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Treatment for Sociopaths

Sociopathy is a personality disorder which is marked by aggression, callosity, irresponsibility, and a manipulative and predatory living. Sociopathic behavior can be observed in both children and adults. The treatment however, is beneficial only when incorporated during the formative years of a person's life; not during adulthood.
Deepa Kartha
Last Updated: Apr 13, 2018
Sociopathy is an advanced form of Antisocial Personality Disorder, wherein a person's emotional and physical behavior, perception, and regard for others can prove to be damaging to the society. A sociopath doesn't feel emotions, and therefore, can never understand interpersonal relationships. There is a lack of feelings like attachment, respect, remorse, guilt, etc., a lack of judgment between the right and the wrong; and a lack of understanding that there is something wrong with them. Yes, a sociopath would never admit, in fact, never realize that he has a disorder. On the contrary, he or she would blame you for all the wrongdoings that have occurred in his/her life. It is your actions that resulted in what they did, so you are the one to be blamed, not them.
"I have known people who ... radiate vulnerability. Their facial expressions say 'I am afraid of you.' These people invite abuse ... By expecting to be hurt, do they subtly encourage it?"
- Ted Bundy, the famous serial killer who was diagnosed as a Sociopath.
Treating a Sociopath: Is it Possible?
This disorder can be observed in anybody, be it a male, female, an adult, or even a child. The reason why a person develops sociopathic traits to begin with, is unknown; however, it can be contributed to influential factors like genetics, social environment, and upbringing. Sociopaths come out as very charming and socializing beings; they can easily capture you in their enamor, however, that is just a facade to hide their possible atrocity. They can be the perfect people, but only till the time they wish to.
Treating a sociopath has seldom proved to be of help. The problem is that this demeanor is not a disease that can be treated with medicines or counseling; sociopaths are just wired that way. Also, there are many problems associated with their treatment. First of all, a sociopath will never comprehend the fact that there is something wrong with him/her. He or she will never agree to therapy, unless forced by the law. Secondly, sociopaths are great liars and manipulators; therefore, there are chances that they will convincingly lie to the psychologist about their thoughts, perception, and life history. This cannot be a part of accurate treatment.
Another thing that poses a problem during treatment, is the fact that you cannot teach a person to feel emotions, to feel guilt, or fear, or empathy, or remorse for their actions. If they don't feel it, if they cannot feel that their actions are right or wrong, then that is pretty much how they will behave their entire lives.
The exception to this rule is if sociopathic tendencies are observed during childhood. Experts do not use the term "sociopath" for juveniles, they refer to them as ones suffering from childhood conduct disorder. Behavioral symptoms like violence, animal cruelty, lying, lack of empathy or remorse, bed wetting after the age of 5, no respect for rules, obsession with fire, etc., are some characteristics that help diagnose the possibility of developing an antisocial behavior during adulthood. In such a case, therapy and treatment can be incorporated, and an attempt could be made in the way the child thinks, perceives, and reacts towards others. Such treatment options include -
Long-term Psychotherapy
While it is not possible to cure or treat a sociopath, counseling sessions can be used as a training device for them, such that they are able to effectively mimic healthy, emotional behavior.
Some of the characteristics that a sociopath possesses include, the lack of emotions and an inability to develop "meaningful" interpersonal relationships. In an attempt to rectify the psychology of a child in his or her formative years, psychotherapy is used by experts. Therapy sessions focus on correcting the perception, thoughts, and actions through counseling and structured goal-oriented tasks, which helps in controlling the negative feelings and replacing them with positive ones. There are various types of psychotherapy, and their application would depend upon each individual case. Theoretically, long-term psychotherapeutic intervention may prove to be of help among children; however, it rarely proves to be of help among adults, probably because they don't stick to it for long.
Sociopathy also comes with various other disorders including anxiety, anger, and substance abuse. Medications for these conditions may contribute in a way to rationalize the behavior of the person, and contribute to the positive development in the person. However, these medications do not "cure" the sociopathic condition. Also, there are many cases wherein the patient has ceased to take these medicines, and therefore, the whole effort has proved to be futile.
Treatment via Segregation
In most cases, diagnosis of sociopathy happens only when a person has entered into adulthood, and has already displayed some behavioral traits which have proved harmful to the society, or the immediate family for that matter. In such cases, as I have mentioned earlier, it is substantially difficult to get them ready for treatment. Also, at this stage, there are chances that traits like aggression, anger, and violence, have become an integral part of the person's personality, and they don't find anything wrong with it. Their actions are a result of what others did, remember?
If the sociopath is a potential threat to the society; be it for the family members, the therapists, or the society as a whole, then it is best to segregate the person from the society; may be through psychiatric hospitalization.
There is no standard treatment for sociopathy, in fact, there is no guarantee as well that the treatment options mentioned above will completely transform the person from what he or she is, as of now. Therefore, most experts advice the family members of such patients to focus on their own well-being rather than theirs. It is very important to understand and learn how to cope with this situation, as dealing with a sociopath can do a lot of damage to your mental and physical health. There are various therapists who could help you with the same, with an assurance that you will be fine again. Take care.
Disclaimer: This PsycholoGenie article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.