Is My Friend a Sociopath: How to Spot a Sociopath

· ·

This post may contain affiliate links. I may receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links. For more information, see my full disclosures here. Looking for FREE Canva templates, printable planners, cards, wall art, design elements, projects, activities, and more? Check out my Freebie Library Club.

How to Spot a Sociopath Symptoms

Do you know how to spot a sociopath? Have you ever wondered: is my friend a sociopath? This post covers sociopath warning signs, sociopath symptoms, & more.

I first became interested in learning how to spot a sociopath after receiving a strange and disturbing letter in the mail. (See Anonymous Hate Mail.)

While doing research on how to spot a sociopath, I came across this book and it literally changed my life. I read it in two days. Seriously. I could not put it down. Here’s why: according to author Martha Stout, ph.d. –

“1 in 25 ordinary Americans secretly has no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty.”

1 in 25 Americans, or about 4 percent of the U.S. population. That means you likely know a sociopath, or two, or three. Let that information sink in for a moment. Ready to learn how to spot a sociopath? Read on for more information.

What is a Sociopath

How to Spot a Sociopath

A sociopath is defined as a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior, and a lack of conscience. Also sometimes called a psychopath, or the more politically correct term now outlined in the DSM-IV: Antisocial Personality Disorder.

In short, a sociopath is a person who has no conscience. This is the first tip in learning how to spot a sociopath.

Socipaths know the difference between right and wrong. However, they simply don’t care. They often do horrendous things and feel no guilt over it. Imagine being able to do anything, or act how you please, and never feel guilt or remorse.

Most people think of a sociopath, or psychopath, as a killer. Or at the very least, probably someone who is extremely dangerous. While most (if not all) murderers are sociopaths, not all sociopaths are murderers.

Therefore, the most common sociopaths are people you might not even suspect. They have jobs. They may be married with children. Most of all, they might even have friends. And that friend might be you.

The problem with this is that someone without a conscience can’t ever really be a true spouse, parent, or friend. They are often able to go through the motions and can “pretend” or act the part quite well. However, they feel very little, if anything, for others.

Sociopath vs Psychopath

As mentioned above, some people use the term sociopath and psychopath interchangeably. While sociopaths and psychopaths do share many similar traits, there are some differences.

Psychopathy is a more severe form of sociopathy, often with more symptoms. This means that all psychopaths can be considered sociopaths. However, not all sociopaths are necessarily psychopaths.

For example, sociopaths may be able to form bonds with some individuals, like family, while psychopaths typically can not.

How to Spot a Sociopath: Sociopath Warning Signs

Is My Friend a Sociopath

Learning how to spot a sociopath is not easy. However, according to The Sociopath Next Door, while not all sociopaths are alike; they do share similar traits and behaviors.

1. Lack of Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Sociopaths often have no empathy for others. However, they may be able to fake it to serve their needs.

If someone you know is rarely empathetic, keep a watchful eye on that person. (Keep in mind that there are other disorders where lack of empathy may be a trait.)

2. Charisma

Sociopaths are often, though not always, charismatic. Upon meeting them they may shower you with compliments or say something like “I feel like I’ve known you for years.” They will also try to get close with you quickly.

If someone is always complimenting you in an effort to get you into their good graces, be careful.

3. Pity Party

Sociopaths use pity quite often. According to Stout, this is one of the most common and important traits to look for when learning how to spot a sociopath.

If someone you know is constantly trying to get you or others to feel sorry for them, keep your guard up. This is a clever play because non sociopaths have empathy and a conscience, making it hard to confront or be angry with someone who is “supposedly” going through a rough time. In fact, sociopaths seek out empaths or people who are extremely kind and generous, because these people often give them numerous chances.

In The Sociopath Next Door, Stout writes:

“If you find yourself often pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, and who actively campaigns for your sympathy, the chances are close to 100 percent that you are dealing with a sociopath.”

4. Game Players

Most humans have a conscience, and a majority of their time in life is spent on making and nurturing connections and relationships. Those relationships might be personal or work related. Since sociopaths have no conscience; they feel no love, do not work on nurturing relationships, and therefore have a lot of time on their hands. They get bored easily, which leads to their games.

Everything is a game to the sociopath and the goal is to win. In fact, their entire life revolves around the thrill of winning. It may be as simple as winning an argument or putting you down with a veiled insult. Or it may be as drastic as shaming someone publicly and socially or getting someone fired.

