Let's talk about ASPD (Psychopaths/Sociopaths)


Due to a few different WIPs and threads lately, the topic of ASPD (psychopaths/sociopaths) keeps coming up. This is a thread to share research, personal experiences, and ask questions. Let’s share some information about a rare, potentially interesting personality disorder that ends up affecting a lot of people.

Infodump of previous posts about this:

The "Why Are You (Feeling Emotion)" Thread

I also mentioned this on the other thread, but this on its own would be more suited to this thread.

Fictional or no, psychopaths are good at short-term relationships and some long-term relationships because the relationship to them is about power; they’re exciting to date because they shower the person in affection and attention. But this is done for a reason; rather from stemming from genuine adoration, it’s the general consensus that psychopaths do this because the person will start to adore them in turn and inevitably become dependent on them. Imagine somebody constantly showering you with attention and then suddenly taking it all away by ignoring you and not paying attention to you; you’d be distraught and practically unable to function without them and the affection they provided in troves. And that’s the key aspect for a psychopath; they would absolutely crave their partners distinct need for them. It’s almost never long-term because at some point, constant affection isn’t enough; they need to start exhibiting genuine emotion and love. Which obviously the psychopath can’t do. If love isn’t part of the deal like you said, there’s no pitfall for the psychopath, so they can continue with the lack of emotional connection that they excel at.


Here are two sociopaths I have known.

My sister always treated me like a nuisance when I was around, but if I did start avoiding her, she would find a way to make sure I was thinking of her. That usually involved violence. I feel lucky to have survived my sister; I don’t think she ever tried to kill me, or I’m pretty sure I’d be dead. But concussions, bleeding from various bladed weapons, and being in epic fights was her way of establishing that I was still paying attention. She had no emotions to speak of, other than fear of her life (in dire situations), envy, greed and the related emotions, and occasionally annoyance or self-pity. She currently has two children that she looks at as if they were troublesome appliances; my mother makes sure they are fed and loved. The husband who sired them carefully avoids her.

And then there’s my acquaintance (I would say friend, because I enjoy his company, but he surely wouldn’t miss me) whom I only know by nickname. He has a high-powered job that he performs honestly, because it still affords him plenty of opportunities for control over others. He volunteers to build houses, because it’s free exercise that he doesn’t have to pay a gym fee for, it makes him look good, and teaches him home maintenance skills. He has a lovely girlfriend he is faithful to, because he doesn’t much like people, and she’s the rare woman who loves who he is without wanting him to change, and has a thing for being hunted down in the moonlight. He is a credit to society and is no harm to anyone.

Two very different stories, based on the same disorder.


I’ve read quite a few topics over on Quora asking about sociopaths and their personal experiences. I’ll see if I can dig up some links. Ah they’ve a whole category on the subject. https://www.quora.com/topic/Psychopathy-and-Psychopaths

And there was an article I read, which might have been https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201305/confessions-sociopath


You know they’re sociopaths, or is this speculation? Because the second sounds like the kind of person that would either require true clarification or you’ve seen a side that most people haven’t.

And @FairyGodfeather those are very interesting indeed, especially the Psychology Today article. I’m sure someone who would consider themselves a kindred spirit would rather keep that under wraps.


Psychopaths tend to have wildly varying portrayals in media, mostly in the negative light. The psychopaths that are most common to me are the ones that are violently crazy, the ones that seem to have lost it and are trying to torture or kill anyone they fancy killing. It doesn’t really help that the media tend to portray them wrongly and overstate the problem, only helping to reinforce the social stigma against mental illness.

I wish for the day that someone out there is willing to portray psychopaths in a different light other than the negative kind, with more “eccentric” ones whose primary goals aren’t necessarily being violent.


The media don’t do that because it isn’t interesting; who wants to base a thriller or a television show off of the person that goes through life aided by an almost perfect mask of sanity? It would be boring for everybody else, I’m sure.


So you’re saying that having no psychopaths means a show is boring, and that the psychopath is the only redeeming trait a show can have?

I’m not complaining about psychopaths, I’m complaining about shows that only portray them as depraved psychopaths who want nothing more than to hurt everybody they see. The concept of a psychopath is a surprisingly flexible and fascinating one, yet people don’t seem to realize it that much.

