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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Do sociopaths suffer from depression?

A few days ago, on the Red flags for sociopathy post, Gethin asked a question that hadn't occurred to me before:

Do you think it's possible for sociopaths to experience depression? I know it's possible for them to have anger issues, and for them to be sad about things, but I've never seen evidence that they can experience the same sort of disabling clinical depression that normal people can. In Hervey Cleckley's 1940s book, he says that suicide threats from sociopaths are rarely carried out. Many years ago I suffered from depression so bad I had psychomotor retardation, where I could sit in a stupor for hours. I somehow can't picture sociopaths having that disease.

It is hard to imagine a sociopath having the sort of disabling, clinical depression of the sort Gethin describes. I've seen sociopaths get discouraged, and be frustrated, but I can't recall ever seeing one in the throes of a disabling depression.

This may have something to do with their narcissistic natures, and their resulting ability to lie to themselves and convince themselves that they will triumph in the end because of their innate superiority.

The basic thought going through the mind of a depressive is, "I suck and there's no hope for me." But a sociopath's mind simply doesn't work that way.

I've heard it said -- and this expression was undoubtedly coined by a depressive -- that depressed people are simply people who see the world the way it is. Sociopaths tend to see the world it suits them to see, and they tend to see idealized version of themselves. When they look in the mirror they see an invincible -- and incredibly cool -- warrior who will triumph in the end.

Does that optimism render them immune to depression? To some extent, it probably does.

The other factor involved here is that sociopaths, when they do get down for whatever situational or neurobiological reason, react to that feeling differently. Instead of becoming essentially paralyzed, and sitting alone in a room feeling helpless and hopeless, they are far more likely to distract themselves with substance abuse, or criminal activity, or by using whatever means they can to make others feel bad (in a "misery loves company" sort of way).

I guess, if you want to escape your depression, you should think more like a sociopath.


Anonymous said...

The sociopaths I've known over the years never seemed to EVER experience depression. I had a retired nurse tell me about one of them that she thought the man was a psychopath and bipolar (he is/was an out of control spender). She also stated that a lot of them are left handed and also have ADHD.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
I've never seen a clinically depressed sociopath. But wouldn't "bipolar" imply that they do suffer from depression? Was that guy possibly a unipolar bipolar? (I've heard of that diagnosis.)

I've never noticed the left-handed or ADHD correlation either. I can see how a certain sort of ebullience could be mistaken for ADHD though.

Anonymous said...

I thought so too, that if you're bipolar, you have manic and depressive episodes. According to this retired nurse, some of the sociopaths don't get the depressive episode, but stay in an elevated state, experiencing manic episodes (at times). That was how I interpreted her explanation.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
I can't help but think that they're not really bipolar, but just uninhibitedly exuberant and high on themselves and that's interpreted by others as a "manic" episode.

Anonymous said...

I will provide a description of a depressed sociopath.

Depressed sociopath sleeps all the time, and even loses the appetite for energy...back to sleep.

So, you wouldn't be wrong to say, "I can't picture a sociopath being depressed," because when a sociopath IS depressed, you JUST WON'T SEE HIM.

Sociopath is not designed for the social role-playing element present in normal depression, "LOOK AT ME I AM DEPRESSED" any more than the vampire says "I REALLY SHOULD BE LYING ASLEEP IN MY COFFIN RIGHT NOW"...the vampire just goes to ground in the coffin and rests, THE END, heehee


(that was good information I just gave you there, MISTER CRAIG)

John Craig said...

That's a good explanation, and could well be, but I've known a couple of sociopaths well, and have observed them over extended periods, and somehow I just have a hard time imagining either one truly depressed. (And I never saw it, despite fairly long term exposure.)

Anonymous said...

As someone who is normally called out for being a sociopath, I do suffer from "bouts" of depression, but in terms of the world the "poker face" is still on and the walking depository of fake social feelings continues like nothing happened in the first place. The main reason sociopaths and some psychopaths get over feelings easily is of course the fact they see themselves as "the hero of the story" and any feelings need to be quashed in order to continue on with the saga. But in recount the longest I've been (genuinely) depressed was for a few days before I marked it off as a rest period before going back to my daily routine.

I guess I could go on with this but I'll recap and end it. Sociopaths do get depressed, and we do feel emotions, but with any emotion we contrive a sick pleasure in snuffing it out and bringing ourselves back into some sort of episodic routine... We are the hero of the story after all?

- Crashie-J

John Craig said...

Crashie-J --
I wonder if what you consider depressed would qualify as that by the standards of people who suffer from debilitating depression. It's hard for me to imagine sociopaths being rendered near helpless by their feelings of being down, it just doesn't seem to be part of their (your) nature.

I can sort of understand the perverse pleasure of snuffing out an emotion, I just wonder about the emotion's strength.