Understanding A Person With Sociopathology

Understanding A Person With Sociopathology

Understand genetic heritability. 

While it can be hard to accept, as much as 50% of sociopathology can be attributed to heredity, meaning it can be passed on genetically. People with sociopathic traits are born with tendencies to act the way they do.

Just like a child doesn’t choose to be born into an impoverished family, an individual does not chose to be born predisposed to an inability to relate to others like ‘normal’ people do.

Realize environmental factors. 

While a history of childhood abuse is present for many people with sociopathic traits, it does not represent all individuals who express these tendencies. Generally, individuals who express sociopathic traits tend to receive a diagnosis of conduct disorder in childhood or adolescence, and often express behavioral difficulties such as aggression, deceitfulness, and destruction.
Children diagnosed with conduct disorder often have histories of having a dysfunctional family, traumatic experiences, family history of substance abuse, and inconsistent discipline within the home.

Recognize differences in experience. 

While it’s easy to be upset with someone in your life that appears to have sociopathic tendencies, remember that this person does not experience the love and trust that most people experience. Imagine a life of not experiencing the butterflies of being around someone you romantically love, or knowing how to fully trust loved ones and friends. These individuals also likely do not feel the connection of friendship that most people consider ‘normal. 

Sadly, these individuals do not even know what they are missing in these experiences, having perhaps never experienced healthy trust or love, given or received.

Understand what motivates the individual.

Because these individuals often lack the ability to empathize with others, they tend to be invested in self-interest. They may tend to be hypervigilant in meeting their own needs, with no attachment to other people. It is likely they do not have the skills to approach the world in any other way, so life is about taking care of the self and only the self.
Because there is no apparent benefit to helping others or treating others with respect, no action is taken to help or improve the lives of others.

Helping Someone With Sociopathic Tendencies

Have empathy.

While these people often are the source of a lot of frustration, pain, and hurt, remember that they are human, too. Despite these people often being very hard to love, it is for this reason they are in special need of empathy, care, and respect.

Do not excuse negative behaviour, but be willing to share love and compassion with a fellow human.
Many people that grow up to show sociopathic tendencies were subjected to childhood verbal, physical and/or sexual abuse. Many experienced chaotic or unstable families while growing up, or the loss of a parent. While this is not an excuse for behavior, it can allow you to have compassion on a person who has had a difficult or traumatic childhood and had to find other less-adaptive ways to survive.

Remember, however, that sociopaths are completely aware of their behavior and effects on others. An abusive past is not an excuse for bad behavior.

Also be careful in what a sociopath says about their past if it cannot be confirmed. Sociopaths will often lie or blur the truth about themselves, and stating they were abused or dealt with trauma can be used to garner sympathy.

Note that you need to have firm, appropriate boundaries. For most people, the way to fully heal damage to a relationship is to trust again. However, with sociopaths that may be very unwise. Forgive and move on, but be careful not to put yourself in a situation where you can be very vulnerable. While sociopaths do not necessarily cause harm, because they do not feel remorse, guilt, or the like, there is a high likelihood they will repeat the hurtful behaviour.

Showing empathy and forgiveness is good...but keep in mind that acting in such a way will not in any way mean they will feel any remorse, guilt, or have a change of heart at all.

Avoid enabling. 

This is especially hard if a person with sociopathic tendencies is in your family. You want to love and accept the person, but without enabling them to hurt or manipulate other people. Let the person know you are unwilling to enable their lifestyle or contribute to them hurting other people.
Say, “I want to support you, but I cannot contribute to you hurting other people.”

If the person is recklessly spending money and then cannot afford rent and asks to stay with you, be careful in saying “yes”. Housing this person may enable them to spend money on drugs or other harmful items, and may cause added stress to your life and living situation.
Avoid giving money to a person. If they ask for money, offer to buy groceries or contribute to rent if you feel inclined to help.

It can be difficult to see someone destroy their life and hurt other people, but remember that those are their decisions and you are not responsible for them.

Set clear boundaries in your relationship. A person may try to push boundaries or manipulate you or the relationship. 

