Sociopathy or antisocial personality disorder (APD) has frustrated the medical community for decades due to the difficulties in differentiating its symptoms from other psychological disorders, as well as in developing effective treatments.
Essentially characterized by his self-destructive component, lack of conscience, and frequent criminal will, the sociopath usually shows a polyhedral character that sharpens the enigma that surrounds his personality.
Symptoms that reveal a sociopath
Frequently linked to psychopathy, the sociopath usually shows an aggressive component, but of reaction to a situation. At the same time,e the psychopath directs his violence towards achieving a goal, although both disorders are frequently linked, making diagnosis difficult. Next, we point out the main symptoms associated with antisocial personality disorder or sociopathy.
- Lack of awareness. Difficulty differentiating good from evil from a moral point of view and contempt for the most sensitive side of the personality.
- Violation and lack of respect for the rights of others. The sociopath usually shows insensitivity towards others without feeling remorse when he hurts.
- Arrogance and sense of superiority. The sociopath can be a narcissistic person, who tends to see himself as someone extraordinary in the face of the supposed mediocrity of his environment.
- Lack of empathy. The sociopath is not interested in understanding others, he deliberately rejects them, developing great confidence in his way of proceeding.
- Difficulty having sentimental and/or friendly relationships. People with TPA are not usually interested in maintaining an affective bond with others, only showing a willingness to enter into social contact to obtain a specific benefit.
- Difficulty withstanding a minimum level of stress or tolerating boredom, so sociopaths tend to act impulsively, generally with violence, as a reaction to situations of stress or apathy.
- criminal character. Theft, aggression, harassment, or destruction of property are common tendencies among sociopaths.
- Evidence of the presence of behavioral disorders before the age of 15. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders points out that a good part of the people diagnosed with TPA has shown evidence of behavioral disorders in adolescence.
Sociopathy: causes and risk factors
As the psychiatrist Stephen H. Dinwiddie points out in his study on the history of sociopathy, it is a disorder that shows great nosological difficulty: the medical community has debated for decades about the description, differentiation, and classification of sociopathy without reaching unanimously accepted conclusions. In any case, some of the possible causes and risk factors that would explain the appearance of sociopathic behavior are the following:
- Genetic predisposition. Different studies have analyzed the neuroanatomical structures involved, as well as the neurophysiological functioning that is altered with the disorder to establish common genetic patterns.
- Child abuse. According to some studies, childhood physical abuse has provided a strong predictor of sociopathic leanings.
- Diagnosis of childhood conduct disorder. As we have mentioned, if behavioral or personality disorders have been diagnosed throughout childhood and/or adolescence, the possibility of later developing sociopathic behavior is greater.
- Aggravated instability and/or violence in family life. Along the same lines, it is considered that a permanent situation of instability and/or violence in the family environment could have repercussions on sociopathic behavior developed in adulthood.
- drug abuse. Likewise, research on the origin of sociopathy also links this disorder with drug use, which could accelerate the complication of this personality disorder.
- Presence of other mental health disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolarity. Some research has established a relationship between primitive drive-dominated thoughts present in both schizophrenia and sociopathic behavior.
Prevention and treatment of sociopathy
The Mayo Clinic insists on the aforementioned difficulty in understanding the different components that result in sociopathic behavior, so prevention is also a challenge for the medical community. In this sense, it is pointed out that, taking into account that sociopathic behavior can have its roots in childhood, it is parents, teachers, and pediatricians who must detect these early signs.
Thus, the greatest challenge for the medical community is to preventively treat APD in childhood and adolescence, when the possibility of redirecting this behavior is greater. Manipulation, constant deception, arrogance, impulsiveness, lack of empathy, insensitivity, or lack of awareness and interest in differentiating right from wrong can indicate early antisocial behavior that should be assessed by a child psychologist.
As some specialists point out, the problem with diagnosing sociopathy using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is to give a label to a pattern of symptoms that often hides a more complex behavior that is difficult to decipher, so establishing a generic treatment to sociopaths it works in few cases. In this line, it is recommended to carry out a specific study of each case to develop an exclusive treatment.
In any case, considering that a good part of sociopaths does not feel remorse for their behavior, they do not consider that they suffer from a problem, so they do not seek help. And it is usually a serious and violent event that ends up pointing to a sociopathic personality.
The charm of the sociopath in fiction
Even though sociopathy is an extraordinarily delicate disorder, fiction often presents us with this kind of personality, arousing fascination among readers and viewers. Characters like Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange, Jack Torrance from The Shining, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from Perfume, or the Joker himself have become social icons decorating walls, T-shirts, and badges.
And it is that the indomitable, radical, impulsive and rabidly individualistic character of these characters activate the dark side of the reader who even ends up idolizing them. Why do sociopaths seduce in fiction? Somehow, and despite being aware of the devastating social impact of a person with a disorder of this type, their unwavering self-esteem, ingenuity, and ability to torpedo social convention are admired.
Ultimately, we feel like deciphering the enigma that this kind of unfathomable personality always poses. Now, we sure wouldn’t want to live door to door with Patrick Bateman, lest we have a more sophisticated business card than his…and he takes it badly.