“I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.” (Sherlock Holmes, BBC)
Detective Sherlock Holmes commands and that is exactly what we are going to go.
So, I have a quick question for you:
When speaking of ‘sociopaths‘ what is the first thing that might come to your mind?
The gruesome story about a serial killer you read that one time at 2 a.m because you found yourself highly fascinated and simultaneously disgusted with all the gory details? (Guilty as charged for me on this one)
Or you might think: “Sociopath? Isn’t that basically a psychopath, meaning those crazy people going on killing sprees like Ted Bundy, or infamous dictators like Adolf Hitler or Mao Zedong?”
This may or may not be true for you. However, it is a common connotation people tend to apply to that specific word.
Shockingly evil…and vile?
Nonetheless, at the same time, the term ‘sociopath’ has become such a buzz word in modern-day culture. People throw it around left and right while using it as a go-to description of everybody’s cranky boss and/or ex-lover.
To be fair, this phenomenon did not come out of the blue. Due to dominant misleading media representation of sociopathic tendencies, we as a society do not have a realistic picture of what a sociopath is.
So, this handy article aims to provide you with:
The unraveling of 6 negative misconceptions in regards to the label of ‘sociopath’ in popular culture.
So, we can begin with our quest to the depths of…
One confusing misconception of sociopathy.
What I mean by confusing is the so-called ‘glamorization’ of this condition. Highly successful TV series such as BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, American Psycho, etc. are popular examples of this. They all display a protagonist or antagonist who is cold and tends to violate social norms. At the same time, he possesses characteristics such as possessing wealth, having social influence or being brilliantly intelligent.
Connecting problematic behaviors of the antisocial disorder to wealth, fame or power adds to a favorable image of those struggling with sociopathy. The so-called ‘elite psychopath’ is, therefore, damaging to the realistic representation of people struggling with APD. It creates the false sense that people with this disorder very likely possess wealth, as well as admirable intelligence. On top of this, it adds to the fuel of highly negative connotations and misconceptions which are discussed in detail below.
So, what are the negative misconceptions?
1. Sociopathy is an untreatable condition.
Most of us tend to believe the notion that sociopathic tendencies or any diagnosis of the spectrum of APD is untreatable.
However, this statement is not entirely true. Medical professionals state that varying medications can reduce aggressive impulses, while psychotherapy is also beneficial to the process.
2. Sociopaths are psychotic.
Sociopathy (or psychopathy) is not the same as psychosis or put simply ‘being psychotic’ or a ‘psycho’. Needless to say, being a sociopath does not entail such qualities, as psychosis is the state of experiencing hallucinations and/or being delusional. Meanwhile, sociopathy consists of a lack of empathy and disregard of social norms and rules.
3. They are around every corner.
News reports and statistics often exaggerate the number of people who deal with sociopathy. Up to 4% of Americans fit the criteria to be rightfully described as one. This is not saying that 4% is not a substantial amount, however, it is much less than what one may be lead to believe.
4. They cannot have relationships due to violence.
Typically, harassment and violence tend to be the leading qualities of a sociopath, hence why they are so commonly feared. Research studies nonetheless contribute to the conclusion that this is not the case. Although sociopathy could potentially be a risk factor for violence or assault, people with such mental disorders are normally not violent.
5. Men are more likely to be sociopaths (or psychopaths).
When picturing an image of a sociopath or psychopath, one may most probably think of a male first. Quite a big speculation is that males tend to express such behavioral patterns rather than women, however, this is untrue. Gender does not define the potential to have such a disorder, hence it is irrelevant to the diagnosis.
6. Powerful and/or successful people are all sociopaths.
It is a well-believed myth that successful politicians, CEO’s and businessmen tend to possess the characteristics of a ‘sociopath’. While some of them without a doubt may do, the Guardian indicates that studies show the statistic that 1 in 25 does in actuality match the criteria.
As I hinted above, the representation of sociopathy should not be positive or negative.
It is a mental condition which requires professional mental health assistance. Moreover, because of this society should not make a self-diagnosing game out of it. An interesting theory to back up this claim is ‘The Big Five’ one.
But what does it consist of?
What are the Big 5?
The most prominent theory in regards to personality is ‘The Big Five’ or also known as the Five-Factor Theory of Personality.
The theory’s acronym OCEAN stands for openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
The theory mentioned is based upon the idea that personalities are built on a combination of varying degrees of expression on all five factors. So, someone who is considered sociopathic will not do well in the conscientiousness area (reliable and self-disciplined) and agreeableness (being modest and kind).
However, it is important to note that no one should self-diagnose. More often than not, the average person can experience high individualism, self-centeredness, lack of desire, and respect of rules, but this does not suffice for them to be labeled a ‘sociopath’. We should leave the diagnosis to the mental health professionals.
Do not live in fear
It is important to understand that antisocial behaviors, as well as APD’s, are not to be taken lightly. So, it is It is up to your informed judgment to steer clear of any negative influence of this kind that may cross your path. However, the ‘monstrous’ stigma surrounding the issue is a deceiving one, getting in the way of people suffering from a form of mental illness to seek help whilst fueling an unnecessary fear.