What makes a Sociopath?
Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Jack Abbott, Elizabeth Holmes, The Zodiac Killer. After reading these names, you might have recognised who these people are. These people are the examples of most famous Sociopaths to have walked the Earth.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there is no such diagnosis as Sociopathy. However, sociopaths fall under the category of “antisocial personality disorder.” According to the DSM-V-TR, “The essential feature of antisocial personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. This pattern has also been referred to as psychopathy, sociopathy, or dissocial personality disorder.”
Sociopath can then be defined as “a person whose strong antisocial attitudes and behaviours are a symptom of personality disorder. These behaviors include lack of empathy for others’ feelings and potential for frequently hurting others’ feelings.”
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines sociopath as “a former name for an individual with an antisocial personality disorder.”
Signs of a Sociopath
A sociopath breaks the rules, is antisocial, manipulative, dishonest, and outwardly charming in order to get his way.
The signs and symptoms of Sociopathy can be understood by looking out for the symptoms of people with antisocial personality disorder. These include the following:
- Lack of empathy.
- Manipulating and exploiting others for personal gain.
- Lack of self-control and high impulsivity.
- Unrealistic risk taking and jeopardizing self and others for personal gain.
- Using wit or charm to influence people for one’s own advantage or enjoyment.
- Hostile, notably irritable, agitated, aggressive, or violent.
- Little or no remorse for the wrongdoings.
- Playing a blame game with everyone despite knowing that they are the one at fault.
- Destruction of property.
- Being cynical, harsh, and contemptuous to other people.
- Arrogance, superiority complex, and having strong opinions.
A sociopath also has certain behavioral manifestations such as gaslighting other people, faking one’s identity, stealing, physically torturing animals or people.
Are sociopaths born that way or shaped so later in life?
Nature and Nurture both play a role in Sociopathic behavior. Researchers and psychologists propose various theories and plausible explanations for the same.
- Genetics: If the generations before you have had a history of Sociopathy then it makes you more vulnerable to develop antisocial personality disorder.
- Trauma: People who have faced traumatic incidents and left it unaddressed are prone to development of sociopathic tendencies.
- Mental Illness: There is often an overlap where multiple disorders can coexist. Sociopathy can coexist with conduct disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), impulse control disorders, defiant disorders, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and so on
- Environmental factors: People who live and grow up in neighborhoods with violent or harsh conditions tend to be exposed to Sociopathic behaviors and hence are prone to turn into one.
A new-born has the potential to develop into a sociopath. Sociopathy’s inherent predisposition is triggered by environmental factors. Additionally, the person may exhibit behaviors as a youngster that point to an adult diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder.
All in all, one thing is clear that apart from a rare exception of traumatic brain injury to the paralimbic system that can cause sociopaths to be shaped that way, becoming a sociopath cannot merely happen later in life.
Difference between a Narcissist, Sociopath and Psychopath
Narcissists differs from sociopaths and psychopaths in a way that they want others to love, approve and admire them. It stems from their need to get validation and satiate their ego. Sociopaths don’t want any such thing and even though Psychopaths try to impress others, it has got nothing to do with their ego, it’s only to reach their desired goal and not to satisfy their ego.
People often use the terms psychopath and sociopath interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two.
To begin with, sociopathy is an official diagnosis in the DSM under the category of antisocial personality disorder, but psychopathy isn’t.
Sociopaths do not care and do not express any empathy for people whereas psychopaths pretend to do so to get their way.
Yet another key difference is that psychopaths are skilled actors who are cold-hearted and engage in manipulation. Sociopaths on the other hand don’t really act out differently for personal gain. They take action without considering how it would affect others.
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Treatment for Sociopaths
Treatment for sociopathic disorder or antisocial personality disorder is highly challenging. The fact that a person with this disease is by definition unable to see how their conduct is inappropriate and is unlikely to seek a diagnosis or treatment for their disorder contributes to the issue. However, common treatments for sociopaths include an amalgamation of Medicinal as well as Therapeutic treatment approaches.
Medical Treatment: Medical treatment includes prescription of antipsychotic drugs, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and mood stabilizers to decrease impulsivity and aggression. Although these drugs do not target the underlying root antisocial personality disorder, the outwards expression of it can be controlled.
Therapeutic Approaches: Therapeutic approaches include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to change the negative thought pattern into healthy positive one, Mindfulness and Gestalt therapy for grounding, group therapy and other methods.
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