Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT
You may have heard the term sociopath on television or even on the news. Also known as an antisocial personality disorder, most of the time, it refers to someone who has trouble telling the truth and does not get along well with others. That may be an understatement. While you should never try to diagnose someone as being a sociopath or call anyone a sociopath, there are some signs and symptoms to watch for if you believe someone you know may have this personality disorder.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
It is important to understand, first of all, that this is a disorder, not a choice. Nobody chooses to be a sociopath. Many experts believe that sociopathy is a result of a person’s upbringing or home life. If someone grows up in an abusive household, it may lead to the disorder. Sociopathy affects about 3% of the population, and men are three to five times more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder.
Psychopathy Vs. Sociopathy
One problem with understanding what constitutes a sociopath is getting it confused with psychopathy. Both psychopaths and sociopaths tend not to care about other people’s feelings, but a psychopath may pretend to care to manipulate you. A sociopath is hot-headed, while a psychopath is cold-hearted.
In fact, psychopaths tend to live relatively normal lives, while sociopaths are oftentimes not socially compatible. Psychopaths may appear normal. They can have relationships, keep a job and blend in, all while participating in some kind of abnormal or criminal behavior in secret. A sociopath has a harder time blending in with society. The good news is that they can change if they get the treatment they need to cope with what is going on.
Signs Of A Sociopath
So, what are the steps to identify a sociopath? The easiest way is to take the online sociopath test for a quick understanding of symptoms. It is free, easy, and only takes a few minutes. It is also important to know that there are different levels of sociopathy. Some are just a little bit different than others, while a true full-fledged sociopath is someone you may be able to recognize merely by the feeling you get when you are around them. To do this, you have to understand the signs of a sociopath.
- They believe they are better than everyone else
- They are manipulative and charming when needed
- Criminal behavior is common, although they hide it well
- They do not have a realistic life plan but believe that they will be famous or rich
- Sexual promiscuity is common, including rape, sexual abuse, and sexual promiscuity
- They are unreliable and irresponsible, oblivious to the harm they may cause
- Their records of bad behavior go back to childhood
- They are impulsive and have addictive behavior
- Lack of empathy and compassion is obvious even when they try to hide it
- Living on the edge and constant stimulation is important to them
- They have a hard time loving anyone
- Their emotions are often faked
- They are good at lying and do it often without remorse
The diagnostic definition of antisocial personality disorder is a lack of regard for their culture's legal and moral standards. They do not get along well with others and have at least three of these symptoms:
- They will rationalize the hurt they cause others
- They do not have a good work behavior
- Recklessness is commonplace
- They have a record of assaulting others
- Often in trouble with the law
- They are impulsive
- They con others for fun, lie to people, and use aliases
Seeing Through The Mask
Sometimes, it is not so easy to see a person’s antisocial behaviors. They may be extremely good at hiding their personality differences and be skilled enough at lying to keep everyone happy. You may not see anything different in them until you have been around them for a long time. But there are ways to see things clearly if you know what to look for.
- Do They Have Good Friends? Anyone with an antisocial personality disorder may end up causing problems in most relationships after a while. They can only keep up the charm and lies for so long before someone sees through them. Therefore, they will not have any long-term relationships with anyone.
- Do They Have Good Relationship With Their Family? Even family members will get tired of trying to help their loved ones after a while. They may have been in and out of juvenile facilities or run away many times, but their parents kept trying to help until they just give up and let them go. If they do not have a good relationship with anyone in their family, you know there is a problem.
- Have They got A Police Record? Most sociopaths have had at least one run-in with the law. Whether they have been in jail or just been warned many times, they may have a bad relationship with people in authority, and it shows.
- Do They Try To Keep You All To Themselves?Sociopaths attach to someone quickly and like to keep them all to themselves. This is typical because they do not want you to have time to change your mind about them. They do not want you to talk to anyone that knows them well or people you know who may try to talk you out of being with them.
- Are They Immature?They will run from their mistakes, might be extremely selfish, and have a big ego. They can also be very needy and want you to do whatever they want.
- Do They Have That Cold Stare?Sometimes, a sociopath will use a manipulative stare to make you feel uncomfortable. They may try to intimidate you by staring at you until you get nervous and look away.
- Do You Feel Uncomfortable When They Get Mad?Even though they may act calm when they get mad, you may get the sense that they can snap easily. If you challenge them about it, they will blame it on someone else. In fact, they may try to blame you for the things they do wrong.
What Is The Difference Between A High-Functioning And Low-Functioning Sociopath?
These are not technically real diagnoses accepted by the experts, and it is recommended to speak with licensed professionals about diagnosing sociopathy. However, generally, those with high-functioning sociopathy are much harder to spot than those with low-functioning sociopathy. The difference is that one can hide their sociopathy better than the other.
A high-functioning sociopath will typically have no trouble keeping a job, a relationship and may even start a family. They can pretend to have the feelings others have while hiding the ones they know are not acceptable. But they will often break the law, act like they are better than others, and have impulsive behaviors.
A low-functioning sociopath is easier to spot. They either do not know how to cover up their antisocial behavior or do not care enough. Rather than trying to act normal, they will use intimidation, coercion, and threats to get out of any trouble they get into.
How To Help A Sociopath
If the person is someone you do not know well, it may not be your place to try and help them. It can be difficult for you to step in and advise them to get the help they may need. However, if you feel comfortable doing so, it may help them cope with what they are going through. If the person you are referring to is a loved one or family member, it is good to find a way to help them or help yourself deal with the symptoms via therapy or counseling.
Because many sociopaths developed sociopathic behaviors due to their home life or background, many respond well to treatment. Just giving up on someone who has mental health issues is not the way to help them. Here are some ways you can help them while not putting yourself at risk.
- Even though you care about them, you cannot let them get to you. Remain steady and as unbiased as possible.
- Try to keep a serious look or “poker face” so they do not get a thrill from causing you any kind of emotional angst no matter how you feel.
- Try to filter what they say and understand what is true and what is made up.
- Take them to get help. There are treatments for antisocial personality disorder.
How To Treat Antisocial Personality Disorder
Talking to a therapist online can help you learn how to deal with your loved one who has an antisocial personality disorder. The main way to treat sociopathy is with psychotherapy or talk therapy. There are many types of psychotherapy that therapists can use for this disorder, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help a person reconstruct their way of thinking and behaving.
Anger management and treatment for aggression and violence are also important. The therapist can teach ways to change destructive habits and teach them new relationship and vocational skills. Behavioral therapy typically uses reward and punishment to encourage good behavior and teach the mind to continue good behavior.
Many people in treatment will find productive ways to cope with the symptoms they are experiencing and live a healthier life. Although there may be a stigma around getting help, sociopathy, along with other mental illnesses, are worth treating. There is always someone willing to listen to what you are going through and help you find productive ways to deal with symptoms you may be experiencing.
If you or a loved one are wondering if you have symptoms of sociopathy, take this online test today.