Difference between sociopath and antisocial personality disorder

Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy): Causes and Symptoms

Personality Disorders

Antisocial personality disorder is a chronic mental health condition, informally known as sociopathy. It is characterized by a disregard for the feelings and rights of others

Kathleen Smith, PhD, LPC

Some people seem to have no regard for others and can cause harm to them without any regret or feelings of guilt. When this behavior is pervasive, a person may have a chronic mental health condition known as antisocial personality disorder. Sometimes people with antisocial personality disorder are called “sociopaths.”

What is a sociopath? People with antisocial personality disorder are willing to use deception or manipulation to get whatever they want, such as power or money. They may con people and use an alias, and they may steal or use aggressive behavior to achieve their desires. Even when caught, they show no regret or guilt. They lack a sense of empathy and cannot consider the feelings of others without help. They also tend to act impulsively, which can lead to arrests and time in prison.

There is a common myth in popular culture that “sociopaths” tend to be successful, charismatic people who hold positions of power. It is true that there are high functioning sociopaths, but they are not the norm. While sociopath path traits can include persuasiveness or charm, most people with the disorder will struggle with irresponsibility. They’re less likely to take advantage of employment opportunities, less likely to pay bills on time, and are at high risk of incarceration due to impulsive behaviors. They’re also likely to have a shorter life expectancy due to impulsive behaviors like substance abuse and criminal activity.

Causes of Antisocial Personality Disorder

What causes antisocial personality disorder? Researchers believe that genetics plays some role, as having a parent with the disorder puts one more at risk. Research on adopted children of parents with the disorder indicates that environment may also be a factor, such as when children receive poor discipline, have negative role models, or are not taught to respect the rights of others. Children of an alcoholic parent are also at increased risk.

Children who have conduct disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder before age 10 are at increased risk for having antisocial personality disorder as adults. This is particularly true for children with conduct disorder who are abused or neglected. Researchers estimate that 25% of girls and 40% of boys with conduct disorder will have antisocial personality disorder as adults.

Antisocial personality disorder occurs in roughly 3% of the U.S. population. The disorder occurs in men 6 times more often than in women. 80% of people with the disorder will have developed symptoms by the age of 11.

Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder

The most common signs of antisocial personality disorder are a lack of regard for the rights of others and an extensive pattern of violating them.

To receive a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, a person must exhibit at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Repeatedly performing unlawful acts

  • Lying or conning others for profit or pleasure

  • Acting impulsively

  • Repeated physical fights or assaults

  • Disregard for the safety of oneself or others

  • Irresponsibility at work or in financial obligations

  • Lack of remorse when mistreating others

At What Age Can Antisocial Personality Disorder Be Diagnosed?

A person must be at least 18 years old to receive a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. There must also be evidence that they qualified for a diagnosis of conduct disorder before the age of 15, as many of the symptoms of the two disorders are similar. A diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder will also not be given if the behaviors occur due to the symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Treatment for Antisocial Personality Disorder

Treatment for antisocial personality disorder may prove challenging. Because the symptoms of the disorder ten to peak in a person’s early 20s, people may find that symptoms improve on their own as a person reaches their 40s and beyond.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is usually the treatment recommended for antisocial personality disorder. A therapist can help a person manage negative behaviors and build interpersonal skills they may lack. Often the first goal is simply to reduce impulsive behaviors that can lead to arrest or physical harm. Family therapy might be a useful option to educate family members and improve communication, and group therapy may also help when limited to people with the disorder.

No medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat antisocial personality disorder. Medication may sometimes be prescribed to help reduce aggressive or impulsive behaviors. Medications might include mood stabilizers or antidepressants.

Treatment should also address any co-occurring disorders, which often include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality disorder, and impulse control disorders such as gambling disorder or sexual disorders. Because a majority of people with antisocial personality disorder will also have a substance abuse disorder, a person may need to complete detoxification as the first step of treatment, with the substance abuse and personality disorder then treated simultaneously.

Coping When a Loved One Has Antisocial Personality Disorder

If you have a loved one with antisocial personality, it’s common to feel discouraged. Remembering that lack of remorse or empathy is a symptom of the condition can help you set realistic expectations for how your loved one can improve. With treatment, some people with antisocial personality disorder do learn to form positive relationships, be more responsible, and respect the boundaries of others. Others will not, and family members will have to consider how they want to respond to this challenge. One interesting fact is that people with antisocial personality disorder who are married tend to improve over time compared to single people.

