Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Writing Antisocial Personality Disorder Characters

Psychopaths, sometimes erroneously called sociopaths, are hard to identify, but, oh, my what interesting characters to write. Their smaller pre-frontal cortexes, regulating impulse-control and behaviors, means this is a condition not just “bad choices by bad people”. The sociopath and psychopath are victims of something they cannot control.

However, the general thinking is that psychopaths are born that way and that sociopaths are created out of extreme childhood circumstances and violence, sometimes even head injuries. The old nurture-nature argument surfaces.

Sociopaths tend to be reserved, inhibited and sometimes described at loners, whereas, psychopaths are confident, dominant, and even social. Whereas we might call psychopaths amoral, sociopaths do have a sense of right and wrong and might be martyrs or crusaders for causes that are skewed against normalcy.  

As to sex difference, three times more men than women are diagnosed as sociopaths or psychopaths. Identified women, much more often than men, reported sexual abuse, parental issues like substance abuse, or emotional neglect as children.

WebMD distinguishes between sociopaths and psychopaths, those who are clinically diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, as whether or not a conscience is operating.

The psychopath doesn’t have a conscience. The sociopath has a conscience, but it is a weak one. The psychopath has no qualms or regrets about shis behaviors or actions. The sociopath displays some guilt or remorse, but not enough to keep shim from the behavior. Self-centered and guiltless, they take actions fearlessly since they don’t accept personal responsibility for consequences for actions.

It is also pointed out that the majority of those with an antisocial personality disorder are not violent. The ones who make the news are, but thousands are walking around, living their lives without attracting legal attention. But for our books, we mostly make psychopaths or sociopaths our villain and perpetrator of violence. But it could be an interesting novel in which the sociopath next door is presumed guilty but somebody else “done the deed.”

I have a sociopath (although I leave it open to interpretation whether Cal is actually a psychopath) in my “Dinner is Served” series (first book Mission Impastable). Keeping him ambiguous is one way I have built tension in his relationships with others. Are they genuine or not? Is he capable of having a loving relationship with anyone?

In a study published a couple of years ago in Personality and Individual Differences,
researchers found that individuals scoring higher on an emotional detachment/disagreeable personality factor did not respond to yawning stimuli. You know what I mean. Someone yawns and then you do. It’s a sympathetic response. If one lacked empathy and sympathy traits, then that person did not respond with yawning.

Now think about that in a novel. A character could be unmasked as a psychopath by a clever sleuth. Or, your villain might know that non-yawning response is a characteristic and, thus, heesh tries to conceal it with a fake yawn, also detected by your clever sleuth.

Another study in Personality and Individual Differences found that narcissism and psychopathy traits predicted social media use. The more selfies men posted, the higher they ranked on the scale. Of course, taking selfies alone is not a predictor, but you could certainly have your villain obsessed with documenting shis life with selfies, Vine videos and the like, constantly documenting shis life on Facebook.

Interestingly, another study found a higher number of antisocial disorder personality people with a preference for bitter foods and drinks than the normal population. Maybe your villain likes shis coffee strong and black. Like me! Bwahaha!

Sociopaths and psychopaths are skilled actors. Manipulators who must win, who must dominate. I’d guess a good number, if not all, bullies could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. Try these tips and traits to beef up your antisocial villain.

If you enjoyed this post, I would appreciate you sharing it on Twitter and/or Facebook. 

Tweet: #Writers: Have a psychopath/sociopath in a novel? How are they different & alike? @RomanceRighter tells all http://bit.ly/1OLY0Cy

Facebook:  Writers who are writing characters with an antisocial personality disorder might pick up some ideas of how to do it right in this post by Angelica French Author.