Traits of sociopathic personality

Signs of a Sociopath: What to Look For

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

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. 

11 Signs of ASPD – Cleveland Clinic

Chances are that, at some point in your life, you’ve encountered someone who doesn’t seem to take any consideration for your feelings or understanding social norms. They lack an understanding of right and wrong no matter who gets hurt.

The term “sociopathy” can often be used and, sometimes, you might even find yourself in a moment of self-reflection asking, “Do I have sociopathy?”

It’s not quite that simple, though, so we talked to psychiatrist Andrew Coulter, MD, about what having sociopathy really means, how to deal with it and what to do if you think you have it.

What is sociopathy?

Sociopathy is another term for antisocial personality disorder. “It’s a mental health condition where somebody persistently has difficulty engaging appropriately with social norms,” says Dr. Coulter.

The chronic nature of sociopathy, he adds, is what differentiates this condition from other, episodic mental health conditions like depression, panic attacks or bipolar disorder.

What are the traits of sociopathy?

The list of common traits you might see in someone who has antisocial personality disorder, says Dr. Coulter, include:

  • Not understanding the difference between right and wrong.
  • Not respecting the feelings and emotions of others.
  • Constant lying or deception.
  • Being callous.
  • Difficulty recognizing emotion.
  • Manipulation.
  • Arrogance.
  • Violating the rights of others through dishonest actions.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Risk-taking.
  • Difficulty appreciating the negative aspects of their behavior.

Some with sociopathy may not realize that what they’re doing is wrong while others may simply not care. And sometimes, Dr. Coulter says, it can be both.

“There’s just a total lack of empathy or recognizing that what they’ve done has hurt someone or it’s only benefited themselves,” he says. “And sometimes they might recognize what they’re doing is wrong, they just don’t care or they justify it to themselves.”

What causes sociopathy?

Sociopathy can be both a learned condition and one you’re born with, says Dr. Coulter.

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“These behaviors aren’t episodic in nature. They’re a chronic condition, part of a chronic way in which a person interacts with the world,” he says. “In a lot of cases, it’s something you’re born with, this personality structure or way of engaging with those around you.”

But, he adds, there are cases in which sociopathy is seen as adaptive behavior. “Someone may have grown up in a difficult environment,” he notes, “or you may see some of these traits in someone who has a chemical dependency.”

In those situations, he says, psychiatrists have to be careful with their diagnosis. “We have to look at this person and determine if this is a long-term pattern of behavior or the manifestation of something else,” he says.

Can I tell if I have sociopathy?

It’s possible to hurt someone close to you without realizing it and once you understand it, it can be alarming. And, in some cases, you might begin to worry that you have sociopathy.

According to Dr. Coulter, the answer is probably no. “Most people with an antisocial personality disorder don’t really seek help or treatment or even recognize what they’re doing is problematic,” he points out.

“It really can be an egocentric illness because you do things without the regard for others and it benefits you this way,” he adds. “More often, people find out that they have this diagnosis when someone else tells them.”

If you do grow concerned about a long-standing pattern of behavior that’s problematic, though, Dr. Coulter advises seeking out a mental health professional for evaluation, especially if it’s causing problems in your personal life or at work.

What’s the difference between having psychopathy and sociopathy?

Both psychopathy and sociopathy fall under the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, Dr. Coulter notes. But, he adds, that doesn’t mean they’re the same: “Most people with psychopathy meet criteria for antisocial personality disorder but not all people with antisocial personality disorder have psychopathy.”

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Those with sociopathy tend to be more erratic and impulsive whereas those with psychopathy are often able to maintain the appearance of stable, normal life. “We make a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder based heavily on behavior we can see,” he adds.

“With sociopathy, we’re often making the diagnosis based on what we or others see. With psychopathy, the diagnosis is based more on what that person is thinking and how they got to that point.”

What treatments are available for sociopathy?

There are no medications specifically for antisocial personality disorders, says Dr. Coulter. “When we use medication with these individuals, we’re treating aggression, hostility or a co-occurring condition like depression or alcohol use,” he says.

Psychotherapy is often recommended but that can be difficult. “For psychotherapy to be beneficial, the patient has to recognize the issue and want change,” he notes. “Unfortunately, with a condition like this, it doesn’t always pan out.”

There’s not a lot of motivation to work through a course of psychotherapy when so much of what has gotten a person with this condition to that point is a lack of self-awareness or a complete disregard for the consequences of their actions.

How can you deal with someone with sociopathy in your life?