Let the person know what you are available for and what you are unavailable for. This will help the person realize the predictability of the relationship, and that you are unable to be manipulated.
Don’t allow the person to push boundaries with you. If they call late at night, don’t pick up the phone. 
If they threaten to kill themselves, call the police. Don’t allow any responsibility that you do not consent to in being in this person’s life.
Don’t let the person call all of the shots. Say “no” to any activities you don’t want to participate in or contribute to, and be firm.
Discourage any harmful situations, such as doing drugs, engaging in criminal behavior, or other irresponsible behavior.
Say, “For you this may be normal, but for me, this is pushing my boundaries. I’d rather not participate in this.”

Protect your own rights. 

People with sociopathic personality patterns may disregard respect for you and your personal rights or violate your rights outright. Stand up for your rights and do not tolerate anyone treating you in any lesser degree than you wish to be treated. Remind yourself that disrespect received from someone else doesn’t reflect any lack on your part, it reflects the problems or insecurities of the other person.
A lack of empathy for other people can contribute to stampeding over other people’s rights. Someone with sociopathic tendencies will often display a high self-appraisal, which may lead them to believe that they can treat others as lower than the self.

Understand your role in their life. 

The cause of this disorder is unknown, but biological or genetic factors may play a role. Remember that although it may not be a person's fault that they are a sociopath, this individual is still responsible for their actions, and you do not need to fix those issues or damage your own life by staying around.

Don’t make it your responsibility to “save them” or “change them.” Recognize that change can only happen on their initiative, not yours.

Offer your support and encouragement to any positive activities. This may be praising, taking responsibility, or seeking treatment for drugs. Encourage things around responsibility.

Suggest treatment for addiction.

Many people people with antisocial personality disorder struggle with addiction, mainly with substances. Substance use and addiction can contribute to poor choices and increase risky behaviors. While you may not be able to do much to lessen this person’s behavior, working through addiction can have positive effects and lower overall risk.

There are many treatment options for substance abuse, based on need. Addiction can be treated through outpatient therapy, inpatient treatment, and residential care. Talk to a mental health care provider to see which option is best.

Suggest therapy. 

Therapy can help in rewarding positive behaviors and discouraging negative behaviors. Talk therapy in which the person is able to discuss difficulties in childhood or their insecurities can also be helpful. 
Often, people with personality disorders refuse therapy or only go when mandated by courts. In the case for people with sociopathic tendencies, therapy can be most helpful for accompanying psychological diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
Empathy can be learned. 

Through therapy, one can begin to understand and experience empathy with animals, people, and all living things.

What Is Sociopathology?

So·ci·o·path -

– Noun - Psychiatry. a person, as a psychopathic personality, whose behaviour is antisocial and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

Antisocial personality disorder Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Antisocial personality disorder (APD) is a mental disorder defined by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: "The essential feature for the diagnosis is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood." Considered essential features of the disorder are deceit and manipulation. Therefore it is essential in making the diagnosis to collect material from sources other than the individual being diagnosed. Also, the individual must be age 18 or older as well as have a documented history of a conduct disorder before the age of 15.


The criteria for the Antisocial Personality Disorder were derived from the Research Diagnostic Criteria developed by Spitzer, Endicott and Robbins (1978). There was concern in the development of the DSM-IV that there was too much emphasis on research data and not enough on the more traditional psychopathic traits such as a lack of empathy, superficial charm, and inflated self appraisal. However field trial data indicated that some of the traits of psychopathy derived from the Psychopathy Checklist developed by Hare et al., 1992, were difficult to assess reliably and thus were not included. Lack of remorse is an example. The antisocial person may express guilt or remorse or offer excuses and rationalizations. However, a history of criminal acts in itself suggests little remorse or guilt.

Diagnostic criteria

Three or more of the following are required:

1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.

2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure

3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead

4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults

5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others

6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behaviour or honour financial obligations

7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

The antisocial behaviour must not occur exclusively during an episode of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode.

Sex differences: According to DSM-IV (in a 1994 publication by the APA), Antisocial Personality disorder is diagnosed in approximately 3% of all males and 1% of all females.


Common characteristics of people with antisocial personality disorder include:

• Persistent lying or stealing

• Recurring difficulties with the law

• Tendency to violate the rights and boundaries of others (property, physical, sexual, emotional, legal)

• Substance abuse

• Aggressive, often violent behaviour; prone to getting involved in fights

• A persistent agitated or depressed feeling (dysphoria)

• Inability to tolerate boredom

• Disregard for the safety of self or others

• A childhood diagnosis of conduct disorders - this is not a symptom but "a history of"

• Lack of remorse, related to hurting others

• Superficial charm

• Impulsiveness

• A sense of extreme entitlement

• Inability to make or keep friends

• Recklessness, impulsivity

• People with a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder often experience difficulties with authority figures.