You can have a show about a person who’s view of the world is warped so that everyone looks like a literal frightening monster ( @Sashira quietly writes this down…), you can have a show about someone who’s psychotic nature isn’t violent but rather one that abhors violence, and reacts badly to any show of it due to a traumatic event in the past, heck it can even be a slice of life where the main character is an eccentric sort of psychopath who views the world as their plaything yet isn’t condescending about it. There’s so many ideas just begging to be made from a psychotic upbringing, yet the portrayal in the media tend to make people assume that having a mental illness-- as psychotic behavior is often associated with-- is a bad thing, and therefore a stigma.


I’m saying that psychopaths are portrayed as volatile because the reality would be boring. If a show chooses to portray a psychopath, rather than coming down to what would be considered realistic, shows often wonder “what would make the most interesting show?” A large portion of psychopaths are perfectly functional members of society; they may be a bit antisocial, but they’re often people that others would never consider to be a psychopath. Can you honestly tell me that if a show was based around that, there wouldn’t be an outcry of "Booooo. Where’s the killing? Where’s the murder? Where’s the rampant manipulation?” Many shows exist without psychopaths and excel too. But when a psychopath is introduced, nobody wants a high functioning member of society, do they? The closest approximation around that is Dexter, and can you tell me that people would still watch it if he wasn’t a serial killer?[quote=“RagEgnite, post:8, topic:18231”]
There’s so many ideas just begging to be made from a psychotic upbringing, yet the portrayal in the media tend to make people assume that having a mental illness-- as psychotic behavior is often associated with-- is a bad thing, and therefore a stigma.

People reject what’s different. Mental disorders are not dissimilar. It’s only recently that there’s been a cultural shift on what’s okay and what isn’t; hell, gay marriage wasn’t even legalised until 2013 here in the UK. We like to think ourselves civilised as a species, but when we’re put under the microscope, it’s hard to deny that we do some pretty uncivilised things even now. How could you be certain that these ideas wouldn’t contribute to the stigma even now? It’s hard to know whats not okay in a culture if you’ve grown up with it along with countless generations. Even Dr. Seuss’ books have some pretty racist undertones and subjects. He may have realised the error of his ways, but the point still stands; what he knew to be not okay later on was okay to him when he was younger because everybody else saw it as okay as well. How many things that we think are okay now will be considered offensive in later years?


The forums ate my reply, but this is the more important part to recreate.

I’d say that one of the major traits of sociopaths is that they try their damnedest not to be diagnosed. If they do go in to psychiatrists, they lie. Unless they’re the very rare example who decides it’s useful to be put down on paper.

I diagnosed both of those people myself based on their behavior. Major emotions they should have felt but were hugely lacking. Life decisions they made in order to pursue the basic life interests of someone with ASPD.

There are a few basic facts that I didn’t mention about person #2 in the past. He worked his way through college as a correctional officer, because he enjoys violence and that was a way to hurt people without it being strictly illegal. The laws then were more undefined about necessary violence. Differences between what is legal and what is moral is something that sociopaths will generally be good at spotting.


Are you saying people aren’t good at spotting that? Because if so, I’m even more perceptive than I thought. I wouldn’t think it takes a sociopath; one is concrete and real, the other is not. One is put to paper, the other is chemical processes within the brain. Granted, what is legal generally comes from what people think is moral, but they’re not hard to split down the middle.

And sociopaths are reward-driven; if it’s in their best interests to work towards a life goal then they will, but most sociopaths are impulsive and work towards the short-term life interests because it’s easier for them. I like to think psychopaths are better equipped to work because they lack emotions; they can be impulsive, but it’s always more of a matter of want than displeasure at working. Psychopaths are the lawyers and doctors, sociopaths sound like your sister; although the fear for her life was interesting; most have a remarkable lack of self-preservation. And your use of the word ‘sired’ was interesting. Do you see your sister as an animal through her apparent sociopathy?


Just because the reality would be boring doesn’t mean it’s bad. Also, what people consider psychopaths isn’t some textbook definition you can look up somewhere.

Psychopaths can be higher functioning members of society, and while they can be murderous, that’s not their entire character, and believe me when I say there are plenty of examples in history that show how ruthless and debauched some can be without necessarily having killing be their main focus. On the flip side, there are some prestigious figures in history with some rather wacky or just plain kinky fascinations.