It can be particularly tough, Dr. Coulter says, to deal with a friend or family member who has sociopathy because of that lack of self-awareness. “You can gently recommend a psychiatric or psychological evaluation if their behavior is causing problems, especially if they’re impairing themselves as well as impairing you,” he says.

Because those with sociopathy don’t often recognize what they’re doing is wrong, he says, it’s best to set firm boundaries. “Make sure there’s a limit on how much they can intrude on your rights or limits,” he says. “Have that appropriate distance you’re comfortable with to avoid getting hurt.”

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.

signs of how to communicate with him, how he differs from a psychopath

Bright personalities and manipulators, going ahead without a hint of remorse, if they suddenly walked over someone's head. Did you have a chance to communicate with such people? They are called sociopaths - a fashionable term for antisocial personality disorder. The popularity of the stylish cover is partly inspired by TV series whose characters are attractive with sharp minds and elegant narcissism. Sherlock, Dexter Morgan, Dr. House, Patrick Jane... Great bunch of geniuses and cynics, right? If films are being made about a sociopath, one might wish to emulate his mannerisms. Just to begin with, it is worth understanding this concept.

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Benedict Cumberbatch

Interesting Facts

Psychology of Personality



To be in the company of such egoists, let's find out who a sociopath is. And only then we will begin to look for its features in ourselves. We would be happy to say that he does not smile at himself in the mirror. But just the same, he is satisfied with himself and does not suffer at all from his diagnosis. It is rather that with those around this type of personality is not too friendly and amiable. In simple terms, a sociopath is a kind of psychopath who does not accept the norms of society and behaves aggressively towards other people.

Women like sociopaths (girls generally like bad guys), screenwriters (the ideal hero of any not-so-soap opera) and psychiatrists (how else can they get their dissertation?!). Some interesting statistics: sociopaths often become doctors themselves. And even more often - a pathologist. This is what the real joy and happiness of a sociopath means: there are so many people around and everyone is silent!

A sociopath and his main features

The main problem of this type of individual is that he absolutely does not see any boundaries. A sociopath is a person who does not know how to behave in society and be responsible for his actions. Does he suffer from it? No. For one simple reason: he does not understand that he is doing something wrong.

Sociopaths don't like people. Even loved ones. But psychologists are still almost sure: a highly active sociopath (to whom Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock considers himself to be) is capable of falling in love. True, the person for whom he has tender feelings will have to shake him to the core. And, of course, if he decides to reciprocate the sociopath, he will not have a sweet time, because under any circumstances, his chosen one loves himself most of all.


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It is for this reason that the concepts of sociopath and narcissist coincide in terms of the degree of narcissism. Only the first, unlike the second, can hardly be called a narcissistic fool showing off in front of a mirror. Because the sociopath is not stupid at all. In fact, it is necessary to highlight the positive traits of a person who is credited with sociopathy. And negative signs too - for the objectivity of the picture.

  • Most sociopaths are smart and resourceful.
  • They know how to lie subtly and easily manipulate people.
  • At first glance, they are generally quite charming. But that's only the first...
  • The feelings of others are the last thing they care about. And even when the queue comes up, they still don't care.
  • Basically, a sociopath can be quite fun to be around (if he wants to be with you, of course). The main thing is to treat a cheerful sociopath not too seriously and a little condescendingly. In general, Dr. Watson is here to help you.
  • They get irritated for any reason, especially when things don't go according to their plan. So getting a sociopath crazy is a piece of cake.
  • Shifting from a sick head to a healthy one is about him. At the same time, he justifies his own behavior and condemns the actions of others.
  • He could only dream of being able to experience guilt and benefit from life experience or punishment.

By the way, by the last sign, a sociopathic child can stand out. He sincerely loves his parents, but otherwise he sets his own rules, what is good and bad. And punishment for him is just another reason to dislike the outside world.

Now you will be able to explain in simple terms to your acquaintances who a sociopath is. And to avoid him or try to “tame” him is your choice. For the sake of interest, try to test his ability to express feelings. They express happiness and sadness equally sparingly, not bothering about the troubles caused to the victims of their intrigues.

What is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath

We note right away that there are certainly differences. Otherwise, psychologists and psychiatrists would not share these concepts either. Although both the psychopath and the sociopath share the traits of a narcissist and an egoist, they should be distinguished.

Psychopaths have absolutely no social orientation, they have a pronounced pathology of behavior with complete preservation of thinking. Against their background, sociopaths are practically white and fluffy, because they have a conscience. Yes, they will hurt you, lie or step on your head, but they will know that this is not good. The psychopath has no doubts and does not know moral laws.

