Sociopaths are humans
Sociopaths are first and foremost human beings. Antisocial Personality Disorder is listed in the DSM-V as an Axis II diagnosis. That means that it falls under the heading of personality disorders, which are typically treatment resistant. Okay, have I bored you yet? Sorry, I’m a psychology nerd. Anyway, the point is, sociopaths are stereotyped by society as being creepy and potentially dangerous, and some of them certainly can be, but not all of them. First of all, let’s get this straight: it’s not a sociopath’s fault that they suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder. They developed their disorder as a result of nurture rather than nature, and typically people with sociopathy were neglected as children or suffered severe abuse as a child. A psychopath, on the other hand, is born with their disorder. They don’t have empathy, like a sociopath; however, they’re able to mimic the behaviors of others who do.
I get it. I have mental illness too
I have a mental illness, and not your garden variety of it. I have four mental illnesses – OCD, ADHD, C-PTSD, and Bipolar Disorder. Through my trials, I’ve learned to own my experiences. I have these conditions, but they don’t have me. When you have a mental illness, it’s beneficial to face it, and then get support. Address the symptoms, not the label. Having a name for your illness(es) can help, but don’t let that label define who you are. One thing to remember is: own your mistakes, mental illness or not. If you hurt someone, apologize. If you hurt yourself, forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, but the more you own your shit, the better you’re going to feel.
A disorder is not an excuse
Can you imagine having no empathy? I am an empath, so that seems foreign to me. Both Sociopaths and psychopaths lack compassion for others. They display their lack of feeling for others differently. A sociopath openly doesn’t care about other people’s feelings and doesn’t see a need to pretend. However, a psychopath pretends to care about your feelings so they can manipulate you for their means.
How do you find out if you have an Axis II diagnosis?
A mental health professional is qualified to diagnose personality disorders including Antisocial Personality Disorder and Psychopathy. Once a person knows that they’re a sociopath or a psychopath, it’s up to that individual to decide what to do next; they might live in denial of their diagnosis, or they may get treatment. Regardless of what they do, their symptoms are there. If they go to see a therapist and a psychiatrist, they’re getting help. But, if they don’t, they’ll still have the disorder. People with Antisocial Personality Disorder are consistently demonized, but they shouldn’t be; they are human beings, regardless of the label that’s put on them. With any mental illness, the first step to managing it is to recognize it and get treatment and start living a better life. The same goes for sociopaths.
How it can affect you
Being friends or being in a romantic relationship with a sociopath can potentially hurt a person deeply. It’s not definitively the case, but it’s probable if the sociopath isn’t in treatment for their condition. The individual in a relationship with the sociopath is at risk of experiencing emotional and mental abuse. I experienced these patterns myself. I was once part of a friendship where the other person was a sociopath but didn’t want to get help. She saw that I was empathetic, and used it to manipulate me. She was easily able to make me feel bad about myself. It damaged my self-esteem to be around her and made me feel like my opinions were invalid. I always believed I was wrong, or there was something fundamentally defective about me.
You can leave
How did I leave that friendship? I recognized that being around her didn’t make me feel good. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t feel good around someone, chances are you shouldn’t have them in your life. She always made me feel bad about myself, and my other friends noticed it. I have emotional scars from the way that she treated me. I consistently question myself; am I as worthless? Maybe I’m ugly, just like she said. I work through these cognitive distortions and negative thoughts in therapy. Seeing a therapist was a big part of how I gained emotional insight into what was happening to me. I realized how my former friend hurt me, and I was able to leave the friendship. My therapist was someone objective who listened to me. She validated me and showed me that my feelings were real. When you’re in a friendship with a sociopath, or a romantic relationship with one, it’s easy to gaslight yourself.
How to heal
I’m still figuring out the “how to heal” part of this. I struggle to see myself accurately. I have to de-program myself and remind myself that how my ex-friend made me feel isn’t reality. I use skills like mindfulness, and CBT tools to reality test negative thoughts about myself. Many times, I recognize that those thoughts are from my ex-friend’s ideas about me. They’re not how I feel about myself. I have supportive people around me, and I’m continuing therapy to help myself heal. If you’ve been in a toxic relationship with a sociopath, you can recover. It’s possible to build confidence in yourself again. Whether you go to counseling in person or talk to a therapist online, you deserve to get treatment and start to see yourself accurately, rather than in a distorted way. You’re the master of your mental health, and therapy will improve your self-image, and help you heal.