Are you or someone you know a sociopath?


Serial killer and blood splatter technician Dexter Morgan (played by Michael C. Hall) from the 2006-2013 eponymous TV series certainly suffers from ASPD. — AFP

I read that people who do not wear masks when they go outside have some sociopathic tendencies. What is a sociopath?

A sociopath is someone who has antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

In general, someone who is a sociopath cannot understand someone else’s feelings or empathise with others.

They like breaking rules and making impulsive decisions without feeling guilty for the harm they cause others.

They can be charismatic and charming, but they also like to use mind games to control other people around them, which may include their family members, colleagues, friends, and even total strangers.

They may have problems with drugs and alcohol, and breaking the law.

Do you know anyone like that?

Is this a psychiatric problem?

There is a range of sociopathic symptoms, and some people merely have certain tendencies and traits, but are not completely sociopathic.

In order to be diagnosed as having ASPD, you have to show a consistent lack of regard for other people’s feelings and consistently violate other people’s rights.

And you usually do not realise that you are doing it.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the handbook used by most health professionals to diagnose mental illness), a person has to consistently exhibit three out of these seven traits to be diagnosed as a sociopath:

  • Doesn’t respect social norms or laws, and consistently break laws or overstep social boundaries, e.g. committing crimes like stealing on a continual basis.
  • Lies, deceives others, uses false identities or nicknames, and uses others for personal gain.
  • Doesn’t make long-term plans.

    They also often behave without thinking of consequences, which may include being imprisoned, destroying long-term relationships with family, or being sacked from work.

    This shows impulsiveness.
  • Shows aggressive or aggravated behaviour.

    They consistently get into violent fights or physically harm others, especially men.

    Women may like to emotionally harm other people.
  • Don’t consider their own safety or the safety of others.
  • Doesn’t follow up on personal or professional responsibilities.

    This can include repeatedly being late to work, not performing jobs and tasks as expected, or not paying bills on time.
  • Doesn’t feel guilt or remorse for having harmed or mistreated others.

You also have to be over 18 in order to be diagnosed a sociopath.

I know some people who have some tendencies like that, but they are not extreme enough to have warranted arrest or sacking from the job. Are there other things that might indicate they are sociopaths?

Some people who have sociopathic tendencies can also be quite “cold”.

They don’t show emotions, neither are they emotionally invested in other people.

They may use charm, humour and wit to manipulate other people for their own personal gain.

They feel superior to the rest of us, and they are very opinionated.

They cannot keep positive friendships and relationships, and they cannot learn from mistakes.

They like to control other people by frightening them or threatening them, e.g. a parent who always tells a child they will disown them or kick them out of the house if the child does not behave a certain way.

They like to take risks, even though they can get into legal or criminal trouble, and cause risks for others.

They like to threaten suicide without really going through with it.

They can become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

So what is the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath?

In the psychiatric sense, there is no difference. They are both terms that are used to describe people who have ASPD.

Some people say that psychopaths have more severe symptoms and behave more extremely towards the end of the spectrum, such as being very violent and putting others in physical danger.

Sociopaths are then described as those who have some of the symptoms, but behave at a more minor level that does not cause serious physical harm or distress to other people.

However, you will see that the thought pattern and the lack of remorse is the same in the psychiatric evaluation sense.

My brother is extremely mean and selfish. Is he a sociopath?

The diagnosis of ASPD can only be given to someone who not only continuously exhibits the symptoms mentioned above, but also cannot change their behaviour, even though they are punished for it or have suffered negative consequences from it.

Someone who is merely selfish may lose friendships or destroy relationships, but can learn that it has negative consequences and attempt to change their ways, so that is not sociopathic behaviour.

Sociopathic people cannot change their ways or behaviour, even when it is damaging to them.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Mental health , sociopath , psychopath

   

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