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Sociopath (A comprehensive guide)

This guide covers a comprehensive understanding of what is sociopath, how can they be diagnosed and how can they be treated.

Sociopath

A sociopath is a word used to refer to a person who exhibits antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

These people do not consider other people’s feelings. They often disobey the rules and do not feel guilty when they make impulsive decisions and the harm they cause.

People with anti-social personality disorder (ASPD) control family, friends, colleagues and even strangers by using mind games.

They may also use “mind games” to control friends, family members, co-workers, and even strangers.

These individuals are also seen as charming or attractive.

How to diagnose a sociopath?

One of the categories of personality disorders is antisocial personality disorder. It is characterized by constant negative behaviours.

According to the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), individuals with anti-social personality disorder constantly display a lack of regard for others’ feelings or violates the rights of others.

These behaviours may not be recognized by individuals with ASPD.

They may spend their lives without a diagnosis.

Diagnostic Criteria of Anti-Social Personality Disorder

In order to diagnose an anti-social personality disorder, an individual must be older than eighteen years.

At least three of the following seven traits must be shown by the behaviour of individuals with ASPD.

  1. Sociopaths do not value social norms or laws. They constantly break laws and cross social boundaries.
  2. They tell lies and cheats others. In order to get personal gains, they use others. They are also involved in using fake identities or nicknames. (They are called High functioning sociopaths)
  3. They do not think ahead of time and do not make long term plans. They behave recklessly and are not worried about the consequences.
  4. Sociopaths display violent or aggravated behaviour. They are consistently involved in fights and physically harm others as well.
  5. These individuals do not take into account their own safety and that of others.
  6. They are irresponsible and do not care about their personal or professional responsibilities. Being late to work on a daily basis or not paying the bills on time are examples of such behaviours.
  7. Individuals with ASPD lack feelings of guilt or remorse when they harm or mistreat others.

Additional Symptoms of ASPD

Following are the other likely symptoms of ASPD:

  • Do not show any emotions or interest in the lives of others and are cold
  • Manipulate others by using humour, intellect, or charm
  • exhibit a sense of dominance and strong, firm opinions
  • Do not learn from mistakes
  • are unable to maintain positive friendships and associations
  • intimidate or threaten others with an attempt to control them
  • are involved in criminal acts and frequently gets into legal trouble
  • take risks at the cost of themselves or others
  • threats to commit suicide without ever acting on these threats
  • become addicted to alcohol, drugs or other substances
  • Other ways to diagnose Anti-social personality disorder include the following:
  • Assessing the person’s feelings, thoughts, behaviours and personal associations
  • Talking to people who are close to the person with ASPD about their behaviours
  • Assessing the medical history of the person for other conditions
  • Other ways to diagnose Anti-social personality disorder include the following:
  • Assessing the person’s feelings, thoughts, behaviours and personal associations
  • Talking to people who are close to the person with ASPD about their behaviours
  • Assessing the medical history of the person for other conditions
  • We can diagnose ASPD in individuals as young as 15 years old if they have symptoms of a conduct disorder. It includes are the following symptoms:
  • Breaking the rules without considering the consequences
  • Unnecessarily destroying the things that belong to them or others
  • Stealing things
  • Telling lies or consistently cheating others
  • Being hostile and aggressive toward others or animals

Causes of ASPD

There can be many causes of anti-social personality disorder.

According to researchers, genetics play a vital role. If an individual has a parent with the disorder then that individual is at risk for the disorder.

A research was conducted on adopted children whose parents had anti-social personality disorder.

The findings of the research indicate that the environment may also be a factor that causes the disorder.

This includes examples such as when children get poor discipline when they are not taught to give regard to the rights of others or have negative role models.

Children of parents who are alcoholic or addicted to drugs are also at high risk.

Individuals are also at high risk for developing anti-social personality disorder or become a sociopath if they were diagnosed with conduct disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder before age 10.

This is principally accurate for children having conduct disorder who are abused or ignored.

The findings of researchers show an estimate that twenty-five per cent of girls and forty per cent of boys having conduct disorder will develop antisocial personality disorder and are at increased risk of becoming a sociopath as adults.

Three per cent of the U.S. population is roughly estimated to have ASPD.

An anti-social personality disorder is found in men six times more frequently than in women.

Eighty per cent of people who have the disorder will have acquired symptoms by the age of 11.

Treatment

In general, people with anti-social personality disorder do not think that they have problems in their behaviour for which they should get treatment.

If an individual thinks that he or she has ASPD, then he or she should talk to a doctor.

A doctor may refer him or her to a knowledgeable mental health professional for the diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment for anti-social personality disorder involves a long term and follow up.

