Just the mention of the word ‘sociopath’ may first make you remember the character of Norman Bates from the 1960 horror movie Psycho. They are portrayed as cold-blooded killers with any sense of remorse, who meticulously plan their crimes. Indeed, their portrayal is not far from reality and chances are that we may encounter a sociopath at some point in our lives. They live among us and are characters that can easily melt into the crowd. And, it helps to be able to identify a sociopath so that you may steer clear of them.
Who Is A Sociopath?
A sociopath is a person with anti-social personality disorder (ASP) who has a poor inner sense of right and wrong. They also find it hard to understand or share another person’s feelings. Though some people with an anti-social personality disorder display violent behavior, most are quite calm and calculative. They may also use manipulation and reckless behavior to get what they want. They often possess high IQ levels that make them dangerous. This is why many serial killers who successfully evaded the law were sociopaths.
Like most mental health disorders, sociopathy or ASP exists on a spectrum. One particular study estimated that around 3.8% of Americans would meet ASP’s diagnostic criteria. These figures mean that the chances of you knowing a person with ASP are high.1 People with this disorder tend to be deceitful and impulsive. They ignore responsibilities and, in the extreme cases, they have no conscience.
Sociopath Vs. Psychopath
The term sociopath is often confused with a psychopath. However, the two mental health conditions are different. Some experts believe that psychopaths and sociopaths share a similar set of traits. Psychopathy is considered as a more severe form of sociopathy with more symptoms. So, all psychopaths are sociopaths, but sociopaths are not necessarily psychopaths.
Some psychologists believe that there are not many differences between sociopathy and psychopathy. They agree that psychopaths are more calculating and measured in their actions. Psychopaths are more likely to construct a complex scheme or plan and to carry it out, whereas sociopaths are more driven by impulsiveness.2
Here are 9 signs for spotting a sociopath.
Impulsive behavior is occasionally seen in many people, where they suddenly change plans or alter hair-styles. But, doing such unpredictable acts once in a while is fine. A person with ASP, on the other hand, can take spur-of-the-moment decisions without any thought or consideration for the consequences. This lifestyle is part of their everyday life. They find it extremely difficult to chalk out a plan and stick to it.
2. Relationship Problems
People with ASP find it difficult to create emotional bonds. Hence, most of their relationships are often unstable and chaotic. Instead of building connections and strengthening relations with the people in their lives, they usually try to exploit them for their personal benefit through deception, compulsion, and aggression.
Deceit is a common trait in people with ASP. They have a reputation for being deceitful and duplicitous. They can comfortably lie to the world to achieve their objective or to get out of problematic situations. They also display a tendency to embellish the truth whenever they want.
4. Unsympathetic Attitude
A prominent and a noticeable sign of this mental health disorder is a lack of empathy. They are known to have the inability to feel remorse for their actions. Most persons with ASP seem to lack a conscience or the inner voice that tells us that a certain action is wrong. This trait, which is common among sociopaths, is what makes them extremely dangerous. People who do not have any remorse feel that they are free to do whatever they want, even if it causes harm to other people.
5. Insensitive Approach
Most people with ASP are insensitive to the feelings of others and show utter disregard. Some may be openly violent and aggressive. They may also be verbally curt and abusive. Since their objective is to only get things done in their favor, they don’t care or respect others’ sentiments.
6. Manipulative Behavior
Sociopaths can be very cunning in their approach and try to manipulate everyone to their advantage. People with ASP are often thought to be superficially charming and this may be true in some cases. But this does not necessarily mean that they are exceptionally charismatic. They just use their skills to make others follow what they say.
Sociopaths frequently display irresponsible behavior and often disregard their financial and social obligations. They are irregular in paying their utility bills and show inconsistency in many things that require timely intervention. They may not break the law, but usually, find loopholes and evade the rules. This erratic and irresponsible behavior makes dealing with them a dangerous affair.
8. Risky Behavior
People with ASP often engage in risky behavior that may even endanger the lives of other people. The combination of irresponsibility, impulsiveness, and aggression can be potentially deadly and leads to uncalculated risks. Because they have no respect for others’ feelings and safety, they indulge in many life-threatening behaviors, such as road-rage. They may also involve in excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse, compulsive gambling, unsafe sex, and dangerous hobbies.
Sociopaths are usually aggressive and hostile, as they find it hard to accept defeat. They become hostile when cornered or confronted and may show physical and verbal aggression. They are more likely to perceive others’ behavior as hostile, which makes them seek revenge against others.
|↑1||Trull, Timothy J., Seungmin Jahng, Rachel L. Tomko, Phillip K. Wood, and Kenneth J. Sher. “Revised NESARC personality disorder diagnoses: gender, prevalence, and comorbidity with substance dependence disorders.” Journal of personality disorders 24, no. 4 (2010): 412-426.|
|↑2||Loewen C Stanley. Characteristics of a Sociopath. Health Guidance.|