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Do you think sociopaths and psychopaths can't really help their actions since they didn't really choose to be born with it, so is it really their fault? Or do you think sociopaths or psychopaths know exactly what they're doing and actually can help it but they're just inhuman and evil?

One of my old counselors told me that sometimes people cannot control their thoughts but you CAN control your actions, the people who have bad thoughts but act on it are then feeding into their own selfish wants and desires. Thoughts? Thanks 🙂

vjohnson51 7 Aug 14

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People do not choose the brains they are born with. And, some people are born without sufficient mirror neurons and are therefore sociopaths or psychopaths. This does not mean, however, that they cannot learn what is or is not acceptable behavior. They may not be able to empathize with another's pain,or situation, but they can know it is not acceptable to harm that person. And, if we want to maintain a civilized society, we must separate from society those who do harm to others. I heard a man tell his story about being a sociopath. He lacks the ability to empathize and knows he can be rude and difficult to be around at times. He credits his ability to overcome this by his upbringing and by those around him who know and understand his limitations. Had he been raised in a violent, or less loving/understanding environment he might have turned out very different.


Psychopaths know (cognitively) that their behavior is considered "bad" by other folks, but they do not see any reason why they should change it, as long as it give them some advantage.


Humans are hard-wired to protect themselves from sociopaths by locking them up or whatever it takes.

We just can’t help ourselves.


Psychopaths and sociopaths know exactly what they are doing, but are hard-wired to think only of themselves. They do not care about consequences for others. The only times that they show any concerns for others is when they see some advantage for them to do so. In a sense they cannot control that tendency., Nevertheless, they are evil in what they do.


Sticky wicket for society.
If you believe in free will, then they are responsible.
If you believe free will doesn't exist, then they are not responsible.

I believe in conditional free will: we are free to exert our will but only subject to certain conditions, like physics and biology. In this case, the biology of a psycho/sociopaths brain may very well hard-wire them to their behaviour... no matter how much they want to change or realize it's bad, their chemicals won't allow them to change. However, it is still their chemicals, their biology and thus their responsibility insofar as if they can't change it, then they should still be subject to the consequences of their actions.

So to me, whether they can or cannot change is irrelevant in terms of assigning fault. It's what you do that matters, not what you could have done otherwise.... and whether free will exists or not or is conditional or not, it is still you not others or nobody that are doing the actions and thus you not others or nobody that bear any responsability for your actions.


I think you are confusing the issue with the wording of your question. You seem to be conflating sadistic and malevolent with sociopath and psychopath. That simply isn’t the case.

The condition simply stated is that the individual doesn’t regard other beings as individual consciousnesses but rather as any other object in the world. Simply an obstacle to navigate.

Sure, at the root of it, they are as likely to smash a plate as your face when they are angry. This doesn’t necessarily mean they WANT to smash your face. That’s sadism and a different condition altogether.

Sociopaths can do great good and are often found in places where having feelings for others can be detrimental to the task at hand. Battlefield triage for instance. They will find it easy to help who they can by leaving those they cannot save to die while many of us would waste time trying to save the unsaveable thereby risking those that could benefit.

I would think there are a lot of doctors who are sociopaths, especially amongst surgeons. I am sure that lack of empathy can help them in there job. I have known a few I felt were sociopathic to some degree or another.

@Sticks48 very true. There’s also no dearth of sociopaths working as CEO’s. Somewhere there’s a list of jobs they gravitate to.

@JacobMeyers I would think some lawyers too. I think there ruthlessness can serve them well in certain fields.Politics is definitely one of those fields.


Yes, they're aware the things they do are wrong by society's standards but it's not wrong by their own. These people are wired badly at birth. They are selfish to a degree most of us will never understand. If there's no conscience or empathy to restrict you then anything goes.: lies, cheating, rape, fraud, murder, none of it is wrong to them and they feel no guilt or remorse for any of it.

I agree My wife's first husband is as this describes/.He is still crazy even approaching 70 yrs of age. Has caused much damage in his family and seems not to realize what he's doing.


Yes, by middle age about a third of true sociopaths/psychopaths are living more or less normal lives. Some of them even study psychology to learn how to mimic normal emotions. All because they figured out that having friends/family/career in the long run is a much better deal than screwing over everyone they meet for short term gain. (The other 2/3 rds are mostly dead or in jail.) It is a terrible mental pathology, "madness without delusion" as first described. But yes, except when they are blinded by rage, they are as in control as other people, possibly even more so.

