AskDefine | Define sociopathic

Dictionary Definition

sociopathic adj : of or relating to a sociopathic personality disorder

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Having the characteristics of a sociopath.
  2. Unconcerned about the adverse consequences for others of one's actions.

Extensive Definition

Antisocial personality disorder (APD) is a mental disorder defined by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: "The essential feature for the diagnosis is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood." Deceit and manipulation are considered essential features of the disorder. Therefore it is essential in making the diagnosis to collect material from sources other than the individual being diagnosed. Also, the individual must be age 18 or older as well as have a documented history of a conduct disorder before the age of 15.

Diagnostic criteria

Three or more of the following are required:
Sex differences: According to DSM-IV (in a 1994 publication by the APA), Antisocial Personality disorder is diagnosed in approximately 3% of all males and 1% of all females.


The National Comorbidity Survey, which used DSM-III-R criteria, found that 5.8 percent of males and 1.2 percent of females showed evidence of a lifetime risk for the disorder. According to DSM-IV, Antisocial Personality disorder is diagnosed in approximately 3% of all males and 1% of all females. David Korten also reports research that shows a high proportion of these traits amongst CEOs of major corporations .

Relationship with other mental disorders

Antisocial personality disorder is negatively correlated with all DSM-IV Axis I disorders except substance abuse disorders. Antisocial personality disorder is most strongly correlated with psychopathy as measured on the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised. The official stance of the American Psychiatric Association as presented in the DSM-IV-TR is that psychopathy and sociopathy are obsolete synonyms for antisocial personality disorder. The World Health Organization takes a similar stance in its ICD-10 by referring to psychopathy, sociopathy, antisocial personality, asocial personality, and amoral personality as synonyms for dissocial personality disorder.

Potential markers

Although antisocial personality disorder cannot be formally diagnosed before age 18, three markers for the disorder, known as the Macdonald triad, can be found in some children. These are, a longer-than-usual period of bedwetting, cruelty to animals, and pyromania.
It is not known how many children who exhibit these signs grow up to develop antisocial personality disorder, but these signs are often found in the histories of diagnosed adults. Because it is unknown how many children have these symptoms and who do not develop antisocial personality disorder, the predictive value (i.e., the usefulness of these symptoms for predicting future antisocial personality disorder) is unclear.
These three traits are now included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV-TR under conduct disorder.
A child who shows signs of antisocial personality disorder may be diagnosed as having either conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder. Not all of these children, however, will grow up to develop antisocial personality disorder.

Criticism of the DSM-IV criteria

The DSM-IV confound: some argue that an important distinction has been lost by including both sociopathy and psychopathy together under APD. As Hare et al write in their abstract, "The Axis II Work Group of the Task Force on DSM-IV has expressed concern that antisocial personality disorder (APD) criteria are too long and cumbersome and that they focus on antisocial behaviors rather than personality traits central to traditional conceptions", concluding, "... conceptual and empirical arguments exist for evaluating alternative approaches to the assessment of psychopathy ... our hope is that the information presented here will stimulate further research on the comparative validity of diagnostic criteria for psychopathy; although too late to influence DSM-IV."


The cause of this disorder is unknown, but biological or genetic factors may play a role. However, the statistical correlation between the disorder and biological factors is weak, leading many experts to believe there is no link.
A family history of the disorder—such as having an antisocial parent—increases the chances of developing the condition. A number of environmental factors within the childhood home, school, and community - such as an overly punitive home or school environment - may also contribute, according to the Mayo Clinic Website.
Robins (1966) found an increased incidence of sociopathic characteristics and alcoholism in the fathers of individuals with antisocial personality disorder. He found that, within such a family, males had an increased incidence of APD, whereas females tended to show an increased incidence of somatization disorder instead.
Bowlby (1944) saw a connection between antisocial personality disorder and maternal deprivation in the first five years of life. Glueck and Glueck (1968) saw indications that the mothers of children who developed this personality disorder tended to display a lack of consistent discipline and affection, and an abnormal tendency to alcoholism and impulsiveness. These factors all contribute to a failure to create a stable and functional home with consistent structure and behavioral boundaries.
Adoption studies support the role of both genetic and environmental contributions to the development of the disorder. Twin studies also indicate an element of hereditability of antisocial behaviour in adults and have shown that genetic factors are more important in adults than in antisocial children or adolescents where shared environmental factors are more important. (Lyons et al., 1995)
sociopathic in Danish: Psykopati
sociopathic in German: Antisoziale Persönlichkeitsstörung
sociopathic in Spanish: Trastorno antisocial de la personalidad
sociopathic in French: Personnalité antisociale
sociopathic in Hebrew: הפרעת אישיות אנטיסוציאלית
sociopathic in Lithuanian: Sociopatija
sociopathic in Dutch: Anti-sociale persoonlijkheidsstoornis
sociopathic in Japanese: 反社会性人格障害
sociopathic in Norwegian: Dyssosial personlighetsforstyrrelse
sociopathic in Polish: Psychopatia
sociopathic in Portuguese: Transtorno de personalidade anti-social
sociopathic in Russian: Антисоциальная психопатия
sociopathic in Slovak: Psychopatia
sociopathic in Serbian: Социопатија
sociopathic in Finnish: Antisosiaalinen persoonallisuushäiriö
sociopathic in Swedish: Antisocial personlighetsstörning
sociopathic in Turkish: Sosyopat
sociopathic in Chinese: 反社會型人格異常
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