If you have a loved one with antisocial personality disorder, make sure that you also prioritize your own health and safety—family members often find it useful to participate in individual counseling themselves to help manage emotions and learn to set appropriate boundaries with the family member.

If you think you might have antisocial personality disorder or have a loved one who does, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional. They can provide information and connect you with the right resources to help you cope with this challenge.

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlingtpon, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  • Antisocial personality disorder. Cleveland Clinic. November 20, 2017.
  • Antisocial personality disorder. Mayo Clinic. August 4, 2017. Antisocial personality disorder. MedlinePlus. July 29, 2016.
  • Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Merck Manuals. May 2018.
  • Black, D. W. (2015). The natural history of antisocial personality disorder. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Notes: This article was originally published November 15, 2018 and most recently updated November 16, 2020.

High-Functioning Sociopath or Antisocial Personality Disorder?

People who have been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) are sometimes called sociopaths. They engage in behaviors that typically harm others for the benefit of themselves.

A “sociopath” has little regard for another person’s emotions, rights, or experiences. They lack remorse for their actions, and they act in ways that show no regard for others, including lying, cheating, and manipulating.

Some people with this condition aren’t very sly about their conduct. Others are quite deceptive.

The people who have an easier time engaging in these dishonest behaviors may be called high-functioning sociopaths. Indeed, someone who’s high functioning often comes off as charming and warm, while hiding behaviors and conduct that’s often anything but.

People with high-functioning ASPD can often do typical ‘everyday’ things like hold down a job and maintain a marriage with kids. However, these otherwise typical behaviors often hide a tendency to manipulate and exploit people and situations for their benefit.

ASPD isn’t common. Between 1 to 4 percent of the population is estimated to have this disorder, with males 3 to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed than females.

But the behaviors of someone with high-functioning ASPD can be all-consuming for people who live with or work around them.

Read on to find out why this condition develops and what treatments are available — whether you’re seeking help for yourself or a loved one.

Some individuals with antisocial personality disorder don’t exhibit polished and polite behaviors as a mask for their manipulations. Some may call these people ‘low-functioning’ sociopaths, though the DSM-5 doesn’t use the terms high or low functioning to describe behaviors associated with ASPD.

People considered ‘low-functioning sociopaths’ may lack the education or interpersonal skills to control and deceive. Instead, they might use threats, coercion, or intimidation to achieve their desired outcome.

Not all high-functioning ASPD symptoms are evident. Many can become more apparent after true intentions or agendas are revealed.

Symptoms and characteristics include:

  • Superior intelligence. Those who are high functioning are often incredibly smart, with very high IQs which can help them read, manipulate, and control scenarios.
  • Lack of empathy. People with ASPD don’t comprehend other people’s emotions. Therefore, they don’t appreciate or anticipate the consequences of their actions.
  • Calculating behaviors. People with this type of sociopathy are driven and determined. A strong self-love (narcissism) and sense of grandiosity may be their catalyst.
  • Secretive tendencies. High-functioning individuals may keep everything close to the vest. They rarely reveal private information or thoughts unless it’s to manipulate another person.
  • Charm. Despite generally not enjoying being around people, a high-functioning person displays impeccable social skills.
  • Sensitivity. People with high-functioning ASPD can be defensive. They may be quick to anger when they perceive they don’t have someone’s approval. That’s because they often feed off admiration from others.
  • Addictive behaviors. It’s not uncommon for a person with a high-functioning personality disorder to experience addiction. Compulsive behaviors and reactions can lead to issues with gambling, sex, alcohol, and drugs.

Maintaining a relationship with someone who has high-functioning antisocial personality disorder can be difficult, but it is possible. The key may be to care for yourself, rather than pushing them to find help.

These strategies may be useful:

Come to an honest realization

You can’t fix a person with this condition — there is no cure.

But you can arm yourself with the resources you need to properly defend yourself and shepherd them away from scenarios that hurt you.

Don’t make deals

You can’t make agreements or arrangements with someone with high-functioning ASPD.

Only you feel the compulsion to uphold the bargain. They don’t. This could lead to additional harm.

Listen to your gut

Someone with this type of ASPD may be adept at manipulating a person’s emotions in order to achieve their goals. Once the charm wears off, you’re left with the reality.

If you have a gut feeling about them or their motivations, listen to that little voice.

End the relationship

The ultimate way to protect yourself from the potential harm of a person with this type of antisocial behavior is to eliminate them from your life. However, this isn’t always easy.

Get help

If you’ve been hurt by a person with ASPD, you can find help.

