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Lack of Emotion

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My therapist says i am “emotionally detached.” In the past i have been told i could have autism. My husband thinks i am a sociopath. I have little to no emotion and can’t quite understand, nor do i care, about the emotions of others. i am beyond antisocial and hate socializing or being around people. i have absolutely no interest in human interaction. I have had homicidal thoughts for most of my life and have been deemed “mentally unstable and a threat to society.” I am unable to form bonds with others, but i can with objects and animals. The death of family members has no effect on me and never really has. My question is, what could this be? is it simply emotional detachment? or could it be autism or sociopathy? how do i go about getting diagnosed and tested if need be?

You referred to sociopathy when you may have meant psychopathy. Psychopathy is a set of characteristics marked by emotional deficits, lack of empathy, guilt, and an increased risk for antisocial or norm violating behavior. Psychopaths tend to be amoral, have trouble connecting with others and are dangerous.

There is an absolute distinction between psychopathy and autism. Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by problems with social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviors. They also tend to be highly moral and that is not the case with psychopaths. Though both individuals with psychopathy and autism can behave in ways that suggest a lack of empathy, the underlying cognitive processes that lead to the unempathic behavior, are different. Psychopaths have a problem understanding other people’s emotions whereas people with autism have problems with cognitive perspective. Individuals with autism are responsive to treatment whereas there is no known treatment for psychopathy.

It’s impossible to offer a diagnosis without having interviewed you and thoroughly reviewed your life history. It would be best to be evaluated by a mental health professional who specializes in psychological testing. Depending on the nature of your insurance, you may have access to this type of testing free of charge. Ask the therapist for a referral. If not, contact your insurance company to inquire further. If the insurance company doesn’t cover it, it could cost approximately $300 to $1000 for the testing but it may be worth the money to acquire clarity into this issue. Good luck with your efforts.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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