Sociopath Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment

Published 06/24/2022

In the United States, about one in every 26 adults exhibits some kind of sociopathic tendencies. This means that, in your day to day life, it’s highly probable that you’ve come across at least one sociopath in your time. But how is a sociopath defined? What kind of behaviors can a sociopath be expected to exhibit? How is a sociopath diagnosed, and what are the treatment options for a sociopath? 

Here are the answers to all of your questions about sociopaths, sociopathic tendencies, and what happens when a sociopath is identified.

What Symptoms Does A Sociopath Have?

In the most general terms, a sociopath is a person who puts their desires and goals above everything else, including the safety and wellbeing of themselves and those around them. While there is officially no medical definition of a sociopath, several actions and behavioral patterns could indicate sociopathic tendencies.

Some of the most commonly seen symptoms of a sociopath and sociopathic tendencies are as follows:

  • Not paying any respect to the social norms, laws, or mores of the community around them.
  • Constantly breaking the law or disregarding social boundaries.
  • Using lies and deceptions to manipulate others for their gain.
  • Refusing to or being extremely resistant to making long term plans.
  • Refusing to or being extremely resistant to taking on responsibilities, even when necessary for a job, family, or personal well-being.
  • Showing irritable or aggressive behavior, even when the situation is not particularly stressful or demanding.
  • Not considering their safety or the safety of those around them while they’re making decisions.
  • Acting brashly, or acting without any regard to the consequences of their actions.
  • Not feeling guilt, remorse, or a “prick of the conscience” when they’ve hurt or mistreated other people.

These are some of the most common symptoms that you can see of a sociopath. However, sociopaths are also known for their rash behavior and outbursts of anger. Sociopaths do not (and often cannot) hide their antisocial behaviors; they can’t cover them up or brush them off. So, a sociopath will usually ignore or fail to consider the consequences of their behaviors.

Am I A Sociopath?

While reading about these signs and symptoms of a sociopath, you might be finding yourself asking, “Am I a sociopath?” If you’d like a clearer picture of where you fall in terms of sociopathic tendencies, you should consider taking this sociopath quiz. With this quiz, you’ll be able to see the key indicators of being a sociopath and how they might be apparent in your own life and patterns of behavior.

In addition to taking the sociopath quiz online, you’ll be able to find a number of free and easily accessible online resources about antisocial personality disorder, sociopathic tendencies, and actions, as well as advice for dealing with suspected sociopaths in your life.

How Is A Sociopath Diagnosed?

Since “sociopath” isn’t a medically-recognized word for diagnosis, psychologists and psychiatrists look at each patient in terms of antisocial personality disorders. Antisocial personality disorder includes several more everyday issues, including being a sociopath and being a psychopath. However, in both cases, the official name and diagnosis, as given by mental health professionals, are antisocial personality disorder.

According to DSM-5, the official guide that psychologists and psychiatrists must adhere to when they are making a diagnosis of patients, the elements for the diagnosis of a person with antisocial personality disorder include the following:

  1. Disregard for and violation of others rights since age 15, as indicated by one of the seven sub-features:
  2. Failure to obey laws and norms by engaging in behavior which results in a criminal arrest or would warrant criminal arrest
  3. Lying, deception, and manipulation, for profit or self-amusement,
  4. Impulsive behavior
  5. Irritability and aggression, manifested as frequently assaults others or engages in fighting
  6. Blatantly disregards the safety of self and others,
  7. A pattern of irresponsibility and
  8. Lack of remorse for actions (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

The other diagnostic Criterion is:

  1. The person is at least age 18,
  2. Conduct disorder was present by history before age 15
  3. and the antisocial behavior does not occur in the context of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

So, someone with an antisocial personality disorder is always an adult who has exhibited sociopathic tendencies and behaviors in their youth or young adulthood. These patterns of behavior have continued into their adult life. Plus, before a mental health professional can issue a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, they have to rule out the possibility of other mental health problems, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which could have been contributing to these actions.

In short, no one will ever be diagnosed straight out as a sociopath. Instead, they might receive the diagnosis of an antisocial personality disorder. Based on their behavior and expressed intentions, a psychologist or psychiatrist will be able to analyze and get a better idea of exactly what they’re dealing with. Even though “sociopath” is a common word used in everyday language, it’s not an official diagnosis.

Sociopath Or Psychopath?

In medical terms, both sociopaths and psychopaths fall under the same umbrella of antisocial personality disorder. However, there are some key differences between the two. When it comes to determining sociopath vs. psychopath, some clear indicators can show you the way.

First of all, there’s the matter of conscience. A sociopath will often justify their actions to brush off the fact that they’re harming or mistreating others. A psychopath will ignore this fact altogether. Even when a psychopath knows that their actions are inherently immoral, they’re doing what they want to get what they want, without even the slightest regard for others. Sociopaths, on the other hand, will put some effort into at least trying to justify their actions when they might hurt those around them.

Another key difference between psychopaths and sociopaths can be seen in their behavior and actions. A sociopath is prone to outbursts of anger or reckless behavior. A psychopath is much more smooth and calculating. Psychopaths are usually sophisticated and manipulative, and many people might even have a hard time identifying or noticing their antisocial personality disorder at all. A psychopath’s glibness and smooth-talking often mask their antisocial personality disorder. Sociopaths, on the other hand, tend to be more rash and reckless.

These are the biggest differences between psychopaths and sociopaths regarding those suffering from an antisocial personality disorder. By paying attention to these details and subtle differences, you’ll be able to accurately identify whether a person with an antisocial personality disorder is a sociopath or a psychopath.

How Is A Sociopath Treated?

A person who is being treated for sociopathic tendencies is, in fact, being treated for antisocial personality disorder. The most common treatment for an antisocial personality disorder is intensive therapy, which is sometimes combined with medications. This course of therapy is intense because antisocial personality disorder is considered to be difficult to treat. This difficulty is shared by both the patient and the mental health professional who is treating them. The therapy and treatment for antisocial personality disorder require a lot of time, effort, and resources, affecting the patient and their family and close friends.

The most important element for an effective treatment for an antisocial personality disorder is its ability and willingness to participate in the treatment. Often, a patient suffering from antisocial personality disorder might not think that anything is wrong with them. So, they often aren’t willing to participate in the therapy. When this is the case, it means that their antisocial personality disorder goes untreated.

Aside from rigorous therapy and personal help from a psychologist or psychiatrist, specific programs can also help antisocial personality disorder. Programs such as anger management courses or alcohol and/or substance abuse recovery programs can help treat antisocial personality disorder symptoms. For example, attending an anger management course can help a sociopath learn how to manage their outbursts. While this doesn’t dig into the antisocial personality disorder itself, it helps curb the sociopathic patterns of behavior that impact those around the sociopath.

Treating other mental health issues often associated with an antisocial personality disorder, such as depression and anxiety, is another way to help curb antisocial personality disorder symptoms, even if the antisocial personality disorder isn’t being addressed explicitly in the therapy sessions. In these cases, and sometimes with medication help, a mental health professional can more easily address the problems that a sociopath might be facing.

Conclusion

Even though “sociopath” isn’t a medically recognized diagnosis, there are plenty of traits and indicators that let you know if someone is a sociopath. Both sociopaths and psychopaths fall under antisocial personality disorder, although there are differences between the two. Treatment for an antisocial personality disorder is intensive for both sociopaths and psychopaths, and the patient often refuses it. So, treating an antisocial personality disorder is extremely difficult. Identifying a sociopath is easy when you know the key signs and signals of antisocial personality disorder!