The sad thing is that their thrill is often short-lived and so they move on to the next game. These games almost always involve hurting others and that’s the way they like it.

Anyone in a sociopath’s life is often part of the game. Whether it be a spouse, children, or friends; they are all pawns in the game of a sociopath.

5. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of intimidation or psychological abuse where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and quite often, their sanity.

Sociopaths are experts at gaslighting. When caught in a lie or backed into a corner they will retaliate. Fiercely. This retaliation often takes shape in the form of more lies. Whether in the work place or in a social circle; sociopaths will deny their actions, spread rumors, and gossip to get the upper hand. Their end goal is to make YOU look and feel like the crazy one, and it’s amazing how well it works.

Most people are not aware that a sociopath is a sociopath. Remember, they can be charming. They can fake their way through almost anything. It’s only those who truly get close to sociopaths, and who are then burnt by them, that start to question their actions. When you finally come to terms with what has happened to you, it’s almost unbelievable. It’s your word against theirs and since they are experts at lying (remember they feel no remorse) they will usually win.

How to Deal with a Sociopath

Sociopath Warning Signs

If you find yourself dealing with a sociopath, run as fast as you can in the other direction. Do not engage any further. If it serves their needs, they will only try to rope you in. Do not try to outplay them. They love the challenge. Do not try to out them. They will only gaslight their way through it.

It’s unfortunate that sociopaths are able to get away with their actions. However, most actions are rarely criminal. This leaves little legal recourse. If you do find yourself being threatened, then of course contact the authorities.

If the sociopath in your life is a spouse, relative, or boss; try to engage as little as possible and see if you can find a way to get out of the marriage or switch jobs.

While it might feel frustrating to let a sociopath “win”, remember that they really aren’t winning in the end.

Sociopaths live very lonely and often isolated lives. Their lack of “feeling” leaves them empty. They have no real relationships or connections with others.

Living your life well is the best revenge.

Common Questions

What causes a sociopath?

There is no clear answer here. It appears as though it may be a combination of predisposition at conception and whether or how it manifests itself through upbringing.

Do sociopaths know they are sociopaths?

Some sociopaths do know that they are sociopaths, many don’t. However, almost all sociopaths realize that they are different at some point in their lives.

In doing further research, I found a website for sociopaths. The common theme was that they very quickly discovered that they lacked empathy and a conscience, and found that they had to fake it from a very young age, to appear normal. What’s even more chilling was that an overwhelming majority of the members, on this website, felt that they were superior and that a conscience was for the weak.

Is there a cure?

Is there a cure for a lack of conscience? The answer is most likely no. Most sociopaths do not think they are wrong and have no interest in changing. However, there are some ways of managing their behavior. Ideally, treatment involves getting the sociopath to recognize that a change is in their best interest.

Martha Stout’s Tips From The Sociopath Next Door

When considering a new relationship of any kind, practice the Rule of Threes regarding the claims and promises a person makes, and the responsibilities he or she has. Make the Rule of Threes your personal policy.

One lie, one broken promise, or a single neglected responsibility may be a misunderstanding instead. Two may involve a serious mistake. But three lies says you’re dealing with a liar, and deceit is the linchpin of conscienceless behavior.

To learn more about Martha Stout’s book, “The Sociopath Next Door”, or to purchase, Click Here.

How to Spot a Sociopath Conclusion

I hope you’ve found this post helpful. Once you learn how to spot a sociopath, you’ll be amazed at how many people display sociopath symptoms. It’s much more common than you probably thought.

While it certainly is not fun having to deal with a sociopath, arming yourself with knowledge is the best way to defend yourself. Should you decide to remain in a friendship, or relationship, with a sociopath; be sure to remember your boundaries and stick to them.

 Have you had any experiences with a sociopath? Feel free to share your story in the comments section below.


  1. My best friend of 50 years just played cat and mouse with me and enjoyed every minute of it. I’m stunned to now know through my therapist that she’s a sociopath. I just thought I was crazy. She said, (after I apologized for something I didn’t do, but she said I did,) “ I’m not mad at you at all, you wrecker, downer” then when I responded to her attack she says” You’re making it all about YOU” When I told her how hurt I was by her words and asked her to use kinder words, she said no, she can’t do that. And how superior she is to me with her superior communication skills. Now I remember all the other awful, heart stopping things she has done over the years and I just thought I was crazy. She is charming, funny, smart and a sociopath. She stares with out blinking at people to draw them in. I’m glad to be rid of her as painful as it is. I want to believe it isn’t true. But it is and I’m protecting myself now. Have to grieve. My body is shaking at this realization and her abuse.