The National Comorbidity Survey, which used DSM-III-R criteria, found that 5.8 percent of males and 1.2 percent of females showed evidence of a lifetime risk for the disorder. According to DSM-IV, Antisocial Personality disorder is diagnosed in approximately 3% of all males and 1% of all females.

In penitentiaries, the percentage is estimated to be as high as 75 percent. Prevalence estimates within clinical settings have varied from three to 30 percent, depending on the predominant characteristics of the populations being sampled. {Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders} Perhaps not surprisingly, the prevalence of the disorder is even higher in selected populations, such as people in prisons (who include many violent offenders) (Hare 1983). Similarly, the prevalence of ASPD is higher among patients in alcohol or other drug (AOD) abuse treatment programs than in the general population (Hare 1983), suggesting a link between ASPD and AOD abuse and dependence. David Korten also reports research that shows a high proportion of these traits amongst CEOs of major corporations .

Relationship with other mental disorders

Antisocial personality disorder is negatively correlated with all DSM-IV Axis I disorders except

substance abuse disorders. Antisocial personality disorder is most strongly correlated with psychopathy as measured on the Psychopathy Checklist.

The official stance of the American Psychiatric Association as presented in the DSM-IV-TR is that psychopathy and sociopathy are obsolete synonyms for antisocial personality disorder. The World Health Organization takes a similar stance in its ICD-10 by referring to psychopathy, sociopathy, antisocial personality, asocial personality, and amoral personality as synonyms for dissocial personality disorder.

Potential markers

Although antisocial personality disorder cannot be formally diagnosed before age 18, three markers for the disorder, known as the MacDonald Triad , can be found in some children. These are, a longer-than-usual period of bedwetting, cruelty to animals, and pyromania.

It is not known how many children who exhibit these signs grow up to develop antisocial personality disorder, but these signs are often found in the histories of diagnosed adults. Because it is unknown how many children have these symptoms and who do not develop antisocial personality disorder, the predictive value (ie, the usefulness of these symptoms for predicting future antisocial personality disorder) is unclear.

These three traits are now included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV-TR under conduct disorder.

A child who shows signs of antisocial personality disorder may be diagnosed as having either conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder. Not all of these children, however, will grow up to develop antisocial personality disorder.

Criticism of the DSM-IV criteria The DSM-IV confound : some argue that an important distinction has been lost by including both sociopathy and psychopathy together under APD. As Hare et al write in their abstract, "The Axis II Work Group of the Task Force on DSM-IV has expressed concern that antisocial personality disorder (APD) criteria are too long and cumbersome and that they focus on antisocial behaviors rather than personality traits central to traditional conceptions", concluding, "... conceptual and empirical arguments exist for evaluating alternative approaches to the assessment of psychopathy ... our hope is that the information presented here will stimulate further research on the comparative validity of diagnostic criteria for psychopathy; although too late to influence DSM-IV.


The cause of this disorder is unknown, but biological or genetic factors may play a role. However, the statistical correlation between the disorder and biological factors is weak, leading many experts to believe otherwise.

A family history of the disorder — such as having an antisocial parent — increases the chances of developing the condition. A number of environmental factors within the childhood home, school and community, such as an overly punitive home or school environment may also contribute, according to the Mayo Clinic Website.

Robins (1966) found an increased incidence of sociopathic characteristics and alcoholism in the fathers of individuals with antisocial personality disorder. He found that, within such a family, males had an increased incidence of APD, whereas females tended to show an increased incidence of somatization disorder instead.

Bowlby (1944) saw a connection between antisocial personality disorder and maternal deprivation in the first five years of life. Glueck and Glueck (1968) saw indications that the mothers of children who developed this personality disorder tended to display a lack of consistent discipline and affection, and an abnormal tendency to alcoholism and impulsiveness. These factors all contribute to a failure to create a stable and functional home with consistent structure and behavioral boundaries.

Adoption studies support the role of both genetic and environmental contributions to the development of the disorder. Twin studies also indicate an element of hereditability of antisocial behaviour in adults and have shown that genetic factors are more important in adults than in antisocial children or adolescents where shared environmental factors are more important. (Lyons et al., 1995)

A disorder that cause a person to feel that they do not need to work with others.