Due to the fall of Adam, sin entered the world. With sin came a host of maladies and pathologies effecting the human brain. Among the most notable are the Anti-Social Personality Disorders. Primarily Narcissism, Sociopathy and Psychopathy. While these conditions exhibit problems within the brain and it functioning, many of them are also learned behaviors. Hence they are both nature and nurture. Culpability before the throne of God for souls afflicted with these conditions are left to the judgement of God, but there is definitely not a free pass for the wickedness that exists in the hearts of these individuals. Scripture speaks clearly against those who love oneself above God and neighbor. It is clear that the deeds of the wicked that lead to multiple sins and atrocities originate within the heart of the wicked and oppose the law of God and love Christ demands for others.
It is critically important to note that Christian Counseling is not a clinical profession. Unlicensed counselors are not permitted to treat Anti-Social Personality Disorders. While Scripture can give one an idea on where these wicked hearts emerge and how one must turn to Christ, it does not provide step by step clinical instructions for therapy. Only licensed professional counselors and other licensed mental health professionals are permitted to work with these disturbed minds. If a licensed professional wishes to employ Scripture as a source of guidance and inspiration during treatment this is fine, but Scripture should not be seen as a clinical guide to physically healing the mind. Instead it can serve as a spiritual supplement of guidance and hopefully a source of grace.
Anti-Social Personality Disorders: Sociopathy and Psychopathy
It is also critically important to note the differences between the Anti-Social Personality Disorders. Sociopathy while not clinically labeled is a severe detachment from social norms and laws. The sociopath’s personality over time and development is allowed to corrupt the soul until, like Narcissism, a malignant self love emerges. In turn, the sociopath puts him or herself above all others and all other laws. The conscience itself becomes corrupted and unable to offer any moral direction. In addition, the sociopath experiences lack of empathy for his or her actions. Whatever it takes, a sociopath will do to complete a desire or task. Without remorse, the ability to accept consequences, or a properly aligned moral compass, the sociopath will prey upon others to achieve his or her goals. The sociopath will manipulate, coerce, lie, cheat and in some cases, also pursue physical violence to achieve his or her ends.
Psychopathy is very similar but at a larger extreme than sociopathy. Psychopaths clinically have issues within the brain that cause a detachment. Unlike sociopathy which emerges usually to some type of trauma, psychopathy is some type of processing issue within the brain. It is both nature but through poor nurture can become far worst. Psychopaths are narcissistic in nature as well but are more cunning and detached. Sociopaths are impulsive and emotional, while a psychopath is more calculated, cunning and cold hearted in carrying out a plan. While some sociopaths may recognize fault in some actions albeit still do it without issue, psychopaths exhibit zero emotional reaction. Both utilize manipulation, lies, and any means necessary to achieve an end, but a psychopath is more equipped to maintain a normal demeanor. Both can be charming but a psychopaths detachment is far more severe and cold hearted. It is also important to note that both sociopathy and psychopathy are narcissistic in nature but not necessarily the same as a pure narcissist although closely related.
Psychopathy and psychosis are also two different related things but sometimes hand and hand. Psychosis refers to mental and delusional attachment. Psychosis is not a personality disorder but a condition usually associated with another condition. It can stem from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or other maladies that cause delusions or hallucinations.
In movies, especially Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” or “American Psycho” starring Christian Bale or even the Netflix series “YOU”, one sees a more extreme of these anti-social personality disorders. One sees the common depiction and use of the word as a murderous and crazy individual. In some cases, even interchanging the words. While these extremes exist, for the most part sociopaths and psychopaths exist in a less gory reality where they manipulate, cheat, lie and steal without regard for other’s safety, reputation, money, or career.
From a Christian light, again, evil comes within the broken heart of humanity through the sin of Adam. It is a deviation from God and a choice of one’s will over another. These personality disorders take the level of sin to a new level of evil. They are not mere isolated acts of selfishness and detachment but habitual existence of evil itself. The greatest issue is the broken moral conscience. The conscience is an important element within Christian spiritual and moral life. The Natural Law intrinsically guides human beings to what is right and wrong at the most fundamental level. When the Natural Law, the law written by God in one’s heart, is broken, guilt presides, but with personality disorders, this guilt is silenced. At a young age, it is important for parents to teach their children about the Law of God and teach children to conform their conscience to the commandments.
When a conscience is not properly formed, it can lead to an erroneous conscience. This conscience leads one to falsehoods. Personality Disorders such as narcissism, sociopathy and psychopathy go well beyond the faults of an erroneous conscience, but a completely unrepairable conscience that values only self. Without any checks or balances on the conscience, the person is free to perform whichever acts without emotional consequence.
It is very difficult for such a person to ever ask God for forgiveness or seek help because their personality is so detached and wicked. It only sees the value of self and seeks not remorse or forgiveness. At younger ages, therapy can be applied but it is difficult with children to detect a selfish element that is a permanent disposition versus phases of development. This is why it is important for parents to be vigilant in forming a healthy conscience within their child. However, for those who are older and trapped by this demonic pathology, it is far more difficult to help due to the fact the person does not seek it.
Those who do seek some type of help can with a licensed mental health professional proceed through a variety of cognitive exercises to curb impulsiveness and identify bad behavior and its consequences. This cognitive behavior looks to at least help such a person identify wrong, even if the person many not experience the normal emotional responses. In addition, medical doctors and psychiatrists can prescribe certain medications that are anti-psychotic in nature or mood stabilizing. From a spiritual standpoint, Scripture, reception of the sacraments, frequent confession and reception of the Eucharist can help heal the mentally infirmed through the grace of God. Again with God all things are possible.
If one is living with any of these types of conditions, as with narcissism, it is important to understand the disorder, understand how to respond it, how to protect oneself and how to establish boundaries. If it is a casual acquaintance it may be best to avoid or find a reason to create distance. Many Christians feel they are abandoning a soul, but one cannot let ego or spiritual pride step in the way. One is not the source of grace and salvation but only God. Sometimes prayer from the distance is the best solution. For those in closer relationships, emotional safety, counseling, support groups, assessment of their threat level and prayer are essential in their daily cross of dealing with such persons. Ultimately, these individuals are very dangerous and should be handled with care or left alone!
If you would like to learn more about helping others through Christian principles and Biblical ideals, then please review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.
“Sociopath v. Psychopath: What’s the Difference?”. Kara Mayer Robinson. February 14th, 2022. WebMD. Access here
“How to Recognize Signs of Sociopathy”. HealthEssentials. Cleveland Clinic. Access here
“Antisocial Personality Disorder Signs”. Christina Mutchler. October 26th, 2022. Health. Access here
“Sociopathy”. Psychology Today Staff. Psychology Today. Access here
“Signs of a Sociopath”. WebMD Editorial Contributors. December 16th, 2022. WebMD. Access here
“Psychotic vs. Psychopathic: What’s the Difference?”. Matt Smith. March 13th, 2023. WebMD. Access here