In popular songs, movies, and TV shows, the word “sociopath” is often thrown around and misused. As a result, many people don’t know what the term really means. So, what exactly is sociopathy?
What Is Sociopathy?
“Sociopath” isn’t an insult to use when you don’t like someone or want to take frustration out on your exes. In reality, the term “sociopathy” relates to a very real and diagnosable mental health condition called antisocial personality disorder or ASPD. In fact, the direct definition of sociopathy, according to the APA dictionary, is “a former name for antisocial personality disorder.” The term “sociopath” is somewhat outdated, and media depictions often lead to stigma. Antisocial personality disorder is also not as rare as one might think; ASPD is said to impact about 1-4% of the population in the United States. Current statistics show that ASPD is more prevalent in men, and there are a number of different risk factors that may put someone at a higher likelihood of living with ASPD.
Despite the name of the condition, antisocial personality disorder doesn’t describe someone who is antisocial or reclusive. As a disorder, ASPD is characterized by long-standing, persistent patterns of disregard and violation of the rights of other people. Someone with ASPD may lack empathy and use wit and charm to manipulate others. Arrogance and disregard for right and wrong are common characteristics. Signs of ASPD include but aren’t limited to:
- Repeated lying, deception, manipulation, or exploitation of others
- Aggression or hostility, which may result in physical fights
- Recklessness and disregard for the safety of oneself or others
- Trouble with the law or disregard to social norms as they relate to lawful behavior
- Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
- Inability to sustain responsibility in the form of employment or financial obligations
- Lack of remorse for one’s actions, even when other people are impacted
To be diagnosed with ASPD, someone must display at least three out of the seven above symptoms. ASPD is not self-diagnosable, and other diagnoses will generally be ruled out before a diagnosis is provided.
Diagnosis And Treatment
As with all mental health conditions, antisocial personality disorder can only be diagnosed by a qualified medical or mental health professional (such as a psychiatrist) in a clinical setting. However, it can be hard to diagnose ASPD because many people who meet the criteria for the condition do not seek help on their own. Before concluding a diagnosis of ASPD, a provider will look carefully at an individual’s patterns of behavior over time. Though many people with antisocial personality disorder show signs or symptoms in childhood, ASPD isn’t diagnosed until adulthood for this reason. As for treatment, there is no known cure, but symptoms can improve with therapy. Therapy for affected family members or loved ones may be advantageous as well. Those with ASPD are at an increased risk of substance use disorders* and other co-occurring or comorbid conditions. If one or more co-occurring or comorbid condition is present, it is important that these are addressed as well.
*If you or someone you know is experiencing a substance use disorder, please contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.
Whether you’re struggling with symptoms of a mental health condition or something else that’s on your mind, support in the form of a therapist or counselor can help. To find a therapist, you can search the web, contact your insurance company to see who they cover near you, ask your doctor for a referral, or sign up for a reputable online therapy platform like BetterHelp. All of the providers on the BetterHelp platform are licensed, and the plans are often more affordable than traditional in-person services are without insurance. Regardless of how you find a therapist, you deserve to get the support you need, so don’t hesitate to take the first step toward finding care today.
Marie Miguel Biography
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.