Very true. I'm an example of your description of the 1/3. And after completing an MS in clinical psychology, I went on to learn to control rage/fear through various disciplines and philosophies. And, Hey!!! Not dead! Not in jail!! 👌😎

@vjohnson51 Some do, but talking about true psychopaths, pretty rare. Treating people right and obeying the law is a logical thing to do absent God or a conscience. Leads to far fewer problems.


I had recently read that serial murders are born with abnormal Serotonin levels. This article also explains some things [] From what I have learned is several conditions create abnormalities to explain psychopath like behavior. One of the big ones is early head/brain trauma. Then there is home and society mistreatment and bullying. Then comes chemical imbalance do to either DNA or substance abuse. Ther are other factors, the ones I mentioned in combination are the most likely culprits.


Can't help being sick but what they do is on them you can choose to be good or a monster


Generally I agree with the counselor’s sentiment. That seems to be true for most of us at least, and I have anecdotally heard of people who could be called sociopaths with a conscience. They may think cruel things but behave well and display empathetic behaviors whether or not they’re genuine.

I do think evidence supports a tragic level of determinism. Most everything seems like an inevitable reaction if you break it down far enough to cellular behavior and brain chemistry. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Between nature, nurture, and chaos, we definitely have less free will than many imagine, but the small part we may have offers just enough constraint to make creativity possible. Creativity is hard to accomplish without some limiting parameters to urge you in a certain direction. When you’ve only got a limited set of options, that’s when self expression becomes vital.

As I said on the last post I saw talking about free will today, I don’t believe we have much if any of it, strictly speaking, but it’s best to labor under the assumption that we do. People definitely can choose to better themselves, but whether or not they will could practically be biologically predestined for all I know. The notion I like regarding mental health is: thoughts are like birds. You can’t control which ones land on your head but you can decide which ones make a nest there.


I don't think anyone can help their actions, not just psychos/sociopaths. I don't think there is any good evidence of free will, and I don't know why people think they know for sure that there is. People will have two options in front of them and "choose" one and that is their evidence of free will. You can't see the process underneath the surface that led to that. I think we either have no free will or very limited free will depending on our DNA, environmental guidance, our experiences, and maybe even other factors.

The argument from people who hear you say that people aren't responsible for their actions take that to mean that we shouldn't punish anyone for their behavior. No, that's not what people mean when they say that people aren't responsible for their actions. It just means that someone who is either "programmed" or conditioned to feel or behave in a certain way aren't responsible for the mechanisms that got them to that point. Those people still need to be kept away from others to protect others from the harm that the offenders cause.

I find I can control my actions, as do those around me....WTH do you mean?

@AnneWimsey No, you THINK it's you who is controlling your actions. You don't know for sure.

@Piece2YourPuzzle BAH Humbug! Since the divorce 10 years ago NoBoDY controls me in the slightest for any reason ...I make a Huge point of that !


One of the first major scientific journal works I read - back in HS in the 60's.....blew me away.

It was printed in '62. I read it my senior year of HS...and it gave me direction in college to focus on Demography and Environmental science....

It's title is "Population Density and Social Pathology" - and John B. Calhoun simply took thousands of rats, kept them in cages. Kept them well fed and clean. He only closed the walls in with different populations at different rates. (see and read the article, below).

I bet you can guess what he discovered.
-increased mentally disturbed behavior
-unexplained greed/hoarding
-grouping/gang formation
-unexplained violence.
-child abuse/neglect
aberrant/abnormal sexual behavior (males more aggressive with females. males mounting males. Females mounting females. Females avoiding males).

All the ills that are happening to us.

Back when this study was done the world was at 3.3 billion. Today we're more than double that number, and growing by 158 more births, than deaths, per minute.

Check my stats here if you will....

The problem then; mental illness is a direct result of population pressure. proven decades ago.

Or, as Malthus put it, over 200 years ago; "As the quantity (of life in a given area) increases, the quality of life decreases"

Solution? Simple. ZPG. Family planning. We know how to do this; we have the tools and the technology.

Too bad that most of us just haven't been proven this clearly enough to act on it.

It's been proven to me.


Same thing with finite natural resources. I don't think ZPG would be an acceptable solution by the masses. The moral question comes into effect. I see it as necessary though. Placing limitations on procreation is probably the best and most acceptable way to do it. Leaders might have a different opinion though. They seem to have no problem doing it "other ways".