Trained mental health professionals can help you understand what you experienced and learn from it. They can then teach you to set protective boundaries to hopefully prevent future abuse.

It’s not clear exactly why some people develop higher functioning ASPD. There’s no known cause.

What is known, however, is that some people are more likely to develop this type of ASPD than others.

factors that may cause high-functioning sociopathy
  • Sex. Males are more likely to develop ASPD than females.
  • Genes. A family history of any type of ASPD may increase your risk for it or another type of mental illness.
  • Conduct disorder. High-functioning ASPD is unlikely to be diagnosed before age 18, but childhood conduct issues may be a sign of a personality disorder like sociopathy.
  • Trauma. Childhood abuse or neglect increases the risk for this type of disorder.
  • Unstable childhood. Children raised in environments that are turbulent, even violent, are also at a greater risk.

There’s no single test to diagnose high-functioning ASPD. Mental health professionals often don’t rely on a person’s self-reported symptoms either. That’s because people with this disorder that are high functioning are proficient in lying and covering up their true motives and thoughts.

Instead, mental health experts use a list of persistent negative behaviors to establish high-functioning sociopathy.

If a person has at least three of these antisocial behaviors, they’ll likely be diagnosed with the condition:

  • a disregard for rules, norms, or boundaries
  • repeatedly lying or deceiving to accomplish personal gain
  • an inability to act with long-term plans; constantly engaging in impulsive behaviors
  • lacking remorse for the hurt or pain they’ve caused
  • failing to maintain responsibilities, such as work or financial commitments
  • aggressive behavior, especially when challenged or upset
  • acting recklessly, even when responsible for another’s well-being

There’s currently no cure for high-functioning sociopathy and treatments are limited, too. This may be because most individuals with this type of ASPD won’t seek treatment because they don’t recognize their behaviors as problematic or harmful.

However, if you believe you have high-functioning ASPD or know someone who may, there are some treatments that can help you maintain healthy relationships while working to impede the worst symptoms.

These include:

  • Psychotherapy: This form of therapy can teach you ways to cope with anger, addictive behaviors, and other symptoms.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This type of therapy may help you discover where your behaviors began. You may work to change harmful thought patterns, too.
  • Medicine: One study found that men with ASPD who took clozapine showed reduced aggression and violence. However, it’s not currently approved for this purpose. The FDA hasn’t approved any drugs for the treatment of this condition, though some medicines may be used to treat co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety or aggression.

Online therapy options

Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.

If you suspect a friend or family member has high-functioning antisocial personality disorder, you may not be able to convince them to seek treatment. Many don’t recognize the harm their condition does to others around them.

What you can do, however, is find help for yourself.

You can learn techniques that will protect you against the possible abuse and manipulation that’s common from people with this type of sociopathy. While not always possible, these measures may help you maintain a loving, stable relationship with them.

If you believe you may be someone with high-functioning ASPD, you can find help, too. Mental health experts can talk with you and your friends or family members to understand the behaviors you exhibit.

You can then discuss possible treatments and ways to properly care for yourself.

Sociopath: who is it, signs, differences from a psychopath

Charming scoundrels, tireless careerists, and sometimes predators in human form. We tell you who sociopaths are, how you can recognize them and how to communicate with them


  • What does
  • mean
  • Sociopath, sociophobe and psychopath: the difference
  • How to recognize
  • Are sociopaths really smart and charming
  • How to treat
  • How to communicate
  • Can a sociopath fall in love
  • More to read

Who is a sociopath

A sociopath is a person with an antisocial (or antisocial) personality disorder. A sociopath ignores generally accepted norms of morality and behavior in society. For his own benefit, he lies and manipulates other people, giving the impression of being calculating, selfish and aggressive.

The word "sociopathy" comes from two words: the Latin socium - "society" and the ancient Greek pathos - "disease", that is, it denotes a violation in social relations, the inability to obey the rules of society [1].

The DSM-5 Mental Health Manual does not use the word sociopath. According to the handbook, a person with antisocial disorder might be called a sociopath or a psychopath, but these terms are not used to make a diagnosis. Doctors in Russia and abroad do not diagnose people with sociopathy, but with antisocial personality disorder [2].

History of the term

Doctors noticed a long time ago that cold selfish rationality in some patients, which often developed into aggressive behavior [3]. One of the first physicians to describe such people was the French physician Philippe Pinel, who in 1806 called their condition "madness without delirium" (maniaque sans délire), and his student, psychiatrist Jean-Etienne Dominique Esquirol (Jean Etienne Dominique Esquirol) - rational madness.

