Now there’s a pay-per-view cage match we’d like to see!
We wise apes now have an authoritative professional catalogue of psychological and emotional disorders, currently in its bigger than ever fifth edition, over nine-hundred pages. This tome contains all the things our top psychologists and other mental health professionals have categorized as shades of crazy that can be diagnosed, treated and the treatment covered by private health insurance once the proper numbers from the thousands of diagnostic and treatment codes are inputted into medical invoices.
An imperfect system for treating widespread mental health troubles that effect virtually all of us one way or another, you say? Many of these identifiable maladies can also be thought of as challenging problems of the soul imposed and exacerbated by a particularly merciless social system? Some of the categories reflect our limited social evolution and the prevailing arguments of the day — homosexuality, for example, was listed as a pathological disorder in the first two editions of the DSM (removed in 1973)– no? We are also dealing, in most cases, with a fairly wide spectrum of symptoms and disabilities, are we not?
Those may all be valid questions, but, undeniably this system, for all its admitted imperfections, is also an inexhaustible gold mine for professional wielders of this invaluable book, the DSM. So let us look to that book for our definitions.
Plus, none of that quibbling has anything to do with our Sociopaths and Psychopaths. Some things never go out of fashion. Let’s get on with the show!
Let’s meet our contestants for tonight’s heavily sponsored heavy-weight battle– the psychopath vs. the sociopath. Both are listed members of the APD community of mentally ill persons. Antisocial Personality Disorder — people who have serious difficulty relating to others; might be unusually aggressive, might make a habit of violating personal space, might just get a thrill from making other people uncomfortable. People with APD lack major social skills that most humans acquire in childhood. This type of alarming, aggressive behavior is common in junior high school and high school-aged kids, mainly boys, but most normal (if we may use the word) people will grow out of it. If you don’t, a diagnosis of APD might be in the cards for you.
Look, honestly, it’s hard to tell a psychopath from a sociopath without a scorecard. On the actual scorecard, the popular DSM checklists, both will score high on the preliminary tests.
Distorted sense of self, a void in the identity that must be filled with external things like power (check); Lack of empathy, a deficit in emotional intelligence, an unwavering self-focus (check); Pathological personality traits– attention seeking behavior, manipulation, exhibiting a high degree of most or all of the famous Seven Deadly Sins — envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath (check).
Now comes the question that separates the average toxic asshole from the APD — are these traits normal for your stage of life or the common, unique requirements of your particular social position? If not, you could have APD.
A psychopath, we learn, is born with a certain genetic set-up, the sociopath is programmed to act out anti-socially by a very bad upbringing. Get it? Sociopaths are often reckless, haphazard and passionate; psychopaths are generally cool, calm and calculating. Sociopaths form emotional attachments, toxic ones, yes, but genuine relationships. Psychopaths enter relationships only for the advantages they can provide.
This dream bout will be harder to stage than I originally thought. Crap, I was so looking forward to it.
Probing this distinction makes me wonder about some of our more ubiquitous public speakers these days. Where, for example, does the son-in-law of the most powerful man in the world fit into this scheme?
Merely a deluded, toxic asshole, ruthless super-wealthy slumlord, confident exemplar of supreme entitlement, or actually… oh never mind. What difference does it make?
You know, some days, I’m pretty much just typing here.