Signs of a sociopath man

Signs of a Sociopath: What to Look For

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 20, 2020

In this Article

  • What is a Sociopath?
  • Signs of a Sociopath
  • Dealing With a Sociopath

What is a Sociopath?

People often confuse the terms sociopath and psychopath and use them interchangeably. They aren’t different in the clinical sense. Both terms refer to people who have antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Those with ASPD have no regard for others’ rights or feelings, lack empathy and remorse for wrongdoings, and have the need to exploit and manipulate others for personal gain. 

Nature and nurture play a role in ASPD. The reasons behind the disorder are not fully understood. The current belief is that psychopathy generally comes from genetic factors, such as parts of the brain not developing fully, while sociopathy results from an interruption in personality development by abuse or trauma in childhood. People often think that those with antisocial personality disorders are always criminals and are easy to spot, but many are unaware of the disorder and may never be diagnosed. 

Sociopaths have less consistent behavior than psychopaths. Psychopaths are more controlled and charming. Their manipulation is more detached, and they plan ahead. Sociopaths experience anxiety and find rage far harder to control. They may act without thought and, as a result, they may have a harder time blending in. Inconsistencies between their words and their lives may be easier to see.  

Signs of a Sociopath

It is important to realize that people have many personality traits. Someone may exhibit selfishness or act aggressively, but that doesn't mean they are a sociopath. Since many people who have ASPD don't recognize these traits as a problem, watching for consistent behavior patterns might be necessary.

Consistent behavior patterns in sociopaths include:

  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Attempting to control others with threats or aggression 
  • Using intelligence, charm, or charisma to manipulate others
  • Not learning from mistakes or punishment
  • Lying for personal gain
  • Showing a tendency to physical violence and fights
  • Generally superficial relationships
  • Sometimes, stealing or committing other crimes
  • Threatening suicide to manipulate without intention to act 
  • Sometimes, abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Trouble with responsibilities such as a job, paying bills, etc.

Dealing With a Sociopath

Someone with sociopathy is unlikely to seek professional help or even realize they have ASPD. As a result, an important part of dealing and living with someone with ASPD is to know the process of getting them a diagnosis.

Who Needs a Diagnosis?

Children are usually not diagnosed with antisocial personality disorders because childhood development stages mimic some of these behaviors, and their personalities are continuously changing. If early warning signs are noticed in childhood, a conduct disorder may be diagnosed, and intervention may help.

If a teenager exhibits uncontrolled symptoms, such as stealing, harming animals, constantly lying, destroying property for no reason, and breaking rules without thinking of consequences, they may be diagnosable.

People who have a family history of personality disorders or those who have experienced abuse or neglect as children are more likely to develop sociopathy. Men are more likely than women to have sociopathy. 

Sociopaths are more likely to abuse their partners, spouses, and children. Since they may engage in criminal behavior, they are also more likely to spend time in prison, and their aggressive behavior can put them at risk of harm. They may have other mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety.

Steps to a Diagnosis

If there is a behavior pattern to suggest sociopathy, a doctor would begin with an assessment of behaviors and a complete physical exam, including blood tests, to rule out any physical illness. If there are no health concerns, the next step would be a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist, who can diagnose antisocial personality disorders with assessment tools and an interview. 

Treatment for a Sociopath

It is hard to treat those with ASPD, including sociopaths. Long-term therapy is needed, which can be especially hard as the sociopath may not recognize the problem. If a sociopath is willing to enter therapy, family involvement may help.

Sometimes, a psychiatrist will prescribe medicine, such as antipsychotic drugs or mood stabilizers, which may prevent impulsive or aggressive behavior. But medication is not considered a cure for antisocial personality disorders. 

Therapy sessions to learn about harmful behaviors and their impact on the sociopath and those around them can be useful. Therapy can teach ways to cope and manage behavior to improve relationships and behavior patterns. This can help improve social skills and coping mechanisms, making the person with ASPD happier and productive. Seeking help is the most important step.

Living With a Sociopath

If someone you love has ASPD, it can be very isolating. You can get help from a therapist or find a support group. You won't be able to change your loved one's behavior, but you can learn ways to understand and cope, or ways to set boundaries and protect yourself.

