In common parlance the term sociopathy it is often used to refer to a clinical picture likely to be compatible with the antisocial personality disorder. This term indicates a pathology that prevents the individual from adapting to the ethical and behavioral standards of their socio-cultural community to which they belong.
Keeping in mind the related technical term “Antisocial Personality Disorder”, sociopathy can be considered a mental disorder in which the person significantly shows a difficulty in regulating their behavior in ethical and moral terms within their own reference culture. The sociopathic individual presents deficits in terms of empathywith a marked difficulty in the processes of assuming the perspective of the other, showing cynicism and contempt towards the feelings and emotions of others. They have a low regard for the needs and feelings of the other, and an absence of guilt and remorse following their own actions.
Often, sociopathic individuals they consider themselves superior to the other, strong and autonomous, they despise the opinions of others considering themselves to be holders of absolute truths. They have a perception of injustice and arrogant attitudes; the idea of oneself as coercive prevails in which the logic of the prevarication of the other and the deviance from social rules.
The other can be viewed with contempt as an exploiter deserving of punishment and retaliation, or as weak and therefore a mode of coercion-submission is used. The sociopathic-antisocial personality has an explicitly relational modality aggressiveand / or implicitly manipulative which aims at exploiting the other for one’s own advantage. The underlying relational logic is dominance, coercion, control and exploitation of the other, where there is no room for the possibility of showing a vulnerable self.
Sociopaths are often involved in criminal, violent, law-breaking activities, and are often involved in deviant relationships. They also present a picture of high impulsiveness and comorbidity with substance abuse. These patients being impulsive and with a tendency to emotional dysregulation, they tend not to plan for the future and not to make choices considering the short, medium and long-term consequences for themselves and their families. Can change suddenly and suddenly occupation, dwelling, and having unstable romantic relationships. In this sense, patients with sociopathic tendencies can be financially irresponsible and in the long run run into conditions of poverty and economic instability.
Difference between psychopath and sociopath
As mentioned above, Psychopath and Sociopath are terms of popular psychology, which indicate what psychiatry defines as Antisocial Personality Disorder. To date, these two concepts are not really well defined in the literature. Nonetheless, there are some general differences between these two personality types:
Psychopaths, in general, have a hard time establishing emotional attachment bonds with others, but they create artificial, superficial relationships designed to exist. a benefit to themselves. In fact, people are seen as pawns to be used to achieve their goals. Finally, they rarely feel guilty for their behavior and it doesn’t matter how much they hurt others.
On the other hand, psychopaths can often be seen by others as charming and trusted, like people who have constant, normal jobs. Some have families and loving relationships with a partner. Even when they try to be well-behaved, they may have spotted a big payoff for themselves.
When a psychopath hires criminal behaviorhe tries to do this in a way that minimizes the risk to himself, carefully planning the criminal activity to make sure it won’t be caught, with backup plans ready for every possibility.
The sociopathsin general, they tend to be more impulsive and unpredictable in their behavior. Even if they have difficulty forming an attachment with others, some may be able to bond with a like-minded group or person. Unlike psychopaths, many sociopaths don’t have long-term jobs or don’t have a normal family life.
When a sociopath hires criminal behavior, they do so in an impulsive and largely unplanned manner, with little regard for the risks and consequences of their actions. They also can easily become agitated and angry, which sometimes results in violent outbursts. These types of behavior increase the chances of them being arrested.
How to recognize a sociopath
Antisocial disorder is placed by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) within cluster B personality disorders. This also includes borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
The DSM-5 provides a description of antisocial personality disorder that presents many features common with sociopathy and psychopathy.
