The word “sociopath” often conjures up images of serial killers and terrifying villains from horror movies.
While many serial killers are sociopaths, not all sociopaths are killers – in fact they are usually people leading fairly ordinary lives.
You might think you don’t know one, but the reality is you probably do. It might be a family member, a friend or a colleague. There is some division among just how common sociopaths are in our society. Some researchers estimate that the figure is probably three per cent of the population, while others think as many as one in twenty-five people might be a sociopath.
Sociopaths are extremely charming, feel no empathy and don’t think twice about manipulating others, lying and stealing to get what they want, no matter what cost, in life. You can’t change them because this is how their personalities are wired.
They tend to lack empathy, don’t feel affection and don’t care about others at all. A sociopath has very few moral boundaries and doesn’t feel guilty about using other or hurting them. They cause havoc in relationships with family, friends, colleagues and romantic partners.
They are often really good at observing the behaviours of others and mimic what the rest of us do so they can “blend in” and may even appear to give affection and empathy to the people they know. Some of them do it so well that they even go undetected.
Sociopaths shouldn’t be confused with psychopaths. Both of these terms are used to describe specific kinds of antisocial personality disorders. The two do have some things in common, such as disregarding laws and social conventions, failing to acknowledge the rights of others, the inability to feel remorse or guilt, and displaying a tendency for violent behaviour.
A sociopath is usually less emotionally stable than a psychopath. They can be highly impulsive and more erratic. If they commit crimes they act more on compulsion. They often lack patience, giving in more easily to impulsiveness and lack in detailed planning.
These are the signs someone might be a sociopath:
1. They display superficial charm
Sociopaths can appear to be charming, but this is often just an act. They do this as a way to make others like them and win over their trust.
2. They’re a narcissist
They are extremely egotistical and often believe they are greater than everyone else. They often believe they are right and that everyone else should share their opinion.
3. They are pathological liars
A sociopath will lie until they are blue in the face, and then keep going. Lying is part of their creation of a false persona and comes naturally to them as they are always looking to hide their true motives in their web of lies and deception.
4. They are manipulative and cunning
The sociopath is always looking for ways to find and exploit weaknesses in others to get what they want.
5. They have shallow emotions
A sociopath will not genuinely feel emotions the way others do. If they exhibit signs of emotions, this is usually for show, to blend in and act like other people, and often because they have an ulterior motive.
6. They lack remorse, shame and guilt
Sociopaths don’t feel bad about their actions, even if these actions hurt others.
7. They are incapable of human attachment
While it can be difficult for sociopaths to form genuine relationships with others, either friendships or romantic ones, that doesn’t mean they don’t get into them to appear normal.
8. They have a constant need for stimulation
They find themselves getting bored very easily and need constant stimulation in their lives. This is linked to their need for self-gratification and can cause them to take risks that put others in dangerous situations. If you are romantically involved with a sociopath you might see this trait come out in their promiscuous behaviour and infidelity.
9. They lack empathy
Putting it bluntly, no matter how you are feeling or what you are going through, a sociopath doesn’t give a crap. They can’t relate to the perspectives and problems of other people. They don’t understand your pain and sorrow, nor do they understand your joy. They might pretend that they do, but inside they feel nothing.
10. They are impulsive
Sociopaths often have extremely short fuses and are prone to losing their temper. They act out on impulses and don’t think through all the potential consequences. They may also have issues with drug and alcohol use.
If you know a sociopath, the bad news is that there’s pretty much nothing you can do to help them become a different person, no matter how much they try to con you into helping them and manipulating you through guilt to get you to stick around in their life.