There are so many online articles about the sociopathic personality that are either misinformed or entirely false. In an effort to change that and increase awareness about this very specific type of personality, I’m going to spotlight these articles. I’ll start with one I found on HealthyPlace.com claiming to offer the “definition” of the sociopathic personality.
This article makes one of the most common mistakes in that it uses the definition for Antisocial Personality Disorder as its sole criteria for defining sociopathy. Here’s the problem with that: Sociopathy and antisocial personality disorder (APD) are not the same.
Antisocial personality disorder is what most psychologists look for when assessing a sociopath. Although the two are similar, the sociopathic and antisocial personalities differ quite a bit from one another and should not be used synonymously.
The reason for this is simple: Sociopathic individuals sometimes meet the qualifications for antisocial disorder, but antisocial individuals do not generally meet the qualifications of sociopathy.
Make sense? Probably not. Let’s look at a some research research.
In 1991 a group of individuals diagnosed with antisocial personality were also tested for sociopathy. Only 30.2% of those individuals also qualified as sociopaths (Hare et al., 1991). In another study, a group of incarcerated males was tested for both disorders. More than 60% of this population met the criteria for antisocial personality disorder but only 25% of the same population met the criteria for sociopathy (Graves, 2000).
In other words having antisocial personality disorder does not automatically make you a sociopath (and vice versa). This is important because most psychologists insist on having an antisocial personality diagnosis in order to even consider labeling someone as a sociopath. But the research tells us that doesn’t always make sense.
An antisocial personality diagnosis is sometimes helpful when attempting to identify a psychopath. As we know, psychopaths engage in extreme amounts of antisocial behavior and don’t seem particularly worried about getting caught. We also know this behavior starts at a young age and tends to escalate over time.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, antisocial personality types are people who have repeatedly exhibited acts that are grounds for arrest, have been expelled from school, have been the aggressor in repeated physical assaults, and who are consistently irresponsible (2000). What’s more, this diagnosis is only considered appropriate if the person in question has engaged in such behaviors prior to the age of 15. This correlates with the behavior of a psychopath, whose emotional deficits are biologically present at birth and whose antisocial behavior starts in early childhood.
Psychopathy is believed to result from obscure biological abnormalities and has therefore caused many researchers and clinicians to doubt the disorder can be effectively treated. It is believed to be an irreversible disorder and not amenable to re-socialization or rehabilitation. Psychopathy is also believed to be extremely rare and has therefore not drawn the necessary attention or funding for further research. But more and more studies are suggesting that sociopathy is different.
Sociopaths represent the greatest number of individuals whose personalities reside on the antisocial spectrum. Sociopaths are capable of empathy, they demonstrate the ability to moderate their behavior, and they are able to learn from mistakes. Sociopaths are also receptive to certain types of psychological treatment. In short, they are not psychopaths.
Perhaps the biggest problem I found with this article, however, is this sentence: “It’s important to note that sociopathic children do not exist as a person.” This is 100 percent bullshit. I know this because I was one. And also because I grew up and became a doctor whose life work is studying sociopaths. In other words I know without a doubt this personality type gets an early start.
Look, just because the psychological field doesn’t currently recognize children as sociopaths does not mean these individuals “don’t exist as a person.” False statements like this make life for sociopathic children exponentially harder. It makes treatment options all but impossible to find and it perpetuates a myth about sociopaths and the way they perceive the world.
As a sociopath I often chuckle at articles like this one that are so off base in terms of accuracy and understanding. If this is the primary source material for people looking to educate themselves on sociopaths, it’s no wonder I’ve never been outed. But all laughs aside, articles like this one are just wrong. People who are searching need to know they are wrong, because knowledge is power. And everyone should have access to the truth.