Another popular name, common in the USA and England in the 19th century, is moral insanity, that is, the inability to follow generally accepted moral standards. The term "psychopathy" was first used to describe such people in the late 19th century by the German psychiatrist Julius Ludwig August Koch.

In the 1930s, psychiatrists coined a new definition, sociopath, because the term "psychopathy" could easily be confused with psychosis, a bout of inappropriate behavior. In addition, the prefix "socio" reflected the widespread belief at the time that sociopaths were people whose behavior was influenced by the social environment, and not, for example, genetics.

The term “sociopath” was much more popular in the West than in Soviet and Russian psychiatry. In the West, many researchers have used sociopathy and psychopathy interchangeably. But in 1980, the third edition of the DSM handbook added the term "antisocial personality disorder" and it has been used as an official diagnosis ever since.

Culture has always had images of people with sociopathic traits. Cain is sometimes called the first sociopath, who, according to the Old Testament, killed his brother Abel. One of the most famous female sociopaths of ancient Greek mythology is Medea (on the left is Eugene Delacroix’s painting “Medea”, 1838), a princess and sorceress who killed her children to avenge her husband for treason. Another “literary” sociopath is King Shahriyar from “A Thousand and One Nights” (on the right is Anton Pieck’s painting “Scheherazade Tells Tales to Shahriyar”, 1943), who executed his wives after their wedding night. (Photo: mirovoeiskusstvo.ru, artnet.com)

At the end of the 20th century, the term “sociopath” was popularized by American culture: in many films and TV shows, the main characters go beyond social rules and norms. They do not always cause the approval of the viewer, but almost always - a burning interest.

Sociopathic villain, 15-year-old Alex deLarge in the film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, who commits crimes, goes to jail, participates in an experiment to "cure" aggression, but in the end never becomes "normal" . A positive image of a sociopath is Sherlock from the BBC series. (Photo: www. fansshare.com, www.walesonline.co.uk)

According to neuroscientist James Fallon, who specializes in the study of psychopaths, Sherlock Holmes is a sociopath (or psychopath) who lacks empathy: he imitates emotions without actually experiencing them [4].

At the same time, Sherlock is very charismatic and in the series often demonstrates that he cares about other people's feelings. James Fallon, who is also a sociopath, explains that such empathy is not characteristic of them. This is probably an invention of the writers to make the main character more attractive to the audience. Real sociopaths are nasty people, Fallon points out.

Sociopath, sociophobe and psychopath: the difference

Sherlock's phrase in the British BBC series of the same name "I'm not a psychopath, but a high-functioning sociopath" plays on the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. But when making a medical diagnosis, there is no difference between sociopathy and psychopathy. The DSM-5 Handbook of Mental Disorders makes no distinction between the two—it defines both psychopaths and sociopaths as people with antisocial personality disorder.

However, some psychologists separate psychopaths and sociopaths from each other. Psychologist Robert D. Hare, who invented a special test for psychopathy (PCL-R), believes that sociopaths have a concept of morality, although it may differ from the generally accepted one [5]. Sociopaths have little empathy for others, but they understand the difference between good and evil. For psychopaths, there is no morality or empathy at all.

Some neurobiological studies indicate that sociopaths and psychopaths may have different brain structures [6]. Some areas of the brain in psychopaths are simply not developed. In sociopaths, these areas are normal and, despite antisocial behavior, they have the rudiments of morality. The behavior of sociopaths in comparison with psychopaths can also be explained by social reasons - for example, the influence of the environment, and not an abnormal structure of the brain.

Sociophobia and sociopathy are similar-sounding terms, but refer to completely different mental disorders. A sociophobe is a person who is uncomfortable being in society, he experiences anxiety when communicating with people. A sociophobe suffers not from antisocial, but from social anxiety disorder.

How to recognize a sociopath

Some doctors classify sociopaths into types. For example, the American psychologist and psychiatrist Eric Berne in his book "Introduction to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis for the Uninitiated" divides them into two types:

  • Latent sociopath. According to Bern, he behaves normally in society, without causing problems to anyone. Such a person is not guided by moral considerations, but obey some kind of authority or doctrine (for example, an authoritarian religion or sect). An example of a latent sociopath is a lawyer without ethical principles. Confident in the guilt of his client, he, nevertheless, will try by all means to save him from prison. Such a sociopath operates within the framework of his own invented rules, not paying attention to public morality.
  • Active sociopath. He is also able to put on a mask of integrity if it suits him. But, unlike the first type, outside the reach of laws and justice, he does not restrain himself and does whatever he wants. Active sociopaths can be called some cold-blooded serial killers or, for example, successful scammers.

