Causes of sociopathic behavior

Updated April 17, 2017

The inner workings of the human mind are fascinatingly complex. The desire to understand the essence of “why we are the way we are” is even more perplexing. The diabolical mind of a sociopath is by far the most bewildering. It is an antisocial, egocentric personality disorder with a maze of intricacies. They thrive off manipulation and are lacking in a sense of morality or responsibility.

The Nature of a Sociopath

The lack of conscience and an inability to feel remorse are the underlying factors. They do not have the ability to make and keep friends. The sociopathic personality is initially viewed as charming until the casual deception shines through their skilful masterful manipulation. They have the skilful aptitude for lying and cheating. They have no capacity to feel guilt.

Sociopath Statistics

The sociopath makes up approximately 3 to 5 per cent of the general population. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about three out of 100 males and one in 100 are sociopaths. Approximately 70 per cent of sociopaths who come from fatherless homes and 30 per cent are born out of wedlock. As many as 15 to 25 per cent of prison inmates who show signs of being sociopaths.

Understanding the Reasons Behind a Sociopath’s Mind

Sociopathic behaviour has a wide spectrum of causes and explanations. The chief among them would be neurological abnormalities in the frontal lobe of the brain. It is a section of the brain that is the centre for judgment and self-control. Genetic factors can be at the root of a sociopathic personality. Sociologist, Dr. Lee Robins, determined that the odds were increased for children to inherit the sociopathic traits if one of the parents had the condition. There also are environmental facts that can play a role. Studies have proven that the circumstances centred in the home, school or community settings also can contribute to the sociopathic behaviour. It also has been shown that if a normal amount of affection was not expressed by the parents, it could generate dysfunction for the child that would manifest itself in sociopathic tendencies.

Brain Function of a Sociopathic Mind

In 2007, London’s Institute of Psychology studied the brains of six sociopaths and compared them to the brains of nine normal people. There were distinctive discrepancies when they were shown faces of people who were showing signs of fear. The brain activity of the sociopaths was lower while the normal people showed a considerable increase in brain function. In addition, the sociopaths demonstrated much less response to the pictures of happy faces than the normal people.

Is There a Cure for a Sociopath?

The sociopathic personality represents itself as charismatically pleasant in the first interaction only to lead innocent people down the path into their web of deceit. Behind it all, is an inherent sense of frustration. If it is not quelled, the rage rises. As far as help for this personality disorder, advances are being made through medication to counteract the set up of the brain of a sociopath. In addition, therapy and counselling is a good avenue. However, because a sociopath's underlying nature is one of distrust, they are an exceptional challenge for counsellors. Hopefully, with more studies to understand the inner workings of the sociopath, a cure will be found in years to come.

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About the Author

Hunter Darden is an author of four children's books, a novel, and a black-and-white photography book. She is also a humor/inspiration newspaper columnist having written for The Charlotte Observer. Darden has a degree in psychology from Meredith College. She was the 2005 recipient of the Meredith College Career Achievement Award and the NC General Federation of Women's Clubs Excellence in Creative Writing Award.