@Piece2YourPuzzle I hate to admit this; but the China policy of "one child per family" worked well for them. It was authoritarian....sure. It was cruel and treated the masses like puppets....but now the average Chinese per capita income is rising rapidly, their age expectancy is rising... a decade ago they were opening a coal factory every they're making towns and cities 100% alternative energy operational. They have more EV's than Musk/Tesla has ever made. They're destined to be a dominant force in the world economy; we're destined to become a third world nation if we don't get our priorities right.

Look at this map; look at the superchargers opening in China...shocking;


@Robecology The trouble with the one child policy is with no brothers and sisters you will have no uncles, aunties, cousins, nieces and nephews. That's a lot to miss out on.

@powder True the relatives are faw and far between. But that might be the price we pay for saving our species from extinction. I'd hate to see that become "authoritarian" but unless we voluntarily reduce our growth rate, mother (father?) nature will do it for us...the hard way.

I too remember the overcrowding experiments....especially horrifying because rats are normally very community-oriented & family-oriented. There was not even competition for resources, like food, except "space".

@Robecology except they killed off all the females, as males were preferred children, now there is an entire generation without enough brides....even More population control!


I think many want to be good but their lack of empathy and focus on self has their thinking all fucked up. Unfortunately capitalism rewards psychopathic behaviour.


I have worked with lots of psychopaths over the years and yes I would suggest their cognitions are beyond their control but their loci of control most definitely is. One guy I remember asked me why I had shared my fizzy water with another patient. He genuinely did not appreciate sharing when it did not benefit me. Imagine living your entire life without feeling human compassion, empathy and love?
Brain self-regulation in criminal psychopaths
LK Konicar, NB Birbaumer, LP Poustka
Brain Stimulation: Basic, Translational, and Clinical Research in Neuromodulation 10 (2), 514, 2017


"If neurosis and psychosis were diseases like leukaemia and pneumonia it should therefore be possible to have both, however, the rules of psychiatric syntax make such a diagnostic combination absurd. If you suspect that you have leukaemia or pneumonia a medical//biological test will confirm whether or not such is the case. There is no medical/biological test for any so-called mental illness. Psychiatry and psychoanalysis are the only professions that can conceive of acts without actors." Thomas Szasz

Szasz was incorrect.

Kindly point where he was incorrect,

Sooo, Ted Bundy was perfectly normal.....or maybe Manson? WTH?!


I knew a young man who was both. I never saw anything usual in him, and didn’t have a clue of what he might be capable of, until I read in the newspaper that he had been a arrested for beating a young woman in a wheel chair to death. He didn’t have any remorse or guilt about it. I think he had dark thoughts and urges and acted on them.


I think your description works. I'll still choose to keep as much distance from them as possible.


If drunks can kick alcohol, drug-users can get clean, smokers stop smoking, then IMO they can learn to not kill (or whatever...)


The problem is that alcohol, drugs, and smoking are singular external objects that a person mitigate bad behavior by simply abstaining from being around said objects. Psycho/sociopathy is "internal" to the person and thus there is no object they can abstain to prevent their behavior.

@TheMiddleWay if you have ever had an addiction of any kind you would not use the words "simply" and "external" about it. And abstaining from murder would seem to be a lot easier than kicking heroin.....

You're reading too much into the irrelevant when I say simply or external. Clearly this is a complicated issue and clearly there are many internal factors that affect addiction.

But, just as clear, you take away the substances and while the addiction remains, the bad behaiviours stemming from said addiction diminish or vanish. OTOH, what can you take away that will minimize a psycho/sociopath's bad behaiviour? Maybe I was a bit hasty when I said no object could be taken away: I mean people comes to mind and animals also. A psycho/sociopath who is a complete hermit with zero contact with anything alive cannot, by definition, have any bad behaiviours that would qualify them as psycho or social.

So IMO, not buying alcohol, smokes, or drugs to overcome an addiction a hell of a lot simpler than being a complete hermit to overcome being a psycho/sociopath

@TheMiddleWay neither sociopaths nor psychopaths choose to be hermits... you are thinking of schizophrenics. Socio- & psychopaths feed off having their visions of themselves bolstered/enhanced by being around (bamboozling!l others. So your argument, above, is not valid.

Exactly. Which plays to my point that it's harder to "quit" being psycho/sociopath and quitting heroin

After all, do people choose to not be around alcohol, smokes, and drugs in order to combat their addiction?
Yes they do.

