What is a Sociopath?

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Antisocial personality disorder or ASP (also known as sociopathy) is characterized by lifelong misbehavior. People with the disorder tend to be deceitful and impulsive. When most people hear the term “sociopath”, they usually picture Christian Bale from the movie American Psycho. However, not all sociopath’s are serial killers, and the mental disorder exists on a spectrum like most mental health conditions. On the less severe end of the spectrum, sociopath’s can ignore their responsibilities and lie. In the worst cases, they may have no conscience and resort to theft and/or murder. Most people who live with the disorder fall in the middle of this spectrum. One study estimates that as 3.8% of Americans would meet the criteria that’s needed to be considered a sociopath.

To be diagnosed with ASP, a person must be at least 18 years old and have a history of aggression, rule-breaking, and deceit that dates back to their childhood. Here are some of the other red flags to watch out for, based on criteria listed in the DSM-V - a manual for psychological diagnosis.

Manipulativeness

Sociopaths are always looking for an opportunities for their either their own personal gain or personal entertainment. They can be very charismatic and have the ability to influence and manipulate those around them.

Lack of empathy

All sociopaths lack empathy and the ability to feel remorse for their actions. In other words, they lack a conscience. This is particularly dangerous because our conscious keeps us from engaging in activities that are immoral or dangerous. Without it, one would be freed up to do anything terrible that comes to mind.

Difficult relationships

Those who live with ASP often have very chaotic and unstable relationships. This is because they have a very difficult time forming close emotional bonds with anyone. They look at most people in their lives as tools they can use to exploit for personal gain.

Deceitfulness

Sociopaths are often compulsive liars and will say whatever they need to in order to get themselves out of trouble. They tend to embellish the truth in order to make themselves look better. This gives them a reputation for being dishonest or deceitful.

Risky behavior

Irresponsibility and impulsiveness mixed with the need for instant gratification can be a recipe for disaster. It’s also typical behavior for sociopaths and can lead to extremely risky situations. They usually have no concerns for the safety or wellbeing of others, only themselves. It’s for this reason that many sociopaths engage in unhealthy activities that give them a rush such as compulsive gambling, unsafe sex, substance abuse, or criminal activity.

Callousness

Some sociopaths can demonstrate very violent and aggressive behavior physically, while others are verbally abusive. Either way, those with Antisocial Personality Disorder generally have a true disregard for the feelings of others and tend to be cruel individuals.

Hostility

Sociopaths are very hostile to themselves and others. They tend to search out hostility in other peoples behaviors towards them (even if there isn’t any) which fuels them to seek revenge.

Irresponsibility

Another sign that someone might have ASP is a disregard for financial and social obligations. Ignoring responsibilities is extremely common.

Impulsivity

Sociopaths find it very difficult to make a plan and stick to it. They can make spur of the moment decisions without any regard to the consequences of their actions. These decisions usually come off drastic and radical to others, but are completely normal in their minds.

Can ASP be treated?

Therapy can help manage some of the symptoms and side effects, particularly in milder cases. But it's unusual for a sociopath to seek professional help due to the fact that they tend to blame other people for their circumstances. If you believe a loved one in your life has ASP, Therapy for yourself can be an effective means of learning how to navigate, or end the relationship. The truth is, when it comes to navigating any type of personal or romantic relationship with someone who you believe has ASP, the best thing you can do is distance yourself from that individual. A sociopath will be sure to add a level of toxicity to your life that you just don’t need.