These latter pathologies are not diagnosable as antisocial personality disorder. However, some research has found that these are specific disorders belonging to the category of antisocial disorder, with which they have several aspects in common. Here is a list of the characteristics of the sociopath:
- Contempt for laws and social customs
- Inability to recognize the rights of others
- Inability to feel remorse or guilt
- Tendency to assume controlling, manipulative and, often, violent behaviors and attitudes
- Dishonesty: the subject lies, uses false names, scams others
- Impulsiveness or inability to plan
- Irritability and aggression
- Inability to meet financial obligations or to sustain an ongoing employment activity
- Lack of remorse
- The individual is at least 18 years old
- Presence of a conduct disorder with onset prior to age 15
- Antisocial behavior does not manifest itself exclusively during a manic episode or the course of schizophrenia
- Tendency to anger
- Poor education
- Inability to hold a job or stay in the same place for too long
- Any crime committed is disorganized and spontaneous, without planning
- Inability to plan often results in a systematic economic non self-sufficiency
- Financial irresponsibility indicated, for example, by inability to provide for child support and systematic accumulation of debt
From a multifactorial etiopathogenetic perspective, in the literature they are highlighted, alongside factors of genetic originsome environmental risk factors for the onset and maintenance of a sociopathic personality and antisocial personality disorder.
Among these factors we find the presence of a diagnosis of conduct disorder or ADHD in childhood and in terms of family history a history of antisocial personality disorder and / or other mental disorders in family members. Other risk factors are the presence of abuse and neglect in childhood, as well as an unstable, violent and chaotic family life in childhood.
In general, the male gender appears to be more at risk of developing antisocial personality disorder than the female gender. The prevalence is 3% in men and 1% in women in the general population.
Treatment of sociopathy
Individuals with sociopathic personalities, technically defined as antisocial personality disorder, struggle with ask for help spontaneously, therefore, they are unlikely to spontaneously require the involvement of a mental health professional in diagnostic and therapeutic terms. The difficulty in seeking professional help is related to poor awareness of their pathology and their dysfunctional relational modalities, in fact they believe they have no need for help in the psychological field. In some cases, a hook to the psychological and psychiatric consultation occurs as a result of the discomfort associated with depressive symptoms, anxiety, substance abuse and excesses of anger in interpersonal relationships often associated with antisocial personality disorder / sociopathy. As in some situations, people with antisocial personality disorder access psychiatric services as a result of legal problems.
Psychotherapy it can include interventions on multiple levels, from managing impulsivity and emotional and behavioral dysregulation, to treatment of other psychopathological symptoms. Psychotherapy aims to facilitate the recognition of one’s emotional states and their regulation, to prevent acting-out and impulsive and manipulative behaviors that are harmful to oneself and to the other. In this sense, an intervention that promotes is relevant at the psychotherapeutic level mentalization skills, awareness the consequences of their actions, the assumption of their own responsibility in interpersonal relationships and the management of impulsiveness. The American Psychological Association highlights the need for specific interventions to support the sociopathic patient in managing anger, with a process of identifying and regulating these emotional states to reduce willing behaviors and the violation of the rights of others in interpersonal relationships.
Gi pharmacotherapeutic interventions in the case of sociopathy (antisocial disorder) they aim to treat symptoms related to mood, anxiety and aggression through mood stabilizing drugs, antidepressants or antipsychotics. The frequent association between sociopathy and aggression requires low-dose anti-psychotic drugs in some situations to regulate impulsive-aggressive behaviors. Frequently there can be poor compliance and the tendency to oppose drug treatment, with fears related to the perception of one’s own weakness in taking these drugs and in regulating aggression and impulsivity.
At the family level, enlargement interventions can be useful e interviews with family members to support the latter in managing the patient’s sociopathic attitudes and dysfunctional behaviors.
THE tests used to detect a sociopath within the clinical setting there are mainly two.
- Test the MMPI-2: a broad-spectrum objective tool for evaluating the main structural characteristics of personality. Also used extensively in the forensic field, it allows to obtain useful information to recognize the antisocial personality.
- The Hare Test of Psychopathy or PCL-R: it was created starting from a two-factor model, divided between interpersonal, emotional, lifestyle and antisocial aspects. It is an interview that must be done by the clinician, as well as being integrated with different sources of information. The clinician evaluates each of the twenty items, also allowing a dimensional evaluation, precisely because it not only allows the diagnosis of the presence or absence of antisociality but an overview.