Yes, having a psychotic character be a murderer is entertaining, but it has negative implications to those with mental illnesses, as people will start to think that’s what happens if people start becoming psychotic. I’ve personally never seen Dexter, so I can’t answer that last bit.

Not true. There’s a difference between accepting a new idea because it brings a different perspective on a whole thing, and then there’s accepting a new idea because that’s whats “in” right now. You can’t even compare gay marriage to mental illness and psychopaths, it’s apples to oranges. LGBT rights are being advanced, slowly but surely, in many countries around the world, and supportive people are trying their damnedest to help them out anyway they can, even if it’s simply treating them as an equal.

Mental illness, on the other hand, is talked about a lot every time there’s some sort of violent crime that doesn’t involve certain ethnic groups (you can infer which ones I’m talking about), and even assuming the killer is still alive, people all over the media will go “OH MY GOD THEY’RE FUCKING CRAZY PUT THEM IN AN INSTITUTION” over the slightest hint that they may have mental issues in the past. I’m certain that these ideas won’t contribute to the stigma because that’s what ideas do-- they are designed to change perspectives and bring whole new elements to the table. There’s also the difference between societal standards. Did you know that giving a thumbs up in Brazil is seen as an obscene gesture? You don’t have to change your culture to find people that view it as something that’s not okay to do and allow to happen. Heck, even people in countries where it’s taboo are starting to open up about it and show that it’s not some scary alien thing that must be suppressed and ignored, but accepted and helped with open arms.

Yes, it’s still by and large a taboo, but society is working to change that right now. Dr. Seuss didn’t know any better, but that’s because people didn’t actively try to change that until well into the 20th century. People are actively trying to change the perceptions on mental illness now, and are succeeding.


Forgive me, I’ve been drinking with visiting family, so I’m not as eloquent as I am fully sober.

I read what everyone posted, and I agree with most things. Let’s use Sherlock, for an example. He is a perfect example of someone with ASPD (regardless of what that mythical psychiatrist claimed).

People have found Sherlock Holmes, House, etc. incredibly interesting for 100 years, and he is a fantastic example of a non-psychotic sociopath.

People will watch TV with a sociopath in it. They already do!

And I am a huge mental health advocate. I have tons of shit wrong with me, I’ve been in a mental ward, I have attempted suicide. I think mental health is something that needs to be portrayed realistically on television, without it having to be “oh the psycho did it!” or “x character killed themselves for a plot point”.

There are so many things I could say about what needs to be changed in the system, much of which can be attributed to doctors, hospitals, and asylums, and how they treat patients.

Enough for a completely separate topic, frankly.


Tell that to my university professors. I’m telling you, textbooks galore. There isn’t one set definition, that much we can agree on, but just because the components of a psychopath can’t be compressed into one type doesn’t mean they can’t be categorised.

And believe me; I know how psychopaths operate. Psychopaths don’t have to kill to exert their power. They just have to be smart.

Peopel start to think that anyone will go around murdering people if they’re exceptionally stupid, which unfortunately most people are in this regard. Mental illness is one of the most misunderstood predicaments. People fear what they don’t understand because if you don’t understand something, you don’t know what it’s capable of. That’s why people attribute violent actions to mental illness. It’s a natural instinct to assume the worst of something you don’t know anything about so that you can be prepared if something bad does happen. It isn’t always appropriate like in mental illness, but it happens nonetheless.

You don’t think the two can be the same? Thinkers come up with the different perspectives and the general populace accept the idea because of this popularity. There will always be people who accept opinions because of the popularity it brings, but these opinions will always come from people who imagine a different perspective. [quote=“RagEgnite, post:12, topic:18231”]
LGBT rights are being advanced, slowly but surely, in many countries around the world, and supportive people are trying their damnedest to help them out anyway they can, even if it’s simply treating them as an equal.

Yes. Now. But it wasn’t always like that, was it? Even in the 1960’s, homosexuality was considered a mental illness in itself. Not 100 years ago, people would have been claiming the same things about homosexuals being crazy. Will the same happen to mental illness in the future? In the same future, will people consider today’s attitudes to mental illness as foolish as we see the attitudes towards LGBT rights foolish in the mid-20th century?

I did. But like mental illness, telling people something is or isn’t accepted in another culture isn’t going to do much to change the opinion in your culture.

