The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is published by the APA, establish diagnostic criteria used by mental health professionals to help give an accurate diagnosis of mental health disorders. Psychopathy is often used to describe individuals, based on their symptoms, who have been diagnosed with a personality disorder like ASPD, which affects a person’s emotional responses and that results in an inability to care about the feelings or needs of others. People affected by ASPD are generally believed to lack a sense of moral conscience.
According to the DSM- 5, antisocial personality disorder is defined as [a] pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since the age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:
Many adults who have been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) have a history of symptoms of conduct disorder before the age of 15 years. Additionally, impairments in both self-perception and interpersonal personalities are present as well as pathological traits. Symptoms tend to begin in adolescence or early adulthood and continue over many years. Other symptoms someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder may exhibit are:
When someone is consistently exhibiting these symptoms, and there is cause for concern, you may wonder what’s going on and seek medical help. After an initial conversation and a physical evaluation, the doctor may refer the patient to a mental health professional who will look at the following things in order to render a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).
Once antisocial personality disorder has been diagnosed, the diagnostic evaluation moves on to determine the specific personality disorders. There are many different types of personality disorders listed in the DSM-5. Therefore, only a mental health professional who specializes in personality disorders can properly diagnose the illness and provide a treatment plan. Keep in mind that not all personality disorders require medication, and some can be treated using evidence-based therapies.
After a medical evaluation is performed to help rule out any possible medical conditions, a primary care provider will generally refer patients to a mental health professional for further evaluation of symptoms. The diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder is generally based upon a psychological evaluation that explores one’s thoughts, feelings, behavior patterns, relationships, and family history.
The DSM outlines criteria for diagnosing personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder. Personality disorder symptoms are typically generally the same. The diagnostic criterion for each type, however, includes specific symptoms as well as the duration and severity of the symptoms. Therefore, it’s important to be truthful and honest about all symptoms as the information provided is used to render a diagnosis.
According to the DSM, personality disorders are organized in three clusters labeled Type A, Type B, and Type C personalities. Antisocial personality disorder falls under Cluster B personalities, which include disorders characterized by erratic or dramatic behavior and engagement in extremely impulsive, theatrical, illegal, and promiscuous behaviors.
The expertise of the psychologist or psychiatrist also plays a significant role in the accuracy of the diagnosis. As such, it is important to research licensed mental health care professionals and look at a few of them to determine the best choice. It’s best to go with someone who has extensive experience working with personality disorders. A diagnosis of a sociopath can be devastating for the family and the individual, so you want to make sure no mistakes are being made. Clinical training, licensure, and patient reviews are all good ways to research and choose a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or counselor.
The criteria used to diagnose antisocial personality disorder is the criteria used to establish someone who has sociopathic tendencies. A sociopath is not a clinical diagnosis, but rather a term used to describe characteristics of some people with antisocial personality disorder. The following criteria are listed in the DSM 5 for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder:
Significant Impairments in Personality Functioning
Impairments in personality functioning can be identified by several factors.
Impairments in interpersonal functioning can include the following:
Pathological Personality Traits in the Following Domains
Antagonism can be characterized by the following.
Lack of Inhibition can be characterized by the following.
The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations. The impairments in personality functions and the individual’s personality trait expressions are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) are two different personality disorders. They do, however, share some similar traits. For example, failure to conform to social norms and lack of feelings of empathy or guilt are common characteristics. While people with antisocial personality disorder are more likely to exhibit criminal behaviors or have a criminal history, people with narcissistic personality disorder are not necessarily prone to criminal activity. Although people with a narcissistic personality disorder may not commit criminal acts, the behaviors they exhibit may cause devasting effects, nonetheless. Both people with antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder exhibit self-centered behavior and have a flair for the dramatic, especially if it means making them the center of attention. They both use manipulation and cunning to get their way.
Although there is no specific cure for antisocial personality disorder, many mental health professionals are of the opinion that psychotherapy, or talk therapy, may be effective for some people with the disorder. Psychotherapy focuses on helping a person learn to manage negative thoughts and behaviors and to build more effective communication and interpersonal skills that may be lacking. Often, the first goal of treatment is to implement measures that may reduce the impulse to engage in harmful or risky behaviors.
Another type of therapy that may be helpful is called reward therapy. Reward therapy involves giving individuals with antisocial personality disorder a reward when they engage in behaviors that are in line with social norms. This type of therapy has shown to be effective with some people who are incarcerated. Reward therapy works on the basis that people with sociopathic tendencies respond to the instant gratification of their wants, and this instant gratification makes certain behaviors beneficial to them. This system only works if the individual believes the behavior and reward are worthy of attention.
This reward system is like behavior modification therapy with one major difference. Behavior modification works on the idea that eventually, through the modification of behaviors, the individual will no longer engage in unwanted behavior. However, the reward system does not claim to modify behavior. It simply controls it for the time being.
At this time, no medication has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration to treat antisocial personality disorder. Some medications, however, may be prescribed to help reduce impulsive or aggressive behaviors. It is important for a mental health professional to evaluate the need for and monitor any medication regimen for effectiveness. Unfortunately, it is important to note that, because many people with antisocial personality disorder do not feel there is anything wrong with them, they are often unlikely to seek help.
Knowing there is no cure for the disorder and knowing that the treatments, which are available are not particularly helpful, can be disheartening. But nonetheless, therapy and counseling are still recommended for the individual with the diagnosis as well as their families and loved ones. It is not an easy task interacting with, living with, or being in a relationship with someone who is a sociopath. It can take an immense toll on the mental well-being of everyone.
Therefore, therapy is strongly recommended. If you are experiencing something like this or having a difficult time coping with a sociopath, consider seeking help for yourself. If seeing someone in person is not an option for you or if it makes you feel uncomfortable, you can still get plenty of help and support through online counseling. BetterHelp has a team of therapists who can answer your questions and give you the support and help you need in a trying time. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors.
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While being labeled a sociopath implies negative connotations, it does not have to be a negative thing. Some of the most successful people in this world have been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. It’s all a matter of deciding what kind of person you want to be in life and channeling your potentially negative symptoms into a positive outcome.
There is nothing wrong with being ambitious and confident in your abilities. If you are reading this article, you’re already one step ahead of others because it means you care about how your actions affect those around you. If you are looking for some help on how to manage your symptoms or how to be a better person, get some professional guidance, lean on your support system and lead a life that makes everyone proud!