What is a Sociopath?

by Anthony Carter on May 16, 2011


Although the word ‘sociopath’ is still commonly used in everyday speech, it is no longer really used by those in the medical field. Instead this condition is referred to as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). It often occurs that the words ‘sociopath’ and ‘psychopath’ are used interchangeably in common speech, but these are two different types of antisocial personality disorder.

So what is a Sociopath?

Antisocial personality disorder refers to a pattern of behavior where there is an almost constant disregard for other people. This type of behavior usually first becomes noticeable in childhood. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) provides the following criteria for ASPD:

  • When the individual hurts another there is a lack of remorse
  • The person does not conform with the expected norms of society
  • They will tend to be very impulsive and not consider the consequences of their actions
  • They are very prone to deception and will have no qualms about lying to others
  • This type of individual is prone to aggression and violence
  • They perform badly at work
  • This person will have no concern about the safety of other people
  • This antisocial behavior will have become noticeable before the age of 15
  • The individual does not have another mental health condition that could be causing the behavior

The person with ASPD will behave very antisocially and this is what gets them noticed. If such behavior can be treated when they are young they can learn to function a lot better in society.

Sociopath Diagnosis

Although the symptoms of ASPD can be quite extreme it can actually be very difficult to diagnose sometimes. This is because some individuals can become very good at disguising their antisocial behavior and might even become very charismatic. On the outside this person might appear as very friendly and even funny, but this is just something that they use to disguise their true thoughts and actions. This individual uses their charisma to get close to people so that they can play out their antisocial impulses more effectively.

Sociopaths tend to be drawn to high risk behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse. Such an individual will have no qualms about taking illegal drugs as the rules of society do not seem to apply to them. The sociopath will usually suffer from low self-esteem but they can escape these feelings by self-medicating. This person is attracted to any type of risky behavior and so heavy drinking and drug abuse will be highly appealing.

Causes and Treatment of Sociopaths

There is still debate about the exact causes of ASPD but it is believed to be a mix of environmental and genetic factors. Those who grow up in homes where there is a parent with ASPD will be more likely to develop it. It is also the case that peer groups can have similar influences. The most usual way to treat the condition is through counseling and group therapy sessions.

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