Not all scientists share this point of view [7]. Eric Berne also acknowledges that there are many kinds of sociopathic behavior, and one sociopath may be different from another. However, he notes common features common to people with this diagnosis:

  • Desire to get what you want at any cost. They say about such people that they go over their heads. They are not stopped by any remorse, nor intelligence prompts like "if I do this, it will fly into me." A sociopath always does what he wants, regardless of the consequences. Eric Berne notes the impulsive behavior of sociopaths: unlike a person who behaves badly because he challenges society or, for example, takes revenge on someone, a sociopath simply takes and does what he wants without hesitation.
  • Lack of empathy and compassion. The emotional palette of sociopaths is limited. They do not feel sympathy for others and are not able to experience deep sincere emotions of joy, happiness, admiration. Although, in order to achieve their goals, they can imitate them - for example, demonstrate feelings with words and facial expressions. Scientists agree that sociopaths are capable of experiencing negative emotions - anger, frustration and rage [8]. But it is possible that such seizures are different from those that ordinary people are susceptible to. A sociopath who wrote under the pseudonym M. Thomas the book Confessions of a Sociopath. Live without looking into the eyes, ”says that her anger cools instantly, giving way to cold calculation.
  • "Evil inclinations" manifested from childhood. Sociopathic tendencies can often be noticed in childhood: expulsion from school for bad deeds, theft, constant getting into trouble. This creates the impression that this behavior cannot be influenced - the sociopath repeats it over and over again with other people and in a different environment.

These signs of antisocial disorder described by Berne and several others are listed in the DSM-5. There are eight criteria in total, and sometimes it is enough to make a diagnosis if the patient has three or four of these signs [9].

Some studies have revealed unusual differences between sociopaths and other people: for example, people with psychopathic traits prefer the bitter taste of food to everything else, they are not inclined to “infect” yawns from others and make little eye contact with the interlocutor [10], [11], [12 ].

There is evidence that sociopaths of all musical genres like rap the most [13]. Therefore, Hannibal Lecter, enjoying classical music, seems like another cinematic fiction. Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal (Photo: Youtube)

Psychologist Sergei Pustovoitov warns against thoughtlessly labeling loved ones. If you decide to look for a sociopath in your environment, then most likely you will not find one, but you will find those who are familiar with sociopathic character traits - accentuations. This may be a lack of expressed sympathy, a tendency to lie and manipulation, as well as the predominance of personal interests over public ones. But none of these signs in itself is not decisive. The diagnosis of "sociopathy", or rather, "antisocial personality disorder", can only be made by a psychiatrist or psychotherapist.

Are sociopaths really smart and charming?

Sociopaths don't have to be intellectuals. Among them there are both people with high intelligence and low, explains clinical psychologist Alexei Mosin. The latter tend to be impulsive and prone to outbursts of aggression, unable to restrain themselves and therefore prone to criminal criminal behavior. Such sociopaths can often be found in prisons and other correctional institutions.

Sociopaths with high intelligence adapt much better in society. But this does not prevent them from neglecting the rights of other people, breaking boundaries or even laws. If they commit an unseemly act, this is usually a covert manipulation, intrigue, a "multi-move" combination, but not direct aggression.

Dr. House is another likely sociopath, teetering on the edge between inadequacy and genius. (Photo: www.tvn.cl)

According to Alexei Mosin, Dr. House from the popular series is a model of a person with a personality disorder: antisocial, but useful. His environment is ready to tolerate his behavior, as he is literally irreplaceable. Society gives House the so-called "idiosyncratic credit", that is, it forgives him for oddities, because his activities benefit others. Perhaps this attitude of society is one of the secrets of the charm of sociopaths.

Psychologist Sergey Pustovoitov explains that people with other mental disorders most often fall under the charm of sociopaths - for example, with a dependent disorder or the "victim" syndrome. For people with a healthy mind, a sociopath will be perceived as an unscrupulous, greedy voluptuary, and they will not buy his smile.

How sociopathy is diagnosed and treated

Psychologist Sergei Pustovoitov says that sociopaths do not seek psychiatric or psychotherapeutic help on their own. Their first encounter with a doctor occurs when, for example, they commit an offense and are required to undergo a medical examination. According to 2002 data, 47% of convicted men in 12 Western countries had antisocial personality disorder [14]. Sociopathy is also detected in offenders under the age of 18. Such juvenile sociopaths are the same "difficult children" from the children's room of the police. After the diagnosis is made, doctors and psychologists work with them, treatment is prescribed - these can be medications and psychotherapy.

