Can sociopaths get depressed?

In this article we are going to briefly discuss sociopath or Antisocial personality disorder. 

We will also discuss signs and symptoms surrounding this disorder and whether sociopaths or people who are affected by this disorder can get depressed.  

Can sociopaths get depressed?

The answer to the question of whether a sociopath can get depressed is yes. In fact, the comorbidity between ASPD and depression is very likely and high. 

Just because a person is unable to feel empathy or feel remorse does not mean that they are not suffering. 

The term “sociopath” or “psychopath” is being thrown about a lot recently and along with it the stigma and misinformation about the reality of people who are affected by it is spreading. 

Both terms are often used interchangeably however, these terms refer to different conditions and are not medically or clinically recognised by any diagnostic manual. 

Sociopathy and Psychopathy both refer to the condition of Antisocial Personality disorder which is a serious mental disorder and illness which can greatly impact the lives of the people who have this condition. 

The difference between a sociopath and a pscytath is the varying levels of empathy. A sociopath has limited ability to feel empathy towards other people. They also have a sense of moral judgement, albeit very weak. 

Whereas a psychopath is someone who is unable to feel any remorse or empathy, they lack moral judgement and are often seen as a danger to themselves and others. 

Both a psychopath or a sociopath are character types that usually meet the criteria for Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) which is a disorder that is more common than usually assumed. 

Let us take a closer look at what ASPD actually is

Antisocial Personality disorder (ASPD)

Antisocial personality disorder is sometimes called psychopathy or sociopathy by the general masses. It is a disorder that affects 1-4% of the general population in any lifetime and is observed more in men than in women. 

Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a personality disorder with a deeply rigid dysfunctional thought process. This thought process focuses on social irresponsibility and behaviour that is exploitive, delinquent, and criminal.

There is blatant disregard for other people’s rights with no remorse or empathy. People who have this disorder fail to conform to the law and often manipulate others for their personal gain. 

A person with this disorder also has a track record of having the inability to sustain consistent employment and lack the capacity to form stable relationships. Their problems begin in earlier life which is often seen as juvenile delinquent behaviour and is usually diagnosed with Conduct disorder before the age of 18.

Identifying a Sociopath

Sociopaths or people with antisocial personality disorder cannot be “tested” to be diagnosed. Instead it takes careful observation by professionals and specialists to take account of their life history, their thought processes, and their behaviour for a person to be diagnosed

The framework provided to identify and diagnose a sociopath is based on the criteria of diagnosing a person with ASPD. The criteria includes:

  • Repeated behaviour that are grounds for an arrest in the person’s society, such as harassment, theft, or an illegal occupation.
  • Deceitful behavior such as lying, manipulation for personal gain.
  • Impulsive behavior with drastic changes or risky activities
  • Irritability and aggressive behavior
  • A disregard for the safety of themselves and others- for example, risky driving, neglecting children.
  • Irresponsibility which makes them financially unstable and unable to hold a job
  • A lack of remorse. They may rationalizes or appear indifferent to the harm that they cause.

These criterias make it so that they are unable to have healthy relationships, and might be abusive to their partners and family members. They are also unable to be functioning members of society and tend to lack moral compass- even if they do, it is very weak. 

Causes and Risk factors

The exact factors that lead to the development of ASPD in a person is unknown however, research has found both genetic and environmental factors to have a role in its development. 

Various studies in the past have shown differing estimates of genetic heritability to be at play for its development. Research finds that there is a gene that has been found to be related to the disorder.

Environmental factors that correlate to the disorder include Abuse- both physical and sexual- in childhood, neglect, and a history of childhood behavioural problems such as Conduct disorder and ADHD. Children who exhibit these behaviour problems usually go on to fit the criteria for ASPD.

Other studies have also highlighted that family dynamics and peer relationships also play a role in the development of ASPD. 

Research finds that the interaction between genetic vulnerability and environmental factors- family aor deviant peer relationships- contribute to the development of the broad range of behaviours affiliated to the disorder.

