What is a sociopath?

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Antisocial Personality Disorder is also known as psychopathy or sociopathy. Individuals with this disorder have little regard for the feeling and welfare of others. As a clinical diagnosis it is usually limited to those over age 18. It can be diagnosed in younger people if the they commit isolated antisocial acts and do not show signs of another mental disorder.
Antisocial Personality Disorder is chronic, beginning in adolescence and continuing throughout adulthood. There are ten general symptoms:
  • not learning from experience
  • no sense of responsibility
  • inability to form meaningful relationships
  • inability to control impulses
  • lack of moral sense
  • chronically antisocial behavior
  • no change in behavior after punishment
  • emotional immaturity
  • lack of guilt
  • self-centeredness

People with this disorder may exhibit criminal behavior. They perhaps do not work. If they do work, they are frequently absent or may quit suddenly. They do not consider other people's wishes, welfare or rights. They can be manipulative and may lie to gain personal pleasure or profit. They may default on loans, fail to provide child support, or fail to care for their dependents adequately. High risk sexual behavior and substance abuse are common. Impulsiveness, failure to plan ahead, aggressiveness, irritability, irresponsibility, and a reckless disregard for their own safety and the safety of others are traits of the antisocial personality.
Socioeconomic status, gender, and genetic factors play a role. Males are more likely to be antisocial than females. Those from lower socioeconomic groups are more susceptible. A family history of the disorder puts one at higher risk.
There are many theories about the cause of Antisocial Personality Disorder including experiencing neglectful parenting as a child, low levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, and belief that antisocial behavior is justified because of difficult circumstances. Psychotherapy, group therapy, and family therapy are common treatments. The effects of medical treatment are inconclusive. Unfortunately, most people with Antisocial Personality Disorder reject treatment. Therefore, recovery rates are low.
Here is a very different, minority perspective from someone who believes himself to be a sociopath:"Sociopath" is a misleading word: it implies a disorder, something wrong and unnatural with the person, and this couldn't be further from the truth. We, the people you refer to as sociopaths, have nothing wrong with us.

We are necessary for the survival and sucess of the human species. Though we are found disporportionatly in prisons we are found with even greater frequency in your governments, your corporations, your military. Who else but someone devoid of concience could order thousands of soldiers to die, regardless of how noble the cause? Who can fire hundreds of workers to save a company from bankrupcy and then go to sleep that night? Who can so elegantly tell the lies that must be told, to protect the very people to whom the lies are told? It takes one of us to make those calls, the calls that the rest of humanity cannot make.

It is no coincidence that our lack of guilt comes with abnormally high intelligence and charisma; we are born to lead, all our traits support this conclusion. We are born knowing it, and the rest of you know it when you see us. Its why you elect us, follow us, and gives your lives by our command.

And yet a distressing number of us become the very thing you fear us all to be; criminals and abusers. This creates a cycle of ignorance, as all the "sociopaths" identified by the news are killers or wife-beaters, and so we identify this collection of gifts as evil, as pathological, and thus those of us in our proper roles feel the need to disguise ourselves for fear of being labeled evil. A simmilar cycle of ignorance has kept homosexuals oppressed for decades; homosexualty has been associated with childmolesters and perverts, drug use and desease, and it was called "evil" for this.

We are not evil, you simply do not recognise the good ones as the same phenomena. Google "Sociopath" and all you find is ways to recover from contact with a sociopath, information advising you to run from relationsships with sociopaths, and misinformation that will claim that "sociopaths cannot feel love" or that we "cannot think of others as human beings" or that we are "parasitic".

It is very distressing to discover, for a child who has always known that he was different, that he is a monster... that he is doomed to live a loveless life and become a criminal, that he will never be able to hold a job or raise a family. Indeed, one must wonder how often one of us discoveres what he is and buys into the paranoid misinformation and simply does what he is expected to do.

Your question: "What is a sociopath?" is answered thusly: a sociopath is one of your potential leaders, labeled by the paranoid masses as something sick and evil, and is left no alternative but an evil path. "Sociopath" is a negative label which only serves to further alienate people who simply need to be allowed to embrace their gifts. Getting rid of this misleading term should be the first step towards fully understanding who we are and the role we play in this world.  Comment on last answer
  • The notion that all sociopaths are very clever is a myth. Many are failures who make others suffer for their inadequacies. Most sociopaths are profoundly chaotic types.
  • It's a myth that sociopaths are born leaders. Instead of providing leadership, they treat others as their playthings, just as a bully or sadist does.
  • A true leader has emotional maturity and earns respect. Fear isn't respect: the notion that the two are the same is pathetic. One cannot respect people who are incapable accept responsibility for their actions and constantly pretend to be victims when they are perpetrators.
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