Clinical psychologist Alexei Mosin confirms that people with antisocial disorder rarely go to the doctor themselves. One of the signs of sociopathy is the denial of such a disorder, and sociopaths will not voluntarily come into therapy.

Antisocial disorder is most often diagnosed in people from low-income or large families, says Yulia Levchenko, psychiatrist and psychotherapist at the Federal Research and Clinical Center of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency of Russia. At the same time, concomitant diseases or injuries are often detected in them - physical or moral violence in a close environment, craniocerebral disorders and neuralgia, mental retardation or schizophrenia, alcoholism and drug addiction. In all these and other cases, the diagnosis of "antisocial personality disorder" can only be made by a qualified specialist - a psychotherapist or psychiatrist. He will focus, among other things, on the signs indicated in the DSM-5 mental disorders directory.

Despite the fact that it is difficult for sociopaths to adapt in society, they are rarely recognized as incompetent and receive a disability, notes Yulia Levchenko. Patients with schizophrenia, severe psychosis, and clinical depression are much more likely to receive disability.

Neuropsychologist Alexei Leontiev explains that in Russia a sociopath with a confirmed diagnosis does not receive any benefits or concessions. Such people are restricted in their rights to carry weapons and obtain a driver's license. They will not be hired to work in government agencies - they use special tests (SMIL) to identify possible mental disorders [15]. And when committing a crime, a sociopath will face more severe punishment than if he was undiagnosed. The court proceeds from the fact that a sociopath, having broken the law once, is likely to break it the next time.

How to communicate with a sociopath

Gelana Shirikinova, a medical psychologist at the Medscan clinic, advises when communicating with a sociopath:

  • speak harshly and firmly, arguments in the conversation should be categorical and not subject to objection;
  • keep your composure: no need to cry, fight and fall into hysterics, as this "feeds" the sociopath, making him stronger;
  • do not succumb to provocative behavior: blackmail, suicide threats and other manipulations;
  • do not give the sociopath any indulgence: if a prohibition is established for a sociopath, then in case of violation, punishment must necessarily follow.

If it is possible not to communicate with a sociopath at all, it is better not to communicate, says neuropsychologist Alexei Leontiev. If it turns out that a loved one is a sociopath, then you should distance yourself from him as much as possible. A sociopath will in any case do what he wants, in any situation he will manipulate others - in a soft or overwhelming manner. People around a sociopath, in an attempt to change his personality, run the risk of encountering aggression or even violence, and, by submitting to a sociopath, derail their lives.

Aleksey Mosin shares a similar opinion. Relatives of a sociopath live in constant anxiety and fear, because one of the consequences of sociopathy is great difficulty in adapting to society, not only for the person with the diagnosis, but also for the people around him. Simply put, it is extremely difficult for people around a sociopath to lead a normal life. They often need professional help. This is where mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and stress management training can help. They are recommended by psychologists as part of dialectical-behavioral psychotherapy, a special method of treating "difficult" patients with mental disorders. Such trainings will also be useful for those close to a sociopath, Alexey Mosin believes.

A sociopath does not experience empathy to the extent that other people do. And therefore, emphasizes Alexei Leontiev, one can become an authority for him only with the help of physical or mental suppression. In his opinion, the only way to cope with a sociopath is to be a psychopath, a cold-blooded manipulator of the overwhelming type.

Can a sociopath fall in love? Scientists suggest that the ability of a sociopath to love depends on how developed his antisocial disorder is [16]. People who score high on the Hare Psychopathy Scale (PCL-R) are more likely to avoid any attachment. If they enter into a relationship, it is not because they fell in love, but because the relationship brings some benefit to them.

A sociopath's relationship with another may not be based on attachment and psychological intimacy, but, for example, on a shared view of the world. A good example is the union of Bonnie and Clyde, in which both are trying to get as much as possible from other people. Perhaps now one of them, or both of them, would be diagnosed with antisocial disorder. Pictured is a frame from the movie "Bonnie and Clyde", 1967 (Photo: www.sheknows.com)

Researchers have studied the impact of a sociopath on his partner and on their relationship in general [17]. They tested 140 couples aged 18 to 35 on a psychopathy scale. In addition, each of the partners was separately asked about the strength of his attachment: how high is their fear of being abandoned and the desire to avoid emotional contact. The researchers followed the couples for a year and re-surveyed a year later. It turned out that men with pronounced sociopathic traits showed an inability to get close to their partner. In addition, a woman paired with a sociopath over time became more detached, disappointed in the relationship. And men in relationships with a sociopathic woman became emotionally unstable, anxious and dependent.