If you have experienced anxiety and depression as a result, support groups or therapy can help you. Having someone to talk to can make things easier. 

10 Signs of a Sociopath

SOCIOPATHS ARE COMMONLY depicted as villains in movies, books, and TV. But they can exist in real life, too.

When you meet a true sociopath, you’ll quickly realize that things don’t quite add up. On one hand, they seem charming and charismatic, but lurking under the surface is someone who’s actually deceptive, exploitative, and manipulative. That’s why it’s crucial to know the signs of a sociopath.

“A sociopath is an individual who enjoys taking risks for personal thrill or gain, disregards societal rules or the feelings of other people, and lacks remorse for their harmful actions,” says Vanessa Kennedy, Ph.D., director of psychology at Driftwood Recovery. At first, they may charm you, but “they lack genuine loyalty to others due to a deep-seated need for survival often rooted in a traumatic upbringing,” she says.

Although people toss around the term sociopath, many individuals that exude these behaviors actually have antisocial personality disorder, which is sometimes referred to as sociopathy, says Pavel Blagov, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Whitman College. Antisocial personality disorder is a mental health condition where someone continuously manipulates, exploits, or violates the rights of other people without remorse, according to MedlinePlus.

No one knows what causes the disorder, but some experts theorize that genetics or factors like child abuse may contribute. People that we consider "sociopaths" and are diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder must have a long-standing history of aggression or rule-breaking, meaning this behavior doesn't just come out of nowhere, says Jeffrey Cohen, Psy.D., assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University. He says estimates show only up to about 3 percent of the population have the disorder.

To be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, Kennedy says someone must show evidence of a conduct disorder before age 15 and express symptoms like aggression, cruelty to people or animals, lying, property destruction, or violating rules or the law.

Still, people can display antisocial—or sociopathic—behaviors without necessarily meeting the criteria of a personality disorder. “Human beings are complex and can fall somewhere on a spectrum of sociopathic behavior, at times manipulating others for personal gain, demonstrating aggression, or lying, but perhaps only doing these behaviors in a specific context or certain relationships,” Kennedy explains. For instance, an executive might lie, manipulate, or behave aggressively to land a high-stakes deal, but at home is a loyal, responsible partner and parent.

Antisocial personality disorder can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional. But, if you think you might know a sociopath, here are some common signs to look out for.

Sign of Sociopath: Egocentric

Everyone is a bit egocentric, but people with the disorder take it to another level. “They look out for their own needs first, [and] that would come before the needs of family or children or friends," says Blagov.


The individuals are selfish and self-serving and use subtle or frank manipulation to get their way, says Alex Dimitriu, M.D., a double-board certified physician in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD. “They’re antisocial because they don’t care about society or others, they care about themselves only. While most of us have been selfish at some point in our lives, in antisocial personality disorder, this is the rule, not the exception.”

Sign of Sociopath: Callous

Most people fall along an “anxiety spectrum,” Dr. Dimitriu says, where some care too much and may have anxiety. People with antisocial personality disorder care too little, but there’s an added element of disregarding the impact of their behaviors on others. The callousness of this behavior can range from being verbally mean to physically violent, says Blagov. Not all people exhibit callous behavior in the same way.

Sign of Sociopath: Manipulative

Blagov explains that these types often lie and use people—sometimes to get out of trouble. "This is a self-protective type of lying and manipulation," says Blagov. Other times they manipulate because they enjoy having power over another person, he says.

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Sign of Sociopath: Lack of empathy

People with antisocial personality disorder don't feel empathy for other people, Cohen says. Understandably, this makes it difficult to maintain relationships or friendships and many sociopaths tend to be loners. They tend to view people as objects to be used for personal gain or to be avoided. Kennedy says this often makes these individuals prone to social isolation, depression, and health problems. "They may burn bridges with others and have few avenues for genuine social support," she says.

Sign of Sociopath: Impulsive

People with antisocial personality disorder tend to take risks without any forethought, Kennedy says, "They may make rash decisions that don’t take consequences into account and struggle with showing up consistently for others." The result: they get fired a lot, lack financial stability, and might engage in criminal activity.

