Antisocial Psychopath and Sociopath: Antisocial Personality Disorder

Uploaded 10/22/2010, approx. 5 minute read

I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual says that psychopath and sociopath are merely colloquial terms to describe someone with antisocial personality disorder.

But scholars such as Robert Hare and Theodore Millon beg to differ.

The psychopath has antisocial traits for sure, but these are coupled with and enhanced by callousness, ruthlessness, extreme lack of empathy, deficient impulse control, deceitfulness, and sadism.

Like other personality disorders, psychopathy becomes evident in early adolescence, and it is considered to be chronic.

But unlike most other personality disorders, it is frequently ameliorated with age, and even tends to disappear altogether by the fourth or fifth decade of life.

This is because criminal behavior and substance abuse are both determinants of antisocial personality disorder, and these behaviors are more typical of young adults than they are of old people.

Psychopathy may be hereditary. The psychopath's immediate family usually suffer from a variety of personality disorders.

Psychopathy also has a strong genetic, biochemical, and neurological component. The brains of psychopaths behave differently.

The antisocial personality disorder is a controversial mental health diagnosis.

The psychopath refuses to conform to social norms and to obey the law. He often inflicts pain and damage on his victims, but does that make this pattern of conduct a mental illness?

The psychopath has no conscience or empathy, but is this necessarily a pathological thing? Culture-bound diagnosis are often abused as tools of social control. They allow the establishment, the ruling elites, and groups with vested interests to label and restrain dissidents and troublemakers. Such diagnoses are frequently employed by totalitarian states to harness or even to eliminate eccentrics, criminals, dissidents, and deviants.

Like narcissists, psychopaths lack empathy. They regard other people as mere instruments of gratification and utility, or as objects to be manipulated.

Psychopaths and narcissists have no problem to grasp ideas and to formulate choices, needs, preferences, courses of actions, and priorities, but they are shocked when other people do the very same thing. They are flabbergasted when they confront evidence that other people are autonomous in dependent units.

Most people accept that other people have rights and obligations. The psychopath rejects this quid pro quo. As far as he is concerned, only might is right.

People have no rights, and he, a psychopath, has no obligations that derive from a postulated social contract.

The psychopath holds himself to be above conventional morality, above the law. The psychopath cannot delay gratification. He is a law unto himself.

He wants everything, and he wants it now. His whims, his urges cater into his needs where the satisfaction of his drives take precedence over the needs, preferences, wishes, and emotions of even his nearest and dearest.

Consequently, psychopaths feel no remorse when they hurt or defraud others. They don't possess even the most rudimentary conscience.

They rationalize their often criminal behavior and intellectualize it.

Psychopaths fall prey to their own primitive defense mechanisms, such as narcissism, splitting, and projection.

The psychopath firmly believes that the world is a hostile, merciless place, prone to the survival of the fittest, and that people are either all good or all evil.

The psychopath projects his own vulnerabilities, weaknesses, frailties, and shortcomings unto others, and he forces them to behave the way he expects them to.

This defense mechanism is known as projective identification.

Like narcissists, psychopaths are abusively exploitative and incapable of true love and intimacy.

Narcissistic psychopaths are particularly ill-suited to participate in the give and take of civilized society.

Many of them are misfits or criminals. White-collar psychopaths are likely to be deceitful and engage in rampant identity theft.

The use of aliases, constant lying, fraud, and corner artistry will gain or sometimes for pleasure.

Psychopaths are irresponsible and unreliable. They do not honor contracts, undertakings, and obligations. They are unstable. They are unpredictable and rarely hold a job for long, repay their debts, or maintain long-term intimate relationships.

Psychopaths are vindictive and they hold grudges forever. They never regret and they never forget a thing.

They are driven and they are dangerous. Always in conflict with authority, frequently on the run, psychopaths possess a limited time horizon and seldom make medium or long-term plans. They are impulsive and reckless, aggressive, violent, irritable, and sometimes the captives of magical thinking, believing themselves to be immune to the consequences of their own actions.

Thus, psychopaths often end up in jail, having repeatedly flouted social norms and codified laws.

Partly to avoid this fate and evade the law, partly to extract material benefits from unsuspecting victims, psychopaths habitually lie. They steal other people's identities, they deceive, they use aliases, and they con for personal profit of pleasure as a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual puts it.

Psychopaths are said to be fearless and sang for. Their pain tolerance is very high.

Still, contrary to popular perceptions and psychiatric orthodoxy, some psychopaths are actually very anxious and fearful. Their psychopathy is a defense against an underlying and all-pervasive anxiety either hereditary or brought about by early childhood abuse and trauma.

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