That’s exactly my point. How many things do you think people will consider offensive in the future that nobody is actively trying to change? People are trying to change the perceptions on mental illness now, but it took several decades from homosexuality being decriminalised to them being able to marry. And based on recent events, transgender people aren’t even allowed into the bathroom of their designated gender in apparently multiple U.S. states.

What exactly are you disagreeing with, because I’m making multiple points. LGBT issues and mental illness issues are like apples and oranges, you’re right; but the important thing to remember is that they’re both fruit. They’re different matters but they’re the same in so many important areas.


I think this might be the most interesting place to start. I was trying to describe how she thinks in the levels far removed from consciousness, and yes, it’s closer to instinct than emotion. People are essentially animals; they are describable as simple and confused mammals. The people who do not react as mammals, who would abandon their young, are what I’m talking about.
Edit: This was not one my better metaphors; I take it back. People with ASPD are capable of parenting and people without it can fail at the basic aspects of it. People with ASPD do lack certain mammalian emotions, but it doesn’t actually make them reptiles. This thought didn’t translate right.

No, I’m not. I’m saying that the sociopath in search of their daily bread finds that loophole, worms their way in, and exploits it. Not that no one else can see it.


Oh really?

Coming from someone whose been exposed to people that would be considered “exceptionally stupid” by the general populace, I seriously doubt that. The people I’ve seen aren’t capable of doing much else except doing what comes instinctively to them, not that they’re not destructive, mind you, but they can’t control themselves. Mental illness and stupidity do not go hand in hand, it’s just coincidence if they show up together. You do have a point at assuming the worst of anything you don’t know how it’ll react, but with psychopaths they tend to have some sort of agenda, even if it’s not always apparent. If their agenda is found out, there can be some semblance of sanity to their actions.

I mean that people who are really creative and really think outside the box on issues to bring to light are the ones to watch out for. Then there are those people that come with “ideas” that really only highlight what has been seen before. I have said that ideas are designed to change perspective, but ideas don’t mean anything if there is not enough thought put into them. Those people put forth those ideas because they’re following a trend instead of actually thinking on their own terms.

Except homosexuality wasn’t accused of the same things as being mentally ill was, even though homosexuality was categorized as an illness at one point. And just because these people are “claiming” homosexuals being crazy doesn’t mean that anyone will believe them. It’s like listening to the people who claim that this new medicine will help lift their daily lives: some people have heard it all and just ignore it as white noise, some people will throw a glance at them before going on with their day, and there are the people who are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Everyone reacts differently to different situations, and that doesn’t mean there were no LGBT supporters back then, they just aren’t as visible as they are now.

Well, you took that out of context. Moving on.

The future is infamous for being unpredictable. There could be some horrific event in the near or distant future that would cause social stigmas to flip themselves on their head. That’s how the LGBT rights movement got started, even if the stigma wasn’t flipped per say, but it still sparked that catalyst. Who’s saying the same sort of event can’t happen for the mentally ill?

I’m not really sure where you’re going with this “same in so many important areas.” business, however.

It’s also getting really late over where I live, so if you’re interested in the debate, @Sherlock221B still could you PM me please? It’s close to bed time for me at this time.


Yeah, this is one of the drawbacks of having such a profile name as mine. Have to read a bit further before I discern whether it’s me or actually Sherlock being talked about sometimes.

But Sherlock Holmes is not a sociopath. I could go on for an extremely long period of time why he isn’t, but I’ll summarise some of them:

Sociopaths do not feel emotion. Their defining trait is that they’re emotionless, but unless you’re remarkably dull, you cannot say that Sherlock Holmes has no emotion. Sure, he’s less emotional than most people are comfortable with, but he feels emotion, alright. He just suppresses it to the extent that he appears emotionless. It’s not that he’s emotionless, it’s that he’s trained himself to not let emotions cloud his judgement better than most; a facet of his personality that troubles John Watson many times.

Another thing that strikes me is that the hallmark of a sociopath is a stunning lack of conscience, and no matter how hard Sherlock attempts to convey this, he cares for John. He cares for Mrs. Hudson. He cares for Molly and for Lestrade. In the Sherlock Holmes book ‘The Empty House’, he puts Watson in danger, and later professes to Watson “a thousand apologies”. Sociopaths do not apologise for anything. The concept is foreign to them.

