Sample Psychology Paper on Confessions of a Sociopath

Confessions of a Sociopath

Part A: Character Analysis

In Thomas’s book, “Confessions of a Sociopath,” the distinctive characteristics of sociopathic individuals come out clearly. The author’s diagnosis of her condition corresponds to the DSM V categorization of personality disorders. According to Nuckols (2013), personality disorders are defined in DSM V as enduring behavior patterns or inner experiences which deviate significantly from cultural and societal expectations, and which are inflexible and pervasive. The onset of personality disorders mostly occurs during adolescence and progress through adulthood. Antisocial disorders, also referred to as sociopathic disorders are an example of personality disorders classified under cluster B which comprises of emotional, dramatic and erratic tendencies. Sociopathic disorder is categorized together with other personality disorders such as narcissistic disorder and borderline personality disorders. Diagnosing personality disorders based on characterizations such as pathological personality traits and impairments in functioning. Different criteria can be used to describe personality disorders (Nuckols, 2013).

The character of interest in Thomas’s book is Thomas herself, the narrator. Based on her experiences and actions, she can be deduced to suffer from antisocial personality disorder or sociopathic disorder. Based on the DSM V criteria for diagnosis, the first criterion for consideration is the level of personality functioning. Individuals suffering from personality disorders can be characterized through identity and self direction. For cases of antisocial personality disorder, identity entails stable self esteem, identifiable emotional range and clear set boundaries. In terms of self direction, they are expected to have short term and meaningful goals and objectives, ability to self reflect and prosocial internal standards (Nuckols, 2013). The behaviors of Thomas according to her autobiography portray some of these characteristics. Sociopathic individuals are also recognized to be witty and cunning as well as capable of managing some of the very demanding professions in the society. Thomas is an accomplished professor and lawyer, indicating internal standards, ability to self reflect and a stable self esteem. She is also confident in her ability to manipulate the stock market and does not have to worry about her retirement (Thomas, 2014). At the same time, Thomas’s inability to think about the long term consequences of her actions is indicative of having short term goals without any tendency to have long term goals. All these are indications of anti social behavior based both on her diagnosis and the DSM V criteria for personality disorders.

Some of the characteristics common among those with personality disorders, and which are also portrayed by Thomas include detachment, emotional stability and psychotism. Furthermore, Thomas engages in several loveless relationships without feeling any emotional pain (Thomas, 2014). While that could be defined as being emotionally stable, it is also indicative of another characteristic of personality disorders which is lack of empathy. Mayo Clinic (2018) also provided certain symptoms of sociopathic personality disorder which are exemplified by Thomas as narrated in her book. Symptoms such as unnecessary risk taking, lack of empathy, impulsiveness, significant irritability and failure to consider the consequences of actions are all demonstrated by Thomas in different circumstances. For instance, the decision to follow the city worker who berated her and the murderous feelings she held then, are indications not only of unnecessary risk taking but also of lack of empathy and irritability (Ronson, 2013).

While the symptoms of antisocial personality disorders are clearly understood, their causes are not clear enough. Sociopathic disorder is believed to be a result of biological and environmental factors. According to Mayo Clinic (2018), one of the presumptions is that changes in brain functions during brain development could result in antisocial personality disorders. This implies that genetic formations increase the vulnerability of developing antisocial personality disorders while environmental factors result in its escalation. In particular, development of conduct disorder during childhood, family history of personality disorders, chaotic childhood family, neglect and abuse during childhood all increase the risk of antisocial personality disorders. Men are also more at risk of the disorder compared to women so Thomas’s case maybe one of the few cases of women sociopaths. Sociopathic disorder can result in further complications due to exposure of the victim to spousal abuse, jail, participations in gangs, drug and substance abuse, low social economic status and other mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. Complications in sociopathic disorder can result in premature death, especially as a result of violence. In the case of Thomas, she does not explicitly say what may have contributed to her condition, but she agrees that it could have been biological. However, her participation in loveless sexual relationships could have led to spousal abuse and subsequently heightened her level of psychotism. Addressing her condition would therefore require adequate consideration of her past experiences and analysis of the times her condition worsened. For instance, when she suffered from appendicitis and could not hide her dead face from her friends anymore (Thomas, 2014). Identifying such triggers to her condition could help in pointing out the most probable causes of the condition.