Hence my opinion is still valid: it's easier for an addict to quit their substance of choice to combat their addiction than for a psycho/sociopath to quit their "substance of choice" (air quotes intentional) to combat their problem

@TheMiddleWay "quit' is probably not the right word if you posit that they are born this way. However, lving in a large society where the percentage of weirdos remains the same, but there is much bigger population, so therefore more weirdos, expecting decent behavior is a Must. You can choose to live by The Golden Rule, or you can choose to be Ted Bundy. Period.


I recommend staying away from both and not think about them.

I have never met any. There are things in life you can totally avoid such as - a bad job, bad friends, bad company, bad neighborhoods, bad house. I have never seen a real gun with my eyes. I have not seen what drugs look like with my eyes. We have a choice in almost all things in life except our parents and where we are born. All else is under our control.

Think about love, think of flowers, think about many beautiful things in this world.

Sounds ideal, but impractical.

@bigpawbullets I did it, didn't I?

I'm sure you are speaking your truth.
I'm also sure you've met sociopaths.

I am glad about that.

We all work hard to place ourselves better in life - financially, in housing, in workplaces, in relationships. We increase our ability to do it better over time. I can understand if our ability is limited when we are young but when are in the middle age and past, we have to seriously review where we are in life and why?

@vjohnson51 Ted Bundy? lol

Don't you think some people in the society are more vulnerable than others? We have people after all the education about scamming, about no giving money to strangers.... people still fall prey to scams. People give social security money over the phone, people give money to scams from Nigeria, people will give money to churches like Jimmy Baker and his church online, Old people with limited fixed income send money to Jesus.... There are many examples of vulnerable people among us. Most of this is a product of low education, lack of savvy, ignorance and superstition from religion etc.

The journey of life is educate ourselves, become savvy about this world and place ourselves in better situations and reduce struggles of life. I personally believe that it is easy for some, a little difficult for some but it should not be too hard overall. I came from terrible situations from early on in life. terrible neighborhood, poverty and so on. My goal was to pluck myself from it and place myself where I do not have these struggles on hand any more.

@vjohnson51 exactly, walk away immediately

@bigpawbullets Yes, I may have met but as vjohnson51 said, I may not have noticed.

Psychopaths account for 1% of the human population, and sociopaths account for 4%. Odds are, if you know more than 20 people you have met one.

There is an index for psychopathy, most people check a few but not all the boxes.

Donald trump scores the same as Hitler.

Ha ha... happy to report that I have not met Hitler or Donald Trump.

Unless they are your relatives, don't we all just rather quickly distance ourselves from them (if we happen to come across)?

@St-Sinner I think most of us won't notice or realize who Is and isn't a problem. The symptoms only surface in specific situations.

If we only thought about love and flowers we could not develop a social conscience or face up to the truly awful things in life.

@St-Sinner maybe,,,,Ted Bundy was a tall, good-looking, well-spoken, successful lawyer, the kind of guy your parents would be thrilled to see you with.....

@AnneWimsey Yes but as far as I know Ted Bundy did not kill women he knew for some time. His victims did not even get a chance to notice / diagnose his behavior, go back and decide to avoid him. I agree he was charming and it is a huge risk of falling prey to him in the first meeting but the poster's point was about already knowing this and asking what to do. Wasn't it?


I think the disease model is more realistic and practical than moralizing but this also allows that punishment could be an evidence based intervention. Whether we love them or hate them is less important than can we teach them or force them to behave in a manner consistent with the greater good.


"Good" and "Bad" are subjective. There is a lot of wiggle room with self justifying actions.


Both psychopaths are sociopaths have medical mental disorders that can be treated or alleviated through therapy and medication once properly diagnosed. Their symptoms begin to be outwardly established at approximately fifteen years of age and are initially manifested by excessive cruelty to animals. As the disease progresses the main symptoms include: a lack of what society normally deems a ‘conscience,’ lack of remorse or guilt for hurtful actions to others, an intellectual understanding of appropriate social behavior but no emotional response to the actions of others, an inability to form genuine relationships, and inappropriate or out of proportion responses to perceived slights.

Ted Bundy was stalking family members with a large knife, as they slept, when he was 6ish......

@AnneWimsey so he says.


If you believe they are not aware of their actions, you are just another one of their victims !


As a practicing sociopath, I consider my condition a super-power. I'm completely aware of it.

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