Mental illness is a tragic, unseen problem that effects millions in the US alone. Unlike other diseases, mental illness does not always have any outward signs to give away that there is something wrong on the inside and unfortunately when there is a sign, people tend to shy away because we are not prepared to deal with sudden outbursts of pent up emotion that is choked beneath the illness. Sadly, even the most common mental illness, depression, doesn’t get the much needed understanding and attention it deserves, let alone more severe illnesses like schizophrenia. But when it comes to something buried so deep into one’s mind like Antisocial Personality Disorder, how does someone cope with it and how do we cope on the outside?
If you do a Google search for “dealing with antisocial personality disorder” you get pages of blog posts from pseudo-professionals who jump the gun and use the word “sociopath” and immediately put blame and guilt on the illness. The only perspective given is one of disgust and hatred as if the only type of ASPD sufferer is the “serial bully”. There is almost no testimony given from a person with the illness. When you do find that one statement, you’ll see a contradictory point of view than what is given elsewhere.
People with ASPD do feel emotion, though it is often less intense and hard to grasp hold of in an appropriate situation. They are almost forced to maintain false emotions in order to integrate into normal society. Empathy of course is very difficult. Comforting a friend or loved one when they experience something difficult or tragic is a painfully confusing situation to handle. Unfortunately, those with ASPD often fall victim to very long, very hard to defuse bouts of anger. Because there is a need to put on the facade of normal day in and day out and more or less mimic the emotions of others, people with ASPD get worn out easily. People get freaked out when others don’t share their emotions and mirror them back at them, which is why jobs like customer service is so exhausting and difficult for the normal public. When someone with ASPD gets worn out depression is quick to follow which sadly magnifies the feelings of anger. When the anger gets out of control and psychosis sets in when the depression has gone on far too long, that’s when you get someone who is capable of killing.
Having ASPD and dealing with other people is a lot like playing Simon–the old 90’s toy that flashes colors and tones and you’re supposed to quickly memorize the pattern and play it back. Eventually you get good enough to recognize the pattern in other people and become quicker to respond and sometimes you falsely recognize a pattern and really piss someone off. You keep a mental notebook of people in your lives and how to deal with them on various emotional levels and situations, creating your own manual to survive in a world you are alien in.
As far as dealing with someone with ASPD, unless you live with them and have an intimate relationship with them, you probably will never know they have it. The first thing you can do, however, is never throw around the world psychopath or sociopath. There are a lot of selfish, impulsive people out there and people with ASPD are not always one of them. Not only are you using the wrong terminology but you’re taking it a step too far. Imagine if someone called you an alcoholic because you had a single glass of wine with dinner? Hurts, doesn’t it? Inappropriate, isn’t it? Chances are the person with ASPD that you’re talking to has never and will never hurt someone else on purpose, especially not in a violent way.
Will Graham put it quite easily, “My horse is hitched to a post that is closer to the spectrum of aspergers and autistics than narcissists and sociopaths.”
Unless you’re willing to do the actual research, not read articles written by someone whom has never set foot in a higher education classroom, don’t pretend like you know what the illness is. Don’t give it nicknames you don’t understand, don’t compare them to Ted Bundy and especially don’t use the name of the illness to describe everyone that comes across as selfish or commits a crime. The biggest mistake a person can do is make assumptions that aren’t based in reality or fact about another person. One very ignorant thing people love to do is assume anyone diagnosed with ASPD is a lost cause or a monster, that there is absolutely no way to reason with them or put trust in them because they are prone to lie.
It’s sad but true, pretty much the entire life of someone with ASPD is based on lies. Occasionally being constantly required to “lie” to make someone else happy and not get yourself alienated further will wear so heavily on someone with ASPD that they will sometimes become a little too good at the “favors game” and manipulate people.