Part B: Treatment of Sociopathic Disorder

In most cases, just like in the case of Thomas, the victims themselves do not realize that they have a problem and only visit doctors for help when pushed by their loved ones. Mental health professionals are in the best position to help individuals suffering from sociopathic disorders. Those who seek assistance for antisocial personality disorder do so because of other conditions which are more easily identified such as drug abuse, marital problems or depressive conditions (Mayo Clinic, 2018). Unlike the case of Thomas, most of those who are diagnosed with antisocial personality disorders tend to reject the diagnosis due to their lack of insight. Those who accept the diagnosis can be treated in an outpatient setting after evaluation. The range of services on offer could include neuropsychological assessments, medication management, individual psychotherapy and family counseling among others. Hospitalization of such cases is often unnecessary due to their potential to be belligerent due to unmet demands, placing them at risk of harming others (Black, 2016).

Treating sociopathic personality disorder begins with getting the victims to understand their conditions and the potential consequences of the disorder. The objective of this insight is to help them see the need for behavior control. Cognitive therapy is one of the strategies that have been deemed useful for treating victims of antisocial personality disorder. A therapist working with a victim of antisocial personality behavior works with the goal of helping the patient understand how their thought patterns are perceived by others and how their self perceptions are distorted and thus prevent them from seeing themselves as other people do. For this to happen, the patient must be individually willing to be helped out of the condition and should not be merely submitting to therapy to avoid a jail term. It can be difficult to deal with victims of antisocial personality disorder during therapy since they can be distrusting, impulsive and with a low tolerance for frustration. They also lack the initiative to self improve and can be poor self observers. The therapists offering help in such scenarios should be self aware and avoid providing emotional responses to the clients. This implies that as much as the therapist may want to help, the effectiveness of therapy relies on the level of the therapists understanding of antisocial behaviors and anticipation of the client’s emotions. The therapist must form an acceptance attitude without moralizing the client (Black, 2016).

Alternatively, antisocial personality disorder could be treated through medication. Black (2016) reported that no medication has been found to be fully effective of treating sociopathic disorders. However, lithium bicarbonate is deemed effective for anger reduction. Other medications that have been used include phentoyne for reducing impulsive aggression and antipsychotic medications. Antipsychotic medications treat aggression but may have irreversible side effects on patients with sociopathic disorder. Tranquilizers should not be used for those with antisocial personality disorders due to their addictive impacts (Black, 2016). Based on this medication reviews, it is evident that medications treat the conditions that coexist within antisocial personality disorder and not directly related to the condition. As such, their effectiveness depends on the degree to which the victim shows those particular tendencies treated by the administered medications.

The best treatment alternative for Thomas would therefore be cognitive therapy. Medication addresses the consequences of the disorder without going into the causes. Cognitive therapy on the other hand, addresses the condition itself through creation of self awareness and management practices. This is more important for a sociopath than reducing anger or aggression.

 

 

 

 

References

Black, D. (2016). Treatment for antisocial personality disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved from psychcentral.com/lib/treatment-for-antisocial-personality-disorder/

Mayo Clinic (2018). Antisocial personality disorder. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353928

Nuckols, C.C. (2013). The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition (DSM – 5). Delaware Department of Health and Social Sciences. Retrieved from dhss.delaware.gov/dsamh/files/si2013_dsm5foraddictionsmhandcriminaljustice.pdf

Ronson, J. (2013, June 14). Feelings? ‘Confessions of a sociopath,’ by M.E. Thomas. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/books/review/confessions-of-a-sociopath-by-m-e-thomas.html

Thomas, M. E. (2014). Confessions of a sociopath: A life spent hiding in plain sight. Pan Publishers.