I dislike self-diagnosing individuals. There is little to gain when embarking on a dangerous journey without a guide. However, I hate even more those laypeople that diagnose others with personality disorders. Often, such people are trying to equate their disdain for an individual with a viable and biological or environmental explanation. They cannot accept that others may be defective individuals on their own. And, ultimately, they deny the darkness that lives within each and every human being – most importantly, the darkness that lives within themselves. How many times have we heard that Donald Trump is a narcissist and Hilary Clinton a psychopath? How many people that know better are spreading such potential misinformation based on their own ignorance and prejudices? We must reject such banter. We must sew their mouths shut.
I keep reading posts on social media where neurotypicals are trying to dismiss ASPD symptoms as unnecessary for someone to be antisocial. “Before you stigmatize those with ASPD, remember that there are those out there that are behaving prosocially and are just trying to make it through each day,” is a common refrain. This is misguided. For one to have ASPD, there must be a level of disorder present. Kicking a cat once is not grounds for the disorder. Stealing or getting in a fight back in the day also does not merit a diagnosis of ASPD. Simply put, the behaviors of the candidate must be so severe as to cause consistent and measurable distress for either the person with ASPD or those around her. That is, the antisocial must be in distress (whether or not they consider it distress) marked by unstable interpersonal relationships, inconsistent employment, legal trouble, financial destitution, etc. Or, those around the antisocial must have their quality of life diminished by the actions of the antisocial. At the time of diagnosis, there is no such thing as an antisocial that is mostly prosocial as that would not be considered disordered. Stop making the disorder out to be something that it is not. Dilution solves nothing.
I see time and time again those that wish to diagnose themselves with ASPD in absence of a professional opinion. I’m not sure why this is; people don’t self-diagnose themselves with cancer for instance. Usually human nature would dictate that we see ourselves as healthy when we are not. Rarely – and even more rarely is this rooted in a healthy psyche – do we see ourselves as sick when we are otherwise. As with any personality disorder, a diagnosis can only be made if the underlying condition causes a persistent and pervasive discomfort in one’s life. That is, there must be significant underlying suffering, either on the part of the afflicted or those around him. In the case of ASPD, this is typically defined by a constant and unchanging pattern of interpersonal instability, trouble on the job or with the law, and other manifestations that severely hamper the afflicted or those around her. “I kicked a cat once, ” is not sufficient grounds for diagnosis. “I have trouble keeping a job, have unstable interpersonal relationships, and have been in trouble with the law,” may very well be.
Long time readers have picked up on my diagnosis story from posts I’ve written over the years. The same readers are surely aware of my disdain for self-diagnosis. However, newer readers may not be as familiar with these facts and concepts. What follows is a fairly lengthy post giving a brief background of myself and the work that my therapist and I have conducted. I also mention briefly a warning for those considering self-diagnosis. Stay awhile and listen, you might learn something.
I bought a pedometer wristband the other day. Like many models, it is bulky, but I can take it on and off with relative ease. It has its uses and helps me gather better metrics about my health. I can track where I need to make changes in my life as well as see how far I’ve come in improving my life. Mental health diagnoses are similar except for one key detail: they cannot be put on and taken off at will. A diagnosis can change a person for the better or for the worse and there are no take backs. Too many that seek out diagnoses do not understand that core fact.