreases over time. In middle age, people are less likely to be violent or aggressive.
Treatment methods that help people learn to change problem behaviors from more constructive behaviors can also have implications for ASPD symptoms.
In short, people with SADR are able to build strong and satisfying relationships with others, no matter how difficult it may be.
The Bottom Line
Contrary to what the media portrays, people with sociopathic symptoms do not choose to be “bad.”
In many cases, they are more likely to live with ASPD, a condition that is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including childhood abuse and neglect.