    1. Sandy – thank you for taking the time to comment. I am so sorry that you lost a best friend of 50 years. I can only imagine all of the feelings you must be feeling. I’m glad to hear that you have a therapist to talk with about it, and to support you. Definitely continue to protect yourself and take the time to grieve. And know that you are not alone. As you can see by the comments here, this happens more often than most of us realize. The good news is that you know now and hopefully are stronger because of it. I wish you continued healing.

  2. Don’t think that these type personalities have a sign on them hay look at me! Its not that simple I wish it was for all of these who are facing this problem with someone in there life. U must dig deeper to see them there are signs. But we all have some signs we fit into. Sad but it takes time to see them for who they truly are and the better or lets say the more dysfunctional they are the harder and longer it takes to see them. U can’t change them and the longer it takes u to see them the more it effects you and you will never come out saying or feeling u have won or at least learned something the price u paid wasn’t worth the Lesson you learned. Look deeper into them always having to win simple right nothing is simple if it was anyone could spot them. Well he/she it doesn’t bother them to loose a game or they don’t but in and have to always be right. But if u look closer the will try and take control of a situation, conversation, when it suits them makes them feel empowered. In a work situation if placed in a position of Authority they will step in for no other reason but because they can, even if the person that has the Situation under control has the knowledge and much more experience its as if the sociopath wants needs to feel Superior even if superiority is not in question.If u pay attention this type behavior will be consistent. Also as u may think what charisma is and this person there’s not charismatic so they couldn’t fit this. Its not for there lack of trying to some of us who have charisma we may look at someone else and its obvious that they don’t have charisma if you notice that person being different around others then they are you in private and it will be consistently the same with others as if they are putting on a different face just because they in your eyes they aren’t smooth so there for it doesn’t fit remember its not as easy u may think. Also the person will do things that appear to be thoughtful going to see someone in hospital always complimenting others if you are a person on the outside you would say that’s a nice person so complimentary and thoughtful. The one thing I learned in dealing with people like this over 40 years is every one of us leave a trail behind us we can hide it no matter what we do its there. If anything these people will be consist in the way they are. Remember good gives good an
    evil gives evil. You can’t love someone and treat them good one moment then bad the next that shows you never loved them in the first place. A good person always wants to see good in others and when u let someone close to you we have tendency to over look the bad and focus on the good no matter how small the good my be. These type people always come bearing gifts it to them is about power over you and one thing does stand true is when you have nothing left in you that they view as power to them they will discard you there is not more to drain from you. Its a ride of your life that I hope none of you have to ride. U wont make them better they will make your worse. In the end sometimes we as humans want what we want no matter if its good or bad for us in the end of our lives we can look back and see that and if we are honest with ourselves we did see it coming but that person is what we wanted so we just overlooked those little/HUGE things.

    1. Jeff – thank you for the long and detailed comment. I’m sorry that you have so much experience with this. I hope you’ve been able to come out of it a stronger person, and that you have people in your life who treat you well and with kindness.

  3. Reading this article has opened up my eyes. I am in a tough relationship for almost 20 years. But unfortunately have not been able to come out of it despite a deep realization that something is seriously wrong or amiss. The reason being that I was often told that I was an overly demanding wife when I asked foe attention and connection. I was told I had some mental issue to be asking for care and empathy. And the result has been a mess of emotions inside me. I feel the relationship isn’t ok yet I feel guilty of asking for attention and love. This has kind of devastated me. I don’t know where does this end. But it has affected my entire life. And has crippled my personality. I come from a culture where divorce is a taboo. And where single women are at the mercy of hundreds of men like my husband. This thought stops me from taking any action. But I am literally tired.

    1. Janis – I am so sorry you are going through this. I can only imagine how hard and tiring it must be. Are there any resources in your area where you can reach out and speak with someone confidentially who might be able to help? Is therapy an option? I encourage you to find someone, even a friend or internet message board, to speak with and get support. You don’t have to do this alone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Please see our Privacy Policy for more information on the data we collect.