Is it possible to be a decent nurse if I'm a sociopath or have antisocial personality disorder?

Updated:   Published

Can you be a nurse with antisocial personality disorder?

I'm a new nurse working at 2 snfs and I have to see signs in some of the offices say things like "Nurses are ordinary people with extraordinary hearts." What if I'm a nurse and I can't help but be cold and uncaring to everyone because of my condition?

I have had several patients pass away and I tried to feel bad for some of them. I think I feel a little bit shocked/sad for some patients who've passed away but it's not like I run home and cry myself to sleep whenever a patient dies. I just think that the deceased resident was suffering and it was their time to go and I move on.

Sociopaths don't usually feel sorry for anyone and I don't feel like I have to genuinely care about anyone in order to do my job.

I wonder if there are any other nurses who have ASPD and how they respond when someone wrongly assumes they're very empathic or able to feel sorry for others misfortunes just because they're a nurse.

Do I have to genuinely connect with someone's emotional distress to be their nurse or can I just fake it and provide their care just because it's my job?

Wuzzie

4,895 Posts

uniteddemclub said:

Do I have to genuinely connect with someone's emotional distress to be their nurse

Nope but you have to at least have a willingness to do what you can to mitigate it. 

Davey Do

1 Article; 10,187 Posts

Specializes in Psych (25 years), Medical (15 years). Has 44 years experience.

A formally diagnosed individual with actual antisocial behavior will often act inappropriately, eventually do something to bring attention to themselves, and need to deal with the ramifications.

Not feeling sorry for someone is not necessarily an indication of a sociopath.  Not feeling emotional in a situation where a death is involved is also not. 

Many professionals, and I include myself, deal with deaths and go about their business. Some can separate themselves from feeling a lot of emotions in these circumstances. Not being emotional is not an indication of an antisocial behavior, nor is it even an indication of a professional lacking in the ability to render quality care.

klone, MSN, RN

14,412 Posts

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 17 years experience.

Have you actually been diagnosed?

There's a huge spectrum between "cry myself to sleep at night when a patient dies" and "cold and uncaring to everyone."

You don't have to be the former to be a good nurse (in fact, I would argue that this lack of personal boundaries would make one a poor nurse), but no, I don't think you could be a very good or effective nurse if you're cold and uncaring to everyone. I mean, you need to at least be PLEASANT and polite to be able to function well in a role where you have to interact with other people.

Has 2 years experience.
klone said:

Have you actually been diagnosed?

There's a huge spectrum between "cry myself to sleep at night when a patient dies" and "cold and uncaring to everyone."

You don't have to be the former to be a good nurse (in fact, I would argue that this lack of personal boundaries would make one a poor nurse), but no, I don't think you could be a very good or effective nurse if you're cold and uncaring to everyone. I mean, you need to at least be PLEASANT and polite to be able to function well in a role where you have to interact with other people.

I have not actually been diagnosed but was told by an immediate family member that I should have been diagnosed as such. I was told by a patient that I'm such a gentleman and I've given the impression that I'm nice when I'm at work. At the same time I don't feel like I'm truly the sympathetic and tenderhearted individual that everyone imagines a nurse to be.

JKL33

6,465 Posts

You haven't said anything about yourself that makes those diagnoses that you mentioned the most likely scenario. Those are defined diagnoses.

Nurse Beth, MSN

161 Articles; 2,844 Posts

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development, Freelance Writer. Has 30 years experience.

You sound very hard on yourself. And I believe you can "fake it". 

Specializes in LTC.

I mean....as long as you don't intentionally hurt or kill any of your patients then why not? There was that little girl in the Child of Rage documentary who had sociopathic tendencies who grew up to be a nurse and she's doing very well from what I read. 

klone, MSN, RN

14,412 Posts

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 17 years experience.
uniteddemclub said:

 I was told by a patient that I'm such a gentleman and I've given the impression that I'm nice when I'm at work. 

Then it sounds like you either are not "cold and uncaring to everyone" or you at least have enough self-awareness that you can fake it effectively. As long as you are able to do that, and you're otherwise a good nurse (by "good" I mean skilled at critical thinking, multi-tasking, all the non-interpersonal relationship-y things that make a nurse good at their job), then you'll be fine.

RNperdiem, RN

4,573 Posts

Has 14 years experience.

I have read somewhere that sociopaths don't have the same issues with interpersonal anxiety and overthinking that a lot of us have. 

In a snarky way, wouldn't it be nice to leave your shift giving yourself a pat on the back for not smothering your patients with a pillow? Rather than self-criticism that you didn't measure up to an unrealistic standard of perfection that nurses are often held to? 

Specializes in Geriatrics. Has 4 years experience.

Antisocial personality disorder, left untreated, can harm those around the person who has it. Oftentimes these individuals use and exploit others for their own personal gains because they have no sense of right or wrong and the only thing that matters is furthering their own agenda. In the story about the good nurse, which is a true story, this person was mentally  unstable and did not get treatment. They ended up murdering hundreds to fulfill their own ideas about what heroism looks like...

JBMmom, MSN, NP

4 Articles; 2,351 Posts

Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC. Has 11 years experience.
uniteddemclub said:

I have not actually been diagnosed but was told by an immediate family member that I should have been diagnosed as such.

Is this person a mental health professional? Were they upset with you about something? What was their motivation for making that declaration? I think that often we are our worst selves with family because we have unconditional love from them so we don't always put on our best behavior. 

You don't sound like you suffer from a true mental disorder. There are many competent caring nurses that have boundaries that are not indicative of a pathology. Not everyone is affected in the same way by the loss of a patient, or in watching patients and families deal with very difficult situations. As others have mentioned, if you have had positive interactions with patients, no matter what your internal feeling/dialog, you are able to provide appropriate nursing care.