How To Deal With A Sociopath And Detect The Red Flags

Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT

Published 06/24/2022

Most people automatically think of a serial killer when they hear the word sociopath, but most sociopaths lead normal lives. However, this is not to say they are easy to handle or live with. The basic fact that sociopaths lack the ability to empathize makes them difficult and possibly dangerous. The technical diagnosis for a sociopath is Antisocial Personality Disorder. A study estimated that up to 3.8%of Americans would meet the condition for a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. So, the chances are that you know someone who has the disorder.

In many aspects, sociopaths lack most skills that enables connection with other people, which is probably the one most vital survival skill in entire human history. You may eventually feel like you are losing your mind when dealing with sociopaths, as they can feel like a completely different species.

Sociopath Definition

Sociopaths are people with antisocial personality disorder and exhibit a trait of indifference and disdain that is pervasive, especially regarding other people’s feelings and rights. A sociopath usually lacks conscience, fear, empathy, love, regret, or remorse. In different parts of the world, sociopaths are labeled as “challenged” because the area of their brain that is responsible for several emotions essential for social living is dysfunctional. Therefore, it is not easy to help someone with sociopathic behavior.

Red Flags Of Sociopaths And How To Handle Them

Some of the common red flags you will notice with sociopaths include:

Mirroring

In many cases, sociopaths are relatively intelligent. They can read you your body language, speech, mode of dressing, and, recently, your social media activities. They can be predators who monitor every part of your life until they have a good grasp of your deep-set needs. They will use that information to make you feel falsely secure and believe you are similar in many ways. After assessing your inherent needs, they will morph to meet those desires.

For instance, if you are lack financial stability, they will give stability. If you feel lonely, they will act as an ideal companion. If you desire to have a family, they will become a family-oriented person. If you have experienced hurt or disappointment from your ex, they will be the adoring lover you want. Determining your needs and providing exactly what you require is known as mirroring.

Lack Of Empathy 

The lack of basic human behaviors like empathy, conscience, remorse, or regret is a trait of sociopaths. Due to this, they might not consider how their actions will impact other people. If a sociopath gets confronted about their eccentric behavior, they may resort to emotional blackmail, abuse, rage, moral indignity, or shift blames.

They rarely accept responsibility for their behavior. They consider themselves superior and have little concern about how their actions affect other people. Lack of empathy and conscience is dangerous depending on how they manipulate their victims. It is important to note that not all sociopaths lack conscience. However, they would do anything to accomplish their current goals.

Tip: Avoid doubting yourself if someone’s actions do not make sense to you. Question the behavior until you are sure of the answer. Do not be misled with counterattacks on your person. Avoid taking responsibility for another’s misbehavior-you are only responsible for yourself.

Habitual, Pathological Lying

Sociopaths have no specific identities. They often lie with the sole purpose of confusing or reassuring the other person. They are good actors and can convince you that an inexistent event actually happened. They may shed actual tears to tell stories of how they have a terminal condition or a suffering mother. They often lie about their educational background, careers, friends' circle, financial stability, beliefs, and virtually everything about them.

It is not uncommon for them to create identities for family members and colleagues that are inexistent. They may send messages from different accounts to have someone believe the façade. You may even notice them on fake phone calls, pretending to have interesting conversations with these non-existent people. If you eventually get suspicious and confront them, they will deny and redirect. They may eventually lead you to believe that your overbearing nature of the fear of hurting you made them lie.

Sociopaths are known to aggrandize the truth as they wish. Note that they may create a complex series of lies that are hard to spot.

Gaslighting 

Gaslighting is a type of mental abuse where someone is manipulated into distrusting their sanity, perception, or memory. Examples may include lying about abusive incidents or setting up strange events with the sole intent of destabilizing the victim. Gaslighting is a trademark of sociopaths. It is a method they often use to deceive, manipulate, control, and disorient their victims. Constant exposure to this has been shown to force people into depression and insanity.

