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bea2345's avatar

How is sociopathy diagnosed, and what makes a person recognizable as a sociopath?

Asked by bea2345 (6201points) June 13th, 2009

A relative of mine (who is being treated for depression) has been described by two other relatives as a sociopath. There are times when I wonder about it. Does anybody here have first hand experience with it?

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13 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I am thinking anyone can call another a sociopath and the definitions would vary greatly and would be according to the person that utters this and their ideas of what the ‘proper’ thing to do is – I think more often than not, it’s an word that’s a last resort, a word to describe a person whose actions aren’t easily explained

tyrantxseries's avatar

http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html
I knew a sociopath when I first went into treatment, he was in the support group I joined, he didn’t last long.

loser's avatar

I believe only a licenced psycologist can make that diagnosis, officially. But I did see them do it in Law & Order once so maybe law enforcement can too.
I saw it on TV so it must be true!
I have no first hand experience that I’m aware of but I know it’s tough when a family member us depressed. My heart goes out to you.

pallen123's avatar

There’s a DSM definition but basically a sociopath is a fuckup—someone that from a young age shows a pattern of disregard for other people and their property, rules, laws, etc. and generally pisses people off, doesn’t seem to care much, and usually has a track record of “trouble”—fights, lawsuits, school dropouts/suspensions, arrests, etc. At the root, these people just can’t seem to get along with others—they don’t play well in the sandbox, and usually they just don’t care that they can’t. They’re anti-social—against social relationships and obligations. It may coincide with depression, but the two are separate diagnoses and occur independently.

Darwin's avatar

If someone routinely displays at least three of the following, then they are considered to be a sociopath:

A grandiose sense of self and entitlement.

A lack of remorse.

A very manipulative personality covered by superficial charm.

Chronic (and skillful) lying.

Recklessness and aggressive behaviors and/or impulsivity.

Also common with sociopaths is a history of poor relationships and trouble with the law or with authority figures in general.

While we associate being a sociopath most with people such as Ted Bundy, a sociopath may impinge on your own life in the form of a manipulative neighbor, and abusive partner, or the CEO of the big corporation for which you work. Many sociopaths have troubles with law enforcement and authority, accounting for the high percentages of sociopaths who fill the prisons. Sociopaths are also likely to be involved in more domestic violence, aggressive crimes, and have a higher rate of substance abuse issues.

bea2345's avatar

The little that I have been able to gather about real life experiences: relationships with thoroughgoing sociopaths are such that people don’t want to remember them. My relative is hard to get on with, but he is not quite in that league.

Darwin's avatar

Possibly you are lucky, then. How you perceive him depends in part on how close he is to you or who he is focused on. If you can’t or won’t provide him with something he needs he may not bother trying to manipulate you.

On the other hand, your other relatives may not know what they are talking about.

In any case, it is good he is getting treatment for his depression.

bea2345's avatar

I learned the hard way not to let him manipulate me.

wundayatta's avatar

Sociopaths have no empathy for other people. That’s what allows them to do the things in @Darwin‘s list. A note: sociopath and psychopath seem to be synonymous terms.

From Suffering Souls

Psychopaths don’t exhibit the manias, hysterias, and neuroses that are present in other types of mental illness. Their main defect, what psychologists call “severe emotional detachment”—a total lack of empathy and remorse—is concealed, and harder to describe than the symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This absence of easily readable signs has led to debate among mental-health practitioners about what qualifies as psychopathy and how to diagnose it. Psychopathy isn’t identified as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s canon; instead, a more general term, “antisocial personality disorder,” known as A.P.D., covers the condition.

At least one researcher, Dr. Kent Keihl, believes that psychopathy has an organic root cause:

In January of 2007, Kiehl arranged to have a portable functional magnetic-resonance-imaging scanner brought into Western—the first fMRI ever installed in a prison. So far, he has recruited hundreds of volunteers from among the inmates. The data from these scans, Kiehl hopes, will confirm his theory, published in Psychiatry Research, in 2006, that psychopathy is caused by a defect in what he calls “the paralimbic system,” a network of brain regions, stretching from the orbital frontal cortex to the posterior cingulate cortex, that are involved in processing emotion, inhibition, and attentional control. His dream is to confound the received wisdom by helping to discover a treatment for psychopathy. “If you could target the brain region involved, then maybe you could find a drug that treats that region,” he told me. “If you could treat just five per cent of them, that would be a Nobel Prize right there.” (from the article cited above).

So, to conclude, sociopathy is a condition that psychiatrists call “antisocial personality disorder” and it is difficult diagnosis it. Some time in the future, if the fMRI study turns up a correlation, it may be possible to diagnose it with brain scans. It may also be possible to treat it with medication.

bea2345's avatar

I suppose it is the mental version of a physical disability, like being born deaf or without limbs. Please keep on writing: I hope to hear about a few personal experiences; have there been any cures?

wundayatta's avatar

Well, if you’ve got it bad enough, there doesn’t seem to be a cure, yet, but there is prison.

Darwin's avatar

There isn’t a cure, but certain legitimate professions can be lucrative for sociopaths. As I mentioned above, CEOs of large companies are often intelligent sociopaths who use their manipulative skills and lack of empathy in order to quickly move up the promotion ladder. They are very able to get employees to do what they want them to do, and have no problem with doing some of the harder tasks, such as firing people. By the same token, they have no problem divorcing the mother of their children in favor of marrying a pretty young thing.

herb's avatar

The normal world and the world occupied by sociopathic individuals are like parallel universes that do not connect. The normal has no way of understanding, fMRI and tests not withstanding, the sociopath and visa versa. This leads to the continuing bovine excrement storm evidenced on the internet regarding this problem. Sometimes I use the analogy of air vs. water breathers. To fish the air filled world, corresponding in this metaphor to the normal, is a mystery from which predators continually intrude.

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