Sociopath are people who have Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD); sociopath and psychopaths are not themselves official diagnoses but are terms that are widely used to describe someone having ASPD. They’re both categorized under ASPD by American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Such people exhibit a long lasting pattern of reacting without any regard for consequences of the action for themselves or others, and without any feelings of remorse or guilt. Their behaviour can be seen as impulsive, pleasure seeking, exploitative or deceitful, for fulfilling personal gains. This means that they can use someone to get what they want and will be indifferent towards the effect of their actions on others in such a manner that disregards the feelings of others.
A person who has antisocial personality disorder will show some of the following symptoms:
- Engaging in unlawful behaviour and/or not conforming to social norms
- Persistent lying; taking advantage of others by being deceitful and using others for personal gains
- Acting without thinking of consequences; and not planning ahead
- Irritability and aggressiveness, can be seen as regularly getting into fights
- No consideration for safety of self or other people
- Constant irresponsibility, can be seen in failure to maintain job or completing given work tasks on time, failure to follow through on financial and social obligations
- No remorse for hurting others or seeing them suffer, an indifference towards learning about another’s suffering
Clinically, these symptoms can be seen as early as the age of 15 years, and to be diagnosed with ASPD after 18, there must be symptoms of conduct disorder (aggressiveness, destruction of property, violation of rules, etc.) before the age of 15 years.
Other than the symptoms mentioned above, a person with ASPD will also be charming and manipulative, may not distinguish or care to distinguish between right and wrong, have a sense of superiority, take part in alcohol and drug abuse, intimidate/threaten others to control them and so on.
Psychopathy vs. Sociopathy
These terms are commonly known and used in pop-culture and are used to describe someone who has antisocial personality disorder. These terms are used inter-changeably and moreover, psychopathic and sociopathic traits are officially only mentioned under ASPD’s symptoms so there is a little ambiguity in their distinction. However, psychopathy is seen as a more grave form of sociopath. Sociopath are seen to have the knowledge about what is wrong but not being able to or not caring enough to stop themselves from doing it, whereas, psychopaths are seen to lack a moral compass entirely.
Treatment of Sociopathy
People go throughout their lives without being diagnosed with personality disorders, which is especially true for ASPD. Moreover, a person with ASPD will not seek treatment on their own as they do not think they have a problem and will generally not think that there is anything wrong or harmful about their behaviour. They may be given a court-order for treatment which is probably the only way they are exposed to treatment.
ASPD is difficult to treat and all therapeutic treatment is dependent on willingness of the individual to participate and individual situations. The effectiveness of the treatment depends upon the insight level. They are as follows:
- Psychotherapy is generally used in individual and group settings where the individual through talking with the therapist or techniques such as role-play express their feelings and thoughts to understand and appropriately deal with ASPD behaviors. This is also used for anger management and substance abuse management.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used to target the irrational thoughts and undesirable behaviour specifically and helps develop less harmful behaviour.
- There is no specific medication to treat ASPD but medication may be prescribed to deal with mental conditions associated with ASPD such as aggression, depression etc.
To conclude, for a person with ASPD, it is manageable and possible to have supportive and loving relationships with others. Understanding and accepting your behaviour is a step in the right direction that will help you develop more constructive or healthy behaviour with the help of treatment. If you feel that you may have a few of these symptoms, talking to a psychologist may help you understand your behaviour as well as keep it confidential.