A person who was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a sociopath. They are people who make impulsive decisions and break rules, playing mind games with their family, friends and co-workers and harming them without feeling guilty for what they did. Although most of the time they’re perceived as being charming or charismatic, these people are not able to understand others‘ feelings.
To diagnose a sociopath, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) says that someone must be older than 18 and have a behavioural pattern constantly characterised by negative behaviours and a persistent lack of regard for other people’s rights or feelings.
There are a lot of sociopaths out there that don’t even know they suffer from this mental disease, living their entire life without a diagnostic. To receive a diagnostic, a sociopath needs to have at least three from the following traits:
- They constantly break laws, disrespect social norms and overstep personal boundaries.
- They use false identities to deceive other people and lie for their own personal gain.
- They never make long term plans and they behave most of the time without even thinking of consequences.
- They are aggressive and constantly get into fights, physically harming others.
- They don’t take responsibility for almost anything, they’re always late at work, with their bills or when they have a personal meeting/date.
- They often don’t consider their own safety or the safety of others.
- They don’t feel remorse or guilt for mistreating or harming other people.
- They are not able to keep healthy positive relationships and friendships because they always try to manipulate and control others.
- They have a strong sense of superiority and they use it to impose their unwavering opinions.
- They like to intimidate or threaten people in an attempt to gain control.
- Although they use their intelligence and sense of humour for their own personal gain, they are cold people that never invest emotions in other.
- They often take risks on the expense of others or threaten their close ones with suicide to obtain that they want although they never act on these threats.
- They never learn from their mistakes and often get into legal trouble for performing criminal acts.
- Most of them become in time drugs and alcohol addicts;
If you’re not a shrink you won’t be able to diagnose ASPD but there are other ways to check if you’re concerned about someone who might be one. You can talk to people who are close to this person and evaluate their behaviour and relationships patterns through the eyes of the person you’re talking to. You can check this person’s medical history for other conditions or evaluate his feelings and thoughts.
If a teenager displays some of the following symptoms, he can still be diagnosed as ASPD from the age of 15:
- He is constantly lying and deceiving others.
- He has an aggressive behaviour towards animals and other people.
- He is breaking all rules no matter the consequences.
- He is stealing and destroying things that belong to others.
What’s the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath?
From a clinical point of you, these features are used to describe both sociopaths and psychopaths, although some doctors tried to distinguish between these two by how severe their symptoms are. While a sociopath might not cause serious harm to others, a psychopath would definitely use violence to put other people in danger.
However, both exhibit an extremely selfish behaviour and will not feel bad nor change over time because of punishment.
Can a sociopath be treated?
Considering that most of people who have ASPD don’t see themselves as having a problem, they are also not seeking help. If the person doesn’t want to be diagnosed or to cooperate with a long-term behavioural treatment, there are no chances for success.
Possible treatments for ASPD include:
- Psychotherapy: it might include anger therapy, therapy for violent behaviour and different kind of addictions.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): it can help the sociopath accept he has a problem and develop less harmful behaviours.
None of these will cure ASPD, they will just improve the symptoms.
Although there isn’t a specific treatment for ASPD, sometimes they receive medication for anxiety, depression or aggressive behaviour. All these mental disorders are often associated with ASPD.
How to cope with a sociopath?
The best way to cope with someone who treats you bad or causes you harm is to remove that person from your life. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a family member, a spouse or a close friend that suffers from ASPD, therapy can help you develop a more positive relationship with that person.
Through therapy you will be able to understand better that these people cannot fully understand your emotions and what are you going through, you will be able to explain to this person in what way their behaviour causes you harm, you will be able to learn the importance of healthier boundaries and offer consequences to their harmful behaviours.
As we previously mentioned, although ASPD can’t be cured, these people can learn through therapy to replace their destructive behaviours with constructive ones.
If you’re the one who suffers from ASPD, remember that accepting this mental disease is the first step in developing stable and loving relationships with others.