Gaslighting requires puzzling someone’s thoughts with shocking lies or imaginary situations. Sociopaths have learned to lie bluntly, which might confuse someone trying to get a clear or logical understanding of the situation. They might leave a trail of shocking lies, like if you catch them lying and confront them, they may offer apologies for a part of it and push the rest of the blame on you. Such behavior can make someone doubt their better judgment.

Tip: Trust your judgment. Review the situation intelligently. Refuse to accept someone’s story if things do not add up. When you notice signs of aggression, abuse, rage, or disrespect, decide what you are willing to tolerate in the relationship, and hold yourself to those boundaries.

Triangulation

Triangulation means making themselves wanted by several people so that you will always struggle to win their hearts.

For instance, there will always be someone else – an ex, a lonely married woman, or a female colleague – who will appear to be interested in them. They may allow you to see hints of these imaginary scenarios by intentionally leaving letters or texts. It can trigger your fear of losing the person, and cause you to fight for a position in their lives.

Tip: If you realize you constantly feel insecure around your partner, or play detective, decide if it is worth the trouble. Remember your worth, and give yourself advice that you would give to someone you love and admire.

Manipulation And Control

Sociopaths don’t have much of a conscience. They also have diminished feelings of fear or love. They often try to seduce the people around them for their own advantage. This type of deceit usually leaves their victims a wreck when they are finished. Their primary tools are love and fear – the very things they lack. They will shower you with love right after messing with your emotions for some days. They will abuse the trust but remove that memory through a mind-blowing gesture of seeming love.

Mirroring allows them to establish trust. They need you to believe that they are a stable, reliable, and worthy companion. Even if you question their strange behavior, they will find ways to manipulate you into trusting them further.

Tip: follow your guts. If you suspect something is wrong, it probably is. Talk to a loved one and create a support network for yourself. Someone who truly cares about you will constantly look out for you. Try not to overlook a behavioral pattern.

Distant Friends

Sociopaths are normal people: This is a sort of misrepresentation of sociopaths in movies – oddly dressed and mentally disoriented characters. The reality is that most sociopaths are often normal and charming – maybe even slightly too normal. If you look carefully however, you might not find many meaningful, lasting friendships from their past. Even if they do have friends, they might be far away from their current location. Sociopaths have difficulty keeping relationships. As they get older, it becomes harder to keep up with pretense.

Parasitic Behavior

Some sociopaths are parasites. They drain you psychologically, financially, socially, and emotionally. They might lean on you for financial support. They will depend on your resources while constantly promising to contribute when they eventually get non-existent funds. They draw energy from people by first gaining their trust and then breaking them apart. They satiate their ego by deceiving empathetic individuals who tend to forgive easily.

Sociopaths have an overwhelming need to control or destabilize someone who seems strong. This feeds their sense of being. Many empaths fall victim to sociopaths because they have been raised with principles of wrong and right, rationality, and conscience. When they encounter someone who has earned their trust, they find it hard to process the absence of these basic human values.

What To Do If You Discover You Are Dealing With A Sociopath 

If you can identify some of the red flags mentioned above in someone, here is what you can do:

  • Break off the relationship immediately. It is hard to rehabilitate sociopaths – therapy might helpmanage some symptoms or side effects, especially in milder cases, but sociopaths rarely seek professional help.
  • Avoid contact. Do not react to any form of apologies or provocation. They may try to berate you outside, post embarrassing stories online – irrespective of their outreach, cut all contact, and be inaccessible.
  • Avoid communication with their close friends or family. The disorder can be genetic, or the family might be manipulated so that they are unable to see the truth. Avoid everyone in their close circles.
  • Inform your friends and family. Let the people in your trusted circle know the details of your experience. This support system can help you recover from the trauma.
  • Get professional help by talking to a psychiatrist or a therapist.

In Summary

One of the interesting sides to sociopathy is the complete lack of insight. A sociopath may realize they have issues, see that they get into trouble, or are not happy with their partner. However, they will never take responsibility but instead shift the blame on other people or circumstances.

Fortunately, sociopaths sometimes improve with age, especially those who avoid excessive alcohol intake or drug use. However, if you have identified red flags with someone, it is better to avoid them because they often bring trouble. You can complete an assessment test for sociopaths here.