Sociopathy is a mental health problem that is now more commonly referred to as Antisocial Behavior Disorder (ASPD). Those individuals with ASBD tend to be attracted to high risk behaviors. The condition is often associated with criminality and addiction. The sociopath also will have few qualms about hurting other people. Sociopathy is often confused with psychopathy which is sometimes classed as another form of ASPD.
The Antisocial Behavior Disorder diagnosis is given to those individuals who exhibit certain traits. These behavioral problems need to have developed in childhood and continued on into adulthood for an ASPD diagnosis to be appropriate. Although the antisocial behavior may be obvious in childhood, the condition cannot be diagnosed until the individual has reached 18 years of age. The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) describes how the presence of any three of the following traits could indicate ASPD:
* Impulsive behavior. The individual shows no concern about the future implications of their actions.
* The person with ASPD will often have a history of disregarding the safety of other people.
* Repeated episodes of aggression. This person will also become irritable easily.
* Evidence of irresponsibility. Such an individual is likely to have a poor school record and erratic work history.
* There will usually be evidence of a failure to conform to the norms of society. Many people with ASPD will have had at least some contact with the justice system.
* An individual with ASPD will usually show no remorse for their behavior, even when it hurts other people.
* A history of deception. Such a person will be willing to lie and cheat to get what they want.
In order for the diagnosis of ASPD to be applicable, the individual must have demonstrated some evidence of poor conduct before they were 15 years old. It is also necessary to eliminate other potential causes for the behavior such as schizophrenia.
There are different types of ASBD. It is common to include psychopathy within this group. However, there are arguments that suggest it should be classified as a separate condition. The psychologist Theodore Millon described the following types of antisocial behavior disorder:
* The covetous individual with ASBD is convinced they have been denied things in life. They will have a deep desire to get retribution for those things they have lost, and to get those things back again.
* The nomadic person feels cursed in life. Nothing they do will seem to work out the way it should. Such individuals will tend to act impulsively and live the life of a vagrant.
* The risk taker only feels alive when they are living on the edge. They are reckless and prone to impulsiveness.
* A reputation defender finds it hard to deal with any criticism. They need to feel that their lives are flawless.
* Those who are malevolent can be highly dangerous people. They have no remorse about hurting other people and feel a desire to seek revenge for any perceived insults.
There is no definitive cause of antisocial behavior disorder. There have been suggestions about possible contributing factors. It may develop as a result of chronic low arousal states. The individual may be drawn to risky situations to combat this lack of arousal. It is also claimed that smoking during pregnancy may make it more likely that the offspring will suffer from sociopathy. This is due to low oxygen levels causing brain damage. It could also be that those with ASBD have problems with their nervous system.
The most common approach for treating individuals with ASBD is medication and psychotherapy. Behavioral therapies which use rewards for good conduct may provide some positive results too. There are now also self-help groups where those with the condition can learn from one another. It is rare for people with ASBD to seek help themselves. It is more usual that they have been ordered into treatment by a court.
Most addicts are not sociopaths, but most sociopaths tend to be substance abusers. This is because those with the condition tend to be drawn towards risky behavior. It can be difficult to get such individuals to seek help for their addiction problems. Once they are in treatment, it is possible for them to break away from addiction. Those who succeed in recovery can then be encouraged to begin treatment for their ASBD.
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