And I may have lifted this point from an article, but there’s a moment in Sherlock Holmes when he states something about thinking Mary to be charming at John’s own wedding that “love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional to the cold, hard reason that I hold above all things”. If Sherlock were a sociopath, that statement wouldn’t make any sense. As good as a psychopath is at faking emotion, they aren’t able to differentiate between hot emotion and cold emotion; the entire concept is foreign. It’s simply emotional to them, and they can’t go any further because they’re simply unable to tell the difference. He’s always correcting himself; it’s not that he disregards it because he’s unaffected, it’s only after he formally acknowledges it that he then disregards it.

He has several sociopathic traits, that much is certain; it’s just that he has too many moral and emotional drawbacks to be a true sociopath.

That’s a rather turbulent life; I’m sure that television studios could take more cues from people who actually suffer from something rather than taking a wild stab like they usually do. It’s people who actually suffer from the mental health problems that have to suffer the consequences of being misrepresented. If you’re a sociopath, it’s in your favour so nobody sees you for who you are, but the non-amoral mental health issues would probably benefit greatly from proper characterisation.


Haven’t read it but I did see. http://io9.gizmodo.com/5933869/stop-calling-sherlock-a-sociopath-thanks-a-psychologist

I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through.

I agree. I’d be interested in a separate topic, particularly in regards to portraying mental illness well, in fiction, and how damaging the negative portrayals can be to people. Every so often I try to start a topic on the subject but I never can really manage the energy.


Yeah, that’s the article I mentioned on my post.

And I might start a new topic about mental illness in fiction and how it might potentially impact the games that people create. It may be fun as well.


Re: Holmes:
Having read the entire anthology of his books, I disagree. Perhaps the current iteration of his in television lacks ASPD, but his character, in general, does.

That’s my opinion, as someone who has taken several psychology courses. Other people in the field (who have actually graduated or majored in psych) may feel differently. Most of my psychology buddies agree that his traditional, Sir Arthur Conan novels, paint him markedly as an ASPD person.

Re: my own mental health issues:

Totally not something to apologize for. I’ve had a rough life, but I see things every day that make me thankful to be alive.

Re: institutionalizing people:
This is one thing that I really, truly hate, with every fiber of my being. I’m going to try to control myself and my tongue in how I approach this.

People need to understand what being institutionalized actually entails. When people use it as a punishment, they imagine padded rooms, straitjackets, and lots of shots to keep you nonviolent.

An institution is very different. I cannot say it is better, and I am hard-pressed to say it is not worse.

When I was in Tucker’s Pavilion, the only mental institution in my entire state with an available bed after my suicide attempt (an I had to wait nearly 24 hours for that bed), I was over an hour from my family.

Therefore, they could not visit. But even if they could, the hospital would disconnect my outgoing calls (nurses monitored calls at all times), would not give my family my room number to call me (despite my explicitly signing a form that stated people could call and request my room number if they had my name), and made me feel as if my family didn’t want to see me. Each time I asked the nurses about it, they told me “Well just try calling again.” EDIT: I meant to include this was because they were convinced I have a bad home life. I was asked more than fifteen times if I was sure I wanted to go home. Incredibly offensive, tbh.

In my 6.5 days there, I called my family over 100 times (in the 2 hours each day that phones were allowed to be used). (There were 30 or so other patients, and I had towait my turn)

One of the other patients had been imprisoned in the past. The food was better than prison’s, the beds were worse. Initially, I was in the handicapped bedroom, due to my bursitis and arthritis, but once a diabetic who’s lost her feet came, I lost my bed. I understood why. Nurses didn’t change the sheets though. (Handicapped bedroom had cheap motel beds, while normal bedrooms had prison beds)

Our bathrooms had no doors, but we were expected to shower daily, to prove we weren’t too suicidal to maintain bodily hygiene.

Wow, I am getting way too far off track with this. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions about mental hospitalizations, though! I’m truly not ashamed of it.

Where I was going with this is that institutionalization shouldn’t be used as a punishment. It also shouldn’t feel like a punishment. As one of the younger patients told me, “Everyone should have an experience like the !any group therapy sessions at Tucker’s, to learn how to love themselves and cope with stress.”

My apologies for getting so off track. Mental hospitals really grind my gears.