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According to Blagov, people with the disorder are sensation seekers who are prone to boredom. This may be one reason that they are more likely to participate in dangerous behaviors or steal.

Sign of Sociopath: Fearless

Getting caught prevents most people from engaging in criminal activity like shoplifting, but those with antisocial personality disorder have weak fear and anxiety responses, says Blagov. "There isn’t a stopping mechanism."

Sign of Sociopath: Disrespect for Others

One central sign of antisocial behavior is a general disrespect for others, including their body, feelings, personal boundaries, and belongings, says Meghan Marcum, PsyD, chief psychologist at AMFM Healthcare. They’re also aggressive, deceptive, and not willing to accept responsibility for any mistakes, so abusive or bad relationships are common.

Sign of Sociopath: Angers Easily

Anger and aggression are chief traits of antisocial personality disorder. People may also display hostility or even violence. "They often experience irritability and exhibit aggression or resort to intimidating or bullying behavior when someone sees through their facade," Kennedy says. They might get angry easily and quickly if too many demands are placed on them in relationships, too.

Sign of Sociopath: No remorse

Someone considered a sociopath may act aggressively, disrespectfully, or violently, but have no remorse or take any accountability for their actions. "Typically, a person can reflect on hurting someone they care about, feel guilt and empathy, and take at least some responsibility for their actions," Kennedy says.


Not so with sociopaths. They’re more likely to show indifference toward someone else’s emotions and even blame them for being too weak or sensitive, she adds, "They may even show a sense of being justified in hurting someone else who they think deserved it."

Sign of Sociopath: Lying

Persistent lying or deceit are classic characteristics of antisocial personality disorder, Kennedy says. Someone may lie to charm, outwit, or manipulate someone for personal gain or just because they enjoy it. They also might display personality traits like arrogance, a sense of superiority, or being opinionated, with the goal of deceiving or manipulating others.

How can a sociopath be treated?

Antisocial personality disorder is difficult to diagnose and treat, Dr. Dimitriu says, "In milder cases, optimizing mood, anxiety, and impulsivity with medication and therapy can reduce the likelihood of some of these behaviors." This can also help people develop empathy in some instances.

The problem, though, is that people with the disorder usually don’t recognize their behaviors as problematic, Marcum says, "They tend to externalize and blame their environment (or the circumstances and people around them) for their problems." With treatment, they can gain insight and become more self-aware, but they must want to change.

People with antisocial personality traits typically enter treatment for reasons that will give them a direct benefit, Marcum says. For instance, someone who committed a crime may comply with court-ordered treatment simply to reduce their sentence.

"It’s less common for individuals with antisocial features to come to therapy to work on these symptoms," she says. "Instead, they may come to work on depression or anxiety, and then within the context of the therapy, their antisocial symptoms are identified. "

Treatment is also difficult because people with antisocial behaviors sometimes view themselves as victims, who don’t have a choice but to engage in destructive or exploitative behaviors to survive, Kennedy says. “Sometimes, antisocial individuals may become motivated to change their behavior to experience fewer consequences in their lives.”

Melissa Matthews

Health Writer

Melissa Matthews is the Health Writer at Men's Health, covering the latest in food, nutrition, and health.

Erica Sweeney

Erica Sweeney is a writer who mostly covers health, wellness and careers. She has written for The New York Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Parade, Money, Business Insider and many more.

9 signs that you are a sociopath

He has no conscience, he lies and does not blush, he does not blush at all, except perhaps from wine, but never from guilt. Do you know such a person? Congratulations. Although, however, there is nothing: most likely, you happened to meet a sociopath, and before it’s too late, run away from him. You won't like talking to him.

Sociopathy is a dissocial personality disorder that can affect anyone: your neighbor, boss, girlfriend, husband, child, police officer, and so on. The disorder is not congenital: if a psychopath is to be born, then sociopathy is the result of childhood trauma, perhaps even abuse, physical or emotional.

"Suffer" is not quite the right word: sociopaths don't suffer from their disorder at all. But those around you get it. Because sociopaths do not put them in a penny, they live for their own pleasure, and nothing will force them to at least look at their behavior from the outside.

