You’ve probably heard the term ‘sociopath’ before.
But what does it really mean to be a sociopath?
And, could you even know some sociopaths in your life?
Let’s find out.
Sociopathy is a mental health condition commonly diagnosed as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). ASPD also refers to psychopathy, which shares similar traits.
The difference is this:
Psychopathy is believed to be more rooted in genetics, while sociopathy is brought to be caused by upbringing and environmental factors.
Some giveaway characteristics of both involve a severe lack of empathy, a lack of inhibition, impaired social and moral judgments, and altered social behavior.
Simply put, if you know someone who has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating others’ rights – especially bordering on the criminal side – they’re likely a sociopath.
If they are cruel to animals or like setting fires, they’re probably a sociopath. If they do both—they’re definitely a sociopath!
But most often, the traits are way more subtle than outright criminal activity – although criminal activity is one big giveaway.
So here are 7 traits to look out for to know if someone may be a sociopath:
1) They often act impulsively
Do you know someone who seems to never stick to their commitments and responsibilities?
Sociopaths can be very impulsive in their decision-making and can be unreliable when it comes to commitments and relationships.
They might decide to suddenly quit a job without plans to get another – or fail to pay their bills repeatedly.
Also, not being able to maintain family relationships can be a possible sign of a sociopath.
Because of their impulsive ways, they may often fail to keep their word and uphold their commitments.
This comes across as a total lack of regard for others, which isn’t exactly beneficial for their long-term relationships.
However, if you read on, you’ll find out how they actually attract people to their web despite this.
… Are you thinking of anyone yet?
2) They show erratic emotions
Let’s be clear: erratic behavior alone is not a sign of being a sociopath. Erratic behavior can be due to any number of reasons.
If someone displays a consistently erratic behavioral pattern, they may fall under the label of a sociopath.
Most personality disorders actually have this in common, so it’s important to check if the person shows the other 5 signs of sociopathy we’ve listed as well.
But in a nutshell:
Sociopaths can never really find a balance between being genuine. They tend to shift between being super charming and being super hostile.
Sociopaths can use their charm at first to get something, but if that fails, they can quickly turn to threats or aggression – or vice versa – they show random aggression, followed by love-bombing.
So if you notice someone acting this way a few times, it’s definitely erratic behavior and a sign they might be a sociopath.
Running hot and cold, or showing a tendency toward aggression and violence is a big sign of this disorder.
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck…
Be careful of the duck.
3) They have no regard for the moral code
Sociopaths are usually completely aware of what’s harmful to themselves or others.
Apparently, they just… don’t care!
Someone may be considered a sociopath if they repeatedly are:
- Not learning from mistakes
- Not apologizing after clearly wronging others
- Committing crimes such as stealing, causing damage to property or living things (usually in early behavior)
- Manipulating others for their gain
All of these actions fall under the category of ignoring what most people would call ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – but a sociopath would call it a normal day.
So if you feel frustrated that someone who fits these signs seems to be wronging you or others over and over again – rest assured that they are doing it knowingly.
In the past, I’ve fallen into the trap of giving people like this the benefit of the doubt and trying to help them grow.
Because I’m an empathetic person who chooses to see the best in everyone.
It always ended up burning me. You just can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, and you risk doing yourself a disservice.
It’s best for you to not associate with someone who might be a sociopath, because you could be enabling their habits just by giving them energy.
And they thrive off of that energy, too.
4) They have an inability to feel guilt or remorse
More than just ignoring right and wrong… when sociopaths do wrong, they don’t feel bad about it after.
In fact, they may even rationalize and justify their actions.
In some cases, they’ll even blame you or others for their actions. They could do this by gaslighting or manipulation.
This all stems from their lack of empathy for others and their drive to simply fulfill their desires at any cost.
I have known sociopaths who, when called out for things they’ve done, lashed out with rage towards the person calling them out – making themselves the victim in the situation.
Don’t fall for this trickery!
5) They consistently act in a deceitful way
Like the wolf in Red Riding Hood, a sociopath has no real sense of self.
They will wear a mask of dishonesty on top of another mask of dissociation.
Put it this way:
If you’re good with people, you’ve experienced the feeling when some people clearly just don’t seem genuine and set alarm bells ringing right away.
It may be obvious that they’re lying repeatedly, deceiving others for personal gain, or using aliases to disguise their true selves.
They sound like a caricature of someone pretending to be an honest person, in an attempt to oversell the truth.
But other times… It’s harder to tell.
They may lie so well that you are convinced they have your best interest at heart.
So if you’re not sure about this trait, check for other signs like erratic and impulsive behavior that don’t match with the mask they carry.
6) Superficial relationships
Because of their dishonest nature, it’s no wonder:
They don’t let other people get very close and will mostly have very superficial relationships with others.
They draw people in on a very shallow level through their charming personalities and lies – but they generally don’t know how to maintain deeper relationships that involve true emotional connection.
They may be difficult to get close to and try to change the subject when things get too emotional or personal.
Or, they may fake vulnerability, which can be either obvious or hard to tell at first.
But know that their feelings aren’t real – they’re just a way to get closer to something they want from you.
7) They have a manufactured personality
There are different types of sociopaths.
Think of it like this:
There’s the level one sociopath who outright displays harmful behaviors, aggression, and lack of empathy.
Then there are the more advanced, and harmful types.
They are those who can play the long game of manipulation and control to meet their desires.
They appear meticulous and polished, often making a great first impression and coming across as warm, empathetic, and genuine people.
They use calculated intelligence, charm, or charisma – only for the cracks to appear down the line.
The easiest way to tell is if they dangle carrots in front of you and constantly make false promises they can’t keep.
Sociopaths on this level know how to push the right emotional and psychological buttons to gain control in a relationship.
When they feel confident that they have your attention, they’ll seek to undermine your emotional stability even further, so they have you in the palm of their hand.
Once they have control over you, they may use gaslighting or manipulation to gain power or get other things they want from you that will benefit them.
Did these 7 signs remind you of anyone you know?
If so, keep in mind that someone can simply have ASPD traits and isn’t necessarily a sociopath or psychopath until diagnosed.
Because the truth is this:
The diagnosed rates of this condition are actually quite low. True ASPD is suspected to affect only between 0.2 to 3.3% of the population.
But regardless of a proper diagnosis…
These are not exactly traits you want to hang out around, are they?
I’d say it’s worth steering clear of people who display traits like lying, manipulation, lack of remorse, and violence – whether they’re diagnosed sociopaths or not.
If you are in a relationship with someone who displays these traits, it can be a highly distressing situation to be in and can often lead to abusive situations.
It’s best to seek resources, support, and strength to remove yourself from the relationship immediately.