Aren't sociopaths just plain bad people?

Many who have been involved in close relationships with sociopaths would say that the the word 'sociopath' is essentially a medical term for an evil and depraved person.

Another viewpoint:

If one says that sociopaths aren't worth helping, one rather misses the point, after all. The price the world pays for not being able to help these people is incalculable. Euthanasia isn't the answer. There are people (whose consciences I really must wonder about) who suggest that all the sociopaths that can be located and diagnosed by the authorities should be gathered up whether or not they've done anything wrong yet, and killed en masse (shades of World War Two, but with a different group of people). This is appalling, for reasons I hope I don't really need to explain!

But it also shows the hopelessness that sociopaths and their behavior make many people feel.

To counter that hopelessness, please know these two incontrovertible points: (1) no, the sociopath who hurt you isn't happy; (2) yes, the massive population of sociopaths the world over will be able to be treated before long, and possibly the first threads of that are already starting now.

True that most if not all sociopaths are firmly within the definition most everyone else has of "evil" -- but also true that it is a neurological problem to start with; over the years from infancy to adulthood, a person born this way learns nothing about connecting with people and everything about manipulating them.

Empty and unable to change that circumstance, sociopaths drift aimlessly around, occasionally colliding with other people and causing damage. They return again and again to new people, but cannot get anything satisfying from their parasitic contact (they'd make lousy vampires if such things existed!), and so, drift on...

But "society" -- specifically, some neuroscientists -- may soon be capable of changing that, of freeing sociopaths from that trap and sparing the people who would otherwise get hurt by them. First of all, the parts of the brain that are silent in sociopaths and not in normal people can be awakened, although the resulting maelstrom of response would have to be carefully managed in a controlled setting. Secondly, it's been proven now beyond the hint of a remaining doubt that the patterns learned in early life are not as "fixed" in the adult brain as was once thought: even people in their sixties and seventies can change the courses taken by information in the brain, as work with stroke survivors has proven.

What no sociopath can do on his or her own, not too far in the future, neuroscientists can do.

But this would entail a lengthy in-patient stay.

With no knowledge of how to cope with the emotions the rest of the world has been dealing with all their lives, the recovering sociopath would be rendered as vulnerable as a baby. Which makes sense, because some of the most basic aspects of the human mind would be developing from the primordial stasis in which they had remained since birth!

A person thus treated would never be fully normal, but the human brain is amazing in the way it adapts and continues to develop all through life.

And given the utterly joyless and meaningless existence a sociopath leads, any genuine improvement is better than none.

And once they are helped, those who are hurt and bewildered by their terrible and often baffling behavior will be a lot happier, too.

One very important point, therefore, is that, most certainly, no one helps sociopaths by repeatedly calling them 'evil'! That kind of response cannot possibly help anyone. A sociopath before treatment cannot trust anyone and must learn the fundaments of trust and interaction between people. No one who is persuaded to believe that he or she is just plain bad can sustain any hope for change. It becomes a vicious cycle: the sociopath, being told he or she is evil and cannot be helped, gives up, and in frustration and anger lashes out again at people, and in response to that, people say that their original point is proven.

The main reason sociopaths don't usually seek help is that they can't trust, rather than that they like being as they are. Plus, they can often sense exactly what sort of a response any call for help on their part is most likely to elicit from professionals and lay folk alike. Sociopaths are not breezing along in paradise. It isn't all a game. It's a truly miserable existence. And it can be made better. It may not be "curable" yet, but it most certainly isn't as hopeless as so many people say. There is therefore nothing to be gained and much to be lost when therapists and lay folk try to ostracize sociopaths from the human race entirely! Sensationalism and superstition will only prevent progress.

This was written on another question on the same essential topic as this one, by a self-confessed sociopath (other than me!) --

  • Sociopaths, though born that way, are people too. To avoid an entire group of people is absurd. That's like saying, "Since these people have dark skin, everyone should completely avert themselves from them." I am a moderate sociopath, and though part of me doesn't want to change, another does. Many times it is really entertaining to see how stupid people can be, especially when they're so gullible as to believe every word that mellifluously flows from my lips. Yes, I am parasitic, but even so, there are some people I would like to stop hurting. I can't find any websites that can provide a way to help my sociopathy. Maybe people like you should stop your self-victimisation and start trying to actually help people like me! I knew I was a sociopath before the age of ten but have only recently had it officially diagnosed. I am eighteen years old now, and I have been lying and destroying others' sanity for a long time. So, please post some helpful tidbits that might help sociopaths resist the sweet urges we get when we encounter weak human beings. When you cut us, do we not bleed? When you kill us, do we not die? Do you honestly think that you're being lied to and manipulated when we sincerely ask for help. Listen to yourselves! This is the internet; ergo, you're safe from our fortified mental grasp.

The essay that follows was written in another answer by another self-admitted sociopath, who actually might not be a sociopath. Still another person added the brief comment to that effect after her tragic essay.

  • umm... i kindof am one... just so y'all know, it's not so much fun being one either. i read that sentence up there, "Incapable of real human attachment to another." i don't even know what that is, i see it, i approximate it... it's like being outside a door looking through a dirty window and watching re-runs of people I've seen in love or with children or with friends, and scratching, sometimes banging at the glass to get in and... nothing. I'm fond of people in every sense of the word, their little quirks and habits, the way they see life, except if they went away it wouldn't bother me much other than finding someone else to be fond of. i don't have friends, i only date military men because they're ok with only having a girlfriend for a couple months and i tell them in advance i won't wait for them... i don't know what else to do to limit the damage i inflict on others just as a result of them knowing me, short of moving to the mountains... but i still move between 2-5 times a year :( it's kindof hard walking around knowing I'll never have what i see making other people so happy and running when i can tell someone is getting close just because i don't want to hurt them more later down the road... i'd like it alot to settle down, i WANT to be able to feel more with people, but it's hard to miss what you never had. i want what i THINK it would feel like... it'd be easy to give in and let someone stay because I'm so lonely... but hey, I've written enough, just know i try to be a responsible little sociopath, i won't ever get married or have kids, i practice safe sex, i won't stay in one city for long... everything you all take for granted i will never let myself have just because i WANT to take it for granted. being like this won't go away so hopefully i can limit the amount of hate thrown my way by limiting my interaction with people, i don't know what else to do. and you all might not belive this, but i am sorry, hopefully i can speak for the other people who have damaged your lives.

Comment: The above testimony is clearly not indicative of a sociopath because they seem to make efforts to keep from harming others, even if it doesn't benefit themselves.

Comment: no that's just how easy it is for you to be fooled. there is good and there is bad and that is all.