Cold, sinisterly attractive, unaware of doubts and remorse, fearless and ready to take risks, these people are dangerous to others. But it is rather difficult to understand: sociopaths are so charming that it is easy to fall in love with them, to see a teacher, a guru, a savior of the fatherland. And only when your life is destroyed or at least turned upside down, you will start to look around and ask what it was.

The biggest problem with a sociopath is that they are hard to recognize.

More precisely, it is easy to misunderstand him: not knowing how to experience such feelings as love, compassion, shame, guilt, they know very well how to show them.

These are excellent actors: not every psychiatrist will be able to accurately determine the first time that he is a sociopath. What can we say about us mere mortals.

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The easiest way to confuse a sociopath is with a narcissist - a charming, narcissistic idiot who endlessly flaunts in front of a mirror and posts selfies (according to a study conducted in 2015 at Ohio State University, men who often take selfies and select them for social networks are prone to narcissism) .

But wait. A sociopath is not an idiot at all. And he may have plans for you.

In 2005, American psychologist Martha Stout wrote a book that has become a classic, The Sociopath Next Door. In it, she clearly explains how high our chances are to suffer from the actions of sociopaths - because these are not movie characters.

Sociopaths often become criminals - but much more often their lack of conscience leads them to power.

And they begin to manage other people's lives in a way that suits them. To do this, you do not even need to declare yourself a guru or become the founder of a sect.

9 signs that you are at the mercy of a sociopath

1. He is charming

Sociopaths have a special attraction - and people who need to be nurtured and guided like to be around such a strong, powerful person. This calms them down, gives them confidence in the future.

In addition, sociopaths are often sexually attractive. By the way, they use it: promiscuity is one of the hallmarks of a sociopath.

2. He is unpredictable

And this distinguishes him from his psychopathic brother, with whom he is easily mistaken. Both do not experience emotions.

But if a psychopath is inclined to build and implement his plans in cold blood, then a sociopath is capable of spontaneous, inexplicable, often risky actions.

He can break the rules and go beyond the accepted.

3. He does not feel shame, regret or guilt

And it is pointless to be offended by them for this: they are simply arranged in such a way that such feelings are unknown to them. Because of this, alas, they can, without a twinge of conscience, betray, lie, intrigue, threaten - in general, harm other people in every possible way.

They act solely in their own interests - and because of this they often succeed in business and politics.

4. He likes to brag

More precisely, to exaggerate the significance of one's achievements or the exclusivity of one's experience. When telling a story from his life, a sociopath dramatizes events, embellishing, exaggerating, inventing colorful details - but at the same time he sounds extremely convincing.

5. He must win at any cost

It is better not to compete with such a person at all: in any situation he needs to win, and he will not disdain any means. This is a desperate debater who always wins, and if he is caught in a lie, he will dodge to the end, but will never admit it.

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6. He is very smart

High intelligence is rare, and it is especially offensive that sociopaths use their intellectual abilities to cheat and manipulate other people.

7. He doesn't love anyone

A sociopath is incapable of experiencing love. He can imitate it: he knows the right words and movements - so you don’t even know that, in fact, he is completely cold. But in fact, he does not know what love, empathy or sympathy is.

8. He never apologizes

And no wonder, we already understood that he does not feel guilty. So why empty words, some kind of apology? For what? Even when he is caught by the hand or pushed against the wall, he does not admit that he was wrong. On the contrary, he goes on the attack.

Try to directly and convincingly accuse him of something, giving evidence and examples. In response, he will attack you with accusations, stating that you specifically want to denigrate him and are probably already weaving a secret conspiracy.

9. He often presents himself as a knight with high moral principles

In fact, he can be a swindler, a deceiver, even a thief, but in words it always turns out that he is desperately fighting for the truth. He imagines himself almost the only person thanks to whom the world has not yet collapsed.

In work groups, sociopaths often provoke conflicts, pit people against each other, and declare themselves to be saviors, ready to keep the company from disintegration and ruin.

What not to do when communicating with a sociopath

You probably already figured out who the sociopath is in your environment, and you were scared enough. The worst thing about this story is that you can't change a sociopath. It remains to understand what to do if, for example, it is impossible to completely avoid communication. Or at least - what not to do, as M.I. suggests in his blog Sociopath World. Thomas, author of Confessions of a Sociopath (Confessions of a Sociopath), published in the US in 2014.

