What is a Sociopath?
There has been some discussion surrounding the difference of these two, especially in the wake of the Colorado father who is accused of killing his entire family. Let’s take a closer look at this.
We understand sociopathy in psychiatry not as a clinical diagnosis but as an extension of a diagnosis we have already of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Hare, the Hare-psychopathy checklist; an assessment to test the presence of psychopathy in individuals, defined two major categories of symptoms or ways of being that sociopaths would meet remarks for. For example, if you are an individual who is manipulative, or superficially charming, lacks remorse or empathy, you would score on this checklist. The other part of the test looks at pure antisocial behaviour symptoms such as: being irresponsible, being impulsive, having something called criminal versatility; meaning you don’t care in particular what crime you commit, you just commit crimes, and having childhood behaviours and a history of delinquency in your childhood.
If you’re scoring on this checklist you are more likely to be what’s called a sociopath. And this is our best understanding of what it is today.
We know that those who are incarcerated have a higher risk of being a sociopath or even having an antisocial personality disorder. For example, there have been some studies to show about 70-75% of those who are incarcerated, meet criteria for antisocial personality disorder. There’s a severe subset of those, typically those who commit more severe crimes, who would meet criteria for a sociopath or be a psychopath.