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If I were a sociopath, would I know it? You might think the answer is yes, but antisocial personality disorder is not the sensational bad guy disorder that television series and movies have made it out to be. In fact, 1 in 25 people are estimated to have antisocial personality disorder. Most of these people live normal lives and work normal jobs. Many of these people don’t have criminal records beyond traffic violations and are what most people consider good people.  

Can a Sociopath Be a Good Person? 

Being a sociopath doesn’t automatically make you a bad person. Quick detour: people with autism are more likely to excel in subjects such as mathematics. While a disproportionate number of people who have autism are mathematically gifted, this does not mean that every person with autism holds a Ph.D. in Math, or is even able to earn a Ph.D. in math, as many people with autism have other skills and interests. Similarly, a disproportionate number of people in prisons and jails suffer from antisocial personality disorder, but that doesn’t mean that every person with antisocial personality disorder goes to jail or commits crimes. There are many people who have ASPD and have never committed any serious crimes. Most people don’t want to have ASPD because of the stigma that equates having ASPD to being a bad person. And, unfortunately, this prevents people from getting the help they need.  

Can You Be a Sociopath without Knowing It? 

Despite what television would have you thinking, most people with ASPD live pretty banal lives. ASPD, much like other mental health concerns, exists on a spectrum. A person could struggle with antisocial personality disorder and still be considered normal by friends and family. There are many people out there who have ASPD and are normal parents and spouses—the reverse is also true. Because of this, it can be difficult to know for certain if you’re a sociopath without being evaluated by a mental health professional. 

How Do You Know If You’re a Sociopath? 

Most of the time, a person is diagnosed with ASPD only after extensive therapy. This is because even mental health professionals often struggle to immediately identify an individual with ASPD because they often appear so normal. Though they may have traits that make long-term relationships a struggle, they aren’t generally the blood–thirsty monsters that the sensationalist television has made them out to be. Generally, they do not see the traits that cause them to struggle in relationships as problematic, and may even see them as virtuous. Because of this, it’s extremely difficult to determine whether or not a person has ASPD without having them evaluated by a licensed mental health professional.  

Are Sociopaths Aware of What They Are? 

Generally, people who have undiagnosed ASPD don’t necessarily know that they have ASPD. They may look around and think, “Wow, everyone sure is sensitive.” Or they may view things like empathy or integrity as an obstacle.  For example, imagine that two people see something they want (but can’t afford) at the Walmart. The person without ASPD may decide that they’re not going to steal it because stealing is wrong. The person with ASPD may decide to steal it because they know they’re not going to get caught, and it’s Walmart for goodness sake! Their GDP is higher than that of a couple of small countries! Nobody’s getting hurt when you steal from Walmart. The person with ASPD may even see it as foolish not to steal from the Walmart. So while they may be aware that they’re different, they probably think that they’re different for the better—after all, empathy does get in the way sometimes. 

Can a Sociopath Fall in Love? 

Again, antisocial personality disorder is a spectrum. While there are people with ASPD who sadistically harm others and abuse animals, most people with ASPD could never bring themselves to carry out such acts of physical violence. Some people with ASPD probably aren’t capable of loving another person, even if it’s their own child. However, there are many people who have ASPD and love their children. ASPD doesn’t completely inhibit your ability to have a healthy and loving relationship—although this ability may be significantly impaired. Many people with ASPD describe having a couple of people that they genuinely do love and care about. But it is possible for them not to care about anyone at all—especially if they are severely impaired by the personality disorder. 

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