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Is sociopathy a dangerous condition?

On Behalf of | Jun 29, 2023 | Violent Crimes

A 2018 Southern Methodist University study identified California and the Northeast as having the highest rate of psychopaths in the U.S. The terms psychopath and sociopath are antiquated concepts introduced in the late ‘70s to describe extreme and potentially dangerous socially deviant behavior. In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, encapsulated both terms within the antisocial personality disorder spectrum. Traditionally, sociopathy is a personality disorder considered to be less dangerous than psychopathy.

Understanding sociopathy

In June 1978, the Journal of Police Science and Administration described sociopaths as the most dangerous criminal type. Law enforcement personnel described these personality types as intelligent, superficial, outwardly friendly, charming and extremely dangerous. The 2013 DSM-5 published by the American Psychiatric Association defines sociopathy as an antisocial personality disorder associated with at least three of the listed criteria expressed before age 15, beyond age 18, and cannot be attributed to medication or another disorder.

More on defining sociopathy

The qualification criteria for identifying sociopaths and antisocial personality disorder include a failure to conform to norms and laws, persistent deceitfulness for personal gain, persistent impulsivity, and irritability or aggression manifesting in violence. Other criteria include a reckless disregard for others’ safety, persistent irresponsibility and a lack of empathy. A sociopath may have a history of committing violent crimes with no remorse for the victims. An individual typically has to be over 18 to be diagnosed with ASPD or considered a sociopath.

According to the DSM-5, ASPD may account for up to 3.3% of the U.S. population. The DSM characterizes antisocial personality disorder as a pervasive pattern of violating and disregarding the rights of others, starting in early childhood, and continuing into adulthood. Other traits commonly associated with sociopathy include unethical behaviors, manipulation, sexual promiscuity, gaslighting, humiliation, and stimulation-seeking behavior.