More to read about sociopaths

  1. M. Thomas, Confessions of a Sociopath. Live without looking into the eyes”, 2015.
  2. Robert D. Hare, Devoid of Conscience: The Frightening World of Psychopaths, 2019.
  3. Kevin Dutton, Psychopath Wisdom, 2021.
  4. Haer Psychopathy Assessment Test (PCL-R) online in Russian.

how they differ and how they perceive reality

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Sociopath and psychopath: how do they differ? How do sociopathy and psychopathy develop? Why do such people violate social norms and why do they sometimes attract us? What allows them to be not only villains, but also heroes? What sociopathic features does the world of big business have, and what place do sociopaths occupy in culture and mass cinema? We understand.

Let's not confuse psychopaths rushing through the square with a chainsaw turned on, and sociopaths, or "strange", original, existing, as it were, on the verge of the norm, but still included in the social system, people. These concepts are practically synonymous and designate souls with the same radical, but with different spectrums of feelings.

Psychopaths are people with an anti-social orientation. Psychopathy is a diagnosis with pronounced pathological behavior with complete preservation of thinking.

Sociopathy is a milder expression of psychopathy. If a person, despite his anti-social nature, nevertheless fits into society, is able to exist in it, but actively neglects the rules and norms, then we are dealing with sociopathy. Its classic features include charisma, high intelligence, lack of nervousness, a tendency to lies and hypocrisy, an inability to shame, repentance, empathy and love, anger, self-centeredness, a lack of morality and morality.

From the point of view of psychoanalytic theory, sociopathy is a dynamic structure of personality along with masochistic, hysterical and others. We all have a personality structure that is made up of genetic prerequisites and individual history. Also, sooner or later, we all face various injuries, but only a few receive a specific diagnosis.

Where does sociopathy come from? From a biological point of view, the hormonal apparatus of a sociopath produces less serotonin. Such a person is not able to "get enough" of communication, take the necessary emotions from it, experience empathy. To satisfy his emotional needs, he needs a completely different, stronger stimulus. In addition, such a person reacts to external stimuli more aggressively than "ordinary" people. It is his response to any potential danger.

Sometimes the development of sociopathy is influenced by childhood trauma: the child is faced with an early experience of violence, death, which leaves a mark on his psyche. At the same time, the adrenaline received once becomes a sentence for him. As a rule, in the future such a person experiences problems with trust and does not have authority.

Like the characters in Diana Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, children can be sociopathic even when they appear to be perfectly fine. They believe that they can do anything that helps them to exist comfortably. At the same time, the prohibitions of adults are perceived by them as a challenge. Gradually, a psychopath can form from such an "adrenaline" personality.

As a rule, the childhood experience of a psychopath is a hell in which total arbitrariness on the part of adults or the complete absence of laws of any norms and rules reigns. They are usually raised by an indifferent, "absent" mother, who, in turn, may have her own history of abuse, be depressed, overwork several jobs for a living, or simply be the weak-willed victim of a tyrannical husband.

If the future sociopath grows up in a relatively prosperous environment, then he has a chance to integrate into society and find not only application, but also recognition. For example, he can catch criminals, like Sherlock, or solve mysteries on the verge of life and death, like Dr. House. Sherlock, during an explanation with Moriarty, says: "I am the second you." And this is only partly a metaphor.

A still from Sherlock (Season 3 episode 1) / © BBC

A sociopath can achieve really good heights on the social ladder thanks to a developed intellect, the ability to easily overcome stress and the habit of stepping over people indifferently.

What is the portrait of a socialized sociopath? Such a person experiences absolute indifference to people and social norms. At the same time, for “ordinary” people, a set of certain rules makes the world more predictable and safe, and empathy fills it with warmth and meaning. A sociopath, on the other hand, is outside the legislative field, does not need excuses, and seeks goals from the outside. Nancy McWilliams, author of Psychoanalytic Diagnosis, notes that, conceptually, diagnosis refers to a basic lack of human attachment and adherence to very primitive defenses.

It is noteworthy that the sociopath is not insane and is able to answer for his actions. He distinguishes good from evil and understands the laws that he deliberately violates. At the same time, when committing crimes, he does not suffer from internal conflicts, since he feels absolute permissiveness.