Effectiveness of a treatment depends on a person with ASPD.

If the individual is not willing to pursue treatment or not cooperative, then the treatment may not be successful.

Treatment also depends on the severity of the symptoms.

Following are the possible treatments for ASPD.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is sometimes used to treat individuals with antisocial personality disorder.

It involves talking with a counsellor or therapist about the thoughts and feelings that intensify the ASPD behaviours.

Anger management, management therapy for violent behaviour, treatment for addiction to drugs or alcohol and for other mental health conditions are also included in the psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy is not always successful and efficient.

The reason being if the symptoms are severe and the person with symptoms do not acknowledge that he or she adds to serious problems.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT helps an individual with ASPD to think more cautiously about their actions and how their responses may affect other peoples and situations. Cognitive behaviour therapy won’t cure Anti-social personality disorder, but it can help those individuals to build up more positive and less harmful behaviours.

It can also assist the individuals to accept that they have a disorder and can encourage them to be proactive in addressing their behaviours. 

Medications

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any specific medications for treating anti-social personality disorder.

Individuals with ASPD may be prescribed the medications for associated mental health disorders.

This may include medications for anxiety, depression and for symptoms of aggressive behaviour.

The medication Clozapine also known as Clozaril is used as a treatment for men with anti-social personality disorder.

As some medications have a potential for misuse so they are usually prescribed very carefully.

We cannot cure ASPD but with the help of therapies, it can be treated.

These therapies focus on decreasing destructive behaviours and replacing them with more constructive ones. 

If an individual has anti-social personality disorder, he or she can still enjoy steady and loving relationships with others.

When individuals admit that they have ASPD and give regard to the consequences of their actions then it can help them to manage their behaviours and keep their relationships strong.

Coping with a sociopath  

It is common for an individual to feel discouraged when they have a loved one with anti-social personality disorder.

With the help of treatment, the individuals with ASPD may learn to form stable loving relationships and become more responsible.

However, if they don’t get treatment then family members have to suffer with them.

Research shows that married people with anti-social personality disorder are more likely to improve over time as compared to unmarried people.

If a person has a loved one with antisocial personality disorder, he or she should make it sure that they also give priority to their own health and safety.

It is useful for family members to participate in individual counselling themselves.

It will help them manage their emotions and learn to establish suitable boundaries with the family member.

Couples therapy and marriage counselling can help an individual to form a positive relationship with a sociopath.

In order to maintain a relationship with an individual with ASPD following should be considered:

  • Recognize that they may not be able to fully understand the emotions of others.
  • Explain it to the person with ASPD that how their behaviour influences others and cause them harm.
  • Clearly state your boundaries sociopaths.
  • Explain detailed outcomes for their harmful behaviours.

In short, sociopaths may or may not be criminals. Sociopaths lie frequently and are manipulative.

They have a weak sense of conscience and lack feelings of empathy.

As a result, they act recklessly even when they know that their behaviour is wrong.

With the help of treatment, they can replace their destructive behaviours with constructive ones and can form stable and loving relationships with others.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are sociopaths different from psychopaths?

Sociopaths and psychopaths have clear lines of distinction between them. Sociopaths make it clear that they do not care about others.

They behave in impulsive ways and are prone to fits of anger and rage. They are unable to maintain a job or family life.

They can form emotional attachments but are difficult. On the other hand, psychopaths pretend that they care.

They show cold-hearted behaviour. They are able to maintain a normal life in order to cover for their crimes.

They are unable to form genuine emotional attachments and may love people in their own way.

Which gender has more chances of becoming a sociopath?

Males have more chances than female to become a sociopath as anti-social personality disorder is more common in men as compared to women.

Research shows that twenty-five per cent of girls and forty per cent of boys having conduct disorder will develop antisocial personality disorder and are at increased risk of becoming a sociopath as adults.

Can sociopaths live a normal life?

Sociopaths can live a normal life. Although anti-social personality disorder cannot cure but it can be treated.

With the help of therapies and medications, sociopaths can learn to replace their destructive behaviours with more constructive ones.

Individual’s willingness for seeking treatment and the severity of their symptoms are very important factors in treatment.

Along with this, support from family and friends also play a major role.

Please feel free to ask any questions related to sociopaths and leave your comments and suggestions in the comments section below.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

What we recommend for personality disorders

Professional counselling

  • If you are suffering from a personality disorder then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

References

Healthline

Psychology Today

Mayoclinic.org

Psycom

Recommended readings

 Psychopath Free (Expanded Edition): Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People

Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight
A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America

Sociopath and Psychopath: The Worst of Both Worlds

The Sociopath Next Door

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