The thought of someone having antisocial personality disorder or ASPD often brings a shroud of queasiness over us. We’ve heard unsettling things about those with this disorder. Are they lurking in the shadows waiting to attack us? If you want to become a better writer and put intrigue into your story that’s limping along, you’ll need to dive deeply into these personalities.
Antisocial personality disorder is an umbrella term for the narcissist, the sociopath, and the psychopath. They share some common ground and also some differences. Let’s have a close-up look at them:
As Wallace described these three personality types, he gave us traits that distinguished them from the others. He also told us of traits they shared. What are more traits they have in common? They are:
Speaking of manipulation, we’ve heard story after story where con men have bilked love-starved women out of their life savings. These personalities can use different schemes to get what they want. And as you become a better writer, you can place your character in any social echelon you choose from gloomy alleyways to pristine corporate towers.
The narcissist and the psychopath are given to grandstanding and pretentiousness. The sociopath is not; he wants to fly under the radar. Some studies suggest that narcissists’ behavior is a result of low self-esteem, sociopaths are a result of childhood trauma, and psychopaths are products of genetics.
Women have ASPD also, but they are less socialized to be aggressive and assertive. In addition, they are less suspected of committing violent crimes. The bottom line is that women have been studied less.
Given this, studies feel that these personality disorders are much more prevalent among men, especially violent ones. But make no mistake, your character can be a psychopathic female. History details women who have committed heinous crimes.
With your desire to become a better writer, you will want to know that just because a person has an antisocial personality disorder, it doesn’t mean that he or she is violent. Of course, some are due to poor impulse control and other anti-social behaviors. The question has been asked who is more violent, the sociopath or the psychopath?
Studies have shown that “psychopaths are considered more dangerous than sociopaths because they display no remorse for their harmful behavior” (Jacob and Sheikh).
Find more information about the antisocial personality here:
Psychopaths are generally more intriguing because of their strong antisocial personalities, stronger than the narcissist and the sociopath. But we may want to know what percent of psychopaths commit violent crimes.
It’s difficult to determine the exact percentage of psychopaths there are, much less the number who commit violent crimes because many cases are underreported. Moreover, it’s also difficult to predict the percentage of psychopaths since different reporting agencies use different diagnostic criteria, and psychopaths manipulate mental health professionals and police agencies into believing they are harmless. Although psychopaths don’t feel emotions, such as remorse or concern, they can emulate them to the point of believability.
Not all psychopaths commit violent crimes. Some are considered “successful” when they integrate into society and seemingly lead normal lives. These “successful” ones can better control their impulses of aggression and may adapt to fields that call for manipulation or strategic decision-making. Also, psychopathy is considered a spectrum. And some successful psychopaths may not score high on the psychopathy spectrum, being more able to control themselves.
But even with the “successful ones” we can wonder how their lives are at home. There are probably many problems in this area. Antisocial personalities don’t usually do well in relationships due to their egocentric behavior and other such behaviors.
Anyone can hurt others. This includes people with antisocial personality disorder. But just because he’s been diagnosed with ASPD doesn't mean he’s violent. Still, if he’s a psychopath, he may be more prone to aggression and violent behavior throughout his life. Some studies have shown that about 90% of people released from prison with high psychopathic traits committed violent crimes within the next 20 years. Only 40% of those scoring low on psychopathic traits did the same. People with psychopathy are responsible for the deaths of more than 50% of police officers who die while on duty (Jacob and Sheikh).
Throughout history, there have always been chilling cases of notorious psychopaths. Here is one of these cases. Let’s see how he compares to our description of the psychopath.
Ted Bundy was born on November 24, 1946. A notorious psychopath, he was responsible for kidnapping, rape, and a series of gruesome murders that spanned various states throughout the 1970s. He was also known to decapitate some of his victims.
Bundy was raised by his grandfather who was said to be violent and abusive toward him. For many years, Bundy thought that his grandfather was his biological father.
His childhood and teenage years didn’t alert us to any obvious signs of the heinous crimes he was destined to commit. There are no recorded instances of him “running afoul of the law” before adulthood.
Note: Studies suggest that abuse and disruption in family life during formative years contribute to someone being diagnosed with ASPD. Often though, there are run-ins with the law before adulthood. Bundy could be an exception or have committed crimes where he wasn’t apprehended or no one reported them.
While attending a university, Bundy met his first love. The relationship, however, didn’t last, and she left him. He apparently couldn’t get over the heartbreak, and it triggered murderous impulses. His victims, incidentally, bore a striking resemblance to his first love.
Bundy was known for his good looks and charm and cordial demeanor. His victims trusted him. How could such a warm, upright, and handsome man harm them? But harm them he did, by killing them after luring them to remote locations.
Note: One of the strong traits of psychopaths is that they are extremely manipulative and calculating. They are adept at planning and using charm.
Bundy had multiple jobs throughout his life. He worked as a cook, a shoe salesman, and a legal assistant. He took an active part in local politics. Many people feel that psychopaths hide in dark corners only reaching out a strong arm to snag a victim. Not so! They are often grandiose.
Note that Bundy was also a law student. This bolstered his self-aggrandizement and further insulated him from suspicion.
How was Bundy eventually caught? It was over a minor traffic violation in 1975. The car he was driving was associated with several crime scenes. Bundy used his manipulative and calculating abilities not once but twice to escape from prison. He was captured for good in Florida in 1978, admitting to 30 murders, but the true number is unknown. He was sentenced to death.
To become a better writer, being aware that an unthinkable evil can be churning in the twisted mind of a coworker or a next-door neighbor, equips you to outline a complex, but believable character for your stories.
Now that you’re armed with insight into the personalities of the narcissist, the sociopath, and the psychopath, what will you do with it? Flex your fingers and begin typing. Don’t stop until your antisocial character draws a breath and is graced with flesh and bone, as chilling as that may be.
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