He juggles norms with virtuosity. A sociopath may refuse to hold generally accepted holidays, accept traditional patterns of thinking, recognize himself as a citizen of a particular country, store things and photographs and honor the memory of his relatives, follow medical recommendations, comfort (he can live in a car, in a forest hut or travel on foot) . Such a person does not trust anyone or anything, she tastes everything. Of course, on your own. There are no laws for her. She offers hers to the world.

Sociopath easily endures loneliness, often changes partners. In the complete absence of empathy, the desire to create a family may arise not on a sensual, but on a pragmatic level: this is how the individual tries to better integrate into society. An example of such a type in the cinema is the already mentioned protagonist of the series "Doctor House".

© Fox

Such people attract with their eccentricity and extraordinary talents, but it is almost impossible to get along with them under one roof. It is important to remember that sociopaths themselves are not capable of building deep relationships. Adult love is built on the ability to feel the other and sympathize with the other. But for the sociopath, the environment is only a means to an end, an almost inanimate function. His relationship with others is based on exploitation. Therefore, the more pronounced the sociopathic radical, the less chance there is to create a family with such a person.

Sociopathic character can also be represented in the relative social norm. Then we are dealing with a person who does what others are not capable of. This means not only negative, but also positive, creative and even heroic deeds. He works in the war. He works where there is blood and death. Where it is dangerous, including in big business or in areas with great responsibility. He is in the sea, he is in space, he is under water and where the elements are raging.

Sociopaths are different. They take on responsibility that is difficult for an ordinary person to take on. They walk on the other side of death and survive. Their knowledge is sacred. When faced with death, they experience neither suffering nor guilt. This is what makes them attractive.

The psychopathic type is often reflected in literature, mythology and cinema, including mass cinema. In mythology, this is the hero of the epic. The one who descended into hell and came out of it. A hero is a former warrior who is legalized by our consciousness. Our consciousness cannot stand violence and lack of norms. If someone breaks the rules and stays with us, he becomes a hero, he has a special status. At the same time, a psychopath who does not turn towards society must be punished. He is either a hero or a criminal: there is no middle ground for him. There is no warm world with a fire in the depths of a cave where children, women and old people are.

In modern mythology, which we can easily find in the Game of Thrones series, a whole clan of Lannisters has sociopathic traits. Its representatives are not tormented by their cruelty and enjoy absolute permissiveness: the murder of children, incest, the execution of their own son, the attack on their father - all this appears to them as the norm.

The whole family, to the last, is marked with a special right - the right to choose right itself. As the heroes themselves say, "Lannisters always pay." But I want to add: "If they want it." You can serve the Lannisters only for money. In the Lannister world, no one expects loyalty or love. Everything is bought and sold there. Like no one else, they master the emotional vocabulary of manipulation.

Is it possible to live in community with a sociopath? You can cooperate with him. And he can be served. You can turn your shoulder to him, but you should not expect the same in return. The goal will always belong to him, as well as the main prey. Lions are not known to be interested in the opinion of sheep. Their main psychic defense - magical thinking - makes them, in a sense, rulers.

In a global, sociological sense, the world of big business has sociopathic features, in which calculation, manipulation, cruelty and attempts to achieve a goal without any reflection rule. In everyday life, a sociopath acts in a similar way: not knowing how to feel, such a person chooses an action. And if he regrets anything, it is only that another scam failed.

No wonder the Lannister kingdom is the most comfortable of the kingdoms in Game of Thrones. These are the best lands with a pleasant climate, beautiful women and the sweetest fruits. This is the prototype of the world, which is controlled by the ideology of profit. This is a dream and at the same time a fear of ordinary normal neurotics, which include the majority. The world of a sociopath is a world in which everything is possible. But at some point, he will blow up this world as well, as the sept of Baelor was blown up.

A sociopath is able to look beyond the usual meanings, actions and goals for an ordinary person, look beyond the horizon, while people continue to sit in caves, where there is a hearth, children, old people, pink silk curtains and standard IKEA furniture. A sociopath is scary and attractive at the same time, he is both a Dragon and a Hero who defeated the Dragon. There is no place for him in the middle of the norm register, he is always on the edge, at the exit or behind the “101 kilometers”.

He has no morality, and when there are no moral laws, "Their Sparrows" always appear with their sermons. As in ancient times: a shaman is an obligatory character with a leader. It is the self-proclaimed Shaman who will take the trouble to explain to the people the shadow side of the feat and will speak with the voices of the gods, legitimizing the new right.

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