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Request for definition of 'Sociopath'

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Request for definition of 'Sociopath'

Postby avidwordbuff » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:09 am

Dear Dr. Goodword:

In reference to today's word "psychopath," I wonder if you could next explain "sociopath" and clarify the difference between the two.

Thank you,
Pauline Rodwell
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Re: Request for definition of 'Sociopath'

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:00 pm

Check out a reply I'm about to make on today's good word, and google spychopath vs sociopath.
pl
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Re: Request for definition of 'Sociopath'

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:24 pm

Well, psychopath doesn't seem to be up for the Agora yet, so I'll post here. The Doc's definition seems to be a more popular usage, perhaps influenced by mystery and adventure fiction. The clinical definition is somewhat different.

The medical profession would not classify a psychopath as psychotic, although a few individuals might be both. Psychotics are detached from reality and live in an very altered word. Neurotics have priblems associated with anxiety. Psychopaths fall into a third classification called anti-social personality disorders. All these categories are ruled by the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual V, which gets revised every decade or so, and there is much lively discussion among professionals when they change.

Psychopath is defined as a persistent behavior pattern characterized by lack of empathy and manipulation. These people either have no conscience or effectively ignore it. They do know the difference between right and wrong, and they also know society's rules. They use these along with understanding others enough to manipulate them, often effectively. One professor of mine said that when you feel your heart strings twang, that's a psychopath. These are con men. They may offer to asphalt your driveway or run the latest Ponzi scheme. Some are career criminals, others function ok in society.

Many criminologists and sociologists prefer the term sociopath for much the same people, emphasizing their social backgrounds. Often these people were abused or neglected as children and repeat that societal behavior as adults. One use of sociopath refers to teens who may run with a gang for several years, since that is their society, but their personality characteristics don't otherwise fit.

Doc's definition is fine for everyday use. But in our society that raises questions about related clinical words, I thought discussion from this viewpoint might be helpful. I may copy and paste when the original column shows up on the board.
pl
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Re: Request for definition of 'Sociopath'

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:04 pm

Philip Carey, The main character in W. Somerset Maugham's novel "Of Human Bondage", dumped his medical studies and went to Europe to study painting. I think it was in Paris that he made friends with a (perhaps) sociopath or psychopath. The friend's motto was, "Do whatever you want to do, but keep a watch our for the cop on the corner." I think some might call that attitude Situation Ethics nowadays (joke). Carey tried this lifestyle for a while but he couldn't "get into it." This happily-ever-after book, not exactly Maugham's stock in trade, sees Carey going to medical school, marrying a suitable young woman, and taking a post as a country doctor. This is all from my cobwebbed ancient memory, so forgive and correct me if I don’t get it quite right.

Is there a clear option for becoming a sociopath, and can one just resolve to be one? Carey's early life was bleak enough, having lost his parents as a child and taken in by a country vicar who was related to him. Through ignorance more than malice, he was treated badly by the vicar. Carey also had a clubfoot that he prayed to be healed but gave up on God because God wouldn’t heal him. Does one have to have some major negative experiences to become a sociopath? Is there any cure for an authentic sociopath? Carey was "cured" but one might doubt if he ever really embraced his friend's advice.

Maugham himself had serious problems and much of “Of Human Bondage” is autobiographical. I know I weave my personality into my books. I don't believe Maugham was a sociopath. I would have liked to meet him.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: Request for definition of 'Sociopath'

Postby Slava » Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:15 pm

Psychopath is now up.
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Re: Request for definition of 'Sociopath'

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:59 pm

Philip, google psychopath vs sociopath as mentioned above, and you will find the tip of the iceberg of the answer to your questions. I'm constantly amazed that in every area of life there are those who adjust quickly and are. Open to change and those who resist it - even among "well-adjusted" therapists!
pl
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