Another difference is that you have to be born a psychopath, and a sociopath becomes so because of a childhood trauma. There may have been physical or emotional suppression. Now you know how they become sociopaths - violence and other cruel ways of upbringing and treatment make them so. At least in most cases.

Sociopaths become criminals quite often. But psychopaths are even more common (think of Moriarty, Sherlock's enemy). True, the former in most cases find themselves on a more profitable path - they come to power.

Sociopath and sociophobe - is there a difference

We have come to a less insidious and dangerous type of personality for you. Social phobes have an anxiety disorder - they are afraid of the close attention of others. This does not mean that they do not like to communicate, rather, assertiveness in communication is alien to them. And if many people are worried, for example, speaking in public, the sociophobe will experience more vivid emotions - real panic.

So how is a sociopath different from a sociophobe? Actually, apart from the first part of the word, they have nothing in common. The second does not pose a threat to anyone. He has ideas about morality, conscience, feelings, including those of other people. They are "ordinary" people who are very uncomfortable being the center of attention.

And this is not just embarrassment. This is precisely the irrational fear, because of it there are difficulties at work and in personal life. Without the help of a specialist, with all the obvious harmlessness of the individual, this cannot be done. Like a sociopath, a sociophobe does not suddenly have a problem, by itself. It is imperative to find the cause and get rid of the unpleasant state.

By the way, the definitions of sociopath and misanthrope are considered similarly. They also have little in common. The latter does not have any painful phobias (well, maybe he is afraid of spiders or heights) before making a decision or taking actions. The misanthrope is rather dismissive of people who allow themselves to experience weaknesses or have shortcomings. He can be considered sullen and avoiding the company of people.

But if psychology deals with the problems of a sociopath, because it is still a mental disorder, personality disorder and pathology, then for a misanthrope his behavior is a state of mind. This is not a diagnosis, but a way of life and a look at it.

How to get along with or become a sociopath

Judging by the main character traits, a sociopath initially attracts attention with powerful charisma and intelligence. He is able to turn his head, because he likes to brag and exaggerate his achievements. And you don’t even know, because you haven’t figured it out yet. If you meet a sociopathic man on your way, he can even inspire you with his sincere sympathy. He will demonstrate it until he reaches his goal and there are no reasons left for pretense. Be careful and in dealing with such a person do not do the following things.

  • An attempt to accuse him will turn into a scandal, and he will still emerge victorious, convincing you of your own insignificance (and this is not true!).
  • The manifestation of emotions, especially concerning his behavior, raising intonation is a waste of time. He will remain deaf.
  • Threatening a sociopath is like having a competition between a pedestrian and a cyclist. Useless!
  • Trying to provoke a constructive discussion with arguments about good and bad, good and evil is also a dead end.

In general, in these relationships you need to be careful and essentially not be yourself. How much you have a need for them (and a tendency to masochism), is up to you to decide. By the way, a sociopathic woman is no less insidious than a man of a similar disorder. She skillfully arranges her nets and swallows her prey whole. It is almost impossible to resist her because of the attractive image she created.

We don't know for what reasons you had the need to become a sociopath, perhaps for the sake of an experiment or you get used to the role. But for persuasiveness, you can observe the behavior of the main characters of popular detective series. Knowing the distinctive features of this type, you can try on this image.

Do you have a personality disorder: sociopathy test

If you suddenly start noticing signs of sociopathy in yourself, take our test. And you will get a result - comforting or not. You're a sociopath if...

  • You hate public transport. You'd rather be stuck in a traffic jam for three hours than take a terrible subway or sit on a crowded bus.
  • You have only one friend. Yes, and that one is imaginary.
  • It's easier for you to write 10 emails than to call once.
  • You never celebrate birthdays because you hate having guests. By the way, you don't like visiting either.
  • Your boss doesn't know what you look like. And you don't remember his name.
  • There are no loud music and noisy parties in your apartment. Your neighbors generally doubt that someone lives behind the wall.
  • You prefer to go for a walk early in the morning or late in the evening, when the risk of meeting acquaintances (and people in general) on the street tends to zero.
  • You can easily bring a person to tears.
  • I like to demonstrate my power over someone.
  • Animals and children do not make you feel tender. Rather, rejection.
  • You can go outside in a bathrobe. Or in a sheet.
  • You can not talk to anyone for days and feel great.

If you agree with at least half of these statements, then we can congratulate (or still sympathize with?): You are an active sociopath.

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