Sociopathy and depression

Neurochemically, a study has found that ASPD and depression have a shared dysfunction on the neurotransmitter 5HT cells. This impaired functioning is linked to  impulsivity and drug addiction. This impairment is also linked to the lack or loss of  memory and awareness of current and past adversity.

It is also interesting to know that the impaired function results in low mood, low self-esteem, hopelessness and pessimism found in both depression and ASPD which can be one of the reasons why there is high comorbidity between the two.

The high possibility of comorbidity or the possibility of a sociopath with ASPD getting depression has also been studied in the context of multiple ethiic groups. The study was conducted on a sample of 1000 plus individuals. It was found that . It was

found that,

“… both primary and secondary psychopathy were significantly correlated in a positive direction with depression in different ethnic and sex groups.”

Out of the two, secondary psychopathy which is associated with impulsivity and lack of long-term goals, and is related to hostile and violent behavior has been found to have higher correlates with depression as opposed to someone who has primary psychopathy which is more effective (emotionally cold, more manipulative than behavioural.)

A new study suggests some individuals who exhibit psychopathic traits that are deeply emotional. They are able to observe the shared bonds and emotions between people and often feel dejected that they can’t experience it themselves. 

It appears as though they choose  to “shut down” emotionally in order to cope with their circumstances, be it because of their abusive family relationships, childhood trauma of abuse, or their peer groups. 

While they might look unemitonal and untouchable by emotions and distress, they tend to be high in anxiety and tend to be at risk for depresison and suicide. Violent sociopaths are at high risk for targeting their aggression toward themselves as much as toward others. 

Their impulsive lit and disregard for safety often lead them to engage in risky behaviour that puts them in danger of accidents and deaths or even tend to be suicidal themselves. 

While people who have ASPD have a bad reputation in the media as killers and violent offenders, not all people with ASPD are likely to commit crimes or be manipulative. 

There is little evidence that suggests any kind of direct treatment for ASPD, especially pharmacological treatments. However, there has been some evidence that shows that treating the co-occurring symptoms or disorders such as aggression, depression, and anxiety could be one way of dealing with ASPD.

Literature also suggests early treatment intervention with conduct disorder in children as the least costly and most effective with treating ASPD in adulthood- meaning that early intervention is the best bet.


In this article we have taken a brief look at what it means to be affected by Antisocial personality disorder and sociopathy. We have also discussed the correlation between depression and sociopathy. 


Frequently asked questions related to “Can sociopaths get depressed?”

Are you born a psychopath or sociopath?

Psychopaths are at times born with a genetic vulnerability which when it interacts with environmental stressors can lead to the development of Conduct disorder in children and later antisocial personality disorder in adulthood. 

Can a sociopath fall in love?

A person who has been deemed as a sociopath- or diagnosed with Antisocial personality disorder may find it hard to understand the rules and boundaries when it comes to love and relationships. 

They might not be able to love in healthy and socially acceptable ways and at times might not feel empathy towards their partners which would make the relationship a tough one.

However, with therapy and treatment a person with ASPD can learn healthy ways to love and support their partners.

Are all psychopaths intelligent?

Studies have not found evidence that psychopaths were more intelligent than people who don’t have psychopathic traits. In fact, some studies have found that psychopaths, on average, scored significantly lower on intelligence tests.

The interesting to understand is thought there is no difference in IQ levels, psychopaths often think that they are more intelligent and smarter than other people due to their disregard for social cues, rules, and narcissistic tendencies.

Do sociopaths feel anxiety?

Sociopaths experience anxiety and find rage as a result of stress far harder to control. In fact, studies have found that sociopaths or people with ASPD are often found to have higher levels of emotional distress and high anxiety.

Which is worse: psychopath or sociopath?

Both of these character types are portrayed in individuals who meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder. 

The major difference between that psychopaths do not feel empathy and lack regard for the safety of others and themselves and lack remorse. Whereas, a sociopath feels empathy and has more awareness of social rules- albeit weaker as compared to the general population. 

This difference makes a psychopath more dangerous as they can be lead to behave in risky ways, putting themselves and others in danger without remorse. 

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