Without knowing a whole lot more about you, I can’t make a diagnosis. However, I can tell you that cruelty to animals is one of the symptoms of Conduct Disorder. The central problem in children with Conduct Disorder is that they have little empathy for the feelings and well-being of others. According to the Very Well Mind website, “The DSM-5, which is used to diagnose mental illnesses, distinguishes between conduct disorder with or without limited prosocial emotions. Individuals with limited prosocial emotions are characterized by a lack of remorse, are callous, and lack empathy. They are unconcerned about their performance at school or work and have shallow emotions. When present, their emotional expressions may be used to manipulate others.”
Most kids with this diagnosis outgrow it because as they mature, they develop more empathy. Some people, however, do develop an Antisocial Personality Disorder as adults.
It certainly wouldn’t hurt for you to seek professional help and get into therapy to delve deeper into this issue. If you find out that the impulse to harm left you as you matured, you will have peace of mind. If you still have some of those impulses, therapy can help you understand why they are happening and learn strategies to rein them in.
I wish you well.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on August 25, 2008.