LinkedinTwitterThe DetailsConnectBlog Facebook Meet the TherapistHome For Writers

Thursday, October 15, 2009

T3 - Antisocial Personality Disorder (AKA Sociopath)

Welcome back to the Personality Disorder Parade. I'm starting with some of the more prominently known personality disorders (or least the ones you might hear thrown around on TV, pop culture, that sort of thing). Antisocial PD will be first.

The main feature of Antisocial PD is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others than begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. This is also called psychopathy or sociopathy.

For this diagnosis to be given to someone, they have to be over 18 and have a history of some symptoms of Conduct Disorder or a diagnosis of it. Children with Conduct Disorder repeatedly violate the basic rights of others and age-appropriate norms. It's IMPORTANT to remember the following four categories of behavior when giving your villain (or whatever character) a backstory: aggression to people or animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness of theft, or serious violation of rules.

So once they are adults, this pattern continues. They fail to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior. So whether of not they get arrested, they do things that would definitely land them in jail if they were caught, and they do these actions with disregard for the wishes, rights, or feelings of others.

They are frequently deceitful and manipulative in order to gain personal profit or pleasure (i.e., wanting money, sex, power, etc) and they may repeatedly lie, use an alias, con others or malinger (feign illness).

These individuals are impulsive, and fail to plan ahead. This means they make decisions without consideration for the consequences to others or to they might have sudden job changes, residence changes or relationship changes. They are also extremely irresponsible and may be unable to hold down a job or defaulting on debts/alimony.

People who suffer from APD tend to be irritable and aggressive, repeatedly getting into fights or committing acts of physical assault. These are child beaters, spouse beaters, etc, but the aggressive act isn't in defense of themselves or someone else (so these people don't try to defend someone's honor by getting into a fight...they just pick a fight or punch someone for no reason, that type thing). They have a reckless disregard for the safety of themselves OR others. They may be speed racers on the highway, driving under the influence, engage in sexual behavior of substance abuse with high risks for harmful consequences...and they just don't care. You don't want to have someone with APD solely in charge of taking care of a child, for instance.

Lastly, these individuals show little remorse, if any, for the consequences of their acts. They may be indifferent or give some rationalization for having hurt, mistreated or stolen from someone, like "$#!t happens," or "he had it coming." They may blame the victim for being stupid or in the wrong place at the wrong time.

To give you an idea, here's a quote from Wikipedia about Ted Bundy.

"On death row, Bundy admitted to decapitating at least a dozen of his victims with a hacksaw. He kept the severed heads later found on Taylor Mountain (Rancourt, Parks, Ball, Healy) in his room or apartment for some time before finally disposing of them. He confessed to cremating Donna Manson's head in his girlfriend's fireplace. Some of the skulls of Bundy's victims were found with the front teeth broken out. Bundy also confessed to visiting his victims' bodies over and over again at the Taylor Mountain body dump site. He stated that he would lie with them for hours, applying makeup to their corpses and having sex with their decomposing bodies until putrefaction forced him to abandon the remains. Not long before his death, Bundy admitted to returning to the corpse of Georgeann Hawkins for purposes of necrophilia (sex with corpses)."

Now for some general character traits associated with Antisocial PD, but not necessary for an actual diagnosis of it (take note, you'll want to include these in your characterization):

lack of empathy, callous, cynical, inflated/arrogant self-appraisal (they are better than certain types of work or people), opinionated, self-assured, cocky; glib, superficially charming, exploit sexual relationships, or easily bored.

Those traits in bold are features that have been commonly included in the traditional concepts of psychopathy that may be particularly telling of the disorder and more predictive of convicted criminals who repeatedly offend (Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, etc). This disorder is found in about 3% of males and 1% of females in general (higher percentages are found in substance abuse treatment settings, prisons and forensic settings). Antisocial PD is chronic, but tends to become less evident as the person grows older, particularly by the time they reach their 40s. Just FYI.

As you can see, this is the personality disorder of choice (not that they actually have a choice) for serial killers, sociopaths and psychopaths. Hopefully this rundown will give you some ideas for your diabolical stories.

Q4U: What did you learn new about this disorder? Did you know that sociopath wasn't really a "disorder" per se, and that the real associated name was Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Wordle: signature


Eileen Astels Watson said...

How does one become a sociopath? If you said why i'm sorry, but it didn't stick. Is it a chemical disorder or can it be developed through mistreatment? Are there drugs to help combat the evil will for people who are sociopaths.

Natalie said...

