Curious case of sociopathic behavior and addiction

Sociopathic behavior, an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), is a mental disorder in which individuals exhibit traits such as complete disregard for others, aggression, erratic conduct and frequent violation of the law. Sociopathic behavior is often thought to be the same as psychopathy. Although both are forms of ASPD, sociopathic behavior is considered less severe than psychopathic behavior. According to a school of thought, psychopathy is a result of genetic predispositions whereas sociopathic behavior is the result of environmental factors.

Very little is known about the possible causes of sociopathic behavior, although elements such as traumatic childhood experiences are believed to have an impact. During a child’s formative years, the brain and personality are not fully developed, and a traumatic experience during this period may trigger symptoms of sociopathic behavior. However, not all sociopaths may have experienced childhood trauma.

Sociopathic behavior and addiction are interlinked. Sociopaths have a higher tendency to indulge in risky and aggressive behavior which leads to issues such as violation of rules, loss of employment and failed relationships. The emotional pain resulting from such setbacks manifests itself in the form of anger and resentment, feelings which sociopaths tend to suppress. When emotional pain persists for a considerable length of time, such people look for escape routes. In such situations, abusing substances such as drugs or alcohol may be a natural course of action.

Substance abuse typifies sociopathic behavior

Sociopaths tend to revel being on the wrong side of the law and usually abide by low morals and ethics. Since substance abuse is considered illicit and risky, it typifies sociopathic behavior. A large number of individuals with ASPD are known to be habitual substance abusers. Past research shows that 90 percent of people with ASPD also have a co-occurring substance use disorder, while around 40 to 50 percent of individuals addicted to substances exhibit all the symptoms of sociopathic behavior.

Individuals with co-occurring ASPD and substance use disorder are likely to face greater physical, legal and societal challenges due to substance abuse. Sociopaths also have a higher likelihood of earlier initiation into drug and alcohol use as well as chances of developing addiction faster than non-sociopathic individuals. Drug addiction has been linked to long-term changes in the brain, including alterations in the brain’s electric signals. These changes may lead to negative thought processes and symptoms of mental health disorders such as depression. Due to its impact on brain development, drug addiction can be a potential cause or a contributing factor for sociopathic behavior as well.

Treatment of co-occurring sociopathic behavior and substance abuse

So far no effective treatment options are available for the treatment of sociopathic disorders. Sociopaths usually do not accept that they are suffering from a disorder and do not sign up for treatment programs voluntarily. Most treatment for ASPD takes place in jail or in response to a ruling by a court of law. Certain symptoms of sociopathic behavior can be alleviated to an extent by prescribing antipsychotic, antidepressant or mood-stabilizing medications, although their use is not favored due to a high risk of abuse and side effects.

Psychiatric interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM) are also used to manage symptoms of sociopathic behavior. With CBT, individuals learn how to cope with challenges through the use of new, manageable approaches. Individuals undergoing CM receive support and encouragement for behavior which supports the objectives of the treatment. According to past research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), men with co-occurring ASPD and substance use disorders may benefit the most when the treatment is judicially mandated.

Psychiatric disorders such as ASPD need immediate intervention, especially if they co-occur with substance use disorders. Co-occurring disorders have a greater impact on a person’s overall health and quality of life but can be treated through effective dual diagnosis programs that treat both the conditions together. If you or a loved one is suffering from such a condition, contact the Dual Diagnosis Helpline. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-981-6047 or chat online with our experts to get details about the finest dual diagnosis rehab centers in your vicinity.

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