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People with Antisocial Personality Disorder be described as people who seem to have little regard for others’ emotions in order to get what they want, but there is research supporting that this lack of regard to emotion comes from their poor decision-making skills. People who have Antisocial Personality Disorder that can belong into two categories (psychopathy, sociopathy), whose differences are debated. For the purposes of this paper, the term ‘psychopath’ will be used because it’s a clinical term noted in the DSM without controversy.
The public’s general perception of a psychopath is a “murderous madman”, with such examples titled “unforgettable”. Two of these characters include Silence of the Lambs’s Hannibal Lecter or the psychopathic murder Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. These perceptions, however, for the majority with Antisocial Personality Disorder are false (“Research and Innovation”).
Psychopathy is one of the most difficult mental disorders to spot and diagnose. For years they were defined as unable to process human emotion such as empathy, remorse, or regret (Reuell). Yet because these people are so manipulative, they have to have acquired an understanding of another’s thoughts. Questions are posed after because even though psychopaths understand people, they still choose to inflict harm on others (Hathaway). Psychopathic traits are also placed on a low-to-high spectrum, measured in the degree to how much a person shows such traits. Having the disorder is not a simple yes or no answer (“Research and Innovation”).
The true name of psychopathy as a mental illness which the DSM labels is Antisocial Personality Disorder, which also includes the term sociopath, which is not a real disorder in itself. “Psychopathy” and “Antisocial Personality Disorder” can be used interchangeably, but “sociopath” is not a clinical term (Meyers). “Sociopath” and “psychopath” can also be called the same thing. Or, sociopaths may be referred as one with antisocial leanings because of environmental factors, like the community they grew up in, while the antisocial traits of psychopaths come more naturally inside of the person. A “chaotic or violent upbringing” can also contribute to the level of psychopathy in a person already prone to behave that way (“Psychopathy”).
It is known that psychopaths are cruel and manipulative and depending on the case, may enjoy inflicting pain upon others (J, Antonia). One of their traits is arrogance, which includes self-entitlement, and are convinced that they’re at the top of everything they do. Another trait is big risk-taking, because psychopaths have little regard for safety that usually belongs to another person. To further advance their motives, they lie, cheat, and steal. Their plans are done in advance and leave little traces of clues behind, making them extremely intelligent con artists that horror movies enjoy portraying. Surprisingly, they’re labeled initially as charming, drawing people in with their wittiness and well-told stories that shine the psychopath in a positive light. People are said to walk away from them feeling “pretty good” (Morin). Psychopaths are compulsive liars to convince others and maybe themselves that they are near perfection. Also, it’s possible for them to change the “outlet” of their proneness to violence into another form, like harming animals (J, Antonia). As mentioned previously, psychopaths are capable of feeling emotion, but predicting the outcomes of their choices is something they may not be capable of (Reuell). This relates to the fact that psychopaths are big risk-takers.
Scientists believe that either two paths lead to psychopathy - one by nature, or one by nurture. A child can be a psychopath “by nature”, meaning that they show these traits without cause. An example of “by nurture” is that some children are raised without proper support or care from their parents, therefore forcing them to raise themselves in difficult circumstances. This can turn them, as a defense mechanism, into violent or cruel people. Experts also suggest that removing the child from that environment can also save a child from becoming a full-on psychopath. Other traits alone can’t influence psychopathy: Researchers emphasize that unsympathetic or insensitive children aren’t always going to be psychopaths. Estimates include that there’s an 80% change of a child not becoming one (“When Your Child is a Psychopath”).
Psychopaths have differences in their amygdala. That’s the organ in their brain that controls emotion and aggression. Therefore, they can’t learn from punishment, not ever acquiring a social conscience. This relates to their lack of empathy and seemingly-little remorse (J, Antonia).
In children, psychopathy is similar as in adults. Being caring or empathetic is used for manipulation purposes solely. According to researchers, about one percent of children exhibit these traits; a similar amount to the percentage of those with autism, whose differences from psychopathy will be discussed later, or bipolar disorder. With a psychopath’s usual charm and intelligence, people won’t even suspect that the described child has Antisocial Personality Disorder because they’ll “mimic social cues” so adeptly (Hagerty).
“Inside a Mind of a Sociopath” is a book written anonymously by M.E. Thomas. In this writing, she admits that people like her, sociopaths, can be dangerous. She also confesses that they’re incapable of feeling genuine guilt or remorse and are power-hungry, but what she doesn’t agree to is that they’re evil. Because of the media, cases are shown where psychopaths/sociopaths are tried for a crime, people, with the little information they have, only see that side of them. On love, Thomas says that love is a mixture of emotions such as affection, adoration, infatuation, or attraction. She states, “...our particular cocktail of love is going to look different or feel different to us [people with Antisocial Personality Disorder], but it’s still there”. (“Inside A Mind of a Sociopath”)
Antisocial Personality Disorder has been confused with autism, probably because they both share common traits. Both people with Antisocial Personality Disorder and autism are self-centered, lack or choose to ignore people’s emotions, therefore making rash decisions without considering them, and they “fail to see common elements in different situations”. The main difference between the two is that people with Antisocial Personality Disorder are independent usually, but only small percentage of people on the autism spectrum are able to live and support themselves as adults (Samenow).