There is a common misconception that sociopaths are bad people. In reality, these individuals are simply living with a mental health condition that changes the way they perceive the world and interact with others. Find out what sociopathy looks like, what it means to be a high-functioning sociopath and what motivates a sociopath. If you or someone you love is exhibiting signs of sociopathy, professional help is available to better manage the condition.
What Is Sociopathy?
Sociopathy is also called antisocial personality disorder. This mental health condition means the person doesn’t understand the difference between what’s right and wrong. They aren’t empathetic toward others and tend to ignore the feelings of other people. Someone displaying signs of sociopathy might:
- Actively enjoy manipulating other people
- Show no remorse
- Break rules
- Demonstrate a lack of empathy
What Is a High-Functioning Sociopath?
Someone who’s a high-functioning sociopath is likely to get away with a lot of these negative behaviors because they seem charming and down-to-earth to the outside world. Sociopaths who are high functioning use charisma and warmth toward others to mask their misconduct and manipulative behaviors. When someone is a high-functioning sociopath, people around them might not realize they’re dealing with a sociopath because that lack of remorse or empathy and disregard for rules isn’t apparent outwardly.
Are Sociopaths Capable of Being Good People?
Sociopaths are not necessarily bad or evil people. The condition simply means there’s a lack of empathy and regard for people’s feelings. Although sociopathy precludes someone from feeling guilt or remorse, someone with this condition isn’t necessarily striving to hurt others or do something wrong. They’re living in the moment, being present in the situation and making decisions for themselves rather than for others around them. A person with antisocial personality disorder can have a positive relationship with others.
However, it’s important to understand that if you’re close with someone who’s a sociopath, they may engage in behaviors like pathological lying or unnecessary risk-taking behavior due to an inability to fathom or fear the consequences.
Motivation for Sociopaths
There are many things capable of motivating sociopaths — all things that bring them personal gain. Unfortunately, a relationship with a sociopath can mean manipulation as part of their plot to get what they want. Many sociopaths are motivated by the allure of power, money, social status or sexual relations. They may also be motivated by anger or rage. Some people with a high-functioning personality disorder may feel angry or resentful toward others or the world, which drives their manipulative or sometimes criminal behavior.
What Is the Difference Between a Sociopath and a Psychopath?
People often use the terms sociopath and psychopath interchangeably, but they’re actually two different things. While sociopathy is an official diagnosable mental health condition (antisocial personality disorder), psychopathy is not. While a sociopath may still be able to maintain some personal relationships and have a charismatic personality, psychopaths tend to feel isolated due to their own negative actions.
For a brief overview of primary differences between the two, consider that a sociopath:
- May have a short fuse and react angrily in situations
- Understands their behavior but justifies it
- Has difficulty forming emotional relationships
- Is unable to maintain stable relationships with family and friends
- Doesn’t hide their lack of remorse or empathy
In contrast, a psychopath:
- May use superficial charm to make people believe they care
- Doesn’t understand other people’s emotional responses
- Lives a normal life as a cover for their bad behaviors
- Maintains relationships that are purely superficial
According to one systemic review and meta analysis, approximately 4.5% of the population displays traits of psychopathy. In contrast, around 7.4 million Americans are affected by antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which is around 3.5%. The disorder disproportionately affects men compared to women.
Are Sociopaths Self-Aware?
Yes, most sociopaths are self-aware, which can be surprising to many people. In some cases, a sociopath may be self-aware because their behavior has been brought to their attention, but for the most part, they are able to identify that they’re different from others in the way they think and function. The ability to be self-aware about their behavior and mental state is one of the primary differences between a sociopath and a narcissist.
Are There Treatments Available for Sociopathy?
Treatment is available for antisocial personality disorder. There’s no simple cure, but there are treatment options that help the individual manage their mental health condition. Seeking professional support for ASPD is the first step toward understanding how your actions are impacting others and taking responsibility for your relationships and behaviors.
One of the most common treatment options for ASPD is some form of talk therapy. This can be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or mentalization-based therapy (MBT). CBT seeks to help the patient change their thought patterns to alter behavior and manage a condition. Mentalization-based therapy is useful for ASPD specifically because it requires patients to consider their mental state and look at how it’s affecting their behavior. With MBT, there’s a strong focus on mindfulness techniques and looking at situations from an alternate perspective, which encourages people with sociopathy to look at the needs of others rather than focusing solely on themselves.
There’s no specific medication that physicians and mental health professionals can prescribe for ASPD. However, depending on your symptoms, some medications may be helpful in improving your quality of life. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can aid in managing anger issues or personality disorders.
Get Professional Support at Restore
Restore Mental Health in southern Florida is a facility with inpatient and outpatient programs to support individuals with mental health conditions. We offer talk therapy, group therapy, inpatient programs and much more. At Restore Mental Health, our team of therapists and counselors is standing by to take your call. Contact us today to begin building a treatment plan that meets your needs.