One of the reasons I created this blog is because when I started searching for information about my sociopathic personality, the only online articles I could find were either entirely false or grossly misinformed. This infuriated me.
Once I received my doctorate, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to helping other sociopaths find their way. One way I try and do this is by spotlighting articles on my blog in an effort to increase awareness and separate fact from fiction.
This week’s article is currently sitting on Health.com. It was written by someone called Rosie McCall, who posted it not too long ago. While certain facets of this feature are accurate, so much of it is not. Let’s break it down.
Straight away Rosie McCall makes the mistake of indicating that sociopathy and antisocial personality disorder (ASP) are the same. While this is a commonly held misconception among many psychologists, I can assure you it is just that: a misconception.
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.
The biggest problem I have with the concept of interchanging the sociopathic and antisocial personality disorders is this: in order to be labeled a sociopath, one must first be labeled with APD. In order to be labeled with APD, there must be evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.
So essentially, in order to be considered a sociopath, you have to get caught. And not just once – but enough times to be diagnosed with conduct disorder prior to the age of 15.
Do you realize how ridiculous this is?
Do you know how many kids out there aren’t getting caught? Do you know how many sociopaths (like me) are figuring out very quickly how to be invisible? Trying to diagnose sociopaths based on conduct criteria is like trying to fish with a giant hole in your net: you might catch a few but most of us are figuring out real quick how to beat the system.
It’s too bad our friend, Rosie McCall, makes the mistake of confusing sociopathy with antisocial personality disorder in her article so quickly, because the rest of it isn’t that bad.
In paragraph three McCall quotes Dr. Donald Black who says, “the disorder can be relatively mild. Maybe they lie, maybe they get into trouble with their spouses, and that’s about it. Most people are in the middle.”
This is absolutely correct. Most of us are in the middle. More and more studies are suggesting that sociopathy is a spectrum disorder, meaning there are some bad cases, not so bad cases, and a bunch of stuff happening in between.
Take me, for instance. I demonstrate many of the tell-tale characteristics of sociopathy. Fortunately for us, Rosie McCall was kind enough to list quite a few of them in her article:
1. Lack of empathy (check)
2. Difficult relationships (not so much anymore, but when I was younger this was a major check)
3. Manipulativeness (check, check)
4. Deceitfulness (check)
5. Callousness (I take issue with the negativity associated with this term. What someone might describe as “callous” is really just an inability on my part to access emotions the same way other people do. But whatever. Check.)
6. Hostility (check)
7. Risky behavior (check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check).
I am capable of exhibiting all of the symptoms listed above but I am very much in control of my personality. I do not have a criminal record. I am happily married, well-educated, career-driven and am able to maintain numerous “real” relationships.
This is what makes me (and others like me) difficult to spot. We engage in anti-social or pro-social behavior as it suits us. We are in the middle of the spectrum.
My favorite part of the article can be found in the second to last paragraph of the article. It states that “therapy can help manage some of the symptoms and side effects, particularly in milder cases.”
I cannot stress enough how true this is – and not just for mild cases. This is great news because research indicates that sociopaths make up anywhere from 4 to eight percent of the population (and I believe this is a conservative estimate).
Sadly, the good news ends here. Rather than close strong with some facts on treatment options or empirical data that hasn’t been pop-fictionalized, the author decides to end her article by instructing readers what to do should they encounter a sociopath:
“Avoid them. Avoid them as best as you can because they are going to complicate your life.”
Bummer, Rosie McCall. You came so close.