Have you ever wondered what makes someone a sociopath? How do you spot one? Could someone you know be a sociopath?
A sociopath is someone suffering from a serious psychiatric condition called antisocial personality disorder, or ASPD. Donald W. Black, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine says that ASPD “is a syndrome characterized by lifelong misbehavior. People with an antisocial personality disorder tend to be deceitful, impulsive. They ignore responsibilities and, in the worst cases, they have no conscience.”
Your first thoughts while hearing the word “sociopath” could be scenes from American Psycho or the Joker. But ASPD is a spectrum, and not all people who have it are evil or criminals. As professor Black said, most people who have the disorder are in the middle of that spectrum. It doesn’t have to mean they are dangerous, but they could be manipulative and cruel and sometimes make you feel bad about yourself.
Knowing the signs of a sociopath can help you identify people with these tendencies so that you can set boundaries, distance yourself from them, and limit their ability to negatively impact you or important parts of your life.
Before we continue, it’s important to note that the information in this article serves only as general information that could help you understand and get some insight into people’s behavior and psychology. Please don’t use this article as a means of diagnosing another person or yourself. Only a mental health professional can assess and diagnose this condition.
With that being said, here are 7 signs someone you know might be a sociopath.
1. Lack of care for other people
“Heartless is a good description of a sociopath’s interactions with others. Antisocial individuals have very little regard for the law and may often engage in actions that are punishable by law, such as harassing others, fighting, destroying property, and stealing. They don’t have a moral compass, and show no regret when they’ve made a bad choice or harmed someone else. They also show no empathy or sympathy for other people’s feelings, so you probably wouldn’t be able to have a heartfelt conversation with them.
2. Manipulation and gaslighting
Antisocial people may manipulate and deceive others in order to gain rewards or pleasure (for example, money, power, social advantage, sex). They are often charming and can be very polite in their interactions. They leave a good impression so that later they can take advantage of their new “friend”. If you realize they’re trying to use and manipulate you, and confront them about it, they might try to gaslight you. They might use phrases like “you’re crazy”, “you’re insecure” or “I never said that. You’re imagining things”.
Sociopaths have a reputation for being dishonest and deceitful. Just like using manipulative tactics, they feel comfortable lying to get their own way, or to get themselves out of trouble. They also have a tendency to embellish the truth when it suits them, exaggerate things or distort the facts to fit their narrative. If you catch them in a lie, they will use denial or projection to avoid taking accountability.
Antisocial individuals often make decisions without thinking it through or considering the consequences of their actions. For example, they could one day, out of the blue, decide to leave their partner and not call or text for days. Or they could make a spur of the moment decision to quit their job, without having a plan of what they’re going to do next. This is why they usually have problems in their relationships or work place.
People with this condition are easily irritable, so they react to even the slightest frustration with aggression. For example, waiting in line for too long or traffic jams could annoy everyone. But for a sociopath it’s bad enough to make them angry and prone to yelling, aggression, or outbursts.
Irresponsibility is also a key trait of the antisocial personality. An antisocial person gets bored quickly, and monotony and routine are stressful for them. Irresponsibility in finances is also common, they often fall into debts that they cannot repay. They could also allow bills to pile up, regularly take time off work, be late to meetings or just completely forget to show up.
Antisocial people care very little about their own safety or the safety of others. They seek out cheap thrills, even when doing so puts them or others at risk. These may include frequently overindulging in drugs or alcohol, food, or expensive shopping or casino outings. Drunk driving or speeding are typical for them. Also, they might often engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners.
Is someone you know showing some of these signs? What is it that makes you think they might be a sociopath?
Antisocial personality disorder is considered very difficult to treat. But still, a sociopath who has a true desire to change (and that is totally possible!) should not feel like it’s hopeless to seek help from a professional. Some studies show evidence that some people with APSD are able to improve their symptoms with individual therapies like CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) or group therapy programs.
But even still, if someone you know shows some signs of antisocial personality disorder and it’s having a negative impact in your life, you have the right to step back from them. Hopefully this article helped you gain some insight into this complex disorder.
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