How to write - mental disorder series, part one : Sociopaths.
Sociopaths (Anti-social Personality Disorder) aren’t as hard to play as you might think, hopefully this little guide will give you a tip or two about how to rock a Tony Soprano type character. This is safe for work, however people might… look at you weird.
so·ci·o·path [soh-see-uh-path, soh-shee-]
noun, Psychiatry. a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.
Traits of a sociopath. Keep in mind not all sociopaths are the exact same, and they don’t have ALL of the traits listed below. Pick and choose, find what works for your character.
Charming, silver-tongued, quick witted.
Despite being extremely anti-social in most cases, when a sociopath is confronted with a social situation they usually blend in perfectly. They may not enjoy being around people, but they’re quite good at interacting with them. They’re charming and suave, they’re usually not cold or shallow seeming. They’re even quite good at making friends, because they act the part of a buddy so well.
Most cases say that sociopaths are extremely manipulative. They want something and they’ll do anything they need to do in order to actually get that reaction. However, they don’t always want to seem like that’s what they’re doing. They’re manipulative, yes, but they’re generally not extremely forward about it. They’re extremely cunning about how they go about manipulating others into the situations and mind-sets they want them to be in. It’s usually less about being manipulative for a purpose, or an item - it’s about being able to do it. Knowing they can twist other humans to their will.
In many cases a sociopath will also be a pathological liar. They don’t have any problem lying blindly, they don’t feel bad about lying when they do. Usually they’ll lie to benefit them, but not always. Most pathological liars get caught up in their lies and take them further than they ever meant to. For instance, a pathological liar may come up with an excuse for being late - instead of simply saying “I missed the bus” as a lie, they’ll have an entire elaborate back story. The longer the lies go on, the harder it is for a pathological liar to tell the truth about anything in their life. However, there are usually hints of truth embedded into the woven stories. Keep in mind that if you’re playing a pathological liar - if they don’t get the attention they want, they usually start making their lies bigger and more ridiculous.
Complete lack of remorse, empathy, guilt and a general lack of morals.
Every noted sociopath carries this trait, it’s the base of their disorder for the most part. When playing a sociopath, you’ll have to remember that your character won’t feel bad for ANYTHING they do - even if they’re in love with someone, they feel no guilt. They don’t have it built into them. Generally they run on their own moral code, and the morals of the modern world mean little to nothing to them. They don’t have remorse for anything they do, from picking a rare flower, to wounding an animal, to killing another human. No matter how little the wrong may be, they don’t feel guilt for it. DO NOT MISTAKE THIS FOR THEM NOT BEING ABLE TO REGRET DOING A WRONG. They may not feel bad for it, but they very well may wish they never had…
Lack of emotional range.
Though when playing a sociopath you may act emotions, you may show them outwardly. You need to remember that inwardly the character doesn’t feel much of anything. Generally this type of character will have a shallow pool of emotions to pull from, and even the emotions they do feel aren’t very strong. For the most part, they have a few stronger emotions, and the rest are simply something they fake, or try and force. Anger, distress, carelessness and cockiness are emotions that many sociopaths experience well. Happiness, joyfulness, love and otherwise ‘good’ emotions aren’t things they usually have a good grasp on - however well they may portray them to others.
Desire for mental and physical stimulation.
It’s not rare for a sociopath to need to constantly be doing something. Most of them enjoy being constantly on the go, constantly having their hands moving to busy themselves. Common activities for sociopaths include: promiscuity, working out (boxing, martial arts), gambling, fighting and other generally destructive habits. Sociopaths often like living on the edge.
Impulsive, uncontrollable fits of rage.
More often than not sociopaths have a deep anger within them, one they rarely know how to control. Sometimes they may have a handle on it, however if pushed they may unwillingly have an outburst. It’s usually loud and violent, they’re not in control of the anger they feel and have no idea how to cage the beast once it’s out. Usually when having these fits they’re unruly, illogical and uncaring for anything anyone has to say.
Along with the notable traits above, a sociopath may have one, a few of or even all of the following traits: Paranoia, a sexually abusive childhood, superiority complex, unrealistic life goals/no life goals, alias’s, narcissism.
In rare cases, a sociopath is completely incapeable of any contact with humans. They have no ability to feel anything for anyone, they’re empty shells. These sociopaths are likely ones to avoid during play, considering you want to be able to interact with others.
In play sociopaths are best used for abused characters, murderers or generally ‘bad’ characters. When playing someone with antisocial personality disorder keep in mind that they don’t generally migrate traits and don’t get better usually. Once they’re a certain way, it’s extremely difficult to change them. It’s unrealistic for a sociopath to fall instantly in love and completely turn over a new leaf.
Dexter is a good example for a sociopath, Tony Soprano is another well known television sociopath. A few real life sociopaths include Ted Bundy, Elizabeth Bathroy, Joseph Stalin and Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia.
A few more links that might help you research your sociopath character.