Wow, that's messed up. I'm wondering the same thing as Eileen. Do these people have terrible things happen to them when they are young or is it just a chemical issue?

Tara McClendon said...

I think I'd have to stay away from this type of person. But it does raise interesting questions on using it in a manuscript.

Tamika: said...

That is truly mortifying! I'm like Eileen how does someone become a sociopath?

Very informative!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Jeannie, this one in particular makes me very sad. It runs me through the ringer asking God questions...

Here are your 5 words:

Make me proud!
~ Wendy

Jessica Nelson said...

This is actually an interesting disorder and since I've run across it so often in thriller/serial murder type genres, I've looked it up a lot. I'd like to know the cause too, because I've read that most sociopaths are born. I've also read that head trauma in a certain region of the brain can cause sociopathy. And finally, my teacher friend said she was taught it's a chemical thing caused by not enough attention as a baby. (such as neglect, abuse, etc)
Also, I've heard people with this disorder tend to have higher IQs? And also that much of the prison population has this, but then it seems like there's a huge difference between no conscience and acting aggressively because of deep anger issues.
I'd def. be interested in more info. Great post!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

this is the age old "nature vs. nurture" debate. i think a psychopath can be born (chemical disorder in the brain), but that they can also be produced with just the right combination of predisposition factors and environmental/social cues. neither theory can account for every case of known sociopathy.

one thing to remember with this personality disorder is that the person doesn't just become a sociopath as an adult. they have a history of antisocial behavior dating well into childhood (usually called conduct disorder).

so sorry it's not a nice and neat answer, but it's the best i've got (and i think the best the field in general has got, but that's just IMHO). :)

Katie Ganshert said...

You know how they have drugs for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and they have drugs for this?

This is very frightening stuff.

Did you ever watch that movie with Macauly Culkin...The Good Son? That kid had to be a classic case of sociopathy, or anti-social disorder, or whatever you call it.

Jill Kemerer said...

This is chilling. Just chilling. Thanks for putting it out there.


Betty O said...

My husband's ex is a psychopath...and so is her sister, so that might speak to the nature vs nurture argument. I've also been told that therapy generally makes no difference with these types, as they can charm their way out of virtually any situation. And, yes, Jill, dealing with a psychopath is creepy.

Jm Diaz said...

I just came a cross your blog, and have no shame in saying that it is love at first read. As I wrote a serial killer into my MS, he was one of the few that nurtured... The information you have here is very good and helpful.


Georgiana Daniels said...

This is horrifying! I know someone who fits this description almost down to the last detail. He comes from a godly home full of love, and has brothers who turned out normal. I think in his case, he was born like that.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Yes, this is scary! I'm glad I finally was able to read it after a hectic week.

I'm interested in a previous commenter's reference to a female sociopath.

We don't hear about as many female sociopaths as males. Why is that, do you think?

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

thanks so much Jm! wow....that's a compliment if ever there was one. :)

rosslyn - i think there are female sociopaths out there....but we just don't hear about them from the media.

Anonymous said...

Sociopaths are demonic non human entities which enter this reality.

Most sociopaths are Mr and Mrs Suburbia and their methodology is not to kill you physically, but to manipulate you into your own destruction.

This is a blog which deals with the issue and tries to help people move on from the Sociopath Next Door types who are the real problem and not the Ted Bundy's who are extremely rare:


ak said...

I know I'm pretty late on this entry, but I thought I'd add my 2 cents with regard to female sociopaths.

I've heard/read that female sociopathic murderers are frequently in caretaker positions--there are many cases of nurses who work in hospitals, for example, who have access to medications that can cause cardiac arrest, or they might disrupt the operation of ventilators when no one else is around. I've heard this attributed to Munchausen-by-proxy (i.e. instead of feigning sickness for attention, they cause sickness/death in others for the vicarious attention). Their victims are vulnerable people whose deaths occur in a context where it could plausibly have happened anyway; in addition to hospitals, this has also occurred in nursing homes. Munchausen or not, this kind of behavior seems sociopathic to me.

In general, at least in Western cultures, women are socialized to express aggression in indirect or passive ways. As transgressive as sociopaths are, I cannot imagine that this social conditioning does not also affect them in some ways. Sociopaths are very good at manipulation, and most go undetected (granted, most are not murderers either). This is my theory as to why female sociopathic murderers don't get much press. Besides being more rare statistically, their methods are less direct, less sensational, and frequently, I think, not attributed to APD at all.

Post a Comment

Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.