Antisocial personality disorder is the more acceptable term used to describe behaviors that are sometimes called psychopathic or sociopathic. One of the most perplexing factors of sociopaths is that they are often charming and seemingly normal. There are early warning signs that loved ones shrug off as not being noteworthy. Once a diagnosis is made, the past history of behavior makes much more sense to those who know the individual well.
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Sociopathy is a disorder that is suggested to begin appearing in childhood or at least by adolescence, explains AllPsych Online. Looking back at the childhood behavior of adults who have been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder may reveal an early disregard for authority. While stealing cars, breaking into businesses or showing anger and hostility to authority figures do not indicate sociopathy alone, paired with later changes in behavior, they do mark the earliest symptoms of the disorder.
Disregard for Others
Much like the behavior exhibited during childhood, an adult will continue showing little respect for authority figures. She has no concept of social norms or the rights of others. Her outward behaviors are the result of this lack of respect for people and laws. She is likely to carry out actions that inflict physical and emotional pain on others, including child abuse or neglect. Examples suggested by AllPsych Online include animal cruelty, setting fires or other illegal behavior. The likelihood that a sociopath will be incarcerated is high and is a contributing factor to a poor prognosis with the disorder.
It is not unusual for a sociopath to change moods in an instant. A sociopath can quickly change from sweet to outraged over something seemingly minute. Unusual outbursts can occur on a frequent or infrequent basis, depending on the individual. The sociopath may seem irritable often, and his first instinct is to physically act out when upset. The individual may appear to be irresponsible, lie often, abuse alcohol and may participate in illegal drug use, suggests the Mayo Clinic.
Lack of Empathy
Lack of empathy is thought to be a large component of antisocial personality disorder, states AllPsych Online. An individual who lacks empathy is incapable of understanding how others feel. The individual may be oblivious to the feelings or concerns of other people. Her inability to empathize with others makes it easy for her to use deceit and charm to manipulate others.
A sociopath may see the world as ruined or "crazy" instead of himself. This makes treatment difficult, because he has no insight into how his behaviors affect others. This individual is not going to seek therapy and will not be cooperative if loved ones suggest treatment. This is because of his inability to understand his behavior as inappropriate. A sociopath may try to intimidate others when his charm is not effective in getting what he wants. Any relationships with a sociopath may be unstable because of the individual's ability to fake kindness temporarily and become agitated and hurtful when things don't go his way.