Remember what doesn't work when dealing with a sociopath:

1. Accusations and counter-accusations

Trying to blame a sociopath will only lead to a scandal, from which you will come out, having failed.

2. Emotions

Sociopaths are not at all interested in hearing about how you feel about their behavior. Never show emotion or raise your voice in an argument with such a person.

3. Threats and ultimatums

Any pressure, including emotional pressure, is perceived by the sociopath as a challenge, as part of the game, and immediately joins the competition. Which is guaranteed to win.

4. Reasoning about good and evil

Don't try to judge what is good and what is bad, the sociopath doesn't know, which means he doesn't care.

7 signs of a sociopath | PSYCHOLOGIES


Man among menKnow thyselfPractices how to

According to the American Psychiatric Association, three out of a hundred men are sociopaths. About 70% of them grew up without a father, 30% were born out of wedlock. It seems that a difficult childhood may be one of the reasons, but you should not write down as monsters everyone who was raised by a single mother or who was not a wanted child. Pay attention to the features in behavior that give out a sociopath in a person.

1. He is too charming

He always says exactly what you want to hear. You are ready to agree to any of his proposals, because his smile and charm cannot be resisted. Do you know such a character? Stay away from him, there is a high probability that this is not a prince on a white horse, but a real sociopath.

They are incredibly charismatic and seem very sexy to women

This does not mean that all sexy and charismatic men are sociopaths. But if these qualities come with the habit of saying things that “hook” you, you should be wary.

2. He is never ashamed

These people are incapable of feeling guilty for their actions, even the worst ones. Therefore, they are dangerous, lack of conscience makes them capable of anything.

“Many people with antisocial personality disorder have no conscience, but not all,” explains psychiatrist Donald Black. “But this statement is true of all psychopaths, which makes them extremely dangerous. When a person does not feel remorse, he can carry out any terrible thought that comes to his mind.

3. He has no close relationships

Friends, family, colleagues are either absent from his life, or relations with them are filled with quarrels and scandals. It's not that no one is able to understand his mysterious and complex nature, it's that it is very difficult for them to build long-lasting emotional bonds. Therefore, from a person who does not get along with anyone and blames everyone but himself for this, it is better to run away. Until he messed up your life too.

4. He manipulates others

Such a person is looking for an opportunity to gain and will do anything to get his own way. He no doubt uses and sets others up to achieve his goal. This may manifest itself in different ways. For example, if a person is constantly trying to convince you of some issue, think about his motives. And if you suddenly notice that in his company you are changing your behavior a lot, and not for the better, think about stopping communication.

5. He is rude and aggressive

Sociopaths are insensitive and cruel. Some do not even hide their aggressiveness and propensity for physical and emotional violence. They don't care about others, even those they keep to themselves. It seems amazing how they can be both brutal and charming at the same time. As a rule, they use charm at the initial stage of communication to get you caught, and only then show their true colors, making you unhappy and insecure.

6. He makes up a fantastic lie

Imagine that a friend came back from fishing and started boasting that he had caught a meter long pike, although it was a small fish. This does not count as a fantastic lie.

Sociopaths do not lie about trifles and do not confuse randomly insignificant data - their lies are large and cumbersome

They literally live in a world of endless lies that replace reality for them. They lie about their experiences and the incredible events that allegedly happened to them in order to look better, smarter, more interesting. They also often lie about their health in order to play on the pity of others and get a benefit.

7. He never asks for forgiveness

Sociopaths are convinced that they are always right. Even if you show proof of their mistake, they will refuse to admit it. Their ego needs constant nourishment, and admitting that they are wrong does not contribute to this at all. Therefore, they never ask for forgiveness. Feeling no guilt for their actions, they believe that they did nothing wrong. Why apologize then?

One or two of these qualities may appear periodically in "normal" people. Someone may commit a cruel act or refuse to admit an obvious mistake, but this does not make him a sociopath. The more similar manifestations you see in one person, the higher the likelihood that you have encountered him.

Text: Polina Franke Photo credit: Shutterstock

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